A lot has been written about the importance of culture within a team, a division, or the larger organization. It matters. Culture is akin to the air we breathe – it’s all around us, and even though you might, or might not, be able to see it, you can feel it, you know it’s there. You know it affects how you feel. And just like air, when the wind blows or a storm rolls in, you can feel that, too.
Every family, community, enterprise, and country has a culture that can be measured and understood. Leaders create, encourage, and sustain whatever culture is present. It is a core leadership responsibility. This happens, one way or another, within, what I call, their “leadership pond.” Is it toxic or healthy? Is it trusting or CYA? Is it a belonging or a force-fit culture? How the leader goes, so goes the culture within her or his locus of control. The bottom line: culture always, always, always…starts at the TOP.
The larger system is simultaneously impacted by each leader and also impacts each leader. Understanding how to assess the culture, “the way we do things here,” within your locus of control is a key emotional intelligence competency and helps you navigate within that context and within that system. Ultimately, the courage to lead in good times and tough times, and sustain the desired culture, is what differentiates a highly effective leader from a failed one. Consider how COVID-19 has tested all of us, and certainly our leaders, including those of us who lead within our families.
You might be wondering how to assess your own culture – at home or at work. What is it like today and what you would prefer it to be tomorrow? The four P’s –People, Possibility, Product, and Policy, are the predominant four cultural archetypes we see in organizations around the world, not just in the United States. Any organization may have all four operating at the same time, but more often, there are one or two that dominate and one that is the least noticeable. It’s also common to see sub-cultures within the larger culture. This is why it makes sense to look at both your team and the larger system to see how they match, conflict, and/or complement each other.
People is a feeling culture. The focus is on teamwork, collaboration, and empowerment of the people within the organization with the belief that taking care of your own will take care of everything else. These leaders care about commitment, people, participation, service, and teams.
Possibility is an intuitive culture. The focus is on innovation and agility. It’s entrepreneurial, with very few rules, often shifting roles and priorities on a dime to do whatever needs to be done. These leaders want to stay on the cutting edge and meet or even help define customer needs with new solutions. The focus is on vision, innovation, flexibility, and transformation.
Product is a thinking culture. The focus is on results, competitiveness, and transactional interactions with the external world including customers, suppliers, regulators, etc. Getting to the goal line is what matters most. These leaders are highly competitive, driven, and all about bottom-line results. They care about market share and achievement and profits.
Policy is a sensing culture. The focus is on control, accountability, rules, hierarchy, and formality. Attention is largely internal. These leaders focus on monitoring, timeliness, details, organizing, uniformity, and rules. They care about getting things right.
I am sharing my Culture Analysis Tool (C.A.T. Scan) with you. If you find these four archetypes relevant, use them and share them as much as you like. It is useful to do it twice: once for today and once for tomorrow, (the future culture you want), and then compare. When you have a handle on where you are today, you are in a much better position to determine what, if any, changes are most likely to create the culture you truly want. If the culture you are living or working in isn’t working well for you, but you’re not sure why this tool will likely provide more clarity.