One Size Does Not Fit All

March 9, 2018

When a CEO comments to me that she or he wants their company’s culture to be just like Disney (or another organization recognized for their world-renowned work environment), I’ve learned to calmly nod my head and gently start asking clarifying questions. Instinctively, I know the CEO doesn’t want to copy Disney’s culture and create their own version of Mickey greeting guests who walk through their lobby. What the CEO typically is desiring is a higher performing culture that reflects the best of the organization and one that is based on shared corporate values in both Boise and Berlin.

One of the biggest misconceptions about workplace cultures is that one cultural style will work for all organizations. What works for a company with a strong customer service focus will fall flat with a company style based on planning and caution.

In this cover story in the Harvard Business Review, the authors describe eight distinct styles of culture: Purpose, Caring, Order, Safety, Authority, Results, Enjoyment, and Learning. One of the best teaching moments in the article was when the authors illustrated these styles based on quotes from CEOs.

Caring example by Disney CEO Bob Iger: “It is incredibly important to be open and accessible and treat people fairly and look them in the eye and tell them what is on your mind.”

Learning example by Tesla cofounder and CEO Elon Musk: “I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous new technology where you see it and you’re like ‘Wow, how did that even happen?’”

When you read the article, don’t miss the chart that ranks how often these styles appear as a defining culture characteristic among the companies in the study. Spoiler alert: Results style, characterized by achievement and winning, ranked the highest.

Which culture style do you identify your organization with? And which do you aspire to be (if you’re not already there)?

You already know this, but our cultures are as distinctive as our business models… or a sizing chart…and one size does not fit all. That’s one reason why I am so thrilled about The Unstoppable Cultures Fellowship during which myself and three other pioneers of renowned organizational cultures will work with the 56 participants in small group settings to define where their specific culture currently is, where it needs to go, and how they can get it there in ways that are as unique as their organizations are. I hope you will consider joining us in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico for a transformational leadership experience November 12-15.

Wherever you find yourself on your culture journey today, be encouraged that every organizational culture you admire was pioneered by someone just like you, who was willing to blaze a new trail.

P.S. For other myths about corporate cultures, be sure to check out Denise Lee Yohn’s Five Myths About Corporate Culture, And Five Strategies For Cultivating A Great One

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