Shining A Light On The Gremlins Of Culture: How To Breakthrough

When we think about culture in a business, many people tend to describe it as ‘the vibe’ (with thanks to The Castle, this is one of a few phrases that take us straight back to the 90s). It’s hard for some people to put a finger on it. And if that’s the case, it’s the first warning sign there’s trouble looming.

Why? Because each person plays his or her part in determining what the culture of the business will be. If they don’t know what the company stands for, how they need to behave and where they fit in, then they will make it up for themselves. And this can become messy because it means you have a team who are all over the place, leaving your business open to misunderstandings and reduced productivity.

So what is culture?

Culture is made up of many elements, with a focus on:

These become the ‘written ground rules’ of how people ride in your business. You set the culture when you walk your talk, live your values, do what you say and say what you do.

The feedback that you are on track with this is hearing what comes after the words “around here…” Ultimately, you want to be hearing a theme:

  • Around here we live our values
  • Around here we work together as a team
  • Around here we celebrate success

How to spot a gremlin

Here we’re listening out for ‘unwritten ground rules’ that aren’t a match for the stated culture. These conversations sound like:

  • Around here it’s ok to….
  • Around here it’s different when…
  • Around here “blah” is ok when the boss is away

The breakthrough

You want a team who are culture-positive. The contrast is those who are culture-negative (toxic), or even culture-neutral (apathetic). Culture-positive people are the ones who will help improve your business and drive home what you want to achieve.


By answering the following questions, you will have a good sense of how your business is tracking on culture.

  • Is the vision being fulfilled and fought for by the entire team?
  • Are the values being lived by the team?
  • Do we hire, fire, and performance manage based on our values?
  • What personal standards of excellence does each member of the organisation abide by?
  • Are these personal standards enough for us to succeed?
  • What expectations do we have of each other?
  • Do we communicate our expectations effectively?
  • Do we speak up when a cultural expectation is being compromised?
  • Do we champion great cultural successes?
  • Do the people in this organisation have the emotional aptitude to handle the challenges we’ll face pursuing our goals?
  • Are our team resilient enough for the tough times and able to lift when needed?

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