Patterns of Life & Cutlure
The Culture Creators
What is stored in your culture? – Louise Forster
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What is stored in your culture? – Louise Forster

In this wonderfully human conversation, Louise Forster, CEO of Advocare, and I explore how culture can act as a ‘hard drive’ storing the full impact of an organisation’s prior journey and how the unseen aspects of culture reveal themselves.

What shines brightly in this conversation is how connected Louise is to the people around her which provides many great stories and examples of just how culture plays out.

The conversation also provides a great insight into the responsibility of the CEO role to balance the management of culture and drive performance of an organisation.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Music and other platforms

My key learning nuggets about culture from the conversation:

Culture works in many and every way; it is invisible but reveals itself through behaviours and artefacts.

Culture can be like a ‘hard drive’ storing events, stories, responses, behaviours from the past; merely changing a CEO doesn’t ‘wipe’ the history clean.

Is there a need for a role within organisations of ‘company historian’ who holds the knowledge of journey stored within the hard drive?

Culture can be quite ‘sticky’ in that people can latch on to ‘the way things are’ quickly and can be reticent to changes.

Again, the nature of the work and the nature of the employees the work attracts, also significantly shapes the culture of an organisation e.g. strong sense of social justice in this case.

Toxic, unsafe workplaces often feature defensive behaviours, there is an inconsistency between what is said and what actually happens.

The role of CEO has a significant influence on the culture, all are watching and waiting to take a cue; therefore doing what you say, not assuming much and taking a learning perspective is particularly powerful.

A key challenge of the role is balancing culture and driving the performance of the organisation. When they work well, they support each other.

Often cleaning up a culture involves:

  • A lot of ‘unpicking’ through clear conversations aimed at getting underneath what is actually occurring e.g. if people are not being honest or denying how they really feel, or why people are carrying anger towards a situation  

  • Tapping into, clarifying and aligning intrinsic motivation to the requirements of the job

  • Consistent expectation setting

  • Making sure all the touch points of people’s experience of working in the organisation are consistent

  • Recognising that it a) it takes time, and b) is a continual dynamic area of focus

Recognise that the subject of difficult conversations will never go away unless the issue is dealt with directly. If they are avoided or suppressed, they merely stay and fester.

There’s a super interesting point that often the role of CEO quickly begin to ‘turn things around’ in the short term by making blunt and hard cuts and changes, but at what human cost? Frequently said CEOs move on quickly and organisations collapse shortly after their departure.  

Culture cares not for strategies and plans that don’t connect and meet culture where it is at. When the two combine, culture can give life to strategies and plans.

We need to acknowledge that all employees are bringing their ‘past’ to work – this may include unresolved issues from ‘the playground’. Too often in regard to culture we are trying to resolve the here and now with rationale approaches that disregard what is brought in or lingering from the past – both individually and collectively.

Does culture feature as an agenda item of board meetings?

It is important that the board recognises the challenge of balancing the management of the culture and the performance of the organisation.

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Patterns of Life & Cutlure
The Culture Creators
Culture holds a huge power to influence those within it. We read more and more about the impact of culture whether in business, government, sport clubs or communities. But still basic fundamental questions still remain unanswered: - What specifically makes one culture toxic and another buzzing with life? - How do you actually steer culture from one place to another and avoid regressing back? These are the questions that continue to challenge executives, leaders and those wanting to make real change in the world. These are the questions we explore in the Culture Creators podcast. The podcast features in depth interviews with business leaders, sports coaches, community leaders and others that either have previous experience of steering culture from one place to another or are currently in the thick of managing it today. The purpose of the Culture Creators podcast is to build a repository of case studies, expert points of view and real life examples so that we can: - better understand the mechanics and dynamics of this unseen, unaddressed and unaccounted for space that holds some much power to influence, and - develop our own individual capacity to proactively shape and steer the cultures that surround us. Please subscribe to join us on this fascinating journey and develop your own deeper frame of understanding of culture. Also please get involved by suggesting future guests that we all can learn from!!