Refactoring Leadership

A geek struggles to become a leader

Culture is The Economy

Depending on where your political beliefs fall, you may smile or cringe when a politician or the chair of The Fed announces they are going to do something about the economy. Altering the law or changing the overnight rate to banks does not directly change the economy in America. Rather, hundreds of millions of individuals make decisions based on the new rules for themselves and their business interests. The laws are not the economy, the trillions of individual decisions and actions are the economy.

Culture in your business is the same way. The leadership can't simply declare "We value honesty." "Work/life balance is important to us." "Everyone's ideas have merit."
Walk around, read your email, listen in meetings, observe what's going on. That is your true culture. Your culture is the aggregate of every action, communication, and decision made by the people that make up your business. You can change or support the culture not by simply declaring it to be what you want it to be, but by actually doing the hard work of evaluating your own actions against your ideals. Constantly, Publicly, with humility. Engage your coworkers with Radical Candor when they are not acting according to the business's principles. When a company declares one set of values but people observe contradictory actions being rewarded, it creates the worst kind of rot in your culture. Principles that should have real meaning come to be viewed as worthless platitudes.

In the past year I've got myself changing course on a decision when I realized I had just done what I've always done, or let emotion cloud my judgement. It's OK to be wrong and backtrack. Culture has to come from the top, and then be individually adopted. It has to be defended and reinforced or it will be ruined, and it has to start with you.