For many, a new year means new approaches, rhythms, and practices. On the surface, this can be exciting—new possibilities and a fresh outlook on life! If you are like me however, these practices tend to fade away with time. What do we do when the motivation created by newness wears off? Consider this question for your company culture and the stakes are raised even higher. How do organizations make sure that any new focus brings lasting change?
Travel back with me, for a moment, to grade school. I have two boys who are both in elementary school. One thing I noticed about kindergarten is that (even during a pandemic) most of what a kindergartener learns is pretty basic. How to wait your turn, how to clean up after yourself, how to ask questions, how to listen, how to be a good friend, and how to help others.
Yes, the subjects of reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic are all important, and we have a lifetime to improve on these technical skills. But the softer skills of character, communication, and care will serve kindergarteners well throughout every aspect of their life—not just when a task needs to get done.
This is a great reminder that we are humans and not simply machines. That lesson is rooted (pun intended) right there in the creation of the word kindergarten. Kindergarten means Garden of Children reflecting the belief that children should be “nurtured and nourished like plants in a garden”.
Beliefs and behaviors that lead to Belonging.
This new year, how can we continue to grow like plants in a well-tended garden?
To grow, we need to always evaluate the way we think, understand the world, and respond to change. This goes for all of us individually and collectively.
In other words, what we believe and how we behave affects us. It also affects almost everything about an organization and how it gets things done. In fact, this is how we often define culture at DISHER: beliefs and behaviors that lead to belonging.
It is who we are and how we do things around here. And for us, this makes remarkable practical sense. Which is why I love the kindergarten analogy as a garden for learning the basics of belief and behavior ultimately for the betterment of others.
Company Culture itself, indeed, is like a garden. It needs to be tended, nurtured, and nourished. Focusing and refocusing on this reality is the best investment we can make in an organization especially with a new year.
How do we create and sustain progress as an organization?
Back to the question at hand. How do we create and sustain progress as an organization? I believe the answer to this question is not found only in our doing but also our being—who we are not just what we aim to accomplish.
I am not alone in this observation. Former NFL coach Bill Walsh, who led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl wins, wrote this in The Score Takes Care of Itself.
“Culture precedes positive results. It doesn’t get tacked on as an afterthought…champions behave like champions before they are champions; they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.”
You can hear the echoes of both belief and behavior. Believing that company culture precedes positive results (being) is the baseline for behavior (doing) and creates a strong sense of belonging to an impactful team.
This means that for anything new to be effective, we need to first take stock of our organizational culture. Let me be the first to admit that here at DISHER we don’t always get it right. We can sometimes take two steps forward and one step back. But that is okay because we continue to lean on our belief that “culture precedes positive results”.
How about you and your organization? Here are a few items to consider this new year as you reflect on the makeup of your culture.
Ways to Nurture Your Company Culture.
1. What is your organization’s Mission, Vision, and Values? How are they impacting the day-to-day operations of your business? For them to be effective rather than just words on a wall—they should be clear, concise, and constantly useful.
2. Language and story help to create company culture. Jonathan Sacks puts it this way, “A culture is defined by its narratives.” What language, ideas, or stories are present in your organization’s culture?
For example, at DISHER we have some common phrases that might not be one of our Culture Characteristics (Values), but everyone knows what they mean. Why? Because there are elements of story connected to them. Ask a teammate at DISHER what “carrying your own weather” means, and they will be able to tell you.
3. What rhythms are in place at your organization, and do they have a clear purpose? Meetings, retreats, and even regular working hours are cultural formers. If they are not done with a purpose in mind, they could be hurting rather than helping.
4. What would you say are your core beliefs and behaviors? Why? What do you want them to be?
5. Would your team say they feel included in the organization; do they feel that they belong? Why or Why Not?
A new year is a wonderful time for self-reflection. Let’s not just limit it to individual self-reflection. Organizational self-reflection, especially as it relates to company culture, is an investment toward nurturing significant progress. May your new year and new endeavors be refreshed and established through this reflection! And remember, the most valuable things we learned in life we learned in kindergarten.