Book Review: Let's Talk Culture by Shane Michael Hatton

Culture is an integral element of every organisation, and plays a critical role in the engagement, performance and retention of staff. The deliberate creation of a strong organisational culture is an unseen competitive advantage, making it clear what it takes to belong within the organisation, and helping to attract and retain the right people.

However, the role of the leadership team, middle management and team leaders in developing and promoting a positive culture is not always well understood. In the research for Let’s Talk Culture, half of the respondents believe that culture ‘just happens’ and cannot be influenced.

Shane’s intent in sharing his expertise is to show not only how much can be achieved when leaders set out to build a strong organisational culture, but also to give his readers a clear blue-print on how to go about it.

The tone of Let’s Talk Culture is engaging, and I found it a very easy read. It is clearly and logically laid out, with plenty of stories and examples to illustrate the points that Shane is making. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Culture Conversation’ exercises at the end of each chapter. Each set of questions links to the ideas in the chapter, and are designed to be used in team meetings in order to start deliberately building a positive culture.

Another tool which I know will be very useful in my day to day role is the step by step guide to difficult or challenging conversations. Delivering tough feedback is one which all people leaders have to do at some point in their careers. Shane has provided us with a step by step guide for preparing, having, and then following up on the conversation. There is even a handy one page flow chart for ready reference.

Using lessons from other organisations, Let’s Talk Culture provides plenty of ideas to try, including ways of keeping culture top of mind that don’t involve posters on a wall, and ways to recognise and celebrate team members who demonstrate the team or organisational culture.

Let’s Talk Culture is one of those books that I wish I’d had when I started in a managerial position. With a blend of stories, research, and practical exercises, it is a fantastic resource for any manager’s toolkit. It has been written for aspiring, new and experienced people leaders, with an emphasis on what leaders can do to develop both team culture as well as organisational. It is clear that this is a book that is intended to be sitting on a manager’s desk as a well-thumbed, practical tool.

Review by Jo Toon FCIPS, Manager Procurement at Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children

Let's Talk Culture: The conversations you need to create the team you want is available now. 

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