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  • Writer's pictureJulie Piepho

CULTURE, WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE IT?


July 1, 2023


By Julie Piepho, Principal, BlackFin Group


Culture is talked about all the time in terms of saying like, “That’s not our culture” or “We want to make sure the individual fits into our culture.” However, can you verbalize what your culture is in an elevator speech or even in 5 minutes?


There have been panels and workshops on defining culture. CEOs and Owners often verbalize lofty words about their culture that leave the individual unable to truly understand what it is to “fit in” with the company and how to interact with other team members. Too often, new employees join a company to find out they don’t fit in because of the culture. How would they have found out what the culture is? Today it is still a hard obstacle to understand and overcome.


Before giving you tips on understanding how to define culture and help new employees understand culture, I’d also like for you to think about our world culture assumptions, as I believe even though we are all dedicated to diversity and inclusion, I believe subconsciously, we have them. I was talking to a white schoolteacher yesterday who is married to a Hispanic. She teaches in a low -income school and absolutely loves it. Many of her pupils are Hispanic. She has been told more than once if there are children in an altercation, it will always be the Hispanic child that started the altercation over the white child because that is their CULTURE. Her husband is appalled with that assumption as he wasn’t raised to fight to get his way. Do you have those world culture assumptions? I believe many of us do have them, even though we don’t want to admit to it. It is how we were raised. Do we bring them to our workplace?

How do we define culture in a workplace?


  • Is your mission statement clear and concise? Can you explain each word and give examples of what it means?

  • Is your vision statement clear and concise? Can you explain each word and give examples of how to model it?

  • Do you have values/convictions for the company? If not, why not? Values/convictions really define what you stand for and can clearly define to the employees what the culture is. I worked for a company that had 16-17 values. The executive team spent several days defining the values from the mission and vision statement and then, breaking down each value for how it was integrated into the company. One of the most memorable ones was “We create a happy workplace and have fun together”. A working group with several employees and key executives then defined activities on how to create a happy workplace and have fun together. One was a type of America’s Got Talent where team members sent in videos from all over the country and they were voted on by all the team members. The top 5 were flown into corporate and a party was given, and the winner was announced. That’s how specific a value/conviction should be and how a future employee can find out and interview to culture.

  • Do you have interview questions for your values/convictions to see how potential team members can fit into your culture?

  • Wil you allow potential team members to talk to current team members to see how the culture is and how they like working at the company?

  • Are your performance reviews written with a section for the behavior of modeling the values/convictions of the culture?

  • Town hall meetings/videos from the CEO should always take one of these values/convictions and explain what it means to the company and give specific examples of how to do it.

With these tips, culture becomes real and not something that is mythical we can’t get our hands around. Besides doing their job, team members have a level of satisfaction they are working for the greater good of the company and fulfilling the mission/vision/values and integrating into the culture of the company. Job satisfaction is the number one key for employee retention. Great leaders of companies are visionaries who can easily talk about their culture in real time words and examples. Can you?


Julie Piepho, CMB, is a Principal Consultant with BlackFin Group in the Mortgage Strategy Practice. Julie is nationally recognized as a Mortgage Strategy Consulting expert with over four decades’ experience leading and coaching sales and operations teams while in executive roles at Cornerstone Mortgage, Norwest Mortgage and Wells Fargo Mortgage. She holds the prestigious Master Certified Mortgage Banker designation from the Mortgage Bankers Association. For more information on how we can help contact info@blackfin-group.com

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