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 where every person has contributed to the pattern, leaving a distinct impression, and that all of this creates something tangible and recognisable 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 world of winning and losing. A great team will often demonstrate a strong culture enhanced by equally strong leadership – our national rugby team 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. 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 … 

Preparation and training – this means knowing what the goal is, having the right tools and being supported in your journey.

‘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, but 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 to the absolute best possible levels. Remember these levels won’t stand still. They have to be continually reviewed and improved on. 

Culture benefits from being dynamic, the opposite would mean stagnation.

Recently a friend told me their business owner had made a decision that after 20 years of creating a strong drinking culture, he wanted this to change. It was certainly a groundbreaking moment and no doubt the culture, if it’s got more to it than socializing, will move forward despite a habit established over many years.

Finally, leadership. Captains in sport and industry need to lead. First out onto the paddock. First into the office. Comfortable with the pressure (and there is always pressure) and uncomfortable with the status quo.

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.

Lynette McFadden, Harcourts gold Business Owner

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