Organizational Culture – To Be Naughty or Nice

Santa is running with a huge gift

Every year around holiday time, children become more and more concerned about being “good little boys and girls.” Their motivation is strong. Behaving well can bring gifts from Santa; behaving poorly can bring a disappointing lump of coal.

When you are trying to build and encourage a corporate culture, a similar “stick and carrot” approach can have a powerful impact on the behaviors you want to disappear and those you want reinforced. Just as you would define clearly to your small children what constitutes “naughty” and what constitutes “nice” behavior, you must clearly articulate the desired company culture to your employees. And then you must put in place a system that encourages the “nice” behaviors that fit in and sustain your corporate culture.

Based on over thirty years of research with high performing organizations, we know that cultural factors account for almost 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies. Organizational culture matters a great deal. When it is fully aligned with your corporate and talent strategies, you are on a winning path. In fact, we believe that strategy depends upon culture to create the environment for success.

Do not let your corporate culture form by default. Shape a high performance culture by being clear and consistent about how you want (and do not want) things to get done. And then use timely, clear and meaningful rewards to encourage the specific behavior you want to promote and timely, clear and meaningful consequences for the specific behaviors you want to discourage.

Neuroscientists tell us that our brains are constantly on alert…seeking rewards and minimizing threats. Our brains lead us toward some things and away from others. This fact can play a huge role in the way we fashion corporate culture. Because we are social animals, social acceptance and status are important to our overall wellbeing. We naturally seek opportunities for advancing our social standing, for knowing the answer, and for being right. When we are recognized for doing the right thing, we are more likely to repeat the particular behavior that brought us the psychic and emotional reward.

Every time an employee exhibits the values or behaviors you are trying to embed in your culture, reward them. It can be with a simple note of thanks or a pat on the back or recognition in front of peers. Just make sure to recognize those who behave in a way that promotes your desired culture. Up to 50% of the difference in performance between companies in the same industry is attributed to culture according to the Harvard Business Review. Design, encourage and sustain the organizational culture that fits with your business and talent strategies and you are well on your way to success.

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