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Culture’s gotten complicated

But why? Since the pandemic, companies have been bamboozled by the question of “how do we build culture in the absence of eternal, physical togetherness?”

I appreciate the complexity. But I feel compelled to offer a big reveal. Here it is:

Culture doesn’t live in your office. It never did.

Culture never sat at your conference table. It was never kicked around by your foosball players. It wasn’t your free seltzer, your oversized couches. It wasn’t your happy hour, your company picnic.

Culture is – and always has been – woven into the DNA of your words, your actions, your routines. Your norms, your habits, your values – not the ones you espouse, but the ones you hold. Culture lives in what you reward. What you role model.  What you fund and resource.

Your culture of diversity does not live in your making diverse hires. Or your anti-bias training. These are boxes to be checked.

It lives in the practices that ensure a diverse slate of voices is captured before the product goes to market.

In the questions posed to your ERG’s – responses legitimately captured and reflected on. It lives in the actions you actually take following your engagement surveys.

It lives in the faces that get airtime during town halls. In the range of customers invited to provide feedback, to inform the shape of future products.

Your culture of wellness does not live in your PTO policy. Your offering of yoga classes. Your “Managing Burnout” training. These are boxes to be checked.

It lives in the quality of the 1-1 and team check-ins your managers are equipped to have with their teams. In leaders’ ability to effectively prioritize, to offer team members air cover to say “no” when plates overflow. It lives in the rituals and practices that make it OK for someone not to be OK sometimes.

Your culture of continuous learning does not live in the range of offerings on your Learning Management System. In your mandatory Compliance courses. These are boxes to be checked.

It lives in the time and space your employees can actually carve out to engage in deep learning. In the value leaders place on experimentation, calculated risk-taking. It lives in the shared accountability for activating the tools and techniques learned. In the ways your company rewards new behaviors over old, tried and true outcomes.

Shaping culture takes humility. And empathy and listening. And if you’re looking for some help that goes beyond checking a box. Don’t be shy.