Monthly Culture Inspiration: July 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: The Culture Hierarchy

riders&elephants is a New Zealand-based consultancy that helps leaders change how they connect with their people and their customers. They developed the Culture Hierarchy model, which demonstrates how great organizations behave and the five steps they follow to create distinctive and high performing cultures.


Step one: OWN
Great organizations have leaders who make culture their number one priority and move it beyond a superficial KPI. 

Step two: DEFINE
The great organizations realize that defining their values and purpose is not a consensus building exercise and they must set the fundamental beliefs before they engage the wider business.

Great organizations create as many moments as possible for their people to have conversations about their values, purpose and vision. 

Step four: INTEGRATE
No one engages with something they're told, especially if they're told the same thing repeatedly. We need to move away from one-way communications mindset to a two-way conversation mindset. 

Step five: LIVE
Great organizations create ways for their people to live the culture on a daily basis. 


Book: Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg is a New York Times Best selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. Her book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace, asks the question: is it possible to be happy at jobs we don’t resoundingly like? Salzberg's answer is yes. She writes, "Within ourselves we have many resources to become more productive and feel happier at work and beyond. Over the course of listening to many people’s stories, I have noticed a few common themes about real unhappiness on the job. I developed what I call the “eight pillars of happiness in the workplace.”

The Eight Pillars of Happiness in the Workplace are:

  • Balance: the ability to differentiate between who you are and what your job is 
  • Concentration: being able to focus without being swayed by distraction 
  • Compassion: being aware of and sympathetic to the humanity of ourselves and others 
  • Resilience: the ability to recover from defeat, frustration, or failure 
  • Communication and Connection: understanding that everything we do and say can further connection or take away from it 
  • Integrity: bringing your deepest ethical values to the workplace 
  • Meaning: infusing the work you do with relevance for your own personal goals 
  • Open Awareness: the ability to see the big picture and not be held back by self-imposed limitations

Salzberg writes about meditation, but also practical matters like teamwork: "To be with others openly, to share a workload with good humor and a generous heart, is one of life’s most uplifting experiences. The essence of teamwork is selflessness and generosity, which is why work can be a powerful spiritual practice. At work, rigid judgment often arises from insecurity, fear, and envy. With competitiveness comes a judgmental edge. It may be adversity toward a professional rival, the one who’s getting what should be yours. Such categorization often arises from the false belief that the other person’s success and your misery are somehow a permanent, unvarying, inflexible state. What makes joy for others tough is our assumption that there isn’t enough good stuff to go around, and the more someone else has, the less there will be for us. When we cultivate happiness in our own life, we will be able to take pleasure in the happiness of others."


Article to Bookmark: 5 Questions to Ask About Corporate Culture to Get Beyond the Usual Meaningless Blather

First of all, great title. In this article, Bill Taylor (cofounder of Fast Company and the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways) provides five simple questions to get into the heart of culture.

Taylor writes, "There aren’t many leaders who would disagree with the idea that a healthy, productive culture is a defining element of business success. Yet I’ve seen so many companies with lofty-sounding “mission statements” and “core values” that have the most toxic workplaces imaginable. I’ve met so many leaders who are brilliant when it comes to product design and capital structure but who treat the people in business as an afterthought, a matter of sound administration as opposed to daring innovation.

In other words, so much of our thinking about organizational culture has become so bland, so unobjectionable, that it is on the verge of becoming meaningless. What follows, then, is an attempt at culture shock — five hard questions about the “soft” side of business that leaders must be able to answer if they hope to build a workplace that works." Read on for the questions.