by | Jan 26, 2023

If a company hasn’t worked to define its desired culture, just wait until something goes terribly wrong. The true culture will become obvious in no time.

Purpose of a strong culture

A strong organizational culture is the result of intentional planning and consistent execution over time. Adherence to mission, vision and values concepts will help employees understand what the company aims to achieve. A singular, intentional culture helps to ensure that the day-to-day actions of employees are aligned with leadership’s goals. And in the process, these concepts provide guard rails around behavior that the company strives for – or forbids.

All fun and games til someone gets hurt

Culture can be almost invisible when things are humming along smoothly. When things go wrong, though, the organizational culture can become very obvious. We saw this with the NFL earlier in January.

We witnessed this in real time when Damar Hamlin was lying motionless on the field in Cincinnati and the entire Monday Night Football production — along with the $17 billion NFL industry came to a halt. Many journalists commented that they had never experienced a situation quite like it.

In the macho and often violent world of the NFL that night, we witnessed poignant displays of emotion. We saw players from opposing teams all joined together to support their fallen brother and each other. We saw some of the most respected commentators in all of sport rendered speechless. And this all happened live on TV.

While we didn’t have the advantage of hearing the conversations as they occurred, we also saw various levels of NFL leadership responding to an emergency situation. We saw the game stop. Players were transfixed while medical professionals took care of Hamlin on the field (in front of a nation). Coaches made the correct decision to call it a night. Eventually, there was a decision that the game would be canceled.

Earlier that afternoon, no one would have anticipated that this is how the evening might go. At the same time, the contingency planning worked. Emergency crews saved a man’s life. Empathy wound up winning the night as the teams and the NFL called the game. There were plenty of Tuesday morning quarterbacks offering suggestions on how things could have been done better. But the NFL’s culture guided its collective response.

An intentional culture

Emergencies occur every day in business – accidents, accounting errors, market downturns, catastrophic weather. Unless you work in the healthcare industry, these emergencies most often don’t involve life and death. Importantly, they don’t tend to play out live on national TV. Regardless, when emergencies happen, a company’s culture quickly bubbles to the surface.

If a company doesn’t have a strong, defined culture. Just wait until something goes terribly wrong. The culture will become obvious. Does leadership have empathy for employees? Does safety come first? Do we really care about the environment? When everything is on the line, does integrity remain firmly embedded? Is it a team? Or is everyone running for the door at the first sign of trouble?

Building a desired culture requires intention, resolve and time. Of course, a culture will emerge without those elements, but when things get rough, that culture might not be the one that was intended.

Interested in building or honing your organizational culture? Tribe can help.

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