Culture’s Character

If you want to achieve something great, use what you have to help your people. Don’t use your people to help what you have.

What is culture? What does culture mean to you? How can we change culture? A lot of organisations talk about culture and changing culture, but what do they actually do to change culture? Have you ever seen the action taken to change culture?

1. Culture Starts At Home

For me, culture means that a team or organisation have aligned values and believe in the same thing. A team or organisation share the same goals and are headed in the same direction. Culture starts at home, how we feel when we wake up in the morning.

Do we want to go to work, or are we dreading it? When we are at work, how do we feel when we are there? Are we willing to put in 100% for our leader, the team and the organisation? Or, do we just want to get through the 8 hours and put in as minimal effort as possible to get the job done?

What are the values of the leader of your organisation? This is where the culture of an organisation begins, right at the top and with the values of the leader. A person’s values is the reason why a person thinks the way they do.

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The way a certain person thinks is what raises their emotions and influences the decisions that they make. It is these decisions that are made that lead to a person’s results and their current situation or circumstance.

Culture is talked about a lot both inside and outside of an organisation. A lot of people don’t really understand culture, but it is a buzz word that must get used so we “sound” like we know what we’re talking about.

A person who lives their values and are true to them is what reveals their character to others. How a person see’s another’s values is through their character traits and behaviour. It is also how we understand what they believe in without actually asking them.

2. The Responsibility Of Culture

The person who is responsible for the culture of an organisation is the leader. So, if an organisation is full of people who are behaving badly, then that is the leader’s fault.

He/she is willing to tolerate this bad behaviour and that is why a toxic culture is formed. If the leader wants to change the culture, then they must first change their own attitude towards the behaviour of their people.

With all the people within the organisation and the character traits that they all have, one combined organisational character is formed. The culture of the organisation is a reflection of the combined character of everybody.

Leadership is about others, but it starts with us. Culture is about others, but it starts with the leader. For a leader to change the culture of an organisation, they must look at themselves first and their own values. They must change their own values because their current values is what is causing the current culture.

Highly effective leaders know that culture has an impact on everything within the organisation. They know that to improve the organisation, they must improve the culture, and to improve the culture, they must improve themselves.

If we don’t care for our people, then it can be very costly for the team and for the organisation. However, if we do care for our people, then it doesn’t cost anything to anyone. Highly effective leaders know this and that is why they care.

As you work on yourself every day and build on your character, what you are doing is improving your abilities as a leader. Your ability to attract the right person into your team or organisation will improve.

Your ability to build strong relationships with your people will improve. Your ability to build trust will improve. Your ability to increase your influence will also improve.

3. Character’s Impact

Your character also helps you to discover who on your team you like, who on your team you don’t like, what behaviours you are willing to tolerate, what your expectations of your team are, and when you are likely to change the team and for what reason.

The desire you have to improve and also help your team to improve will come to nothing if you don’t take action on that desire. We cannot wait for things to go wrong in order for us to take action and make improvements. We must act NOW!

When I worked for Liverpool’s train operating company, we went through a huge culture transformation in 2010. This all started with our new engineering director Kevin. He was the leader of the department, so if any change of culture was going to happen then it had to start from him.

This started with a two day workshop that included everybody within engineering. Kevin led these two days and included workshops for everybody to understand what cultural transformation was, and why we were doing it.

When Kevin and the other engineering leaders made the decision to transform our culture, and they gained the buy-in from the people, we started to see gradual changes in our culture. We started to see this through new initiatives in developing the people, and new leadership development for us.

If a leader wants to develop their people and help them to develop their character, then they must believe in and value their people. They can’t just say they are going to do it and not follow through because that will break trust with their people.

If a leader wants to develop themselves and their character, then they must believe in and value themselves. If they think about developing themselves but don’t actually do it, then they are breaking trust and decreasing their self-belief. Without self-belief it is very difficult to lead and influence others to believe in themselves.

If a leader wants to transform the culture, then they must believe in and value culture transformation. They must believe that it can happen, and believe in themselves to make it happen.

Whatever direction you choose to go in, it is your values that will influence that direction. So choose your values and your direction wisely.

4. Servanthood

A highly effective leader understands that the foundation for people development is authenticity, and that a leader’s actions are aligned with their values and their beliefs. The inspiration for people development is service, and that to develop people we must serve them as their leader.

It is not the role of the people to serve the leader. The evaluation of people development and how we know if it is working or not is growth. That is personal growth, team growth and organisational growth. People development must be of the highest quality must be no less than excellence for all.

The energy for people development is passion, and that to develop people we must be willing to go the extra mile for them. Especially if we are expecting them to go the extra mile for us and for the team.

The motivation for people development is success, and that knowing what success looks like and what the vision is will motivate us and our people.

What we value and how we behave is what drives our culture. If you want your culture to get better then you must lead by example by living the right values and behaviours. The example you set will either inspire your people to follow you or it won’t. So, ensure you lead with the right example if you want to improve your culture.

Character development must involve everybody within the organisation, not just the leaders and the high flyers. We must help everyone develop their character if we want to have a congruent and combined culture throughout the organisation.

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Character development must start with the leaders and then they must help their people to develop their character too.

It is my mission to help leaders create the environment that focusses on their people and helps them to learn to lead, grow and increase their influence. Character development plays a big part in that mission.

If you want to bring in the right people to your team and organisation then you must value people development. You will eventually turn the right people into great people.

If you don’t value people development then your team and your organisation cannot grow. If your organisation doesn’t grow then it is going to be very difficult to attract any people, never mind the right people.

Living your values and sharing them with your people is a great start to building a great culture. We cannot build a great culture by telling people what we value and behaving in a completely different way.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

24 thoughts on “Culture’s Character

  1. Hi Tom and thank you for this inspirational post.
    At first when I started reading it I could not decide whether you are talking about organisational culture or personal culture. As I kept reading I realised it is about both and how strongly interrelated they are.
    I am personally from a small country in eastern Europe. Back at home we have a phrase that exemplifies one’s level of education or culture “7 years from home”. That means that the basics and the first lessons of behavior we learn as a child in our first 7 years of life.
    Later on, as I started working and joined a corporate team, I realised how important the role of a leader is. The leader is indeed the one responsible for the morale of the team, for the motivation of the team and its productivity, and eventually the successful completion of any project.

    Thank you again for raising awareness on culture and its importance. It is definitely enriching when part of a team with strong values and a strong leader.

    Tatiana

    1. Hi Tatiana,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I understand how it may be confusing on the different types of culture. However, as you say, culture is everywhere and we grow it in the same way.

      I appreciate you sharing your background and how the culture was from when you were a child. I hope people can learn from your experiences and take some positivity from them.

      Keep up the great work.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Fascinating post. I have recently joined a new company and I’m looking to build trust within the team I will lead. Do you have any tips, or does your E-Book delve into how I can build this in an authentic way? Does it need to happen over a long period of time, or do you think it can be achieved by just doing a few key things? Thank you Rivi

    1. Hi Rivi,

      Thank you for your comment.

      When joining a new company, it is very important to build trust with your leaders and colleagues as soon as possible.

      If you buy a copy of my book “Manager To Leader”, you will learn a lot about building trust and increasing your influence:
      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08V4DZ5NG

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom. What a great post. Culture is one of those things that truly do define a person. I especially like the part where you mention that servanthood is a big part of who defines you as a person. I think we often forget that. You can only become a high effective leader if you possess certain traits and you did an excellent job of laying out what all of those are. Thanks! All the best. Dave.

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you for your comment.

      From reading your words, I can tell that you are working on yourself every day to become a highly effective leader. You are right about servanthood and how it helps to define a person.

      Keep serving your people and helping them to serve others too.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. The character that we play in the workplace will reflect how other people act, the culture has to be right in order to start flowing right. As you said it comes from the boss and must be implemented to show that there is good character when becoming a leader.
    We always learn so much when we come to this website informational.

    Cheers,
    MnD

    1. Hi MnD,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that the culture has to be right in order for our people to give their best for the team.

      Keep working on developing your character, helping your people to develop their character and all in all keep improving the culture.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. I like this point of view, what importance cultural character has for the leader, in addition to how culture affects the whole life, as well as everything in the organization. In my opinion, cultural people are kind, polite, helpful, attentive, compassionate, and know how to listen to their interlocutors. If an organization has such a leader (of course, with all the leadership qualities), then it certainly has a satisfied team and successful achievements.
    All the best,
    Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Keep working on the culture at home and taking it into your workplace, as we are all responsible for our own culture. However, as a leader you are responsible for the culture of everyone.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hey Tom.

    Thanks for this reminder on how the culture within organisation works. I have recent example. You see, I am football/soccer coach and in the club I work (Netherlands) I had manager above me who was responsible for specific culture. We hold meetings, personal development 1-on-1 talks and other stuff which were super helpful. I am sure everyone was profiting from it. After he left, at the beginning of this season, it all changed. In short we didn’t have those meetings anymore and maybe also because of this 9 out of 12 coaches are leaving. That’s how powerful, the great leader can be.

    1. Hey Julius,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I am a Liverpool fan and Jurgen Klopp is a huge example of changing culture for the better in an organisation. I am pretty sure that you have done something similar as the coach of your club in Holland.

      Keep improving the culture, taking care of your players and the members of the club too.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi Tom,

    This is so very important. As the leader of the team you are responsible for the team’s culture and if they feel a lack of motivation, then the cause isn’t always in the team but perhaps with leadership. It feels terrible when an employee feels unappreciated and undervalued. Those are part of the reason why I recently resigned at school. I had to be free of it all.
    It is easy for a leader to announce all the changes they’re going to make but words and action don’t always go together and what is the point of these changes if management accompanies them with sanctions if the new rules or changes are not followed? Management must follow through as well with their own changes. You can’t enforce one thing but show a blatant disregard for it as a team leader because you consider yourself “above” it. Such behavior creates resentment amnong your employees which leads to an unhappy workplace. Fair treatment is a huge part of a good culture at work.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that the leader is responsible for the team’s culture. I have felt unappreciated and under valued in certain jobs from my past, and it was down to the leader’s behaviour. It feels awful and I know of other people who felt the same who became very depressed from it.

      Keep being the leader you know you can be for your people and keep inspiring us with your amazing message.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hey Tom,

    I really like this page and your entire site and what you are writing about. I’m a firm believer in “Lead your People”, “Manage your Tasks”. In my prior professional life I went through TQM (Total Quality Management) and Q.U.I.P. (Quality In Process), Effective People and Time Management, and the most enjoyable one of all; Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    I used to work for an organization that ran his business to the 7-Habits, and this company was one of the most progressive and flexible companies I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

    The coolest thing about your site and this kind of thinking is it empowers you to fail, so that you can and do succeed. Keep up the great information! I love it!

    Peace Out~~
    )O(
    Maylynn
    aka: DragonBlue

    1. Hi Maylynn,

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and working with leaders. I hope people can learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. It’s very rare to find someone who thinks the way I do, so it’s great to see such an amazing post on a great topic. Leaders are definitely the biggest influence to everyone, so if they have wrong intentions (which most have), then you will have a bunch of zombies who believe in the same values the leader has. Very much like we see in the leaders of this world we live in. SMH…thanks again Tom!

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I am so pleased that you think in a similar way to me. We need leaders who believe in leadership and the principles that inspire people to be their best selves every day.

      Keep being the leader you always wish you had my friend.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,
    This is a very interesting look at culture and how it affects workers. Leaders that lead without expecting the workers to produce more just to improve their bosses status or compensation, are more effective.

    I have worked on assembly lines where the goal was production, and I have worked where the goal was worker satisfaction. The culture of including the workers in the discussions always ended up with better performance, just because of work quality improved much more.

    People like to be treated with respect and talked to like they are intelligent, and have some great input. You just have to listen to what they have to say. In the end it is the culture of respect for your workers that wins in the end. They will be more willing to please the leader with that type of culture.

    1. Hi Chas,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences of working on assembly lines.

      When I worked on assembly lines, production was the goal too. We need to change this kind of culture so that the goal is the people.

      If we take care of the people then everything else will take care of itself, that is how it works.

      Thank you again and all the best,

      Tom

  11. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for this inspiring post. In an organization, I always pay attention to the leader. If the leader can guide all the team members in the right direction, I would love to join the team. On the other hand, if the leader only makes the management worse, I will decide to quit very soon.

    The leader plays a crucial part and has to do something to let the subordinates see the positiveness of what they do and the decision. I agree that it is challenging to lead and influence the whole team to believe in themselves if they don’t have the confidence.

    Thanks again for sharing this post.

    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment.

      You are absolutely right, the leader does play the crucial part in setting the culture and the direction for the team and the organisation. I have quit a few jobs because of the leader, it had nothing to do with the team or the job. I was being micro-managed and I couldn’t stand the pressure.

      We need to set a culture that allows our people to lead, grow and increase their influence.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. It’s a great topic brother, I love to read your article and I am very bright after red your topic.

    I also lean a lot from this topic and change my character of mind. I would like to say that it is very valuable for life and people.

    Thanks for your great job

    1. Hi Sorath,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I am really pleased that you found this article helpful and I hope you take action on what you learn. Please share what you learn with others also.

      All the best,

      Tom

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