Ignoring Your Culture Is Like Driving with Your Eyes Closed

May 6, 2022
May 6, 2022 Jamie Notter

None of us would think it’s okay to close your eyes for a while when you’re driving—we know that would end up badly. Yet most of us are willing to ignore our organizational culture for years on end because we are “too busy.” But culture does not stop evolving just because you’re not looking at it. And, as in the car metaphor, ignoring culture will allow it to evolve in ways that cause tremendous problems for us down the road.

For example, the burnout and stress that many organizations are feeling right now is typically attributed to all the uncertainty and changes we’ve experienced in the last two years, but in most cases, it’s real cause is unintended culture change. The way people collaborate has changed, and since we no longer have the “passive transparency” that happened when we were in the office, most of us are in a lot more meetings (mostly virtual). That’s a big change. Would you have been successful hiring your people two years ago if you told them they’d be spending this much time in meetings? Because that’s your culture now.

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And while most employees are appreciating the productivity gains from customizing their own work experience and schedule, they are also learning (as we entrepreneurs learn early on) that it can lead to over-work and over-extension. And by not consciously addressing this, you’re creating a culture where over-work and over-extension are okay. This is getting some attention now, as people are trying to set up rules about when emails get sent or responded to, including scheduling emails that are written after hours to go out during business hours the next day.

But changing processes around the edges is not going to cut it. You must decide what your culture is and how it drives success in today’s environment. That deeper clarity—what’s valued and how that drives the behaviors that make you successful—is the precursor to changing the processes and procedures. Without that clear “why” the process changes either get ignored or interpreted the wrong way. Until you tackle the culture part, you’re still driving with your eyes closed.

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If you don’t have time to tackle the culture issues, then bring us in to help. We’ll design a process that works for you and your people for clarifying your culture in way that will make everyone more successful and starts to relieve the pressure that has been building up over the last two years.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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