Where Does Business Culture Come From?

How to build the culture you want in your business

People often wonder why a certain business operates in a certain way while another operates entirely differently. Often, this is due to the differing business cultures existing within those two enterprises.

Steve Jobs Crazy Enough

Perhaps you’ve found yourself as a new member of a company, department or team. When you’ve asked why something was done a certain way you may have heard something like, “That’s the way it’s done around here.” This is typically coming from a long-term employee who knows how things really work.

At its essence, what we’re talking about is various behavioral norms. Over time, most employees in any organization tend to act in pretty much the same way. They deal with customers or vendors or issues in sort of a standard way. This similarity in behavior is referred to as corporate or business culture.

Many times businesses work very hard to create certain “core values”. These core values are designed specifically to get individuals to act in certain ways under certain circumstances. And, these same businesses spend a lot of time getting this behavior institutionalized. For example, you often see signage inside of companies listing mission statements and core values. The same language can be found on the back of business cards or in other pieces of literature.

The bottom line reasons all of this is that you want your employees to be totally bought-in. It doesn’t matter if they are in the C-level suites or at the front lines of the operation. Embracing certain standards and norms will prove to be a fundamental tool in this quest.

Embracing the value of Diversity.

Nearly always having a diverse work force is advantageous. It’s a great idea to have people from different different ethnic backgrounds, different countries, different ages, and different genders. And this short list is only a few of the potential areas of diversity available to us today.

This diversity brings various people with differing points of view. These differing points of view can be very helpful in problem solving and innovation for example.

However, this diversity brings with it various challenges. It makes the art of creating a high quality business culture a bit more demanding. The core values may be questioned by some and left unchecked could compromise them.

So, how does the leader establish behavior?

First, what you can’t expect to do successfully is to insist that all of these different points of view merge into one. In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what you want to do. Your objective should be to insist on a certain relatively small number of top level core values and then, allow for all the different viewpoints to blossom.

The most fundamental and successful technique is to demonstrate genuine interest. This can be done by asking in-depth high-quality questions and then listening intently to the answers. These questions should be focused on the reasons why people are taking their different stances. The approach it that should be taken is to utilize a series of questions. Each of them are designed to bring deeper into the reasons behind someone’s actions. Without trying to be insensitive, most of these questions should begin with, “why is that…” This will allow the leader to demonstrate a certain level of empathy quickly and, will enable the manager to get close and have quality relationships with others.

Provided that you take this course of action you’ll find that you’ll develop a deep level of understanding of the different values that have been brought in by these different cultures, different age groups, etc. It’s fundamentally important the manager demonstrates a very genuine level of humility and openness to new input and interest in the reasons behind people’s various actions.

In doing this, the manager will be demonstrating that high level of respect and honor is being given to the individuals. After all, it’ll be the actions taken by the leader that will be counted. This is a much more effective technique than attempting to establish culture by dictate.