Conga Line to Company Culture

By Liz McBride

dateFri, Jun 10, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

I’m a proponent for fun. I can’t tell you how many scavenger hunts, kickoff parties, talent shows and team iStock_000057333188_Medium.jpg
building events I’ve planned and participated in over the years - or the number of costumes that were involved. I’ve even conga line danced behind an Ivy League mascot on the way to a keynote.

Part of bringing a team together or helping organizations face change has always been best served up with a side dish of fun.

According to a Deloitte survey, 95% of millennials would choose working for a company with a better culture over compensation. Having managed millennials, I would insert this may be indeed true if the better culture still includes a fair compensation. Trust me, they’ve researched.

What is a better company culture? A think tank room with bean bags? A game room? Free food and drinks? Bring your pets to work where Tank gets a chair massage, too? Sign me up!

The title of April 2016’s Harvard Business Review: “You Can’t Fix Culture - Just Focus on your Business and the Rest will Follow” made me immediately think, “Way to ruin the party, Harvard!”

Lorsch and McTague’s article explains that when faced with difficult times, even bankruptcy, sometimes companies resort to initiatives to improve the culture. They provide examples of CEOs who focused on establishing an operating system first which, in turn, influenced the culture.

The story of Alan Mulally at Ford jumped out at me the most. Here’s the approach he took:

When the color-coded system was all green he said: “We lost billions last year, and you’re telling me that there is not a problem?” When executives spoke up and were lauded for doing so, they started fostering a culture of team problem solving.

OK, party people, turn the music back on! I agree that a culture cannot be created on fun alone. You first have to create the foundation, reinforce it, and then walk-the-talk (or conga line dance) in the steps you want others to follow.

Do you have the basics on the behaviors or culture to cultivate?

  • Core Values by which to hire (or fire) and reinforce behaviors?
  • An operating system to foster focus, alignment, and accountability?
  • Role clarity and performance conversations in alignment?

It’s not just millennials who crave a strong culture. We all need clarity on the expectations and behaviors that will be rewarded... and we want to feel the reward. An authentic, public “thank you’’ for a job well done goes such a long way (and costs much less than a masseuse).

When you set up the framework to drive the values and behaviors you want to instill, the culture is bound to pull through.

Listen, Harvard, I apologize for thinking you were a party pooper, but, in my defense, I wasn’t conga line dancing behind your mascot.

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Liz McBride


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images