Who's in Charge of Your Company Culture?

There’s a lot of attention surrounding company cultures these days and how important it is in creating a thriving, successful business. You can see it in the Zappos and Patagoinas of the world. It’s those tight-knit communities that are almost cult-like. It’s also one the keys to creating a sustainable word of mouth movement.

Some companies are considering creating a position to be in “charge” of the company culture. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. From someone who belongs to a company that has a very strong culture and been fortunate enough to be a part of a team that has planted the seeds that have grown into strong cultures, here’s what I think:

No one should be in charge of your company culture.

If you put someone in charge of it, then company culture becomes institutionalized. It becomes a requirement. A check on the ol’ job list. Forced, even. And if it’s forced, then you’re creating a culture alright: A culture of people dreading your “culture.”

The most powerful cultures are ones with shared ownership. Sometimes it comes from the top. Sometimes from the bottom. And sometimes from the middle. But it all starts with a powerful identity. A company giving in to the idea that everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And creating a type of open, adoptable identity. A “me” identity. Then the shared ownership starts to happen. People begin to organize around ideas and a sense of watching out for one another. Bonds are formed. Pride spreads.

We’ve seen it. For causes, companies and even around products. Cultures are powerful – but only when they’re not dictated or required. They are organic. And for very structured companies, sometimes that’s hard to accept (and, of course, there are exceptions to the rule). But if you’re truly going to let something company-changing happen, it’s going to have to come from that shared-culture. Not from a memo or mandate.



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