Culture, What is It?

06 Dec 2021, Lynette McFadden

Culture, What is It?

At its best or most vital, I think of culture as a heartbeat – a pulse – providing purpose and substance for the people comprising the group. I imagine a massive tapestry in which every person has contributed to the pattern, leaving a distinct impression, and that all of this creates something tangible and recognizable for others wanting to be part of that culture.

We are all influenced by culture. In the sporting arena, culture is easily evident in the polarized extremes of winning and losing. A great team will often demonstrate a strong culture enhanced by equally strong leadership – our national rugby team often comes to mind – whilst a team that is struggling to win or even connect will have nothing binding the players together. Perhaps it’s due to a preference for individual game plans and personal glory rather than teamwork based on shared success.

Business is no different. Cultures within workplaces are critical in establishing values and beliefs, shared traditions and an identity based on songs, symbols and stories. When this goes well, it looks like a picture of personal responsibility combined with collective success, feelings of being valued and the absence of a sense of entitlement. In an industry like real estate, collective group success can sometimes get replaced by more individualized pursuits, and leadership becomes an essential element in ensuring the culture isn’t altered because of this.

Obvious success can be a sign that a culture is robust, but it’s what sits under the success that really needs identifying:

Preparing and training – this means knowing what the goal is, having the right tools and being supported in your journey. This also requires agility. Sometimes the gameplan needs to change and you must be astute enough to do that.

Caring about the person next to you – it seems obvious, but for some individuals this is really hard and it’s not on their radar … though it needs to be if the culture you are striving for is about lifting everyone and not just the chosen few.

Having standards and values – ‘this is how we do it’, then doing it proudly and in the absolute best possible way. Remember, these levels won’t stand still. They must be continually reviewed and improved on. Culture benefits from being dynamic; the opposite would mean stagnation.

I’ve learnt even more about this lately, having spent time with some of New Zealand’s most renowned sporting leaders and legends. To a man, of which there were two (and one incredible woman), they confirmed the importance of culture, vision, leadership and mateship. And, finally, ‘what you do off field reflects how you play on field’. After all, life itself is a field, so to speak.

So, there you have it. A tiny snapshot of what culture can mean. But the story needs one more question: what are you as an individual doing for the culture of the group or groups you belong to? Are you adding to its pulse or tapestry, or taking from it?

Life is made better when you add.