Would you need to go undercover to understand how people really feel about your business?

21st February 2019

What is culture? It’s the way we do things around here. it’s the subliminal messages that we get about what’s OK and what’s not OK. It’s the unwritten rule book, and just what’s assumed to be how we do things round here.

Often when we start talking about culture, there’s a sense that it’s created by others. People often refer to those more senior as the ones who “create the culture around here!” The fact of the matter is, culture doesn’t exist without people, and no matter who you are or what your role in a business, you have an impact on the culture.

Granted, the more senior you are, the more your actions will be scrutinised and the bigger the influence you have. But everyone plays their part. In those TV programmes where the boss goes undercover and works with the staff directly, they always seem to see and hear things that come as a surprise. As managers and senior leaders do you have an accurate picture of what it feels like to work around here? What would YOU hear and see if you spoke to your colleagues directly? If they didn’t know you, what would they say about the culture and climate in YOUR organisation?

As a contractor I’m always amazed at the sorts of stuff that people tell me and often they say that they couldn’t share what they really think about the “culture round here.” There’s usually a sense that it wouldn’t make any difference and that more senior colleagues aren’t interested or don’t want the feedback….what a shame!!

Maybe it’s time to go all Poirot, grab a disguise and go find out?? Maybe if you think you would need to go undercover to get a true picture of what things are like, that in itself gives a big clue to the climate within the organisation? It’s a bit like that joke that the Queen thinks the world smells of fresh paint; because everywhere she goes people have redecorated and tarted things up especially for her!

Here’s some of the ideas that one group of managers came up with recently, when they were asked to think about how they could begin to shift the climate within their own teams;


  • Establish trust – this is one that takes time, but if you want an honest view of things, people need to feel that you can be trusted.
  • Start at ground zero – it’s the people at the sharp end of the business who have a clear view of your customers; their challenges’ what’s working and what’s not. So spend time at the coal face to really appreciate how things feel within the business.
  • Shut up – shorthand for being prepared to really LISTEN. Make time to go out and about in the business, to see what’s really going on. Talk to people on the front line.
  • Deal with it – if we ask for views and opinions, we might have to be ready to hear some stuff that is hard to accept. But accept it we must, if we really want to change.
  • Do the right thing – whatever comes back you gotta be able to do something with the feedback.
  • Follow things up – when we act on something, be ready to go back and find out how the change has landed. What’s improved? What’s got worse? What more could we and you do?

So many pundits, experts and commentators talk about culture and here I am chucking my two penneth worth in too! Culture change involves EVERYONE in a business. Each and every person has an impact on what your organisation feels like – wouldn’t it be great if everyone in your business thought and felt that they could truly make a difference?

Just imagine the possibilities!!