Not long ago, I was lost in deep thought while sitting in my yard and pulling weeds, when I witnessed an incident that reflected creating culture. Two kids from the neighborhood, one about 7 and the other probably around 6, were riding bikes up and down the sidewalk. I noticed their easy conversation and ability to find pleasure in what they were doing. However, that quickly changed when the younger one wiped out on the sidewalk right by where I was working. Because of my experience from years of working in a gym and coaching gymnastics, I did not immediately react but instead, slowly got up (ok, that had more to do with age than intention!) and walked over to the kids.
Here’s what I witnessed:
Older girl: Are you ok?
Younger boy: (crying)
Older girl: (picking up bike) Let’s stop for a minute.
Me: Are you ok?
Younger boy: (still upset but getting up)
Older girl: (helping him up) Why don’t we get a drink of water and then you can take the lead.
Younger boy: OK.
Older girl to me: Thank you for helping us!
Older girl to boy: C’mon, you can go first.
They rode off and left me wondering—was that girl really only 7? Aside from the fact that she demonstrated leadership attributes, she also epitomized creating a culture between her and her friend.
Culture is the environment created as a result of a group’s (or in this case, a couple’s) collective characteristics, attributes, skills, knowledge, beliefs, values and meanings. It’s basically all the ‘stuff’ that make us unique individuals thrown into a mix of collective. Culture will be created among people who come into relationship, intentionally or not!
I’m sure this little girl was not thinking, “oh, I’m going to create a positive, uplifting culture here;” however, that is the result of her behaviors. Perhaps kindness, respect and courtesy are taught in her family system, or perhaps her true essence exudes these attributes. (How did she know that handing over the reins of ‘taking the lead’ would motivate her friend?) Either way, her demonstration of these attributes created a wonderful culture between her and her friend.
Oftentimes in the workplace, organizations struggle with this culture piece. They know something is amiss but are not sure how to shift from a culture that is not functioning effectively to a culture that breathes life into its people when they fall down, just as the little girl did with her friend. It is not in the big initiatives, the change management or even the motivating all-company meetings that create a culture. It is in the day-to-day interactions with one another that culture is created. How we choose to ‘be’ while we are interacting will largely determine the overall culture.
My experience in working with teams and organizations, and in building teams of my own, is that the culture piece directly impacts the growth or decline of the team and/or organization and its productivity. The more positive the culture, the higher the productivity. And, in my opinion, that is not even the greatest benefit of being intentional about culture. When you walk away from a day at work, like I do, with the feeling of, “I love my work and the people I work with”—you’ve struck gold! Positive culture creates community, and community keeps us engaged and motivated in all we do.