Is Your Culture Built, Created or Allowed?

I have the opportunity to experience and hear about a lot of business cultures; from the startup environment where everyone does everything and titles mean nothing to huge corporations with so many layers of management a question can be avoided by passing it off into the nebulous “approval” world.  All of them have one thing in common; they are being built, created or allowed.

To determine what is going on with a team’s culture the first thing we have to talk about is power. All teams have a power structure; someone or a group of “someones” who hold sway over what is okay and what’s not. It could be the person with the title (manager, director, CEO, owner, etc) holds a lot of the power. It is also possible that someone other than the person with the title has the power (like when the slacker-nephew of the big-boss is on your team). Or there could be a dynamic where a senior person takes a long lunch which makes it okay for everyone to start taking a little longer lunch.  

Whoever holds the power decides if the culture is being built, created or allowed.  Here’s how:

Built – A culture is built when there is conscious discussion about how things work. Conversations that iron out anything – if coming in “a few minutes” late is okay, when people can work from home, how disagreements or differences of opinion are handled, if personal phone calls are acceptable etc, etc, etc – the list is endless. When the “leader” (the person with the power) decides to make expectations clear and open and hold people accountable to these expectations, he or she is building the team culture.

Created – Creating a culture is a little more subtle. When the person in power does something, maybe interrupts or cusses in a meeting, dismisses someone with a wave of the hand or dresses casually, it tells other people on the team “this is how we do things here”. As humans we are very quick to observe and learn. Leaders often create culture without even realizing it by doing things they “think nothing about.” If you are in a position of power EVERYTHING you do is being observed and applied to create your team culture.

Allowed – People with power allow a culture by doing nothing. The thought “they are grownups, let them work it out” is a classic example of allowing culture to happen. Dog-eat-dog cutthroat environments happen because it is the fastest way for a greedy, selfish person to get ahead. Drama, gossip and backstabbing occur because it is easier to tear someone down than build yourself up. When “leaders” say nothing or believe a behavior creates a “healthy competition” they are allowing a culture lacking in trust and will end up with a group of individuals who look out only for themselves. Do nothing and you will get a culture – but it won’t be a good one.

I will ask you again – Is your culture being built, created or allowed? If you don’t like something – say something.

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - If you are interested in working with a coach, I'd be happy to have a conversation with you to discuss how I can support your success. All you have to do is ask.

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at

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