Why ‘CULTURAL FIT’​ just got me fired…

Company culture is a hot topic and top-of-mind for many business leaders these days. Designing and creating a strong company culture with rituals and artefacts to match has become an important signifier for purpose-driven organizations. Culture is crucial.

As with so many other trends in business when they become popular, we try to distill what other succesful companies have done before us and copy the behaviour that we believe led to their succes. Unfortunately, a rigorous focus on creating a unique and exclusive culture can lead to an unhealthy weeding out of diversity. When companies hire and fire based on cultural fit, there is a good chance that you will get more of the same. The same opinions, the same thinking, the same conversations, the same preferences.

A company that is not acutely aware of the fact that their true company culture is the sum of the core values and beliefs of the organization – embodied by the behaviours observed in the office, in the meetings rooms, at the coffee machine – fail to truly understand the foundation of their organization. Deliberately imposing a designed culture onto an organization (rituals, artifacts and posters on the wall) without anchoring the culture in the behaviour and clearly articulating what the underlying values are, will fail to build a strong foundation for an effective organization. You are what you do.

Effective organizations have cultures that are value-focused. The core of a strong culture that generates trust is not rituals or artefacts. It is built on shared values. Shared values allow for diversity. For innovation and creative thinking to thrive in an organization, we have to trust that there is room for diverging opinions, conflict and even negative emotions. We have to believe that opposing perspectives are good and differences are valued.

As Ron Friedman so eloquently puts it in Five Myths of Great Workplaces:

“For too long, we’ve relied on assumptions when it comes to improving our workplaces. Isn’t it time we looked at the data?”

When all research tells us that people need to feel competent and autonomous to be effective and productive in their jobs, why do we still believe that expressing diverging opinions and exchanging opposing viewpoints should be avoided in the workplace?

Trust in an organization is built from doing what you say you will do. Cohesion and alignment between the values and the core purpose of the business builds a solid platform on which every member of the organization can stand, take responsibility, think for themselves, speak freely and add value to the culture and business strategy.

I encourage anyone thinking about joining a new company (or considering to leave their current) to review the most important company culture signifiers and investigate how they align with the business strategy and underlying values of the organization. How the culture comes to life in daily work and daily behaviours, are essential indicators of the company’s internal alignment and ability to execute its strategy effectively.

When you succeed in identifying a real Cultural and Business fit  – a team that shares both your values and your purpose in life – you will find your true tribe.

Good luck out there!

(This post was originally published on LinkedIn on January 25, 2017)