5 Questions to Assess Organizational Culture

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About three months ago, I sat down for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Connecticut with a woman named Anne.

She is the managing partner of Fio Partners, a nonprofit consulting firm that I've been following for about three years: I'd hired them to facilitate staff retreats for my former organization, connected with everyone I knew who knew them, and had informational interviews with nearly every member of the six-person team about their lives as consultants. 

This meeting was less of a job interview and more of a conversation. It just felt right. I would join the team. I would complement my individual coaching at Penney Leadership with organizational consulting through Fio Partners. I would bring together my coaching expertise with my nonprofit management experience and tools to serve a wide variety of organizations. And the coconut soup was delicious.

It's what I've wanted for years. 

In the car on the way home, I called my best friend to share the news. She flipped, squealing, "ARE YOU SO EXCITED RIGHT NOW?" But I wasn't jumping out of my seat with elation—instead, I felt a total calm and coherence. It was a kind of deep knowing that my whole life had led me to this moment.

How do I know that? I know myself. I created a Strategic Career Plan that captures who I am, what I stand for, and what I bring to the table. That self-awareness was my guide in identifying and creating exactly what I was looking for.  And I got to know the firm. Our values align; the culture of this firm is built around the core values that are most important to me: curiosity, connection, purpose, reflection, and heart.

We serve purpose-driven organizations (nonprofits, governmental organizations, and foundations), connecting them with resources, tools, rich data, and opportunities to reflect in order to make strategic decisions and grow their impact. We offer many services—from strategic planning & implementation to facilitating staff planning retreats and leadership development training to evaluation and research.

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While many nonprofit consultants work solo, now I'm part of a team that gets curious together, shares resources, and laughs a lot. The kicker: we are all parents; this is a big part of our hearts that factors into the balance of the work we take on and it is openly acknowledged and embraced at every meeting. I don't feel as though I need to hide my motherhood in order to be a "good" worker. 

This new piece of the puzzle fills out the pie of ways that I express my values and my mission through my work. 



Set aside some time to sit in a quiet place and answer the following questions about your current organization or one you are considering joining:

1. Culture of collaboration: What does the balance between teamwork and individual work look like at the organization? What are the practices around meetings? 

2. Culture of innovation: How does the organization handle risk and failure?  

3. Culture of learning: What kind of support and encouragement is offered for professional growth?

4. Culture of communication: How is/isn't information shared across the organization? How open, direct, and participatory are team members?

5. Culture of recognition: How and when are employees rewarded?

Next, go back through the questions for a second time and detail your ideals in each of these areas. Compare your personal answers with the organization's—where do they align? Where do they differ?  

Check out more about new Organizational Coaching & Consulting offerings through Fio Partners.