As debates and speculations circulate about the status of the pandemic, many companies are in the heat of critical debates and speculations of their own. Their key concerns involve rebuilding their teams and redefining their culture.

shutterstock 290627369What is culture?

Google says it’s “…the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group…..” says that “…corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact.” 

Ultimately healthy culture is not what or who you say you are, it’s what you do and how you do it. This hasn’t changed. But corporate life, as we once knew it, has changed and rebuilding company culture on the rubble of COVID is a feat  for which very few of us are prepared.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Recently reported this: “After over a year of working remotely because of the pandemic, an employee at a healthcare public relations firm was given one week’s notice that she and her colleagues would be expected to return to the office. There was no survey, flexibility, or choice — they were just expected to be back in the office in one week’s time, with no time to reconfigure their work, personal lives, and childcare schedules.”

pexels photo 630839Let’s just take a collective deep breath and think about this.  What’s really going on here? Gross insensitivity at the C-Suite level? Perhaps, but that assessment is too easy. If we look again what we may see is a picture of corporate culture in freeze-frame.  Life before COVID. A wish. A longing. A profile of  frightened, frustrated leaders demanding to resurrect “business as usual” in spite of these unusual times. 

The American workforce and the great awakening 

Long before CEOs began to call workers back to headquarters—indeed, long before the great resignation—there was a great awakening. The pandemic stopped workers in their tracks and opened up a Pandora’s box of questions:

  • Why am I here?  
  • What are my company’s core values today? 
  • Are they working? 
  • Do they matter now? 
  • What are my core values?
  • Have they changed? 
  • Do they matter?
  • Does my personal or professional life have any real meaning or value?
  • Is the dream of work-life balance an illusion or is it achievable?

For Millennials and Baby Boomers there was a collective  “aha moment” as employees reflected on the importance of their work in the grand scheme of things. They wrestled  with how their careers seemed to control every other aspect of their lives.  

Leadership’s “uh oh moments”

How do leaders help workers navigate through the maze of so many important questions? What kinds of support—professional development opportunities; emotional counseling—should they provide? 

Or maybe they have the right to  expect workers to work wherever they are assigned and that is it. Period. Archaic? Outdated? Arrogant and unrealistic? Maybe. 

Perhaps this kind of thinking among executives is a signal that they are struggling to rebuild teams and reinvent their cultures amid too many unknown variables. Their efforts to cling to old norms may simply seem easier.

When there’s a will but you lose your way

In some companies, the urgent need for agility and resilience demanded hastily reconfigured teams and methods of team building. And a lot of bosses agreed, eager to do whatever it took to keep moving forward. But then some forward motion stalled, or shifted backwards or slid sideways.  

 As a leader, how do you morph your style to accommodate so many demands for so many changes all at once?

Company culture is itself an abstract concept, so what does it look like when everybody isn’t in the same physical space. How do you adopt a hybrid leadership style? How do you recognize your culture when you see it in such a different context? 

Even if your business model is still relatively sound, has your company culture survived? If not, what changed it and if so, do you still need to reboot it?

Executives who are clear about their raison d’etre may be at a loss to make it clear to their employees now. How do they steer the ship in a new direction and keep everyone onboard?

 Reassessing your leadership style? Rebuilding your teams? Redefining your culture? Rebooting your whole business?  Magnovo. You can get there from here.