When we talk about truly great organizations—companies you’d love to work for, brands you idolize—we’re usually not just talking about how great they are for their clients, but how great they are for their people. That’s why we give them so much credit: They are winning inside first.
That’s a mantra for us here at Fervor. If we win inside these walls, our team members will carry the message out. That’s what we help our clients do, too. And one of the best tools in our arsenal is our Cultural Influencers map.
Cultural Influencers Make or Break Your Team
Cultural Influencers are categorized by the impact they have on their team and larger organization. Fervor’s definitions came out of a decade’s worth of conversations with my buddy Dan Shurtz, who founded The Culture Print. We now define our categories a little differently, but we both recognized similar patterns in the large organizations we had worked for previously.
We saw that every team, especially ones in large organizations, have a microculture, whether positive or negative, productive or non-productive. The quality of the team depended on the attitudes and behaviors of people on the team. Were they contributing to the culture or taking away from it?
There are four different kinds of influencers inside an organization and each can have a profound impact.
Culture CREATORS help establish the team’s cultural norms. They are the dreamers and the visionaries. They can be the CEO, but they can also be someone who just started at an entry-level position. People at all levels of an organization can create systemic, living culture.
An organization’s culture usually starts with language: Someone needs to say it first. Someone needs to describe who you are and who you want to be. Culture creators lead by codifying that language. They help define:
- Purpose (mission: why do you exist),
- Promise (vision: what do you do better than anyone else)
- Pillars (differentiators: what makes you unique)
- Principles (core values or some would say a Manifesto)
- People (Ideal Advocates™)
Culture creators don’t stop after that initial codification is done: They are constantly iterating on their team’s culture. They have the drive to make positive changes and keep moving the culture forward.
That’s the main difference between Culture Creators and our next category, Culture Keepers.
Keepers are 100 percent bought into the organization’s culture. They live and breathe it. These true believers will adopt the language Creators forge, remind you of your team’s most identity-driven stories and fast-follow when Creators make changes that tie into the organization’s existing values.
Keepers are not adding to or establishing to the culture. Creators and Keepers have a very similar positive influence, except for the fact that someone needed to come first, and someone needed to come second. Keepers are less inclined to iterate and more inclined to question changes. Creators suggest, only to make sure those changes will build up the culture, not take it off track.
And that’s why Keepers and Creators need each other. Keepers keep the organization honest. It’s a symbiotic, push-pull relationship that keeps teams’ cultures healthy and growing.
Culture Consumers are not working against you, but they aren’t fully bought in. They work there because you pay them to work there, but they’d just as easily work somewhere else. They’re talented, have great skills, are capable, and do their job. They come in on time—and leave right on time every day.
They aren’t adding anything to the culture, and they haven’t connected the organization’s mission to their own personal purpose. And that’s often the key to helping move someone from a Consumer to a Keeper.
I love trying to help someone discover their personal purpose, and then find the right home for them. Sometimes, based on their personal purpose, they need to find a different organization that is a better fit for them. But sometimes a real connection just needs to be made to help align their values to their current organization’s mission and goals.
It’s doable with some intentionality and willingness to work, on both the organization’s and individual’s parts. When those things align, magic happens.
Constrictors are working against the organization’s purpose and counter to its values. This negativity might be overt, but the worst kind of detractors are eating the culture from the inside behind the scenes. It’s the person who seems fine in the meeting, but then goes dark in the “meeting after the meeting”.
When things go wrong, Constrictors will point, judge and blame. Creators or Keepers will be able to find positive solutions and/or lessons when challenges hit that can turn the organization back toward its values. In contrast, Constrictors are quick to tear and rare to build.
Let me just encourage you: When Constrictors show up in your organizations, swift action is needed. There’s no turning back. You don’t wait for a year to try to treat cancer, you treat it immediately.
In my experience, I haven’t found a way to turn a Constrictor back to a Consumer. No 30-, 60- or 90-day performance plan is going to help align that person with your values. Pay the severance you need to pay to honor that person and their spirit, or even help them find another place. Just don’t let their bad influence take your organization down.
Putting Cultural Influencers to Work
Every organization we’ve ever talked to at Fervor has a challenge: If they have managed to create a great culture, how do they keep it intact as they grow? These categories are key if you want to grow and continue with a positive culture.
Winning inside first has concrete, positive results. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace survey, workplaces with high engagement (ones we would say are full of Creators and Keepers) have 17 percent higher productivity, 20 percent higher sales and—get this—21 percent higher profitability.
Unfortunately, Gallup’s survey showed that 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged—our culture Consumers. Sixteen percent are actively working against their organization—Constrictors. And only 33 percent are engaged—our Creators and Keepers.
Let’s be real about this: Inside baseball is every brand’s biggest problem. If an organization really wants to grow, their biggest challenge is going to be getting the right team members on board.
We think a good ratio is 75 percent plus Creators and Keepers, and, if possible, 25 percent Consumers and zero percent Constrictors. This is a solid goal to shoot for that helps inform hiring, evaluating, and firing decisions. At Fervor, we grade on values. We use our cultural language (purpose, promise, pillars, manifesto) and cultural influencer categories when interviewing, tracking progress, mentoring and more.
We do this because it works. People are our greatest asset, and our greatest challenge. If organizations did nothing but try to get more creators and keepers on the team, our hypothesis is they stand a very good chance to grow.