Renowned thought leader Jack Daly is a valued contributor and friend to Tulip Media. Jack’s philosophy about company culture is that it’s either created by design or by default. In other words, you either make it happen or it happens on its own.
Jack illustrates this point using a gardening metaphor. Your organization begins as an open field, blank and ripe for new growth. With a little fertility, something is bound to grow there whether you plant it or not. Your choice is whether you let the field be overtaken by weeds or take the opportunity to cultivate a beautiful garden that grows your organization from the inside out.
The fate of your ultimate culture will be determined entirely by the time and effort you put into cultivating a garden and nurturing what you’ve planted. If you want to sow the seeds of an organizational masterpiece, you’ll need to be ready to put in the work.
You cannot simply sit back and wait for your ultimate culture to grow on its own. If it were this easy, everyone would achieve it and there would be no real reward. In reality, taking a hands-off approach will quickly lead to a field full of weeds (or an organization fueled by negative culture).
The deciding factor in creating your ultimate culture by design or by default is the action you take to consistently nurture your organizational environment.
This isn’t going to be a one-off transaction where you plant the seeds of your ultimate culture and walk away. Oh no. Once you’ve cultivated your culture, it’s your responsibility to follow up with the task of nurturing it every day, helping positive elements to flourish and weeding out any traces of negativity.
In order to reap ongoing benefits from the fruit and flowers in your garden, tend to your garden, your ultimate culture, daily. Make sure all of its needs are being met and all of the weeds are being uprooted before they become bigger problems.
If you choose to do nothing, the weeds, or negative culture, will take this opportunity to wreak havoc on your organization. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve left the field blank and open to begin with or if you’ve already planted a beautiful garden filled with fruit and flowers and walked away. Any time you walk away from your garden, negative culture has the chance to set in.
Nurturing your ultimate culture garden is important, and it needs to be done every day. Make time daily to give your garden some water, or kind words, and assess your plant health, or check in on employee behavior. Maybe you’ll need to add a little bit of fertilizer, or incentive, and pull a weed or two, or eliminate toxicity. All of this quality care needs to be given to your garden all of the time to maintain your ultimate culture.
The Role of Core Values in Maintaining Your Ultimate Culture
Sure, cultivating and nurturing your garden of positive culture is easy enough in theory, but how do you go about doing this in practice?
To start, you need to define your company’s core values and set them in stone. Your core values are the heart of your organizational culture and the roots from which everything in your garden will grow, so choose them carefully and thoughtfully.
Core values create consistency for your team and provide a solid set of expectations by which everyone abides. Everyone in your organization, or every plant in your garden, should resonate with these values.
On our Tulip Media team, most of what we do in our roles is just second nature at this point. However, we all consistently recognize how each other’s behavior supports the core values that our company is built on.
This takes the well-nurtured garden to another level. In our company garden, we’ve now got plants, or employees, that work together to keep the garden beautiful too. We are able to do this because our core values have been ingrained so deeply into us that we all understand exactly what is expected of us and how to achieve it.
When the fit between employees and company is so compatible, living out core values is easy. It really just comes down to making the most natural decision based on what we value and what we know the company and our team value.
During our quarterly performance reviews, we are assessed 50% on our productivity and 50% on living our core values. The focal points of core values assessments align with whatever your core values are.
With such a heavy portion of the performance review based on culture, anyone who isn’t naturally aligned with your company values won’t last long. If who they are, what they believe, the way they treat people, and the way they want to be treated themselves isn’t consistent with your criteria for what these areas should look like, the performance review will quickly weed them out before they have a chance to affect the health of your garden.
Someone who is compatible with your company will share all of the core values personally and live them out every day without being asked. A perfect candidate won’t need to adopt any new attitudes because their existing attitudes are already compatible with the positive culture of your organization. This person is a true asset to your company and will help nurture your ultimate culture.
Employees that do live the company core values every day will appreciate being reviewed as much on their role as the way they carry out their role in the organization. This communicates to them that they’re being considered in a much bigger framework than simply their ability to maintain operations. They’ll also be appreciative of having all of those little things they do for the organization noticed and applauded by everyone else.
Keep your team motivated and living to their highest potential by keeping the environment they’re working in clean and beautiful. When someone doesn’t live up to the company core values, remove them from the scene. It’s better to trust that a new hire will come along than let all of your hard work go to waste.
Remember that the fastest way to destroy your culture is to have someone in the middle ruining it. If someone in the organization is not living up to their core values, you must be willing to fire the offender. Having a weed growing amidst your carefully crafted garden will steal the light and nutrients away from all of your beautiful flowers, causing them to wilt.
You might spend years cultivating your ultimate culture, but if you have someone at the center disrupting your team and making other people frustrated, you can destroy that culture and everything you worked for in the blink of an eye.
Get everybody on the same page, get everybody pulling together, get everyone aligned with the core values that comprise the heart of your organization. Sow the seeds of your ultimate culture and tend to them every day. That’s what makes the magic happen and creates a culture that is intentional and by design, not one that is left to grow by default.