My delightful Dad’s funeral service at Riverside National Cemetery was May 3, 2011. During that week, we spent a lot of time driving around Orange County, CA (and out to Riverside) with family.

I’ve noticed this before on my visits “back home,” but I really was struck by California’s car culture on this “springtime” trip. In and around Irvine, Corona del Mar, and Newport Beach, we saw a variety of top end sports cars, sedans, and SUVs on the roads. We enjoyed seeing, among others:

  • A Bentley Continental convertible (about $300K)
  • A Ferarri F40 (about $800K)
  • Porsche sedans (Panameras), sports cars (911s, Boxters), and SUV’s (Cayennes)
  • AMG & Mercedes sedans & coupes
  • Classic muscle cars from the 60’s and 70’s in gorgeous condition

. . . all, of course, with a single driver in the vehicle <sigh>. The “look at me” core of this car culture is very transparent.

I’m definitely a child of the California car culture. I don’t deny it. That’s my old 1983 Porsche 911SC Targa pictured. I owned it from 2000-2005, or maybe I should say it owned me. I loved it when it was running, but fine German engineering requires steady, constant tinkering. I paid mechanics to do that, which they loved. I was ready to let her go when it sold. We drive Honda’s now, and are never surprised when the engine turns over each time you start it.

Logical Consequences of a “Me” Culture

Company cultures can be like this “look at me” car culture, as well. When a company’s culture is focused on individual accomplishment, it can generate “I win/you lose” activities. If your incentives, compensation, and recognition efforts hold individuals up above teams, you can inspire individual success at the cost of team success. If bonus plans reward individuals and not teams, you may see individuals withhold information or grab sales in adjacent territories, for example, to gain those top rewards.

How to create a “WE” Culture

  • Clear goalsteam members want to know what’s expected of them, and they want feedback about progress. With clear individual AND team goals, assessing progress and accomplishment is much easier for peers and bosses. Be sure to add team goals so that cooperative interaction is required among team members.
  • Define Values – clearly describe how a great corporate citizen should behave by defining desired valued behaviors. With behavioral definitions, values become tangible, observable, and measurable. Ensure your valued behaviors include both individual AND team member behaviors.
  • Hold all staff accountable for bothequally emphasize and celebrate goal progress and demonstration of valued behaviors. Redirect or reprimand those that miss goals and choose not to live your organization’s values. Remember the importance of consistent incentives and messaging. If you’re “talking” team cooperation but incent only individual accomplishment, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Every second, every day.

Start with YOUR Team

You don’t need to be a senior leader to refine culture. You can refine culture in your intact team, often easier and faster than a larger organizational intervention would occur.

Learn more best practices for a “WE” culture in my book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, available direct and on Amazon.

In the comments section below, tell me about your experiences in “Me” or “WE” organizational cultures.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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