Culture is built in moments, not meetings

Last week I was running a culture mapping session with an organisation when one of the participants said, “If we’re going to develop culture, then we need to dedicate a few days to it. One day is not enough – we just skim the surface.”

He’s right. One day of team building, on its own, is insufficient to craft a culture that is worth belonging to. The 80s saw a surge of team building programs designed to bring people together, practice problem solving, and have some fun. The real issues, however, remained unchallenged, and it was business as usual come Monday.

Multi-day culture immersion days are not enough either. We don’t build cultures around events, and then tick it off the task list.

Culture is built in the moments we share with others.

These moments don’t take time. These moments don’t take money.

These moments make meaning that matters.

Moments that build cultures originate at the confluence of three things:

1. Perception
2. Influence
3. Resolve.

Perception derives from deep and powerful presence and expansive perspective. This is where we are immersed in the now, fully aware of where we are, and who we are with, without wandering elsewhere in thought and attention. Our perspective considers what is said, how it is said, and the possible history and context that is shaping the conversation.

We are at once zoomed in on who we are with, and zoomed out on the context that shapes the moment.

Influence is shaped by the resonance of our presence combined with our capacity to think, say and do. When we deliver on what we say, when we act on our intentions, we signal a congruence and authenticity that magnetises others to follow.

Resolve stems from our expanded perspective and our capacity to take action, our personal power. Resolve is knowing what is the right choice, or at least the best choice in the moment, combined with the momentum of following through with action.

What this looks like in real life:

Everyone knows ‘John’ is pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour. He swears a lot, probably more than is warranted, enough to make some flinch. He is harsh with his criticism, and makes no attempt to soften the message or express it in a compassionate, “I’ve got your best interest at heart” intention. He rushes from task to task, expressing his busy-ness as a flag of importance.

When no one says anything, he grows bigger and bolder with his behaviour, seeking some resistance to shore up his sense of position and influence in the team.

All of us have a choice in moments with John to set the culture in a better direction. Or let it slide in to decay.

A conscious moment with John requires courage. We bring our presence, perspective, and personal power to bear in that precious moment with John, when we see in him his deepest humanity, and his cry to live better, be better, feel better. It is only his expression of that desire that is letting him down.

So we shore up our courage and act. We let him know that his behaviour is affecting others negatively, that it is doing him a disservice, and that there is another way. A way where he is valued, appreciated, and important. We reach out to him and help him to grow as a fellow human being, a valued contributor of the team.

In that moment of courage and compassion we strengthen a tenuous cord in the web of the culture.

Moment by moment we weave a tapestry: either full of holes, or glorious in colour and strength.

Which moments are you choosing?

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