Culture is the predominating attitudes and behaviours that characterise the functioning of a group or organisation. It is the “glue” that keeps a company together, giving it purpose and identity. It grows out of the leaders in a company and the tone they set for their people. So your business’s culture is largely dependent on the people in the company.

Your business strategy is either supported by your business culture, or inhibited by it. This is the case whether you’re working on your own, or part of a large corporation. Your culture is embodied by your day to day business practises. Ask yourself the question; are your day to day business practises actively supporting your business strategy? Are the people around you personally involved and committed to bringing about the vision you have for your company’s future? And how much more successful would your workplace be if each person was personally committed to it?

We each have deeply held beliefs, or values, that we live by, or aspire to live by. This is an intrinsic part of what makes us human. It is our values that determine how we would like to act on a day to day basis in our jobs.

A values based business culture is the kind of culture that doesn’t tell you to try and be superwoman, but to be super with who you are. At the risk of incurring the wrath of a large producer of hair products, it’s “because you’re worth it”. Values based business culture makes your values part of your success. It ties up those things you care most about with the attitudes and practises in your workplace.

Most companies say that they want to create environments where employees show willingness and commitment to their roles. Tuning into peoples’ value systems is arguably the best way of making that happen.

If peoples’ deeply held beliefs are their primary motivators, then surely the most sustainable type of business operates in line with those beliefs? If I work in an environment where I am asked to treat people in a way that goes against my values, it’s unlikely that I’ll show willingness and commitment to the task.

If I can continuously act in a way that makes sense with my values system, there is a high likelihood that I’ll want to continue doing that and perhaps want to do it even better. This would be a sustainable situation. One where we can keep things going.

The empowering reason for a business culture based on your values, rather than something else, is that it enables you to be more you. To be all of you. To make decisions based on your deeply held beliefs of what you think is right and wrong, and how you believe people in business should treat each other and be treated by their management.

How we treat each other and how we are treated has an impact on us in the long term. When we think about long term impact that’s where sustainability and keeping things going comes in.

If we can act to create environments that empower the people who work there and add value (make money), there’s a good chance that the people who work in those companies will be happy in their jobs. People are more effective when they’re happy. Effective people make for effective companies. Effective companies are profitable. This is the basis of an idea called systems thinking.

We each form part of a system. Systems rely on parts. If one part breaks down, the system stops being as effective as it could be. Each person is a part of their working system, which is part of a community system, which forms part of a city or town system, which forms part of our country. So the more sustainability each of us has on a personal level, the more sustainable our work place, our community and our country will be.

When we look at acting from our values in the context of impacting our entire country for the better, it becomes easier to see it as a worthwhile business focus. Suddenly, seen as part of a system, each decision that we take for ourselves becomes so much more vital. If we can move towards making decisions based on values such as integrity, honesty and a desire to make things better, just how much more effective would our business decisions be in the long run?

Reprinted with permission from Women Inc magazine

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