Managers — Are You Making Time for Culture?

Colin Ellis
3 min readSep 13, 2023

The principal responsibilities of a manager are to inspire and motivate the people on your team and work with them to build a culture that supports productive work. This is often not explicit in your job description, yet it is the expectation of every senior executive! To be able to do this consistently with staff of different personalities, technical abilities, motivations, and intentions, and in line with a strategy that changes and evolves, is not easy to do.

However, that’s not to say that it can’t be done. It can, and the managers that do it not only achieve their results, but do it in a way that builds trust and happiness, including their own!

Managers have to be technically good, but emotionally excellent. They have to role model the behaviours they expect of others, whilst being knowledgeable enough about their subject matter to be able to ask the right questions at the right time.

Many people struggle with management as the people side of things often requires more energy than the technical side of things. However, this is the nature of management. There are more meetings, more emails, more phone calls and more issues to contend with. A well defined culture will help you to balance these demands.

In light of that, it’s critical that managers create a culture that not only safeguards the mental and physical health of their employees, but for themselves too. And it’s essential that they ask for the help to do so. They can’t sit on the sidelines and wait to be asked.

There are essential skills you require as a manager to build a strong, connected culture that knows how to get the job done. It takes time and commitment to develop these skills and to create and evolve a high performance culture — but it will be time well spent.

Here are some ways that managers can make time for culture:

Build it — If you haven’t defined your culture then this has to be the start point. Only by creating the foundations can you continually evolve your culture to achieve high performance.

Schedule it — Put regular culture building activities like team lunches, celebrations, meetings, etc into your diary so they don’t get overlooked. Treat it as a priority.

Be present — When participating in social events, be fully present and engaged. Don’t multitask or allow yourself to get distracted. Your involvement sets the tone and demonstrates your commitment to culture.

Embed culture in daily micro-experiences — Look for quick opportunities to connect with people, recognise achievements and role model values during regular work. If you think ‘culture-first’ it will be demonstrated in your actions.

Delegate responsibilities — Have different team members own and coordinate various culture building efforts like recognition, team events, communications. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving everything to a ‘culture committee’ — share the responsibility.

Don’t try to do it all, all of the time — Focus on one aspect of culture at a time and build on what you create. It’s possible to overwhelm people with too much culture stuff all at once, which can create the conditions for toxicity!

Communicate importance — Express your commitment to culture so your team knows it’s a priority despite your schedule. Share the business benefits and review how you’re performing in line with your culture at least once a quarter.

The key is recognising culture as indispensable to performance, not an optional extra. With intention and discipline, even the busiest managers can foster a high-performing culture.

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Colin Ellis

Best-selling Author of Culture Fix | Keynote Speaker | Facilitator | Devoted Dad | Evertonian | Whisky Lover | Likes to laugh, a lot www.colindellis.com