Episode 309: Building Organizational Culture



The Three Circles Model Scheme engThis week we discuss Building Organizational Culture.

Joining us is Guest Host Karen Pundsack, director of the Great River Regional Library system here in Minnesota.

The Basics

You know the difference between being in a workplace with a terrible organizational culture, and one that supports you and your professional development. If you have worked in a terrible place, you know how hard it is to get motivated to work – or even to come to work. We talked about this in our Season Two Bonus Episode on Stress Management.

When your culture is good – that’s great! People generally enjoy their job, they like to come to work, and their colleagues and patrons are generally a source of good feelings. As a leader in this environment, you main job is not to mess it up. Keep the lines of communication open, keep sharing positive ideas and energy, and stay out of the way.

On the other end of the spectrum are too many libraries that have a toxic work environment. People who work in these places are frustrated by these bad working environments. Giving their best efforts is not even an option; getting through a day relatively unscathed is pretty much all they are trying to do. Managers are terrible, patrons are mean, colleagues are either not doing any work or focused on back-stabbing instead of working for success.

“Good” means whatever you decide it means, so creating a definition of a good culture in your specific library is an important start. It cannot be just your vision of a good workplace – it needs to work for everyone. Then this is a valuable – and hard – topic for a staff meeting. After everyone gives ideas on what “good” is, what gaps do they see between today’s reality and that definition? How do they see being able to move from here to there? What can everyone do to make things easier on each other as you transition?

Set realistic goals for improving the culture. It did not become toxic overnight, and it will not get better that fast. But keep repeating your determination to make it happen, keep emphasizing the importance of a good work environment.

This is a quick look at building a good organizational culture. You can think of this like weeding your collection, or garden: if you keep on top of problems, the rest of it will be much nicer. So pay attention to your culture, and keep working to make it positive.

Thanks to our Guest Host Karen! And check back in with us next week to discuss Communication.


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