Your culture is the set of beliefs, values and behaviour that sets your organisation apart from others. It is the why and the way you and your team do business.
Your culture may be clearly defined and articulated, or it may simply be sensed and known. Either way, it is visible to those within and outside of the organisation and can be leveraged.
For better or for worse, your culture constantly acts on your stakeholders. It plays a monumental part in how people view and feel about your organisation and how they behave in relation to it.
Your culture will attract people to you: staff, customers, and partners who share aspects of your culture will be drawn to your organisation. Those who click with your culture are more likely to stay. Think strong staff retention, customer loyalty and networks.
Those who do not connect with your culture may be deterred by it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Consider the least popular saying in your customer service team: "The customer is always right."
Rubbish. The good customer is always right.
Limit the hassle of dealing with difficult customers and build a culture that attracts easy ones – customers who understand you.
An articulated culture provides rules of thumb that help your team to make decisions efficiently and confidently. Culture sets guidelines for what is right and wrong by your business and what takes priority.
A team that understands what they are working towards and why is a motivated team. A team that has the freedom and confidence to make decisions is an empowered team. Think high morale, productivity and profitability.
Some aspects of your organisation's culture are set in stone, such as how the organisation came to be and its journey so far. Likewise, some future aspects of your culture are out of your control. Industry variables, regulations and competitors can all be influences.
However, for the most part, what your culture looks like comes down to your own design. Where are you investing your time and energy? How are you responding to the forces acting on you? How do you tell your team to act?
Speaking of forces and variables, it would be amiss of me to dodge the subject of Covid-19. History (and Hollywood) has shown us time and again that, in times of crisis, communities that come together survive together. Organisations and businesses are no different.
Many organisations are under unprecedented pressure, and your teams will be feeling the pinch as well. It is time to check in and support one another. Build an organisational culture that supports the wellness of your team and watch your team support your organisation.
Your bottom line is important, no doubt. But without your team, watch your bottom line fade away.
"My team is my business." These beautiful words struck a chord with me while speaking recently with a local business owner in my capacity as a growth adviser at Northland Inc.
To me, this is an example of organisational culture that should be put on a pedestal for all to see, and the resilience we have witnessed in our Tai Tokerau businesses has been nothing short of inspiring.
Unfortunately, we are living in a time where changes to your team might be necessary for your organisation to survive. The key to navigating this challenge is communication - if you need help with this, ask. Communicate.
As with your team, your culture will change with time. Whatever your culture looks like today, it exists, and it is unique to your organisation. It is driven by the everyday actions of your team and its leaders. In essence, your culture is an extension of the people behind it.
It is the only unique selling proposition you are guaranteed, so recognise it, nurture it, and leverage it.
• Sam Mather is a growth adviser in the Business Innovation and Growth team at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.