The simple answer is everybody and nobody; any culture is largely self-sustaining so it drives itself. Yet by definition culture is the collective values (what’s important) and beliefs (expectations) of everyone in any given group.

These give rise to the group attitudes or mindset, which in turn, results in the acceptable norms and characteristic behaviours of the group.
People's heads connected by coloured streams

This goes for any group in any situation

The power of culture lies in the fact that most individuals within a group (in this case a team, department, division or business) are more comfortable when they conform to norms and their behaviour fits with others around them.

This is particularly important in a situation where there’s a transient workforce, all of whom arrive with existing attitudes and standards of behaviour. If the culture is strong enough they’ll all be absorbed by it and conform to the expected standards. If the culture isn’t strong enough these newcomers are more likely to retain their own standards.

Norms and standards have to come from somewhere

Generally, norms are well established yet at the same time they do evolve over time. The changes that do occur are most likely to be initiated by the more influential members of the group and copied by others.

This process begins when those in the group with the most influence communicate their own values and beliefs, which in turn will inform the values and beliefs of the wider group. This communication is unlikely to be through direct sharing or by open discussion, more likely it will occur by the interpretation of the behaviours displayed by the influencers.

This visual form of communication tends to be the most effective mode.

If you want to improve the strength of your culture it also helps to accurately recognise where it currently stands, which means understanding the perceptions, expectations and priorities to be found within a group. This is why JOMC carry out culture assessments to reveal norms and standards.

Who the influencers are

Influence, by whatever means is a key part of leadership. It is our leaders who set the tone, whose beliefs we adopt and whose values we share. In the workplace many of these leaders are appointed and hold positions of authority, but not all of them.

There can be a range of strong characters who people look up to. Some of them may hold beliefs and espouse values that are at odds with the greater good. Indeed some of these leaders may be ‘well poisoners’, infecting others with their unsavoury attitudes.

In order to drive your culture forward and establish the most appropriate behaviours that will keep everyone safe, you must encourage leaders to utilise their influence for good rather than poisoning the atmosphere.