Are we ‘talking about doing culture’ or ‘doing culture’?

“Are we talking about having sex or are we having sex?”

Can you imagine my reaction?

I heard this statement when I was studying my Psychotherapy training.  I was in a group dynamics session. Unexpectedly, this phrase came out of the tutor’s mouth. It took us all by surprise.

Obviously we weren’t having sex, so what was she talking about?

And in case you think ‘How inappropriate of the tutor to say this!’, of course this statement was a metaphor.

There we were, supposed to be learning about psychology in an experiential group, understanding what makes us tick, what annoys us about the other people, how the group dynamics work. But we were sat around chatting as if it was an afternoon tea party. Sticking to topics that were safe. Not being really honest with each other. Not exploring what irritates us about each other, what gives joy from each other.

Were we really ‘getting down to things’ or were ‘we going through the motions’?

So what has this got to do with culture?

Have you ever sat in meetings and thought ‘This is talking for talking’s sake’, or where actions aren’t followed up.  When people take up meeting space with words and no substance, no commitment?

We often find this with companies who want to develop their culture.

Don’t get me wrong! They are great at showing good intention.  They are fantastic at measuring culture. They use the latest diagnostic. They have done all the prescribed employee engagement surveys. But measuring culture is not enough to address deep rooted cultural issues.

Where am I going with this?

What we find is that fiercely courageous leaders don’t just talk about culture. They address it. They don’t skirt around the tricky discussions. They find a way to go right into them.

They realise that the whole organisation needs to be engaged and they drive the changes needed.  They tie together the strategic aims of the organisation with the passion of the employees with a fierce commitment.

So  - are you ‘talking about doing culture’ or are you ‘doing culture’?

To find out more about how ndc can help you transform your culture, contact John here.

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

December 7, 2023