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Building Culture Focused Organizations with Christian Anibarro

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

Chris Anibarro, founder of Culturabilities and Impact Consultancy, is passionate about company culture because human beings are what make organizations thrive or die.

In his words, "those that find ways to keep each other connected to their purpose, connected to each other, and connected to the passion they have for the work they do" are the ones that survive.

In this week's In My Network interview, Chris share some proven practices to help leaders and organizations build strong cultures.

How and when did we first meet?

We met online! Sorta. I referred a colleague your way because I loved your Linkedin articles (even though we hadn’t actually met yet). This led to us meeting in person. The rest is history…

Your area of expertise is helping build culture-focused organizations. What exactly does that mean?

Culture can take a back seat to results. We believe that the key to consistent & sustainable results, though, is to move culture from something that occurs in the “background” and make it a deliberate strategic activity leaders engage in and manage daily.

Most of the articles I read describe workplace culture as free food, unlimited PTO and other perks. Is that all it takes?

Yes, I think so. Just kidding! We actually believe that you have to have practices and routines in place, daily, that connect people to each other, to the purpose of their company, or to the passion of their work. The more practices, rituals, and routines you have that align a team to purpose, passion, and community the stronger the culture.

What is one step a leader can take to build a great workplace culture?

Be really clear about the purpose of your company or team. Our purpose is what we are committed to. Our culture is how we express our identity… it's who we need to be in order to live into our purpose. When organizations or teams are unclear about their purpose, they experience identity confusion. They do things like focus on results, hire for skill, and think all they need is better communication. Most organizations I’ve worked for or with are unclear about WHY they exist. I would say to start there.

What are some examples of rituals, practices or routines you've seen to build culture?

Some of my favorite rituals:

Wisdom Wall: Tape off a part of a wall or use a whiteboard and use it to capture quotes, stories, lessons or examples teammates have seen/heard that illustrate how someone is living the values or contributing to the desired culture, or just bring a contribution to others. People can add to it whenever, but take time once a week to be ceremonious with it and celebrate some/all that gets put on it. It’s a great way to keep the culture visible & bond team. It can also be done virtually with tool like Slack or Teams or by creating a whiteboard during a Zoom meeting.

Leadership Practice: Two of our tenets are “Everything Speaks” and “Everything is On Purpose.” We teach leaders that everything sends a message (how you start a day, how you start a meeting, the face you wear, how you sit during meetings, what’s on the walls, etc.). Once we are clear about the kind of culture they want to create (innovation, excellence, etc.), then we have leaders choose 3-5 things to be “on purpose” about everyday. Some examples we’ve seen:

  • Leading a daily huddle with enthusiasm

  • Starting each meeting with an “aha” someone recently had

  • Sharing one thing YOU are trying to improve this week and ask for feedback (I.e.- I’m practicing asking open-ended questions)

  • Sitting on the edge of your seat during a meeting

  • Sharing one thing you appreciated about someone’s leadership/participation in each meeting (do it formally and visibly)

How do you assess culture fit when hiring someone?

I’m not sure I would assess culture fit. I would assess alignment with values, though. Culture keeps evolving and creating a diverse workforce allows for better results. Hiring to culture can lead to creating a team of like-minded people. However, assessing for values, which typically support the culture, gives you a better shot at finding someone who can add to your culture. The starting point for assessing values is having defined behaviors that demonstrate how someone might live the value. This gives an interview team an opportunity to construct behavior-based questions that can surface how aligned the candidate is with the value.

Culture work is fun, it’s messy (because it’s about relationships...namely interrelationships) and its best learned through practice with an intention to grow!

Thank you! It's now tIme for your rapid fire round:

  • One personal goal for the upcoming year: Get back into running and place for my age group in a race..

  • Biggest lesson learned last year: Commit to the possibility, but let go of the outcome

  • One thing you call me most often for: To pick your brain about business direction. You have great insights.

  • Book you've read recently: Quantum Learning

  • One thing on your bucket list: Climb Kilimanjaro

  • Typical Saturday night: Usually date-nights with my wife and, in a COVID world, it's virtual dinner dates with friends.

Learn more about Chris and his work at Culturabilities and Impact Consultancy.

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