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Are Your Organization’s True Colors Shining Through?

When Cyndi Lauper recorded “True Colors,” she (and the songwriters) probably didn’t imagine it would become such an extensive celebration of authenticity.  

For years, the song has been an anthem of the LGBTQ community. It’s probably been sung on any number of occasions and in many other contexts to speak to an appreciation of what lies below the surface in all of us. 

”True Colors” came to mind because of a conversation I heard on one of my company’s recent flash calls for talent leaders. 

You probably already know that the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has taken the lead during this challenging time when individuals and organizations are trying to understand and respond constructively (and in real time) to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you haven’t joined one of i4cp’s weekly COVID-19 Response Action Calls, or bookmarked our online Employer Resource Center, please do. 

On the calls, communities of business leaders and professionals are coming together every week to share questions, insights and innovative practices. We’re joining together to get through this challenge, and the connections are both informative and affirming. 

A Question Came Up… 

On one of the Action Calls this week, a talent leader shared with the group that her organization had planned to seek one of the various employer-of-choice designations, only to have its application process efforts interrupted by the outbreak.  

“Should we continue pursuing this right now?” she wondered aloud to the other call participants. “We’ve sent our people home to work. Is it better to wait until all the turmoil is over and we are back to the ways we typically work?” 

i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes responded to her question, advising her not to wait—to continue with the process now. I think that was excellent advice, and testament to how fitting it is that Kevin is currently at work on a book about organizational culture. 

When he wrote an introduction for i4cp’s Culture Renovation: A Blueprint for Action, Kevin noted that leaders often underestimate the significance of organizational culture. He also pointed to our research on agility, which found that high-performance companies were about 3x more likely to view changes in the business environment as opportunities.  

Surely, the current turbulent times qualify. 

A Time for Strong Culture 

As I listened to Kevin’s advice to the talent leader on the call, it seemed to me that he was providing a message of real encouragement to all the organizations that have taken the importance of culture seriously. If you’ve created a corporate culture that is truly healthy—one that brings out the best in its employees, that nurtures innovation and embodies its values—then those true colors will shine through. In good times, and especially in times of challenge. 

Think about that. We’ve seen this idea play out in our own lives. When we’ve faced personal trials and found ourselves stronger than we’d have imagined. Maybe we were able to support and advocate for others who were ill or unable to stand on their own. We found resources in ourselves that reflected our values, our integrity, our strength of character—our true colors.  

Strong, healthy organizational cultures show themselves—their true colors—in these not-so-good times. If you take a look at your company, its processes, its workforce, and its ability to be agile in this time of unprecedented uncertainty, you’ll get a good look at your culture in action. Your people carry it with them. They feel it, they work consistently with it, and they are bound together by it—wherever they happen to be performing their jobs these days. 

Are you seeing the resilient, high-performance culture you want for your organization shining through? If so, great. But if your organization’s true colors are revealing something else, this is an excellent time to take stock. Notice where the cracks appear during this global challenge and you’ll have your first glimpse into what needs to change.  

Is this your wake-up call for a culture renovation? Your true colors will let you know.

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.