The Five Culture Languages: Creating a Strong Organizational Culture
Creating a Strong Organizational Culture
I had the pleasure of attending Culture Amp’s NYC Culture First event last week in New York, and it was a blast. Culture Amp, the leading employee feedback platform, has spearheaded the “Culture First” movement– leaders and companies that prioritize their people strategy as a main driver of performance.
At InspireCorps, we couldn’t agree more: we believe that an organization’s people strategy is their strongest business strategy.
One of the ways we support organizations is to train them on how to manage their most important resource, inspiration. Inspired people drive success. The implication is that firms need to develop cultures of inspiration that cultivate and spread inspiration through all layers of their organization to drive firm performance.
Organizational Culture & Inspiration
One of my personal sources of inspiration is to seek opportunities to grow and learn, so attending this awesome Culture First event was exactly what I needed to ignite my own creativity.
As the day unfolded, I heard from a number of talented leaders from some really cool companies focused on building strong organizational cultures; SoulCycle, Five Below, Shake Shack, Motley Fool and Shopify, just to name a few. The most exciting speaker for me, however, was Didier Elzinga, the founder of Culture Amp and, clearly, a transformational leader.
Here are my favorite quotes from Didier’s remarks:
“Culture First is not an alternative outcome to financial or other success, it is the means to achieving that success.”
“What a successful company does is make people want to become the best versions of themselves.”
“A brand is a promise to a customer, culture is how you deliver it.”
Didier was speaking my language, I found myself captured by his words which echo ours.
The Five Languages of an Inspired Performance Culture
He went on to talk about the most important elements of building a powerful organizational culture. As he spoke, I found myself thinking about a book I have read numerous times, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
As Didier described what a successful organizational culture looks like and how it is built, I realized that like the Five Love Languages, culture can also be developed and grown in different ways, all effective. In fact, the following are what I see as five languages of culture or ways that an organizational culture can be developed and strengthened today:
Often times an organizational culture is defined by its CEO and shaped through the way he/she leads and models for their employees. For a culture to be strong and tightly aligned to a company vision, all employees need to be clear on what it looks, feels and sounds like; and the only way they will get that clarity is to see it in action by their leaders.
Reinforcing the behaviors that exemplify culture will accelerate and strengthen the process. A great way to do this is to incentivize them; to provide reasons why and suggestions of how employees can operationalize the culture into their roles and behaviors, and then reward them when they do.
Calling out culture wins and successes, and acknowledging employees when they are exemplifying the values and culture of the organization, is a powerful way to invite more of it. This can be done through formal or informal performance management, talent development and feedback initiatives and conversations.
There is no greater way to engage employees in building a strong organizational culture than inviting them into the conversation. Providing opportunities to share company values, what they look like in action and why they are aligned to the vision and mission is equally as important as giving them an opportunity to add their input, feedback and suggestions for how to strengthen and grow it.
Organizational cultures are complex and can be derailed easily if leaders are not trained in modeling, integrating and cascading it throughout the organization. This doesn’t necessarily come naturally for all leaders and managers. Organizations that want to build a strong culture prioritize investing in training, developing and installing the behaviors and capabilities desired at every level of the organization.
While transforming and building a strong organizational culture may sound like trendy leadership language, we believe that as our modern world of work and our workforce continue to evolve as quickly as they are, it will become even more critical for sustainable success. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
Imagine your company culture, strengthened through the five languages, focused on generating and sustaining inspiration in your employees. How can you spread inspiration throughout your culture? Which of the five culture languages could you begin to practice?