The Truth About Culture: 8 Tips

Written by Jamie Notter on February 27, 2016

Okay, so we’re one month into this journey to association success through culture, and we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve provided a clear definition of culture and showed how that impacts behavior, as well as how it SHOULD impact the success of your association. You got to see how the leader of a very strong culture (Mark Anderson at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand) approaches the task, and then we discussed the link between culture and attracting and retaining the best talent. We shared some good links related to culture and then I perhaps challenged your assumptions about the role of core values in culture. I’ll even admit that we might have become a bit cranky with the last post about how long it takes to change culture. So where does that leave us? With an eight-tips post of course!

1. Define your culture. Culture is the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and tangible “stuff” that clarify and reinforce what is truly valued inside an organization. Take the time to actually align your words, actions, and stuff.

2. Aim for a strong culture, not just an aspirational one. This is not about being happy or feeling good. It’s about being awesome and accomplishing amazing things. If your culture is not making that happen, then you’re missing the mark.

3. Focus on culture both at the staff level (high performing teams) and board level (continuity). We’ll write more about this later in the year, but don’t ignore that Board culture. It has a huge impact.

4. Hire for culture fit, train for skills. You’ll be tempted to take that brilliant resume even if they exhibit behavior that runs against your carefully crafted culture. Resist the temptation.

5. Your culture is the ONLY thing that differentiates you from your competition, so make it attractive. ASSH actually has people from the cool tech companies applying to work there, and their culture is a big part of that.

6. Focus on the bullet points underneath your Core Values. Core values must be connected to what is truly valued and to what drives success. The values themselves are usually too broad to make that clear. But when you flesh out the bullet points underneath (carefully), you’ll have things that allow you to really hold people accountable.

7. Be willing to fire people. I know it’s hard, but if they cannot behave in ways that are consistent with the culture, then help them to find a new job…quickly. This is probably the number one reason why people claim culture change takes so long.

8. Own your role in culture change. This is true no matter where you are in the organization. Culture change is not up to someone else. It is up to you.

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