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Is Your Culture Congruent?


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Practices are our intentional behaviors. They are the things we set out to do.

From its earliest days, Southwest Airlines has been about “love” and so their people consciously try to love each other and their customers. A friend of ours who owns a bagel shop in Charlotte shows up for work each morning deliberately trying to replicate the process of bagel-making his father used on the Lower East Side.

Years ago, there was a commercial featuring the golfer Tiger Woods, at that time at the top of his game. The camera panned through his house and showed rain coming down in sheets outside. Tiger’s voice-over talked about taking days off – what most of us would do if we were a golfer and there was a downpour! But as the commercial ended, the camera panned outside and there was Tiger – beating practice ball after practice ball into the pouring rain.

Every organization has practices. They are sourced in what you believe to be true about yourself, what you value, the talents of your people, and the demands of your customers.

Here’s a key point: our practices flow from our principles.

Principles are stabilized beliefs that direct and shape attitudes, actions and systems. Within every organizational system there exists at least three intersecting and overlapping spheres; self, team and organization. Individuals bring personal sets of beliefs and principles. Teams and organizations operate from similar core foundations and principles that guide the operation, leadership and strategic objectives. Congruence is all about alignment. Aligning the three spheres of self, team, and organization is the delicate but essential work of congruence.

Congruence is about resonance. It is alignment around core non-negotiable principles that literally rings true with those who hold similar value propositions. Ensuring this alignment is critical for organizations to point every unit and person in the same direction, moving in a certain cadence, and honoring the essence of the organization, the team and the individual. When principles that are shared are honored, the energy that is produced propels the team and organization forward with greater ease and fluidity.

One of our clients, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, practices dollar for dollar giving – and have done so for more than fifty years. With a budget in excess of $10 million they give half of their money to worthy causes. They do this in good economic times and bad – when the church can easily meet payroll and when it has to stretch. It is just who they are.

Practices have to do with “the way things are around here” that are unique to your organization. These are largely determined by the principles we hold dear.

Another of our clients, The Cardiovascular Group of Northern Virginia, instituted a practice that prohibited their physicians from working more than four and a half days a week. This practice started fifteen years ago and they say that this very large medical practice has only experienced two divorces in that time period. This is congruence between personal and corporate values. Everyone thrives.

What about your organization? Is it congruent?
What are the non-negotiable things that you do on purpose?

What do those things say about you and what you value?