Leaders Must Embody Workplace Culture

Every workplace has a culture; leadership holds the responsibility for the quality of that culture. It’s important to create a space where you, your team, and the company can all be a part of a great culture. In Episode 122 of the Lead From Anywhere Podcast, I share insights on how leaders can embody the culture, set the tone, and make sure their teams understand and believe in the culture as well.

How Leaders Embody Workplace Culture – Listen Now!

Why is Culture So Important?

Culture, if done right, becomes almost a living, breathing entity in your company’s eco-system. And let me be clear – every company has a culture. I’ve seen good and great ones; I’ve also seen toxic ones. But every company has a culture – the collective behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes shared by those who work there, as they fulfill the mission and vision.

It’s important to create a space where you, your team, and the company can all be a part of a great culture. And as leaders, it’s our job to make sure the culture is positive and that it thrives. Once we’re working with a positive culture, it then becomes our jobs as leaders, to…for lack of better words…BE the culture. To embody the workplace culture so that you are a great example for those you lead.

How Do You Embody a Workplace Culture?

First, you must learn the culture. That starts with the building blocks of it – the core values. In this post, I shared how to identify core values. But let’s assume for now you know your core values. They feed the culture – they are the characteristics behind those actions, beliefs, and attitudes that make up a workplace culture. So your homework is to know the core values and actions that reflect each of them – write that down. Once you have that, you can often take several of those actions, group them together, and then you’ll have culture points. Things like, “Relationships always come before money,” and “Compassion and kindness are found in every decision we make.” You may already have culture statements at your workplace, but just make sure they are in line with core values. IF they are, this part of your homework is done. Once you have a few of those statements, you’re ready to go do the next step.

The second step for a leader to embody culture is to live it. Those core values and culture statements I mentioned in the first step? That’s talking the talk. It’s now time to walk the walk. YOU must show your team the behaviors and attitudes you expect in the workplace. People learn culture through emulating what their leaders do – so act in the way that represents the culture. Act in the way you’d want your team to act in your absence.

The third step, once you’ve lived the culture for a while, is to share it. Share it with your team, with individual employees, and even with your own leaders and bosses. When you start meetings, open it up with talking about one culture statement and how you’ve seen that show up recently. When you send emails, have one culture statement in your signature line, and rotate that once a month with a different statement. When you do employee reviews, share how you’ve seen that employee embody the culture, and where you see room for improvement. All of these little things that take 5 minutes or less to do – but they all add up. Over time, if done consistently, you will have a team of people who are fully aware of the culture – and who know how to live it themselves.

The Final Step for Leaders to Embody Culture

And then finally, the fourth step is to respect the culture. Keep it top of mind for yourself and for others. Continue the previous steps as you look for more ways culture shows up. Try not to deviate from the culture when making decisions or determining strategic direction. If you do deviate from it, be honest with yourself and your team about it, and then work together to get back on track. Recognize others won’t do it exactly as you would, but that’s ok – celebrate their individualism in embodying workplace culture in their own unique way.

It’s our job, as leaders, to not just teach those we lead about the culture, but to also show them how to embody it. It’s also our job to recognize and celebrate the team when they do it well.