Recently, the famous dictionary producer Merriam-Webster named culture as the “Word of the Year.” I am sure most experts on Employee Engagement were not surprised by Merriam-Webster’s choice. Indeed, legendary management expert Peter Drucker was one of the first to get it right years ago when he coined the phrase, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” While Drucker first said this decades ago, the words still ring very true in today’s business environment and workplace landscape. His seminal point in making this statement was that all of a company’s efforts on strategy will fall flat if the company culture is not sound and in alignment with its purpose and people. Likewise, if job candidates aren’t as careful about assessing the culture of their potential new employer, they will mistakenly choose the wrong new employer and quickly find themselves in job search “transition” mode again.
I learned a difficult lesson on culture when I was just a child. At age 10 and living with my mother and three sisters, I was illegally kidnapped by my father and brought from a lily-white Chicago suburb to an American Indian reservation in Northern Wisconsin. Neither my Father nor any of my new family members were American Indian; they simply lived on the reservation’s land. Since state laws differ about how to handle child custody cases and additional laws exist to protect Indian reservations and their inhabitants, the pending criminal charges against my Dad were soon dropped and my sisters and I found ourselves stuck in a cultural environment that felt like another planet. I was sent to a nearly-all Chippewa Indian grade school, where I quickly learned that my skin color had become my own cultural “baggage.”
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