Culture Carriers & How to Make Them | Is This Mic On?
How do I reinforce culture for my team?

In this Is This Mic On? We tackle the question of, “How do I reinforce culture for my team?” Read on to hear what SNP had to say about values-based actions—defining, acknowleding, and recognizing.

Dear SNP, 

Our team has been navigating a lot lately, from return to work to layoffs and reorgs. We’re just now settling into our “new normal” (which seems to change every three months). Our leaders have refreshed our values to reflect all these changes, and they inspire me. Now it’s my job as a manager to get the team on board. They say it. They get it. But they’re not exactly living it (and you can feel it in their work…). People aren’t communicating. There’s tension in the work environment. It feels like I’m the only one beating the drum of our company’s mission and values. How do I get them to do the same, to live out our values, and to build a team of culture carriers? 


Building culture

Dear Building Culture…

Define. Acknowledge. Recognize. 

Don’t let my succinct first line belie my internal struggle. This is a tough one. The context of your question makes your question that much more challenging. So I’m going to go on a little rant about why leaders might consider before tinkering too much with their values: 

Warning: values are foundational

Changing processes, structure, and initiatives is hard. Sure, yes, I don’t mean to mitigate that. Changing values? That is changing the fundamental how-to for your team. The pillars from and off of which they know how to operate. The North Star for decisions and actions. It is the values that can help a team understand why and how organization, policy, and process changes have been made. Values can be the constant in a flurry of change. 

So by changing the values, you have a new challenge. Not only has the organization changed, but the foundation has shifted. The beliefs have changed. So every leader and manager must invest time here. Which of course, finally brings me to your actual question. 

Demonstrating the values just…is

Demonstrating the valuesthe new valuesis an every week, every day, every moment choice. It’s not words on a page, placard, or pinned post. It’s not a recitation. It’s not a circus proclamation of “and now, esteemed colleagues, you’re about to witness a daring example of living by the core values!” it just…is. 

Helpful, right? I can hear you muttering at your screen right now: “The answer is: It just…is?” 

It’s in the words we choose, the tone we take, the choices we make. It’s in the way we communicate a heavy message, approach a hairy problem, or make hard decisions. Demonstrating the values (or not demonstrating the values) has an almost tangible quality to them. So: Define. Acknowledge. Recognize. 

Define. Acknowledge. Recognize.

Define. What does living our (new) values look like?

What are the actions? Verbs + Nouns. If a value is “creativity”, define what that looks, feels, smells, tastes like by defining the action (ew ok, I know, maybe scratch that last one). Better yet, ask your team to define the actions. Create a conversation around the values, versus a presentation about the values. So, back to my example, “creativity” may beget more verbs like “explore”, “introduce”, “invite”. Then the noun may become specific to your functional team. That’s where you make it real. Talent acquisition may refer to candidates. Engineers to code. Marketing to copy. So there is your first to-do: create a space for your team to define the values in terms of actions. 

Acknowledge. Find the examples.

Now that you have the definition, spot them in the wild and include them in your own language. Let’s say a value is “determination”. Did one of your partner teams launch a complex project? Speak of it in the context of the value. Did your organization just have an all-hands? Ask your team where they saw “determination” in play. Remember: there are opportunities every week, every day, every moment to take values-led actions. There are just as many opportunities to look out for those actions, acknowledge them, and continue to make them real for your team. 

Recognize. Applaud what good looks like.

Recognize is for your team and while it may sound like a synonym to acknowledge (which some of the internet searches I just did confirm), here we think of it more as a cousin. Recognition is a powerful tool. It’s specific, it’s personalized, and it’s timely. While it is a cousin to acknowledge, it’s a sibling to difficult feedback, sharing the same format: state the action and then give specifics. For example, if a value is “humility” and a team member recently acknowledged a mistake they had made and quickly amended it…maybe that is an opportunity for recognition. Now, you get to choose public or private. Written and/or verbal. Cookies and/or balloons (kidding, sort of). Based on the person and the situation, ensure you are recognizing examples of values-based actions. Show and tell and applaud what good looks like.

So, if you are a leader reading this, consider before you change your company values. It’s not unheard of and sometimes it’s necessary, just consider first. 

Managers, make it tangible. Define. Acknowledge. Recognize. You’ll inspire new culture carriers, with every week, every day, every moment. 

Struggling with where to start on culture? SNP can help. Check out our culture assessment service to help you find your culture baseline and set direction for your high-performing team.

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