People love to bounce the word “culture” around A LOT, but here’s the thing – culture isn’t easy to create or get right. In fact, there are very few times where I have seen great culture embedded within a team. Culture is the foundation to success. Get that right, the rest falls into place.
I spent a lot of time reflecting and trying to figure out where my light bulb moments were on culture. I sat down and really tried to figure out where my passion for culture originated from; I took time to understand what it meant to me, how that evolved over time and where my culture creation inspiration came from.
So here’s a story of how I learnt first-hand about the power of having the right culture…
Let’s go back to 2014. I love a challenge, and had set out to Climb Mt Kilimanjaro in March of 2014. There were 8 of us due to go, all friends & family, and I organised the trip with everything from flights, to kit hire, to training days all accounted for (may have had help from a specialist company).
I wanted to give all 8 of us the best possible chance of success.
We had agreed there was a need for some R&R after our climb, and the company leading our trek also ran trips in Kenya in the Masai Mara. It made sense to tag this R&R onto our stay.
Away for just over two weeks in total, the climb took 8 days so we had 4-5 days to fill. We arranged to spend 3 nights in a lodge in the Masai Mara, with plenty of game drives and opportunities to rest. The trip was amazing to say the least – the whole experience from climbing Kilimanjaro, to seeing beautiful animals in their own habitat roaming freely…
But that’s not what this story is about.
This story is about a trip that lasted no longer than 2 hours. Something we weren’t expecting but something that I truly believe changed my life, changed my perspective and gave me my Culture Creation Inspiration.
After a morning drive, we were headed back to our lodge for a lazy afternoon by the pool. At this point the guides offered us the opportunity to visit a Masai Mara Tribe, a traditional local village, to spend time with the people and see how they lived. This was something we could not pass up so we headed out late in the afternoon.
Just a short walk from our lodge, we visited this amazing group of people and afterwards we walked a little further to the local school. At the time the children where in class, so it looked pretty deserted. No one around but us, it felt a little strange.
Something hit me when we came close to the school, something new to me. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but slowly as we walked around, I started to understand.
There were these quotes on walls and sign posts dotted all over the place, inspiring quotes about what you could achieve. Things such as:
“We build youth for the future but not future for the youth”
“Success is not for the chosen but for those who choose”
“Don’t look where you fall but where you slipped”
“The art of progress is to preserve order amid change”
We saw the inside of a class room and looked at the conditions of how they worked. We heard stories about how some children walked over an hour every day to and from school in shoes made out of plastic bottles. And how children would walk through the national park to get to school; it’s been known for them to be attacked by animals. We listened to the struggles they go through everyday just to be able to learn – something I always took for granted.
I heard every reason for those children to be unhappy, to find a reason not to go to school, to be negative about what they have, reluctant to believe in their futures, everything pointed in a direction that felt awful.
Despite that, I still couldn’t shake this feeling. This vibe the school gave. Something about it just felt so good.
How can a place filled with such struggles have an atmosphere so incredibly inspiring?
As were about to leave, the children finished their lessons and came out of their classrooms, we briefly spoke to a few on our way out. At that moment I saw pure happiness, the sound of laughter, the smiles on their faces, the joy these kids had – it was mind blowing.
That school taught me so much. The teachers and the children, everything in that 2 hours gave me a life lesson that will never leave me.
They had created a culture, that should not have been possible.
They developed something that allowed children with nothing to have dreams and gave them the space to achieve them.
They encouraged big dreamers. They had created this space where anything was possible and everyone there believed it.
From that moment forward I vowed to never accept poor culture as it is. To never accept the excuses, bad habits or negative behaviour, to never accept “this is just the way it is”.
That’s the moment where I truly got it. Culture is something you create, no matter what is thrown in the way to knock it down. When you get the right culture in a team, someone won’t walk into your team and see it. They won’t hear it being spoken about, but they’ll walk in and within minutes they’ll feel it.
So test your culture out – ask someone who doesn’t know your team well (possibly do this with all new people that join your team) and ask them to tell you what they feel. Ask them to spend 5 minutes around the team, but suggest that they avoid interaction with anyone and instead just absorb the atmosphere.
What they describe after this is the culture within your team. How does your culture compare to that of the school I visited in Masai Mara? How do the individual’s behaviours and attitudes compare to those of the children?
A great culture is the foundation to team success.
If you build a house around the windows and doors, adding the foundations later, the house may stand for a short while but then things will start to fall apart. Build a house on strong, solid foundations – and it will last. Windows and doors may need replacing along the way but the structure is there to stay.
Amy brings 9 years experience leading teams in different environments, with a passion for helping others and understanding what makes people tick. As an advocate for disability and wellbeing, Amy is always taking time to ensure people look after themselves and those around them. From beginning her career in customer-facing roles through to now, her focus for customer experience, finding solutions and creating cultures that can be felt, is a must for Amy.
Amy feels fortunate to be in a position where she can inspire others to create a culture where they genuinely love what they do and are happy to be at work. Believing everyone deserves this opportunity, she knows everyone has the potential to feel like a superhero. Amy wants to help individuals and teams find their purpose and value, in work and in life.
SUPERPOWERS | Superspeed getting teams going. Big Heart. Down to Earth
KRYPTONITE | Mood Hoovers. People being unfair. Her Cats
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