signs healthy culture

4 Signs of a Healthy Culture

I am not a gardener. I’m more of a caretaker; I manage the growth. I own a home with a yard and do my own landscaping. In the fall, I rake the leaves and prepare for winter. After a long winter, the amount of work to do in the spring seems overwhelming. Nevertheless, I clean up the yard and prepare for a new season of growth. Throughout the summer, I make sure the new growth thrives.

Perhaps it’s because I’m thinking of business and leadership more intentionally, that I am beginning to draw parallels between tending the yard and tending to the culture of my business.

In a Healthy Culture, the Caretaker Plans for a Season of Organic Growth

There are two types of plants that begin to grow as soon as it’s warm: the perennials and the weeds. Both types grow quickly.

What I notice is that the weeds tend to grow among the perennials. When I pull the weeds, I find they have a root system that extends deeper than the plants. The weeds have no purpose in my landscaping; they compete for nutrients, and need to be removed.

How often do small things take root in the culture of a business and spread their roots to other areas? How often is the root of a problem in a company culture not visible until the problem has grown and spread among the parts of the organization we want to be the strongest?

When you plan for organic growth and care for your company culture on a daily basis, you must watch every sign of growth to evaluate where the roots lead. The roots of your culture nurture the entire organization, so be certain the remaining roots are feeding the areas in which you want to see growth.

In a Healthy Culture, Growth Is Limited to Areas That Strengthen the Whole

At some point in the past few years, a small patch of Lily of the Valley sprouted in my landscaping. At first they were a welcome addition, a beautiful ground cover, tucked behind the floral lilies I grow.

However, this year the Lily of the Valley became a weed. It had spread beyond its original boundary and was now sprouting into the floral lilies. In order to stop the growth, I had to cut the roots and dig up every Lily that was growing among the floral lilies.

Are there aspects of your culture that appeared unintentionally, and have started to hinder the health of your company? Now may be the time to cut those roots, in order to make certain the strongest areas of your company culture thrive without competition.

In a Healthy Culture, Sometimes You Have to Remove the Entire Plant to Kill the Weed

Recently I noticed a huge dandelion in the middle of an ornamental grass I’ve been attempting to grow for a few years. The grass itself was slow-growing, and was intended to be the centerpiece of that section of the landscaping.

The dandelion was nearly hidden by the grass; I could only see it from above. It was almost as tall as the grass, and was so intertwined with the root system of the grass that to kill the weed I had to remove the entire plant.

Is there something (or someone) in your company that may be hiding a problem or attitude that needs to be eliminated? Removing it as quickly as possible will allow the remaining culture to thrive, and perhaps create an opportunity for new growth.

A Healthy Culture is Tended Daily

In the culture garden, I plan for organic growth by removing the roots of problems that I see sprouting. I nurture the roots of my company’s culture that I want to be the strongest. I correct attitudes and problems that affect a portion of the business, in order for the culture to thrive.

In a way, we are all culture gardeners. Tend to your organization’s culture daily, and you won’t be overwhelmed when growth occurs, or surprised by the appearance of cultural shifts that you didn’t see growing.

© 2014 Brian Sooy

Copyright: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo

Brian Sooy is an entrepreneur, design professional, volunteer, donor and nonprofit board member. He is the principal of Aespire, the design and marketing firm that empowers mission-driven organizations to create purpose-driven culture through positioning, design, marketing, and web site development. Brian is author of Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto, a book that explores a framework for understanding how your purpose, character, culture, and voice empower you to communicate to the outcomes you are working to achieve.

  • JohnRichardBell

    Great post, Brian. I love the gardening analogy. It also works in the world of corporate strategy – so many leaders struggle to prune what they plant. They fail to see the value of a smaller, healthier garden.

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