Friday, December 6, 2013

Management to Motherhood: Creating and Maintaining Culture

After three years as a manager, I have grown to have a great appreciation for creating culture - an intangible, yet essential, element to business.

Each company has its own unique culture, as does each family. What I've realized more and more is that culture is deliberate and powerful. The executives/parents sat down and determined what they wanted the company/family to look like, and they set up structure to make it happen. They put rules in place to make their ideas into a persistent reality. Those established values have far-reaching impact, both in the way the organization functions and in the way others view it.

Growing up, my family ate dinner together every night, beginning with a prayer. We went to mass each Sunday, without fail. These rules showed us that both family and faith were important, and the consistency of routine taught us discipline.

I know a couple who determined their family would keep Sunday holy in a deliberate way. They not only refrain from working; they also place no expectations on each other or their children. No errands are run; meals are simple. It's the only day of the week their kids don't have to do chores. They wanted Sunday to be a special day, and they set the expectations and uphold them, week after week.

These were intentional decisions by the parents to create a culture within the family. Over time, that culture can morph - intentionally or incidentally - because of a dip in discipline, changing values, or a subversive element creeping in.

Maintaining culture is then a deliberate and difficult job. As a manager, it's my responsibility to be a consistent voice of the company's values to my team members. It requires discipline to stick to the rules that make us the company we are. I'm always watching what I say and how I act so that no one misinterprets me - if they think I don't agree with the company, they will start to voice dissent and slowly degrade the culture, following my perceived bad example. Culture can degrade easily, but it takes a lot to hold up the established values. My adherence to our values is extremely important in maintaining culture among my team members.

Children are even more susceptible to outside influence and need a consistent message, in word and action. A friend told me one time that my mannerisms are exactly like my mom's. I had no idea that I'd picked up her traits and still had them 4 years after I moved out of my parents' house. (Don't worry, Mom - I take it as a compliment!) Our parents imprint a lot on us, whether we like it or not.

What's even more challenging is changing culture. Once a culture is established, it takes a lot to redirect everyone's focus and values. It takes a strong leader who is respected and trusted by the organization. (I wouldn't suggest trying to establish a new culture with teenagers...) Without the right people, enough buy-in, or adequate effort, these attempts fail. Culture has a force of its own. Creating a good culture in the first place saves a lot of headache down the road.

So I challenge you - be deliberate about creating a positive, loving culture in your household, and consistently uphold the values you hold most dear.

Slight side note - I loved being in Europe and experiencing the culture across the pond. I'm starting to plan a trip back! This picture is a tribute to the original Sound of Music, after the remake yesterday. The wedding scene was filmed in this church.

Basilica St. Michael - Mondsee, Austria

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