Creating a Culture of Success Part 2: The Leader’s Solution by Mike Nally, Founder and CEO

Part 1 of this series on culture talks about the leader’s challenge to create a culture of success—the what of culture and the why it matters. This time, let’s look at the how—how leaders can create a culture capable of achieving the organization’s mission.

Creating a culture of success requires three keys:

  1. Strategic vision
  2. Constant attention to the reality of the existing culture
  3. Consistent nurturing to ensure the culture will meet the organization’s mission and set the standard for leaders to inspire others to achieve

In order to use these keys to unlock a culture of success, the leader must have the foresight, insight, and energy to address these needs and build a framework for their culture than enables the opportunity for organizational success.

For example, here is a list of questions we ask leaders who are working to create a culture—or change a culture—to think through and answer:

Questions about the organization itself

  • What is our mission? Why do we exist?
  • What are the values?
  • What will we achieve? What is our collective definition of success?

Questions about the organization’s people and teams

  • What kind of people do we need?
  • What kind of skills, aptitudes, and attitudes will our people require?
  • What will our teams look like?
  • What will they be responsible for achieving?
  • How will we form them to make sure we have the right mix of skills, personalities, and temperaments to ensure a high-functioning group that will work effectively together?
  • What technology, tools, systems, equipment, and networks will they need to achieve their objectives?
  • What work environment will they need to succeed?
  • What standards, policies, and procedures will we need to establish to reinforce the expectations of the team?
  • How will we reward excellence?

Questions about the organization’s leaders and managers

  • Who will our leaders need to be to inspire, direct, motivate, and guide the team on a daily basis?
  • What will we expect from them?
  • What key decisions will they have the power to make?
  • What will they and their teams be responsible for achieving?
  • How will we develop the next generation of leaders from our team?
  • How will we reward excellence?

These questions are only a starting point—the list of questions to create your organization’s unique and extraordinary culture is as long as it needs to be. But asking and answering these questions is the beginning of the leader’s work list. And once they know what they need to do—they must do it.

Turning knowledge into action

Once leaders determine what the culture needs to be for success, they need to bring it to life:

  • Set the standards and expectations
  • Establish operating procedures and systems that will ensure the standards can be consistently achieved
  • Create the people systems that will attract, retain, develop, recognize, and appropriately reward team members
  • Adopt methods and practices that they will regularly align, manage, and improve to nurture the culture over time

Granted, it’s no small task. The culture must meet the demands and requirements of the organization’s mission and values. The leaders of the organization must be committed to living, modeling, and teaching cultural expectations. Inconsistency erodes faith and belief in the leaders and the organization’s credibility. Lack of faith leads to a lack of performance and initiative, which creates a negative spiral toward mediocrity and failure.

Shared beliefs are key.

Most business cultures don’t share enough of the critical common beliefs and goals for success. As noted in our earlier definition, culture is a shared set of beliefs that guides how people act. A culture that guides actions always exists in the organization. Usually, what is missing is uniformity, and there are multiple cultures and belief systems throughout the organizations that guide daily choices. Most of us know that there is what “management wants and thinks” and “what the team wants and thinks.” The larger the organization, the more levels of cultural misalignment and special interest.

Misalignment is common and natural. What isn’t always common is the recognition that alignment is necessary and has to be worked at. The best leaders understand the importance of nurturing and aligning the culture they need to succeed, and they make that part of their leadership responsibilities. Leaders who focus on the principles of successful cultures and overcome the natural drift toward organizational misalignment create consistent progress, high-performing teams, and sustainable success.

Belief and belonging are the mind and heart of an organization.

Creating a belief system that pulls people together to accomplish a mutually beneficial goal is the leader’s job and the foundation of an organization’s culture. The leaders that (1) focus on matching the culture to the needs of their mission and company’s objectives, (2) nurture and align the cultural beliefs and norms, (3) invest the necessary time and money into the people, training, and support that demonstrate commitment to the culture, and (4) show others through their daily leadership example can create a distinctive culture that can achieve sustainable success.

How can we help your leaders and business excel?