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There is an old saying the ‘culture eats strategy for lunch.’ This saying is backed by many research studies indicating that organizational culture can have a powerful influence on strategy execution and organizational performance.

The implication for nonprofits is that organizational culture is a key determinant of mission achievement and operational performance.  Accordingly, creating a positive culture should be a top priority for nonprofit leaders and managers.

An organization’s culture is defined by the beliefs, values, language, decisions, and behaviors of the people who work there. The culture is shaped to some degree by everyone in the organization, with the greatest influence provided by leaders and managers who make daily decisions about how people are treated and how the work will be done.

In a positive organizational culture, people feel equipped and empowered to do their best.  They embrace the mission and values of the organization.  They feel like the organization cares about their well-being, and will support their career development.  They cultivate positive working relationships with their colleagues. And they feel encouraged to learn, grow, innovate, share wisdom, and request help when they need it.

The payback on positive culture can be seen in better performance for individuals, teams, and the organization.  When people feel equipped and supported, they are more likely to trust the organization and each other, and take initiative to learn, innovate, and collaborate.  As a result they are able to accelerate action and elevate performance.  And if hard times come, a positive culture is essential for helping people meet the challenge.

Positive culture is everyone’s job, from leadership to management to the front line.  Try these promising practices to support positive culture in your organization.

  1. Offer Inspiration.  Inspire others by providing encouragement and creating a shared vision of success.
  2. Emphasize Meaning.  Help others understand that value of their work for the mission of the organization.
  3. Encourage Learning and Growth.  View setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth. Avoid blame and forgive mistakes. Encourage people to be the best at getting better.
  4. Demonstrate Caring and Support.   Demonstrate caring and support for colleagues, by checking in frequently and offering kindness and compassion when people are struggling.
  5. Demonstrate Character.  Model the virtues of respect, gratitude, and integrity to build trust.