Agency Culture and 4 Questions To Help Change It

From the top down to the bottom up, Agency culture is formed. It takes time to establish, its hard to change once established, but it’s very easy and quick to damage.

Culture is a combination of personalities, relationships, operations, values, beliefs and simply just “the way things are”. It’s what goes on when no one is looking. While there needs to be systems, structure, commitment and accountability, the key ingredient is always TRUST. It’s a fragile ingredient too, because without it a culture can become cancerous. However, with trust, a culture can really flourish.

In a perfect world; if the top trusts the bottom, it shows they are people focused, relationships are priority, and that they truly care about not only the mission of the organization, but their family (employees). They stay transparent and connected, communicating and explaining decisions that are made, but only after looking at the the best interest of the organization and the people who make the organization run. Mission first, but people always.

If the bottom trusts the top, they hold themselves accountable (see it, own it, and fix it). They take pride and ownership in the work they do. They control what they know they can control (attitude, integrity and professionalism) And they always try to look big picture (WHY things are done the way they are).

Operations can run and tasks will get done, but only because of the PEOPLE. Quality control from leadership is critical in maintaining a high performing machine, but relationships are critical in maintaining a high performing team (the nuts and bolts of the machine). The team runs the machine.

If relationships are taken care of and there is trust both ways, operations will slowly take care of themselves. A culture with trust, transparency, communication, commitment and accountability will bring you results like you’ve never seen. If a person in the positive performs 31% better than in the negative, neutral or stressed; imagine an entire culture in the positive. Of course there will always be conflict and tension that will arise, but a culture with trust will pay attention to the tension and resolve conflict in a healthy way through understanding, commitment and accountability.

It sounds great in theory, but how do you really get to this “ideal” organization and culture?

Obviously you have to take in account diverse personalities, team dynamics, operational dynamics, and the pace of operations. You also have to account the negative Nancy’s and disgruntled Dans, who hate both change and the way things are; not to get that confused with a collective group who are legitimately frustrated about something.

But ultimately it does seem completely plausible.

Does it start with the top frequently asking questions like:

  • “Hey how are you?”
  • “How’s everything going?”
  • “What do you need?”

Does it start with the top communicating things like:

  • “Here is what will be changing, and here is why.”
  • “Here is a concern, and a possible solution in how we can do/fix this.”
  • “What do you think (feedback)? Because your opinion does matter.”

Does it mean being less policy based and more values based?

Does it mean looking less at persuaded perception, and looking deeper in the intent of both people and decisions?

Does it mean promoting ownership, having leaders making leaders?

Does it mean building bridges from both the top down and the bottom up?

Does it mean we should take our work and what we do seriously, but not take ourselves so serious, enjoying what we do and the cause we’re part of?

Does it mean we should look less of what’s wrong with things, and look more at what’s right with things?

Yes, it is all of these things, however, maybe there is something more? And maybe it is a deep dive within. 4 question to ask yourself despite the situation or circumstances. 4 questions that you have total control over the outcome.

1. WHERE can I do better?

(Humility) Humility is attractive and gracious. When it comes to personal accountability, humility is the only way to really to see it, own it and fix it. And when people see this, they tend to mimic it. Humility is also a key component of servant leadership. So ask yourself daily “where can I do better?”.

2. WHAT kind of story do I want to tell?

(Purpose) Purpose is everything. From our faith personally shaping WHY we do what we do professionally, it is the foundation of who we are and what we do. Every thought we have and decision we make plays a part in the story we we will tell, and legacy we will leave. And if your priorities are straight, work shouldn’t even be in the top 3. Maybe God, family, then work; but no higher. Success is retiring when and how you want to, and changing the world starts with loving your family first, then loving and serving others.

3. WHO and what am I grateful for today?

(Gratitude) Gratitude is contagious, and one of the most powerful emotions we have. It is free to express at no ones expense. Through it, hearts can be shifted and minds can be changed. There is always someone and something to be grateful for. Identify it and write down at least one gratitude everyday.

4. HOW can I make a difference today?

(Service) Service aligns with purpose. Ultimately we all have different reasons why we got into the profession we did, but the majority would say “to make a difference”. And that starts with serving others, making it a daily goal to leave people and things better off than the way you found them.

All of a sudden the focus shifts from culture, results and success, to us humbly exploring a journey within. We begin looking for ways to positively influence our culture, make a difference, and ultimately define our own success. Again, all you can control is you; but your ability to influence is limitless. Humility, purpose, gratitude and service are key elements in influence, and 4 core values to live by. So whether you are at the top or the bottom, if you start to ask yourself these 4 questions on a daily basis, you begin to redefine culture for yourself. The organization you are proud of and want the best potential in terms of its success becomes a part of your success and legacy; but it doesn’t define your success and your legacy.

The “ideal” culture starts with YOU in trying to master yourself through Gods will.

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