by Beverly Hobbs Shea

Culture is a word that’s been over-used and, frankly, has been relegated to connote a collective mentality that is typically vague and rarely accurate. Whether it be a small town or large city, or an entire state, the word culture seems over-employed even with its lack of specificity.
I submit that as a society, we’ve been conditioned to accept status quo. Witness the noticeable “dumbing down” in every segment of daily life. When I was growing up, adults had a nickname for this malaise (“a lack of the give-a-damn factor”). No one within earshot of that phrase wanted to be even remotely considered for that!
Let’s talk about corporate soul. Although being the word-bird I am, I don’t believe this is entirely accurate. Where there is soul, there must be spirit. Again, I submit that perhaps corporate spirit might be a better description. The spirit of an individual or collective group defines the principles they embrace and by which they choose to live, work, and even play with others.
Twice in my career I’ve witnessed huge shifts in company culture. The spirit that once defined core values not only died, but was intentionally executed and then buried beneath layers of deception that spread like the manure it truly was. Lessons learned.

Identifying company culture is a little bit like understanding the Hans Christian Andersen fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” for those old enough to remember that many stories once contained morals. Ultimately the choice is ours to make – know what you believe and why you believe it – even if you’re a company of one.