What would you say if I asked you what the keys to physical fitness are?
I’m sure it would sound something like this: “Eat healthy foods, limit or eliminate foods high in fat and sugar, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and prioritize your sleep." Although we know what physical fitness requires, it’s challenging for most of us to consistently follow these basic steps.
Getting your company culture into shape can likewise seem straightforward, but there are several reasons why you may not see the desired improvement. Following the fitness analogy, let’s take a deeper dive into five reasons why your efforts to “up your culture” may not be working and discuss what you can do about it.
Reason 1: You don’t have clear goals or objectives
When you first join a gym, they usually encourage you to meet with a trainer, take a physical assessment, and then plan your health objectives. The assessment helps you gauge where you are currently, and the goals give you a target to aim for. Without clear goals and metrics to track progress, it's challenging to gauge your success.
The same is true when you are trying to improve your company culture. It’s best to use an assessment tool to measure employee engagement and uncover the pain points that are having the highest impact on your culture. From there, you can select one area you want to focus on. Drilling down on one area at a time removes the stress and feeling of being overwhelmed, that results from taking on too much at once. Additionally, when we have specific and measurable goals, we are more likely to see the progress we’ve made, encouraging us to take on the next challenge.
Reason 2: Leadership is not fully committed
Have you ever worked out with a friend? At times, it can be really helpful (more on that later). What happens though, if they start canceling your training sessions together, or when they do work out, they give little to no real effort? Doesn’t that make it harder for you to give your best?
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, made this interesting comment, “Ultimately, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO but the leaders across the company.” For sustainable improvements, leadership must be committed to improving company culture, which means implementing changes and holding themselves and others accountable to established standards. Disengaged leaders might need help to see why cultural improvements are necessary and, more importantly, how they will benefit from them.
Reason 3: Lack of Consistency
Which is better: two extremely intense workouts per month or walking daily for fifteen minutes? It might depend on your perspective, but most would agree that daily consistent efforts are more effective in the long term. Consistent and intentional effort is key if we’re trying to boost employee engagement.
Oftentimes, it isn’t the obvious big gestures that your employees are watching. They are more likely to notice if their leaders are living up to the company’s core values day in and day out. From the tone of an email to the way conflicts get resolved, the messaging needs to be consistent. It needs to be apparent that company culture is always a priority.
Reason 4: You need a coach
Earlier, I said that working out with a friend can be beneficial; recently, I was doing just that. My friend noticed a couple of errors in my form and showed me how to correct them. The exercise felt right to me; I was “feeling the burn,” but my compromised form meant I wasn’t getting the most out of the movement.
Something similar can happen in our role as leaders. It’s possible to have blind spots that we simply cannot see and, therefore, cannot fix on our own. Or perhaps the people we manage need support, training, and development programs to help them adapt to a new culture. Having a culture coach from Up Your Culture can help in two ways:
- 1. Coaches are trained to uncover areas of opportunity.
- 2. They provide the resources and techniques needed to help leaders and employees leverage their strengths.
Reason 5: You need to adjust your expectations
How long does it take? Whether you’re asking about improvements to your physical fitness or your company culture, the answer is probably the same- longer than you think. Research shows that it takes a minimum of 18 months to change company culture, and when you think about it, that makes sense.
Culture is crafted over time and involves thoughts, actions, and habits. Making changes requires buy-in from leadership, front-line employees, and support staff. Expecting immediate results might lead to frustration and a lack of follow-through. Just like fitness goals, it’s important not to fixate on the results but focus on the process. When we value culture, we respect the process and realistically acknowledge the time needed to make real changes.
Progress Not Perfection
If, at times, you feel overwhelmed with your company culture efforts, try taking a step back to see how far you have come. True, consistent effort is necessary to improve culture, as is motivation. If you only focus on what hasn’t improved, you might lose hope and reverse the positive changes already made.
Stay encouraged! Any movement forward for your organization is progress- something to be proud of!