Take the Cult Out of Culture: Part Two

In March of last year, I wrote the first post in this series. In that post, I wrote this:

Organizations that have leaders who make rules inclusively and enforce them judiciously have cultures of accountability. Organizations that have leaders who make rules arbitrarily and enforce them punitively are cults. Organizations that have leaders who make no rules at all are failures. The lines between them must be drawn with equal parts care and conscientiousness.

One of the challenges of organizational cultures is that they’re seen as static. Leaders in organizations with static cultures say things like this: “This is our culture,” or, “Our culture is one of [fill in the blank],” or, “We have a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” But when you look more closely you find out diversity, equity, and inclusion may be check boxes intended to reflect the identity groups represented in the company. But there is no diversity, equity, or inclusion in the ways of thinking, in the levels of contribution, or in the degrees of collaborative interaction taking place in the company. Rather, the company is doing the same old things in the same old ways with the same old thinking.

The Proof Is In …

Those kinds of companies think they need to have a culture in the same way they think they need to have a mission statement — to have it on hand should someone ask about it or to publish it on the company’s website. They don’t realize cultures are fluid, dynamic, interactive, and changing — and encouraged to be — just as the ways in which the identities, personalities, and styles of the people who constitute cultures change.

Such companies also fail to realize organizational cultures are like honesty and integrity: They can’t be talked or written into existence. They can only be demonstrated in reality. And the only way corporate culture can be manifested and demonstrated is by creating an environment in which people and culture can take root, evolve, and flourish. And that, as they say, is when the magic happens.

The Good News

If you create that environment and (to quote the Beatle) let it be, you’ll find your organization improving, thriving, becoming more successful more consistently, evolving into a culture of enthusiasm and innovation. We call that evolution cultural mobility.

If you have the right framework, here’s how and why it works:

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