August 17, 2021

Become and remain a culture carrier at your company.

Leadership can take a lot of forms, and the form of culture carrier is a unique one. It’s informal, sometimes hard to define, but undeniably influential. As organizations function in an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, their workplace cultures have never been more important as a compass, and neither have their culture carrier.

A “culture carrier” is someone around whom a company’s culture develops. They possess a great deal of institutional knowledge, they’re an embodiment of the company values, and they’re someone others want to be around. For the company, culture carriers are indispensable.

It may seem like culture carriers happen naturally, or that it’s a role always filled by a certain type of person. Actually, you can become one — but it doesn’t happen overnight. The process begins with a genuine interest in your organization’s purpose and your own role in that broader narrative.

Live the values.

Company values are the building blocks of workplace culture. Ideally, your company’s written or stated values match its lived values. Culture carriers know their organizational values, missions, and objectives by heart. You should go beyond understanding those values, applying them in everyday conversations and decision-making at the workplace.

That doesn’t mean letting go of your own personal values — instead, it means taking time to consider how the company’s values and your own can interplay to create an even firmer foundation. (And if the two sets of values are totally irreconcilable, you may have a problem for a different article.)

As an example, let’s look at the common situation of having to give constructive feedback. Let’s say one of your company’s key values is transparency: communicating openly and making sure everyone has access to the information they need to do their best work. Now let’s say one of your personal values is kindness, so you may not want to be transparent just for transparency’s sake. In this situation, you might take extra care to give the tough feedback in a way that’s considerate of the other person’s feelings and has their growth in mind. You’re living your own values and modeling a thoughtful approach to living the company’s, too.

Pay attention.

Culture carriers stay aware of and, when possible and appropriate, involved in, changes happening around them. They keep a finger on the company’s pulse. Here are a few tips for staying on top of what’s going on:

  • Be curious. Talk to people whose work doesn’t directly intersect with yours. Ask questions like: what do they most enjoy about their work, what makes them feel most connected to their work, and what are the pain points in their role?
  • Use your resources. Most companies have a wealth of documentation. At more established companies, it’s formal and carefully organized. On growing teams, it might be more disparate. Either way, there’s probably a lot of valuable information you haven’t gotten the chance to read yet. Try to take some time each week to do so.
  • Take notes. You get a lot of information every day, and much of it probably passes through you without being registered. Get into the habit of keeping track of information that may be important later, in whatever note-taking method works best for you. When you hear about something interesting in a meeting and want to know more, write it down so you can ask questions later.

Speak up.

Culture carriers raise their ideas and opinions, even when that means saying “No” or disagreeing. Always agreeing with someone may feel safer, but when you speak up to share hard feedback, you build a reputation for integrity and holding true to a set of values.

Be a lifeline.

As a culture carrier, you’re actively spreading organizational values in what you say and do. A crucial part of the process involves motivating others at the workplace and not limiting your network to other culture carriers. A culture carrier has the knowledge and experience to identify and assist disengaged co-workers.

Reach out to less engaged co-workers at every opportunity. Provide some peer-to-peer support, tell them you value their contributions, and be their lifeline to the rest of the company.

Employee disengagement is a leading cause of high worker turnover. As a culture carrier, you can help clear doubt among the workforce, lead by example, and improve the overall morale to drive a healthier workplace culture. You may even convert disengaged colleagues into fellow culture carriers.

Are you a culture carrier?

You don’t need to be a business leader or senior member of the team to become a culture carrier. You simply need to be dedicated, highly engaged, and willing to hold your own against challenges to their corporate values.

As a culture carrier, you will probably show the initiative in maintaining a positive and harmonious work environment.

Ultimately, culture carriers are natural leaders who strive for organizational excellence.

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