Do you have music playing while reading this? How is your choice of music affecting how you feel right now? Are you feeling relaxed and want to read something light? Are you moved to dance to the music? Do you read/work faster when you listen to music with a faster tempo? Are you someone who sings along to the music (and know every lyric)? Are songs with lyrics distracting when you need to do work (and you play only instrumentals during those times) or is your concentration the same with any type of music?

Think of an organization’s culture as a virtual soundtrack of the work environment. It’s always playing in the background in a continuous loop (whether you’re actively listening to it or not, whether you’re unconsciously mouthing the words or not, whether you’re stirred to action). It sends subliminal and direct messages to all those within hearing range (remember that hearing and listening are not the same). That’s why the culture you choose and nurture is so important to the ultimate success of your business.

All the questions I asked at the beginning have a counterpart in the work environment. Do your company’s oral communications as well as leadership behaviors set the tone that will yield the results you want? Are your employees energized and itching to get out of their seats and take action? Does your company’s performance go up when you introduce technology that is meant to ‘speed up’ productivity? Are you creating distractions that prevent people from doing their best for your company?

As with all business decisions, you have to start with the end in mind. What is the most important thing your business needs to accomplish? What needs to happen to make it so? What beliefs, actions, values, and traditions (culture) will help your company to achieve your goals? Is your culture working for you? If not, what needs to change?

Your company’s culture holds a lot of power. Listen to what it’s saying. If it’s getting your organization to dance, that’s great. Otherwise, it may be time to switch to a different soundtrack so you can use your unique organizational culture to gain a competitive advantage.

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