Monday, July 30, 2012

Culture: Defined

I recently attended Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training and can confidently state that much like the training received for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, it was both extremely well thought out and presented. There were many great take-aways from the session related to the primary topic, but Admiral Quinn left me with a nugget that I did not anticipate.  While communicating with the great humility that allows him to connect with so many, he made a comment regarding culture that really struck a chord with me. He defined culture as "the collective action of leadership." An extremely simple definition, and as I thought more and more about it, probably the best definition I have heard.

Over the last month, I have been giving a great deal of thought to organizational culture. Having recently read David Marquet's "Turn The Ship Around", having an article that I wrote with the Command Triad on cooperative leadership published in PROCEEDINGS Magazine, and experiencing more behavioral challenges at work, I've been really reflecting on what I am doing (or not doing) to contribute to our command culture.  Being a big believer in "The Power of the Triad", I know that the Executive Officer and Senior Enlisted Leader (SEL) are my primary partners in defining the culture.  It is our actions that set the tone for the team at large. Because the three of us are conditioned to hold each other personally responsible and accountable first, we've spent some time over the last week really analyzing our words and actions and comparing them to our organization culture. Feeling even stronger about our visible commitment to our command values and demonstrating that we are far more interested in our deliberate actions than merely our words, we felt pretty validated that by Admiral Quinn's definition, our actions are in fact consistent with the culture we value most.  Being firm believers in 360 degree awareness, the XO called a Command Assessment Team meeting to hear the constructive feedback we have grown to expect from this group. Again, they reenforced our assessment. The culture is sound, morale is good, and mission is being accomplished.

So why is it that we've had reason to relieve two Chief Petty Officers from their positions? Why is it that after such a long stretch with minimal distractions, we've had incidents with SPICE, underage possession of alcohol, adultery, failure to obey orders, and unauthorized absences all within the last two months? Sometimes an organization's challenges are rooted in its culture, sometimes good people get caught making bad decisions, and sometimes a team just becomes more committed to enforcing the standard. After looking at this from just about every angle and being as inclusive in the introspection as possible, I am confident that our problem is not one of flawed culture. Our problem is two-fold. We've had some good people make extremely poor decisions that we were not willing to ignore and we've uncovered a few others of questionable character who were in need of our personal attention. By being even more visibly committing to holding people accountable to the standard (as a team), we became more aware of the exceptions to our culture, as we continually strengthen the same.

What seems to be happening of late is more people are committing to the culture, making those who hadn't very visible. Funny how questioning our words, our action, and our culture, validated all three (action always being most critical)...

So Admiral Quinn is once again right, culture is in fact the collective action of leadership.  The key is to get a larger portion of the team to see themselves as leadership and ACT accordingly.  We are all leaders, the culture is reflective of OUR collective action and holding ourselves accountable is OUR responsibility.  As we say, there is no THEY, only WE and US.

What culture are you endorsing with your personal actions?

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