Occasionally, a product or service comes along that creates a magical new space, revolutionizing a market or industry and leaving a permanent thumbprint on the world.
Like urban sprawl, it doesn’t take long for others to identify a new opportunity, shifting pursuit of their dreams to this developing landscape, pinning hopes on the promise of a fresh, new brand.
While brand identity offers a degree of separation, there is little to differentiate competitors. Everyone has a quality product; everyone has competent talent; everyone has pushed the brand science envelope to influence choice of their product or service.
The one thing no one else has is your culture.
Building Cultural Competence
Culture embodies the soul of an organization, reflecting who you are among a unique set of customs, values, and beliefs. Embracing the promise of your culture becomes more than simply what you do . . . it’s a window into why you do it.
Leveraging the intangible qualities of a culture within the cognitive realm of skill and behavior adds depth to individual performance. Tasks are executed with greater confidence and efficiency. Parity is removed as you now have an advantage your competition cannot match.
Developing a level of cultural competence sways consumer confidence, lifting, and shifting the presence of your brand across a sea of similarity.
“That’s nice Tall Tim, but the question still remains: How do we build cultural competence?”
By mirroring other skill building endeavors. For example:
Regardless of a culinary professional’s experience or background, would you bring out a binder full of recipes, say “There you go” and then leave it to them to safeguard everything your three-star restaurant has achieved?
Or would you drive your new Project Manager to a multi-million-dollar job site, hand her a set of plans and say, “Call me with any questions” as you drive away?
If so, our session today is over, please make an appointment with the receptionist on your way out.
Chances are you’ll partner with your new talent, discussing menu design or project background, demonstrating techniques, and answering questions. Given the opportunity, you would observe performance, ensuring habits align with expected behaviors and processes, generating confidence (both yours and theirs) through recognition and feedback.
Using a similar sequence to build cultural competence makes sense, although so many organizations will follow our first example . . . handing new talent a page or two describing their history, or maybe a handout referencing expected behaviors, say “There you go” and expect them to safeguard the future of the enterprise.
Building then leveraging cultural competence sounds like a lot of extra activity, but the return justifies every second invested. The overall process becomes more efficient when you focus on three specific areas: People, Purpose, and Place.
People – Soul Proprietors
People are the life force of a culture. Their willingness to become Soul Proprietors, giving themselves completely in exchange for experiencing the life they’ve dreamed of, is your organization’s most precious commodity.
Search for talent with a combination of competency and character that fits your culture. You’re not looking for the best players, you’re looking for the right ones.
Identifying talent that fits this description relies on asking the right questions. You know your culture best, but one of my favorite questions is:
Tell me about a time you were surprised by your own performance. Was this a task assigned to you or one of your own initiatives? What did you find most surprising and why?
We’re looking for responses that go beyond the mental-centric value of skill-based competencies. By connecting with a real-life experience, we’re allowed a glimpse into the heart and passion of an individual from a cognitive perspective. Listen for alignment with the ultimate purpose of an endeavor as well as evidence of self-discovery.
This will serve as the foundation for true engagement: an ability to think beyond the authority to decide and embrace the best decision for the moment at hand.
Those are people worth searching for.
Purpose – A Daily Dose
Once your people are in place, your efforts can focus on why your organization exists.
Orchestrate a daily dose of reminding everyone why you do what you do, reinforcing how every individual’s contribution is valued. This will help minimize external distractions that may foster mistrust and plant seeds of doubt among your team, eroding confidence in their loyalty to an organization.
Pepper your environment with continuous reinforcement of your core values, vision, and mission through daily rituals and proactive communication.
This is especially true with so many employees working remotely. Skipping a daily dose of cultural awareness can leave you feeling vulnerable.
Invest your energies into these types of activities:
Develop a three- or four-word mantra that resonates with your higher purpose. Not a slogan, or a marketing tagline, but something that represents a heartbeat.
For example: Our purpose and ambition within TSHAMRELL’s leadership development curriculum is to develop inherent talent and skills at all levels of personal and professional leadership; empower individuals with the confidence to enact change and perform to their potential; then inspire others in pursuit of their personal hopes, dreams, and desires.
That’s a mouthful, and why our simple mantra is Grow.Lead.Go.
Virtual or in-person, gather for the sake of community at least once a day. Work in more pragmatic aspects of performance and routine, then add in a cultural element to review.
Maybe you can’t give everyone a hug, but you can make them feel welcomed, and among friends and kindred spirits.
Consider taking static reminders of why you exist beyond the friendly confines of your work environment. You would be surprised at the impact of a logoed t-shirt, beverage container, notebook, etc. Especially if it contains your mantra or represents a significant achievement.
We recognized new cooks that had reached the end of their 90-day probationary period with a Culinary Team baseball cap. Between you and I, we bought about 200 caps on a close out sale for $4 apiece. We even convinced the distributor to sew on a patch that read “Culinary Team” for no additional cost.
Those caps generated an incredible amount of pride. They were seen being worn to and from work, throughout the community, on social media, etc.
Just work from the heart and be creative, the results will speak for themselves.
Place – Feeling of Home
Everyone wants to feel they belong, to have a special place they call home.
Home is where you feel free to be yourself, where you think your best thoughts, and visualize with an incredible amount of self-confidence.
Your work environment represents a sense of place to your team. Take proactive steps to ensure everyone is aware of opportunities to contribute, to learn and grow, and to participate in activities that share their good fortune with their communities.
This begins with structure and standards, which should be reviewed at the beginning of employment and within a specific cadence moving forward. Each of these standards reflect the core values of your brand, highlighting the importance of consistency and commitment.
Do not rely on the personal initiative of your employees to accomplish this. They’re relying on you, their leaders, to ensure the promise of a better tomorrow.
A focus on the people, purpose, and place of an organization instills confidence within its workforce, which in turn yields a more consistent product or service.
When you trace the more influential aspects of consumer choice, consistency is right near the top. It drives confidence in your brand, creating opportunities to strengthen loyalty and open the doors to even greater success.
Building cultural competence follows the same process as developing other skill areas: enable through awareness of tools and resources, empower with authority, and engage in the best possible decision for all involved.
The result is a place your team and customers will call home for a very, very, long time.
This is Tall Tim and I am At Your Service!