Culture Engineering – Interpersonal Institute

Culture Engineering

Culture Problems Create Other Problems: Very Expensive Ones

A culture problem is like cock-roaches: once they reach critical mass, there is no going back. You lose your best people when your culture goes sour. The solution is to catch it early before the culture problems are running your business… instead of you.

The reality is: Without team cohesion, especially in your upper-level management team, you have no business at all. Unhealthy culture:

  • Directly affects how long a project takes to deliver.
  • Burns people out and causes expensive employee turnover.
  • Is the source of much bigger, much more expensive problems.
  • Causes a bad reputation; customers never love a company unless the employees love it first.
  • Keeps you from being able to do your actual job.
  • Affects your own physical and emotional wellbeing beyond what you probably can measure. It might even be damaging your family relationships at home.

You Might be Asking

  • Why spend money or waste our breath on culture when what really matters is the bottom-line and if my employees and I will have a job next year?”
  • How can you prove to me that slowing down and focusing on something soft like culture will matter to all of us in a very practical way?”
  • How will I justify this expense to my boss or shareholders?”

Believe it or not, if you think you haven’t engineered your culture, you actually have: you’ve created Accidental Culture. If you’re asking the questions above, your people drama has probably been running your company instead of you.

Maybe your start-up culture was great! But as soon as your company got larger, the family-feel you once had was suddenly turning into a sh*t-show.

What is Workplace Culture?

Culture is the intangible and tangible interactions and feelings that happen in-between people in a group; otherwise known as the interpersonal field. It is formed by the conscious and unconscious social norms, business systems, organizational structures and interpersonal skills that the people in a group adhere to.

Workplace culture usually accidentally stems from the personalities that run teams in an organization. The people on the ground unconsciously mimic leadership behavior and bias. It might be noticed as water-cooler talk, happy hour notes on a cocktail napkin, what happens when you’re not in the room before a meeting, on a Slack group you don’t see, or is encoded in a series of emojis in an email somewhere.

Your culture is what happens between your team members when you aren’t looking.

Ultimately, culture is what ends up determining whether your people and your customers like your company or not. Culture IS a company’s brand, especially in a world that is becoming more and more transparent.

“If It’s Intangible, How Do I Engineer It?”

When we talk about the word culture in reference to foreign countries, like “French culture”, we have a feeling for what culture means because there are tangible things we can measure: language, dress, skin color, attitude, history, government structures, socioeconomics, food preferences, etc. We even know what culture means when we talk about small villages, tribes, or close-knit groups of friends.

But culture in the workplace is a little harder to name because:

  • We don’t choose the people we end up working with (so the cumulative people patterns tends to be a hodge podge of backgrounds and survival of the fittest behaviors),
  • A company typically has no language, no flag, no anthem, no border walls, and not enough years under its belt to clearly differentiate itself and
  • If no one in the company has a “culture engineering” role, then most likely no one is tracking the bigger picture. It is is tough to see the water you swim in if you aren’t trained to see it.

In a company, different backgrounds, personalities, psychologies and agendas are all thrown in together and expected to create a functioning, drama-free workplace. Can you imagine if your marriage were put together that way?

So what, then, makes people work together towards common goals? What breeds ideals, habits, norms, and values? And what breeds resistance, disengagement, mistrust and mayhem?

Let’s Talk About The Elephant In the Room

Maybe you’re hoping your people will just work things out themselves.They’re good people, after all. Isn’t that what managers and HR are for? Truth: Culture comes from the people at the top even though you see it show up in the people on the ground.

Managing culture is actually the job of the CEO or Owner, but the problem is that they are not usually experienced in organizational health or interpersonal coaching. They are good at being a visionary, which is what they should be doing! Even if the CEO is a leadership master, it’s a social psychology fact that it is nearly impossible to see one’s own blind-spots, patterns, and behaviors that others unconsciously pick up on.

HR is not equipped to track and change culture because

  • They have not had interpersonal psychology training
  • They are not unbiased because they answer to their boss
  • No one trusts them, no one will spill their guts to them (because they work for the boss and do the firing)
  • They don’t have the power or respect to change systems and norms
  • They are already swimming in the water themselves so they can’t see it!

Culture engineering requires a third party expert perspective to come in from the outside; someone with ninja skills to see, understand and then help top leaders reset and reorganize their culture.

Let’s face it: “little people problems” are costing you big money. And no one on your staff is equipped to deal with it.

Engineering your culture matters now more than ever.

  • Everyone is struggling to work remotely.
  • Job descriptions and teams are pivoting faster than a cooling fan.
  • Luxuries like break rooms, face-to-face meetings, and even functional HR departments are evaporating.

This means Culture may be all you have left to keep people together and to keep your business on track.

Here’s where the rubber hits the road: 

Someone needs to be making sure that your culture attracts, engages and retains talent; not just meets financial goals. Your financial goals are worthless without talent to implement them.

Culture is a part of your organization that you can engineer, just like a racecar. Culture is composed of parts, carefully designed, tested and perfected to work together. When you re-tune your company culture, your people can make smart decisions, contribute their best, and grow your business.

When all of these parts are tuned to precision, the whole machine becomes what you want it to be: fast, agile, precise, and powerful. The better you maintain it, the better its track record.

So How is Healthy Culture Built?

(Hint: it’s not with trust exercises, or golfing outings).

Increase Employee Engagement: Modern people tension combined with the stress of working remotely can cause mayhem and a culture of people who “check-out”. Learn to create a culture that reduces power struggles and induces buy-in; saving you dollars, product mistakes, costly emotional labor and time.

Boost Employee Retention: Employee turnover is expensive and contagious. Learn how to create cultures that foster solid relationships and employees who feel needed. When employees get their basic psychological needs met at work, they want to stay in relationship with you for the long haul.

Prevent Bigger Problems: Everything in your business starts with team cohesion and a culture that can hold a group to a strategic mission, even while under duress. Culture problems become expensive when they cause strategic collapse, a bad reputation or worse.

Improve Customer Acquisition: It’s true. Customers can feel it when employees are disgruntled, resentful and in “every person for themself” mode. We teach you how to create the systems and skills in order to have your employees caring more about disappointing a customer than protecting their own ego.

Our Process is a Unique Way of Helping a Business:

We are not your grandmother’s fancy leadership consultants. We come in with fresh, modern, practical, fun and experience-based tools that are proven to improve quality of life in the workplace. And because we are small, we are affordable.

We help businesses take the reins again and create the family culture that they originally intended.

All it takes is a test drive: transformation starts with a brief chat to assess your goals and situation.

What People Say After Culture Engineering:

  • “He/she heard me! They understood me!”

  • “I know I’m not the problem all the time now. I also know that he/she isn’t the problem either: It’s our dynamic and our lack of knowing how to handle things when we turn into “lizard brains” “

  • “We have a map to become allies again.”

  • “I feel hope for what we can create together now.”

  • “I can communicate my feelings and needs and he/she gets it!”

  • “I spend less time navigating slack (or microsoft teams, etc.) and have more time to do my real job and connect with customers.”