How to make your culture more than writing on a wall

Apr 19 / Loren Phillips
The alternative title for this article was “Can Crosswords Cure your Culture?” but since it’s obvious they can’t, we decided against that line of inquiry. Beautifully worded and inspiring values are conceptualised in boardrooms across the world, applied through clever internal marketing plans and delivered to employees through colourful posters and crafty headlines.

Let’s ask ourselves and answer honestly, are these just words on the wall, or do they run deeper than that? Do your corporate values inform your hiring policy, do they cascade down to your managerial style, are your reward and recognition programmes built around them? More importantly, can you and others in your organisation perceptibly experience them through your company culture? Do they move you? Do they cut to the heart?

At Torque, we honestly believe in psychological safety, feedback, open-mindedness and personal growth. We tried something which has brought us even closer as a team, has shifted the way we show up, communicate with each other and has made an impact on the quality of our ideas and how we do our work. We wrote a manifesto.

Why write it down?

Have you heard the adage: Be careful what you think, you just might say it. Be careful what you say, you just might become it. There is power to verbalising your ideas. There is even more power in writing them down. Manifesto’s manifest. If you are into the game of consciously manifesting the right things for your business, you should give it a try. Just in case you’re interested, here’s our manifesto:

The TORQUE Manifesto

I am a part of Torque.
I am always open to new ways of doing things, of continuous learning, and of seeing things in different ways.

I will not be jaded by what has happened before and I live for the excitement of what is yet to come.

I know that my power is in the present moment.

I recognise that I bring unique gifts to our community and that those gifts are appreciated.

I commit to showing up with empathy, gratitude and openness every day.

I commit to practising self-awareness because that is what keeps us in the present moment.

I commit to sharing my knowledge and myself because I know that this is a safe space.

I communicate to my best ability because communication is the lifeblood of this company.

I believe that anything is possible.

I bring my best self to my work and my team because I trust that they would do the same for me.

I work to add value to our clients.

I know that every solution that we build is for everyone, without exception, and that’s what makes us exceptional.

Everyone gets to have their say

After creating the first draft, everyone had an opportunity to contribute, edit, comment and add in their 2c worth. Getting feedback, as with any employee engagement programme, is a critical and often neglected step. Every company is the sum total of their employees, from the bottom to the top. This is an important step because people will not connect with your mission, vision, values unless they feel truly included. It’s like running a competition to improve your packaging when, as a matter of fact, the new packaging has already been designed.
It’s fake.

And yes, it may introduce some logistical challenges, but once you’ve solved for including everyone at your company, you’ll probably improve your internal communications generally by about 90%.

Let your words talk

The next step we took, once everyone had committed to our manifesto, is had them sign it – to make their mark – and then it was added into their employment contract as an addendum.

Every new person that joins the team will also need to commit to our culture policy, as stated in our manifesto, and it will define the people that work here. The Torque Manifesto also gives us a set of guidelines to hold ourselves, and each other, accountable.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. If you tell your employees what they should value, that information is fleeting, if you try to teach them some may even remember what your nifty acronym stands for, but if you want them to take it to heart and for those words to inform the way they show up, treat each other and embody your organisation, then involving them is key to your programme’s success.