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Shaping culture

One of the key lessons in management development today is learning how to shape team culture.  You are probably acutely aware of the culture above you (organizational culture) and the culture outside the organization (industry or national culture).  What you may not be aware of is how you are shaping team culture, day in and day out.

The culture of your team is in constant process – it is not a static entity.  As a manager, whether you are conscious of it or not, you are creating a cultural footprint.

What you do and how you do it, what you say and how you say it, shape team culture.  What you spend your time on and what you omit to do shape team culture.

Once you become a manager, your words and actions become symbolic.  Your staff are on the constant lookout for signals about what is important (values), what will be rewarded, “how things are done around here” and what they will be supported to do.

One thing you can do as a manager to increase your awareness of your cultural footprint, is to have your staff write down the “unwritten rules”.  Each member of your team individually records what they perceive as the unwritten rules of the team.  This is then shared and discussed to ascertain which “rules” need to be kept and which should be overturned.

I have used this process with groups of managers in a manager development program and it is amazing how, even after only 6 hours together, “unwritten rules” emerge with some degree of unspoken consensus.   The similarity of unwritten rules across the groups is often surprising.  There will be some organisational culture overlays (and maybe unit influences) but some of the unwritten rules will have been shaped by the facilitator’s actions and omissions (e.g. people are to keep their phones on silent but can leave the room for urgent calls; it’s okay to have fun and a joke; it is okay to criticise upper management as long as the focus returns to what the managers themselves can change).

These “unwritten rules” may have arisen in a very short space of time within a management development program – and it all happens at a subconscious level.

What this process tends to reinforce is that as a manager you are constantly shaping the culture of your team by your words, actions and omissions.  It is important to increase your own awareness of this reality so that you can actively build a positive team culture.  Developing this increased awareness should be the focus of management development.

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