How would Michelangelo paint your organizational culture?

Michelangelo PaintingThere’s nothing like travelling through southern Europe to be reminded how historical pieces inform us about past cultures. Whether I was looking at paintings, sculptures, the gilded insides of a baroque cathedral or the stone remains of Pompeii, the culture of the times and the region were vividly displayed. Expert tour guides who studied these particular eras brought the pieces to life by explaining the stories that were being depicted through the various artifacts.

This experience reminded me of the importance of pictures. For example, when visiting the cathedral in Sienna, Italy our guide described the mosaic graphics on the floor. Since most of the people at the time couldn’t read or write these pictures were used to show and tell the congregation how to behave.

Your workplace sketch book

If an artist came into your workplace with their sketch book what would they see?  As they positioned themselves in the nooks and crannies of your various departments what would the landscape say to them? Wandering through the hallways, staircases and elevators what emotions would they capture for their masterpiece?

Many organizations have taken the first step to describe their culture by creating a list of values. These values highlight the core behaviors leaders believe are important in order to drive success. But the meaning of each value is based on the eye of the beholder. Each person has a different understanding of the word based on their own experiences and perspectives. This is why it’s critical to paint a complete scene for each value in order to clarify the true meaning.

Your workplace in pictures

Some companies do this through interactive role playing training programs, especially during the on-boarding process for a new employee. And in the moment, people get to experience the different interpretations and get rewarded when they understand the correct application. But once the training is complete, the illustration fades away. It gets replaced with a live performance of the actions and behaviors of the leaders. What’s the image a master carver might create when it comes to depicting your leadership team?

Other plays that employees watch are reward and recognition programs. They tell the stories of achieving success. Based on their observations employees will adapt their behavior. When a group of employees are recognized for collaboration, not the result of the collaboration, its clearer where the emphasis is. For example, recognizing a sales team for overachieving their targets places a spotlight on the sales results. In contrast, recognizing a sales team for working together to come up with an innovative way to increase their sales production puts the team in the center of the scene.

Telling the story

We’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth ten thousand words” many times.  Certainly it took some of my travel guides at least a thousand words to communicate the culture of the times we were about to observe. However, once the piece came into view we could instantly see a representation of the story.

What’s the narrative you’re creating in your workplace? A common customer focus group exercise is to ask participants to describe the company through a drawing, a food, or an animal. Take the same exercise internally, and ask your employees to do the same. What tale will this gallery tell? Is it the story you want to tell?

Your culture canvas

The ultimate artist in each organization is the leader. But unless you’re just starting your business, a culture canvas already exists. However, you hold the paintbrush, the pointed chisel, and the pen. You have the opportunity to enhance your culture to bring and retain the very best people for your company. And if you’d like some guidance, we’re here to help. Just type “culture canvas” in the subject line for your 45 minute complimentary consultation.  Start designing your masterpiece today!

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