All firms have a culture, according to author and consultant Steven Anderson, but not all firms have one on purpose.

“Every organization -- whether it’s your firm, your client’s company, or even your family -- has a culture, by design or by default,” Anderson told attendees at the 2016 Boomer Technology Circles Summit, held here this week. Too many firms leave their culture to chance, letting it develop without shaping it.

Citing Clayton Christenson’s definition as “the combination of priorities and processes, and how an organization and the people in it act on them daily,” Anderson, the author of The Culture of Success” and a long-time consultant to medical practices, said, “Culture is your priorities and how you make them come alive every day.”

With that in mind, he offered a number of “natural laws” for creating a place where people will want to work.

1. The Law of Emotion. “People make decisions based on emotion, then justify them later,” he explained. “What is the emotional temperature of your firm? Every member of your team is making emotion decisions all day long. What are you doing to manage that?”

One method he offered for changing the emotional temperature was to outlaw the customary greeting, “How are you?” People are far too likely to focus on negative events; instead, he suggested asking, “What’s the best thing that happened to you since we last met?” That focus on the positive can help move your firm culture in a new direction.

2. The Law of Success. As defined by Anderson, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” The “worthy ideal” is what separates success from achievement, which can be the accomplishment of any task, whether it’s worthwhile or valuable or not.

Two important foundations of a culture of success are having a clear set of goals, and having regular team meetings to assess progress on those goals.

“Do you have goals?” Anderson asked. “Are they written down? Do you review them every day? Are they posted somewhere where you can see them every day?”

After writing the goals down, the next step is to share them. “Most powerful cultures work on team accountability -- reviewing written goals with the team weekly,” Anderson explained. He cited an academic study that found that you have a 50 percent greater change of accomplishing a goal if it’s written down -- and a 100 percent greater chance of accomplishing it it’s written down and you’re accountable to someone for it on a weekly basis.

3. The Law of Integrity: “We want to be consistent with who we say we are,” Anderson said, and he offered a number of cultural rules to reinforce integrity,including:

  • Showing loyalty to your employer and your colleagues;
  • “Dumping your junk” or leaving issues or bad experiences in the past;
  • Showing respect for your colleagues;
  • Showing up for the important stuff;
  • Respecting your colleagues’ goals and responsibilities;
  • Telling the truth, and not gossiping; and,
  • Supporting each other.

“If you want a certain type of culture, write it down,” Anderson advised. “Talk about it. Share it with all of your employees. Create it by design.”

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