Talking culture and core values should be intense sometimes. I can’t imagine why we’d talk in hushed tones and play semantics hopscotch when talking about something as important as the philosophy by which we’re committing to live for a good chunk of our waking hours. If there’s not energy flowing through your team and organization as you discuss your culture, you should be concerned that not everything’s being said and skeptical about what is being said. Culture should evoke passion and strong opinions–it’s what you stand for, after all.
At the same time, leaders can’t pretend that listening and agreeing are the same, nor should employees think that just because something is suggested that it will necessarily be agree with or implemented. I mean, if you think about it, it’s logically impossible for everyone’s ideas to be implemented, since many ideas are contradictory and so on.
And while I’m fully in support of employees being involved in this process, there does eventually come a point where everyone in the organization has to sign on the dotted line, so to speak, and get on with living the culture. That’s not to say it’s like flipping a switch–it’s not. But once discussions have been had (real ones–the kind with passionate debate around ideas), the team has to dig in and start being the agents of change they are and can be.
The caveat here is that you can’t do this–define, redefine, undefine (not a word, I know), and whatever else–with your culture. Your culture is your identity, your DNA, it’s who you are and how you are in the marketplace, community, and even world. Culture isn’t, and cannot be, the flavor of the month.
This is why it’s so important that leaders and teams get this right. They’ve got to be human enough with each other that they begin to build legit trust. And they’ve got to push into this trust, this vulnerability, so that they can engage in real deal (Holyfield?) conflict around ideas.
Discussion about culture should be passionate and engaging. If it’s not, you can be assured one or more parties is either completely disinterested or completely disengaged. And neither of those is good. So speak up, and encourage your team to do the same. Culture is as important and meaningful as you make it–together.