Real Leaders

Beyond Profit: Using Culture to Create World Change

Humanity is at a crossroads. Every day we hear stories of division, of a loss of connection to human kindness, and of people treating each other as though they don’t matter.

Every day we hear stories of positive action, of strangers reaching out to help each other, and of joy, kindness and celebration. Every day we hear, read and create both realities.

We know enough to solve virtually all of the world’s problems, but we don’t do it. We have the intelligence, knowledge, technology and capability to create a world that brings out the best in organizations and allows people to live in fairness, greater harmony and opportunity. Why would we choose anything else? Yet every day, people and organizations choose a different path.

If we change our businesses, we can change this path. Our organizations can, by embracing a new cultural paradigm, become beacons of positive action. Culture is both the key and pathway to making this choice.

When businesses are out of alignment with their people, their culture, and their ability to anticipate and implement change, they most likely haven’t reached their full human and profit potential. What we know from quantum physics is that alignment matters. For example, the energy it takes to exploit your employees to increase profits far outweighs the energy it would take to generate more revenue by respecting your employees. As more businesses choose brilliance, respect and kindness, the effect will be cumulative, changing the tenor of how we handle business. Your organization’s ability to proactively respond to change is a key factor in your strategy, innovation and consciousness in the world economy.

3 things every business should acknowledge to make the world a better place.

  1. A business exists to do more than make money. Even if its primary function is to make a profit, a business impacts its workforce, the community in which it resides, and society as a whole through its branding, products and services.
  2. A business influences the fabric of our larger culture, our societal interactions, and the health of our planet. Take the iPhone, for example. Although only one product, it has changed the way we look at technology, communicate, and view the role of smartphones in our lives. Need I say more? Companies have an enormous impact on us in both positive and negative ways. Businesses like Apple have reshaped our communication, connection, what we value, and how we spend our time.
  3. Our workforce is human. The workforce is comprised of social beings with a need to connect, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to develop their talents, skills, and competencies. I dislike the term “human capital.” We are not human capital; we are human beings. Everyone who works for a business is a person.

When a company chooses to tap its full potential, the opportunities for creative problem-solving and business success are exponential. These cultures become brilliant: they proactively respond to change in ways that decrease stress, inspire learning and promote organizational success.

For years, I have seen companies work around their cultural issues rather than confront them. I’ve seen them avoid telling the truth about behavior, and, over time, allow their culture to devolve into something nobody wanted, rather than evolving into something great. Often this occurs unintentionally, the result of corporate leadership not understanding how culture shapes the organization and how, simultaneously, the organization molds the culture.

Why would an organization create a culture it doesn’t really want, or create a culture that’s pretty good but could be much better? Consider these factors:

Organizational culture thrives in truth.

As a culture consultant, I’ve witnessed amazing transformations when companies begin to recognize and tell the truth about themselves. I’ve seen leaders in a family business who were barely speaking start to communicate again, allowing them to implement positive, strategic changes that helped their culture evolve. As a consultant for an energy company, I’ve coached a leader who designed an organizational structure that allowed the brilliance and talent of several previously siloed departments to coalesce. And unfortunately, I’ve also seen organizations shy away from telling the truth about their cultures and stay stuck in mediocrity. This refusal to recognize and see the truth, in turn, continues to support tremendous inefficiency, which causes talented people to leave at regular intervals.

You are always in a culture, and your culture is evolving at this moment.

You are always in a culture. Culture in your company isn’t an “extra” you can sideline or avoid until you have time. It isn’t a chair you stick in the corner and ignore. Instead, it’s like standing in the middle of a swimming pool. Every minute of each day the culture in your organization is evolving and you are immersed in it.

When a company hires a new CEO, the cultural foundation shifts. When an organization decides to reorganize, the culture allows or constrains the success of the reorganization. When an engineering department of a software company decides to create a new product, the culture will influence the product development. If the product is a huge success, the culture will evolve and change accordingly.

Why is culture always evolving? Organizational culture operates as a system, and like most systems, it’s in a continual state of evolution as new people, ideas, and decisions enter the system. At the same time, people, processes and old ideas exit.

As business attempts to improve its culture, it reduces culture to superficial elements or adopts a one-size-fits-all approach. In other words, business takes action without understanding how making a change in one part of the culture will affect the rest of the system. This may dilute the potential in other parts of their culture. You have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to rise to this occasion.


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