Podcast: Leadership Amplitude Episode 13

Discover the meaning of organizational culture and how to be successful in it.

The Personality of Your Organization

Join host Anna Slaydon as she talks about corporate culture with Ramonda Kyser and Dr. Edwin Mourino. 


Anna Slaydon: It seems like these days there is a lot of attention on organizational culture. Over the next four episodes, I'll be chatting with Ramonda Kyser, senior consultant with The BB&T Leadership Institute, and Dr. Edwin Mouriño, to find out what exactly is culture, and what kind of tips and tools can we use to be successful in it. Let's get started.

Dr. Mouriño: We define organizational culture as the expression of an organization's personality. It encompasses the shared beliefs, emotions, and behaviors of its employees, and it's demonstrated by the expression of those beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. So, again, it's what you kind of—it's not the walls or anything around, it's what people feel that this is how I can express myself. This is how I'm truly empowered. This is how I'm engaged, or not. And that's where you get to see that play out.

Anna Slaydon: And it sounds like from that definition that it's not just one person. It's the collective people and their identity.

Ramonda Kyser: Absolutely.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Ramonda Kyser: Because all organizations have a personality. And I think the more savvy of our organizations that can really pay attention to what their personality might be—may have a better pulse on what their culture is. Would you say that, Edwin?

Dr. Mouriño: Yes. I would. And the other thing is one other point to Ramonda’s point is that each organization has a culture, but each major function has its culture, and each department, in turn, has its subculture.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes.

Anna Slaydon: Oh, wow.

Dr. Mouriño: So it filters on down, sort of. You may want to say the personality of the boss, whoever's in charge of the department of the leader.


Ramonda Kyser: [Unintelligible Comment]

Anna Slaydon: So you can really have cultures within cultures.

Dr. Mouriño: Most definitely.

Ramonda Kyser: Absolutely.

Dr. Mouriño: Yes. As I've mentioned to leaders over time, and I know Ramonda has, too, every leader carries their brand, and people know when Ramonda has a position, do I want to go work for her or not? Because people will talk about, yeah, the job may be very good, but this is how Ramonda—

Ramonda Kyser: This is the culture in that group.

Dr. Mouriño: Exactly.

Anna Slaydon: Ah. Okay. So it sounds like if you're not being aware and conscious of your culture that one of the things that can happen is you can lose good candidates for your team.

Dr. Mouriño: Yes.

Ramonda Kyser: Or, you can gain good candidates.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Ramonda Kyser: It can go both ways.

Anna Slaydon: Right.

Ramonda Kyser: So if an organization isn't really being intentional and purposeful about the culture they're trying to create, you can have a lot of subcultures established, which I think is what Edwin was getting to. Our hope here in this podcast is that we can help organizations hopefully minimize these subcultures so that we're all having that same experience, no matter what department or what line of business we choose to go in within the larger organization.

Dr. Mouriño: And the other piece I'd like to add to Ramonda’s point is that through our efforts and our initiatives and programs that we have at the core foundation is, Mr. or Ms. Leader, are you aware of the environment you're creating through your behaviors? No one can read your intentions, but they can read your behaviors. And what's fascinating about that is most people think aware is a touchy-feely concept. But there's a lot of research coming out as to what its impact is, and the bottom line of how aware organizations’ leaders are of how they're being perceived by their staffs.

Anna Slaydon: So do you find that most leaders that you interact with are pretty accurate in their understanding of their culture? Or is that a growth area for them?

Ramonda Kyser: I think it's a growth opportunity.

Dr. Mouriño: More leaders come to the table. If you think about it, they're rewarded for quarterly dividends, and results, and so forth. And so culture takes a back seat, or how they're coming across to the people take a back seat. Not intentionally. It's just that that's what's in front of them at the moment. And so they don't realize that this Jell-O of a thing that we call organizational culture, you create that. You drive that. And you need to be more aware, consciously aware, as to how you're driving that, or how you're showing up.

Ramonda Kyser: Culture isn't just this negative thing, either. So there's so many good things to culture. I worked with an organization where it felt like a family.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Ramonda Kyser: Even though it wasn't a family-owned business. But they were intentional about creating a family atmosphere and a family vibe. And so you could see people extend themselves more for their coworkers, going above and beyond. I've also seen with clients where they say they have a culture, but if you're not doing exactly what they believe that behavior should be in the culture, then you're an outsider of the culture.

Anna Slaydon: Hmm. So it sounds like there's always going to be a culture, regardless of whether or not you're aware of it, or trying to implement it, there will be a culture.

Ramonda Kyser: Correct.

Dr. Mouriño: Yeah.

Anna Slaydon: There is never going to be an organization that has no culture?

Dr. Mouriño: Correct.

Ramonda Kyser: Correct.

Anna Slaydon: And there's also cultures that are very healthy and functional and there are cultures that are not.

Dr. Mouriño: Correct. Right.

Anna Slaydon: And so using the word culture, organizational culture, doesn't in itself have a positive or a negative connotation. It's what is actually showing up in the organization.

Ramonda Kyser: Right. So, if we were to go back just to our definition of what organizational culture is, our first sentence, organizational culture is the expression of an organization's personality.

Anna Slaydon: Okay. I like that. Personality. Yeah.

Ramonda Kyser: Every organization has a personality.

Anna Slaydon: And I would imagine that that word, personality, also speaks to the uniqueness.

Ramonda Kyser: Yes.

Anna Slaydon:  And no two organizations could have the same personality.

Ramonda Kyser: Correct.

Dr. Mouriño: Correct. Well, and the other thing is, as we also explain it as a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. So it's not someone, something you are, it's more something that you do.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Dr. Mouriño: You're intentional about Mr./Ms. Leader, what is that we're expecting here? What is it we're looking for in our, in the people that come work here. So, to Ramonda's point earlier, it's not just about the external customer. In some cases, we have people supporting internally. So are we all collaborating, supporting, pointing in the same direction, and really looking out for each other?

Anna Slaydon: It seems like there's been a lot that's been written about and talked about in culture for many years. Why is this becoming a more hot topic now?

Dr. Mouriño: So for several reasons. I almost call it the perfect storm of what's happening now in the 21st century. Today's workers is looking more for meaning and purpose in life, and few of them find it at work. Their expectations are constantly changing, but most companies have not kept up pace with that. That's one. And the second piece is that there's a huge scales gap in this country. So companies are competing hard and heavy, regardless of industry, for the limited workforce and a limited skill workforce.

And then the other thing I see happening is that people are looking for four things. And this is across the globe. They're looking for manager-employee relations, good ones. They're looking for worker-to-worker positive relationships. They're looking to try to balance their life and personal life and work.

And the last thing, the one thing, the number one thing in the world, is they want to be patted on the back and be said thank you for a job well done. When you create that type of an environment, of appreciation and all that kind of stuff, it just creates a good-natured place, where it's not a Monday every day to come to work. I think those are some of the things that are driving it. And there's still, unfortunately, a big gap when it comes to leaders being aware of this.

Anna Slaydon: I get all that, and I think it sounds great. I think where I'm having the challenge is that there are organizations that are very production-related. And so they're defining their success or failure by the number of units that they complete, you know, the amount of products that they issue. And so I'm wondering from that perspective why they would feel like culture matters. Because regardless of whether or not that associate's feeling fulfilled by the amount of widgets they complete, as long as they complete the widgets, it seems like they're being successful and that company is being successful overall.

Ramonda Kyser: Technically, yes, they're being successful at a level. When companies want to be more than just average, they want to be more than just successful, they want to be that top tier, they want to be the place where other people want to come work; culture is the thing that sets them apart.

Dr. Mouriño: The other thing, too, is there have been some organizations out there that have been successful. They were cited in the book Good to Great. And they no longer exist. The other thing that's on top of that is these new business models that exist today that did not exist in the year 2000: Airbnb, Uber. You have gig employees, all that kind of stuff going on that just did not exist before. And that is, it is forcing organizations to look in the mirror and reinvent themselves, particularly where you have a limited skills group out there. You don't have enough, and everybody's competing for the same workforce out there. There needs to be more there when pay is number eight in the world. So, as a motivator. So there needs to be something more there. Now you have a thing called Glassdoor, where people could put there is it a good place to work or not, in spite of the place fact they want a great place to work. So there's more transparency out there, and people can share as to what's going on, or they can just go Google it and find out is this really a great place to work?

Anna Slaydon: I want to narrow down on something that you said, because I know we spoke with Steve Swavely. He was talking about how in terms of engagement how much you pay really does have a smaller impact on your level of engagement than other factors. And I'm hearing from you, as well, that pay was, you said, number eight, in terms of motivation?

Dr. Mouriño: Yes. Number eight in the world.

Anna Slaydon: Motivation to do what, though? To show up to work?

Dr. Marino: Well, everybody shows up to work.

Anna Slaydon: Okay.

Dr. Mouriño: But again, it goes back to Ramonda's point. That's just average. That's just to get the job done. You showed up here visibly. But then why are companies investing so much money in engagement? Because they're trying to create an engaged workforce, and the one that drives it are leaders. So we recognize that after a certain level of pay, money's off the table. Now, how do I differentiate myself in this business, industry, whatever, versus my competitors? Because people can now reach over and look. And as a matter of fact, companies are giving incentives now to if you bring somebody onboard, we'll give you a little bonus. So there's even that driver of competition.

Anna Slaydon: So is it all about talent acquisition?

Dr. Mouriño: Not just that. But it is about retention. It is about the intrinsic motivators that goes beyond pay. People are looking for more than just a job. They're looking for purpose. They want to have mastery, which means they want to always continue to be learning. They want autonomy, which means they don't want to be micromanaged. And most leaders I've seen up to this day, 30-something years later, they're still micromanaging. So I've teased Ramonda about this. I said, "You and I will have a job until we're 150."

Ramonda Kyser: [Laughter] I don't know if I still want to be working at 150. 150.

Anna Slaydon: [Laughter] So we've talked a lot about what organization culture is, why it matters, that it's going to be happening, anyway, so leaders need to be aware of it and influencing it so that their employees and their organization are performing at peak levels. So we've got all that. But now what?

Dr. Mouriño: So, what I think leaders need to remember; a few things, three things:

One, the secret to highly successful groups are those that are led by a leader that includes safety, vulnerability, and purpose. And by that, I mean the leader has created a safe environment. They've shown that, hey, you know what? I don't know everything. So they're vulnerable. And that the purpose is more than just a job. So that's the first piece.

The second piece is leaders need to remember what really motivates people? We've already identified that pay is number eight. So the three things there a manager needs to remember is autonomy—and that's basically to be able to direct our own lives and work lives that—purpose, they want something bigger than just the work; and mastery, being able to continue developing myself as I go forward.

And then the last piece I would add is that the number one thing people want in the world is just recognition, is just for a pat on the back. It's free. And once you've created that type of environment from a leadership perspective, you've created a great place to be.

Ramonda Kyser: Hmm. So of all of those, Edwin makes really great points. But to wrap that up, it's sincerity and making sure it's authentic. You can tell me, "Thank you. I appreciate it." And I know you don't mean it. And so, creating a culture that allows for that trust, the autonomy, the mastery and purpose; but doing so in a sincere way, not just so that I, the employee, am getting what the organization needs. Bu the organization is also feeding what I need as an employee.

Dr. Mouriño: Bingo.

Anna Slaydon: If organizational culture is the expression of personality, then we have to factor in that each employee may have a different idea of what that looks like. So as a leader, we have to think about perceptions. On our next episode, we'll talk about how perceptions impact organization culture, and what you as a leader need to know about it.

If you're new to our podcast, welcome. You can check out other episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify. For more information or for today's show notes, visit us on the web at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com. Leadership Amplitude is a podcast production of the BB&T Leadership Institute, all rights reserved.

[End of Audio]

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