Building Conscience and Culture in Your Start-Up

Conscience may be defined as the aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Culture may be defined as a set of patterns of human activity within a society or social group. Conscience and culture can also be described as values, ethics and principles in corporate life.

Culture is a way of living in society— rules, manners and protocols which we observe and which help us make a happy and united society. It helps us in our interactions and behavior with people who are not necessarily close to us.

To put it simply, culture and conscience are important in corporate life, because everything can’t be written down in a book of rules or a policy document. There are many situations and conditions which cannot be explained to each and every employee in their job description, KRA (Key Results Areas) sheet or induction.

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Many situations might arise during each employee’s time in the company when they would need a conscience and the culture to know what to do. Conscience and culture are not needed only to take soft decisions in the company. In my experience, they help you decide on your vision for the company; in short, what your company stands for, or what the DNA of your company is. Depending on how deeply the culture is rooted and how strong the conscience is, you will easily realize that they are both needed in practical business and day-to-day operating decisions.

Culture matters a lot outside the workplace, as well as in our homes and our social circles. We are constantly adapting to and learning from various cultures to which we keep getting exposed as we grow: in different areas of our lives, like school, college, friends, courtship, spouse, the spouse’s family, kids, the kids’ friends and so on. When we place so much importance on culture outside work, then why not at work?

A simple calculation shows that close to 30 per cent of our waking time is spent in working, from the age of twenty-five to fifty-two:

Apart from the amount of time we spend in our workplace, we are known mostly by the work we do; our work earns us our livelihood; the maximum part of our learning in adult life comes through our work and, in many cases, work brings us a lot of friends and, sometimes, our life partner as well.

When there is so much that happens at and around our work, why is it that we don’t give importance to culture at work? After all, there too, we are constantly adapting to and learning about various cultures to which we are exposed. Like how to work with your boss, how to work with a team, how to work with team members, how to get work done by people senior to you and so on.

Another way of looking at it: cultivating a conscience and culture for your start-up is like putting life into a robot, which can then help you and everybody else take decisions which are not P& L-related and which don’t relate merely to making money. Many matters come up in a start-up which need a human touch or human-level thinking. Since you cannot rely on each employee’s ability to take his own conscientious decision, you should create a conscience for the company to which they can refer. A CEO’s role here is to build up a conscience, to keep improving on it as time passes and to ensure that the company is on the right path.

In a nutshell, our work forms a big part of our life and, after our family, it is the most influential. It needs to have a conscience and culture. Learn more about building conscience and culture in your start-up only at University Canada West.

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