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On Culture, Values, Beliefs

by David Brock on September 10th, 2020

There’s always a lot of talk about corporate culture, values, and beliefs. Too often, these are treated as “PR.” Annual reports, analyst reports, communications to customers and communications within industry, espouse the culture of the company—and every once in a while, the companies actually demonstrate these in the way they work.

Every company has a culture, values, beliefs—though those may not be what they claim them to be. We can understand the “real culture, values, and beliefs,” by the behaviors and actions we see demonstrated every day, at all levels.

For example a company may declare itself to be customer focused. It may claim it values their people, even calling them “associates,” rather than employees. But if the company focuses on revenue and growth over customer satisfaction and retention, it can hardly be customer focused. If it trains it’s sales people to push products on customers, rather than understand how the solutions help customers achieve it’s goals, it is internally focused, not customer focused. Likewise, if the people are viewed as replaceable “widgets,” to achieve their goals, they can hardly be people focused.

It is the real values, behaviors, and beliefs we see demonstrated every day in the behavioral examples set by leaders, and how we behave with each other every day that define our culture.

It’s not what we say our culture and values are, but what we actually do every day that creates our culture and reinforces the underlying values and beliefs.

So why is all of this important?

As we look at what each of us, our customers, and our organizations face every day in these difficult times. As we look at the challenges we face in the “new world of work.” As we try to make sense of what we are doing, of how to connect and be connected, it’s the culture, values, and beliefs that serve as the grounding point for each of us and our customers.

In the absence of clear direction. In the absence of answers about how to accomplish something, we rely on our organization’s culture, values, and beliefs to help each of us figure things out.

Even in the best of times, we can’t provide answers and direction on how people should handle every situation they encounter. We can’t provide training, coaching, systems, processes, or tools that address every situation.

We have to be able to trust our people to figure out what they should do, how they should react, how they should behave. It’s our culture, values, and beliefs that provide the framework for how our people behave and deal with situations they face everyday.

If our real culture is that we don’t value customers, but rather that we view them simply as vehicles for achieving our revenue goals, we will see those attitudes in the way our sales people engage customers, and in the experiences created by customer success.

If our real culture is one that doesn’t respect and value our people, then we will see that reflected in the way the treat each other, in the quality or type of people we are able to attract, and in the type of people we are able to retain.

Culture, values, and beliefs are always important. But in times of massive disruption, change and uncertainty, they become the most important elements of our strategies for our people and our customers.

Do your behaviors, values, and beliefs demonstrate what you want your company to stand for? Your demonstrate these, every day, in the example you set to your customers and people. You just have to make sure this is really what you intend to set and how you expect people to behave and respond.

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