Communication eats culture for breakfast

Peter Drucker coined the term ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, suggesting that brilliant execution is more important than a brilliant strategy. In the same way, I believe that good culture has, at its core, healthy communication.

Communication needs to be looked at in two parts: Transactional and Transformational.

Transactional communication is the day-to-day communication that makes business happen. No business would be able to run without it. For most businesses, this is the only type of communication that takes place. That’s not enough to build good culture.

Transactional communication also includes information sharing. All members of an organisation desire to be kept in the loop around that which affects them, their role, their colleagues and their organisation. Information almost always leaks. When employees hear about matters affecting them in social settings, in the news or in the corridors it does nothing but erode culture, leaving employees feeling devalued.

This is a culture quick win. Communicate early. There are often sensitivities. Keep a tight lid on what you need to, but communicate as soon as you can. Communicate often. This is crucial especially when there is change in the air. Communicate sincerely. Don’t avoid communication just because it’s tough. Honesty goes a long way.

Transformational communication is the communication that builds healthy relationships. Imagine if we only spoke to our spouses about school fees and grocery lists? We need to go deeper than that if we want to build and sustain a healthy family culture. The same should apply to working teams.

I recently visited a high school who believes their culture is central to their results. Upon asking them how they maintain a healthy culture, they spoke of what they term ‘circles’. When challenges or issues arise, they form circles outside their classroom and talk about them. They leave the transactional and enter the transformational. The impact of the circle restores relationships, which in turn influences good culture, which in turn yields academic results.

Communication. Culture. Results.

Rather than adopt the ‘press on and ignore’ strategy, I encourage all teams to consider what this may mean for you. It’s the combination that works, but for most teams it’s the transformational that’s lacking. For some, you know that it’s important and you simply need to reinstate intentionality in this area. For others, relationships may be strained, trust eroded and culture toxic. Your challenge may be greater, but if you’re reading this, perhaps it’s time to ask for help and begin a journey of restoration and rebuilding.

Good culture will follow.