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Carolyn Taylor, author of Walking the Talk, discussed corporate culture during the recent Public Relations Global Network meetings.

She said “Culture is the patterns of behavior that are encouraged or discouraged by people and systems over time.  That then becomes the culture of the organization.”

And – that’s not always good.  Case in point:

New York Times Headline:  At xxx, It’s the culture that’s rogue

New York Times:  His unauthorized trading also seems consistent with a culture at xxx that stressed individual advancement over team efforts, according to former investment bankers…

New York Times: “This doesn’t look like a sequence of rogue behaviors – it’s a pattern”

It doesn’t have to be bad.  And, it shouldn’t be.

Firms will often be a reflection of the founder or owner’s personality.

Culture is created through the unspoken messages people receive about what is valued. Among them are:

  • Behaviors – what is role modeled; meetings, conferences, e-mails; interactions with others.
  • Systems – planning and budgeting; performance review and reward; measurement, reporting and learning; structure.
  • Symbols – how budgets are allocated, how time is spent, people promotions, exits; offices, parking spaces, titles.

Taylor said there are six characteristics of culture:

  1.  Achievement, let’s get the result at any cost, get the numbers, push for growth, etc.
  2. Customer centric, organizations that build themselves about building customer relationships, if we get customer the piece right, everything else will fall into place
  3. One team, organizations who build themselves around team first
  4. People first, relates to the organizations who look after their employees first -- then everything else will follow
  5. Innovation, known for coming up with new ways to do things, etc.
  6. Greater good. Organizations who consider they have a contribution to the world over and above making profit

Most companies have one or two of these characteristics and the others just follow in at a lesser level.  Taylor equated it to a lava lamp – the color of the water may be the overall culture with the other components slowly moving throughout…

Regarding their own companies, Yap Boh Tiong, chairman  of Mileage Communications Group in Singapore stated:  “Integrity is cornerstone of everything we do.  It’s the first slide new employees see during their orientation.”

Michael Diegelmann, chief executive of Cometis AG in Germany said his firm’s culture is that of “Survival of the Fittest.”

Sara Pearson, founder of Spider PR in London said at her firm, “Being nice counts.”

Layth Dajani, founder and CEO of the Content Factory in Dubai, cautioned that “Sometimes we are viewed differently by ourselves than by our clients.”

When defining a company’s culture, if often becomes discussion about values, integrity and  teamwork.

What’s your company culture?

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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