Strong and fit is the new sexy. In much the same way for business, culture is the new sexy. As the Merriam-Webster word of the year in 2014, “culture” has got businesses everywhere scrambling. All of a sudden, businesses are trying to ‘do’ culture full tilt.
The same way that you don’t just wake up one day, get out of bed and go run a marathon, businesses cannot just start ‘doing’ culture. Creating an effective and relevant culture within a business is no different from achieving a fitness goal. Both require consistency, structure, and dedication.
A strong core is essential to a strong body and your culture muscle is essentially the core of your business; this excerpt from a Harvard Health article perfectly underpins the benefits of a strong core:
“Think of your core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body... No matter where motion starts, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. Thus, weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. And that saps power from many of the moves you make. Properly building up your core cranks up the power. A strong core also enhances balance and stability. Thus, it can help prevent falls and injuries during sports or other activities. In fact, a strong, flexible core underpins almost everything you do”
Defining, forming and strengthening your culture muscle more closely resembles a frequent training regimen than a walk in the park. Building a strong culture muscle resembles a frequent training program in that you need to use the muscle often and effectively in order to build it. Until you truly push the muscle, you will not know how strong it really is and what it is capable of. As with any fitness journey, building your culture muscle requires dedication and commitment. Don’t worry too much about the hard work required because much the same as the endorphin release at the end of a great workout, working in an organisation with a great culture makes coming back each day that much more appealing. Looking at culture as a muscle allows us to put into perspective how organizations can make strides towards achieving great company culture.
When dedicated to building muscle, unless you are exercising regularly and effectively - you are fighting a losing battle. One weightlifting session will not get you the strong and defined core you’re after, nor will two. You need a training program of regular weightlifting that adapts and iterates to what you need and when. You need consistency, you cannot build a strong and durable culture muscle without regularly working on it. If you dedicate a month to working on your culture muscle and go in, full tilt for that month, your culture may look and feel great at the end of that month. But if you then sit back and think, ‘our work here is done’, you can be sure that your culture muscle will atrophy.
You won’t see results overnight. The whole process will take a good while, but as you progress further down the path of building your culture muscle you will start to notice small differences, you may feel stronger, have more energy, you will likely feel less stressed and directionless. These indicators of progress are all the fuel you need to keep working on that culture muscle. Once you reach your core definition destination you need a change of perspective. You need to shift from muscle building mode, to focus on maintaining the muscle that you have built.
Remaining in building mode for too long can cause the muscle to become injured or fatigued from overwork. Constant building, especially if it is always the same method, can become boring, kill motivation and cause burnout. Focusing on, and working on your culture muscle needs to become a lifestyle based on regular exercise. It is vital to have a clear goal that will help to maintain the balance of building and maintaining.
You need to give your culture muscle the fuel that it needs to grow strong, the right way. Injecting your culture muscle with ‘steroids’ or anything too unnatural may make the muscle look and feel good, for now. Beware - this is a false positive as your muscles will become dependent on the ‘fake-stuff’. Taking shortcuts is never recommended. The only way to get truly fit and toned, is through consistency and dedication, mechanical simulation is required to build muscle, no amount of ‘supplements’ can replace hard work.
Once your culture muscle is strong, and well defined you will feel great. By the time you reach this stage exercising your culture muscle will have become your way of life and there is very little chance you will regret it. A strong culture muscle, much the same as a strong core will ensure that all movements are properly guided and give your organisation invaluable balance and stability.
When it comes to starting on the ‘culture fitness’ journey here are a few things to help ensure that you start the right way and ensure success down the line.
Define the objectives
Plan your training
Be present when training
When you lose motivation - remember the objectives and why you started
Building a strong culture muscle is a lot of work, but it is the foundation of great things. Put in the effort, work on it consistently and you will reap the rewards. Remember that the culture muscle is the core of everything. And a strong core makes for a strong body.