Organizational Micro-Culture Matters: Are You Leading a Good One?
What’s your team’s micro-culture?
You may be asking, “What’s a micro-culture?”
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I work for a great company, but my team or business unit isn’t the one you want to work for.”
If so, they are referring to their micro-culture—the one that defines their daily work environment. The one that’s most likely determined by that team or business unit leader. The culture that determines if they want to continue working for that organization or at least that team.
The larger organizational culture includes things like salary, health care, 401 (k) matches, PTO, work from home options, tuition reimbursement, paternity – maternity leave and other perks employees get when they work for a specific organization.
An organization may even have “would love to work for that leader” talking points for their cultural leadership on the recruitment section of their website.
Some leaders will embrace these talking points and aspire to lead by them. Others will not. And most will be somewhere in between.
So, an organization’s big culture can be great — even one that’s identified locally or nationally as either the happiest or best to work for. But bad or even so-so leaders can create unhappy team micro-cultures in the best places to work.
Conversely, your organization culture can be so-so or even suck, but a great leader can create an exceptional team micro-culture — or at least one that makes your team happy to work for you.
Micro-culture leadership matters.
Leaders define their frontline team work culture.
Let’s do a quick micro-culture evaluation:
1. How would you rate your organization’s corporate culture on a scale of 1 – 5
(5 being great): ______
2. How would you rate your team’s micro-culture on a scale of 1 – 5
(5 being great): ______
3. How would your team rate your micro-culture on a scale of 1 – 5
(5 being great): ______
If all of your numbers are higher than three, then you’re leading a good or even great team micro-culture.
You can lead a good team micro-culture when the bigger organization’s culture isn’t so great — however, it will be more difficult, because you only have control over some factors that define the bigger organization’s culture.
If you think your numbers could be better, then here are some things to do to improve your micro-culture:
- Keep an open-door policy for your team — and mean it. Let your team members tell you what they think —without repercussion. Your team’s perception of what’s happening is as important as what is actually happening.
- • If you’re a buffer between your team and a not-so-great business unit micro-culture leader, or a less than great organization culture, then make sure you manage your stress. Get a mentor, exercise, meditate or take yoga classes. You can only give your team what they need if you take care of yourself.
- Recognize your team when they do something right. People can’t be appreciated too much when the appreciation is genuine.
- Make sure your team understands their goals and genuinely try to help them achieve them—especially when a team member is new or a seasoned one is in a slump. When team members feel you have their backs, they will also have yours—and everyone watches how you treat other team members.
- Coach your team so they can grow professionally and help them with their future career goals — even if that means they change departments or get promoted. They’ll love you even more then, which means they’ll also follow your leadership.
- Treat your team members fairly even when you don’t like them equally. Also, fair doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptions for team members based on personal situations, but it means you do that for everyone.
- Encourage your team to connect with each other by consistently doing team building activities.
Think of your team or business unit like a family tree. The tree represents the bigger culture, but each business unit and team are their own branch. Some grow and thrive, while others wither.
You, as the leader, are responsible for your branch’s growth — that’s your micro-culture.
If your organization’s culture is challenged, then it will make your job harder to create an ideal micro-culture. However, great leaders inspire, motivate and energize even in adversity.
If your organization has an ideal, or is even identified as one of the best organization cultures to work for, then it’s all the more important that you lead to mirror the values of that culture.
As a leader, it’s your job to deliver some part or parts of the overall organization goals.
However, this best happens when your team thrives because you’ve created a great micro-culture where everyone feels valued, achieves their individual goals, and knows they are growing professionally — and maybe even personally.
Yes, this is blatant self-promotion but this year the Society of Happy People is celebrating the 20th Happiness Happens Month during August.
We want to recognize One Million Smile Starters — those people who start our smiles. And, even though this is a long-term project, we are starting now.
Because we can’t think of a better way to start the process of creating a great micro-culture at work, we’ve provided free certificates and social media graphics for you to give your smile starters at work. We also have fun Smile Starter Award Wristbands and Certificates for anyone who wants to do something realy special for their teams.
You can make it a day, week, month, or even year-long celebration:
- Give your team members an award
- Encourage your team members to give Smile Starter Awards to their colleagues in other departments, or to their customers
- Give a prize to the person who gets the most Smile Starter Awards from their peers
Authentic recognition is key to your success as a leader. When leaders customize recognition for individual team members so they feel valued and know you care about them, then these team members are inspired to do everything they can to make your team successful.