Creating a Culture of Success Part 1: The Leader’s Challenge By Mike Nally, Founder and CEO

Think about your favorite workplace, sports team, restaurant, and family you love to visit. The people that made these moments special for you were part of unique and special cultures.

Now, think about the best organizations in any field. How do they attract the best people, retain the best people, bring out the best in each team member, and create an environment that enables teamwork, trust, communication, creativity, innovation, and success?

They do it by focusing on creating a culture that will produce extraordinary results. Organizations that create sustainable success have distinctive cultures. And those that emphasize workplace culture consistently outperform their competitors.

What does culture mean in the workplace?

Culture means many things to different people. The Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM) provides an excellent definition in Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture:

“An organization’s culture defines the proper way to behave within the organization. This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding. Organizational culture sets the context for everything an enterprise does. Because industries and situations vary significantly, there is not a one-size-fits-all culture template that meets the needs of all organizations.”

SHRM’s definition of culture places three key responsibilities on organizational leaders:

1. Leaders must decide and establish the right culture for their organization. Because of the different missions, values, visions, and strategies of different organizations, no one culture will fit every organization.

2. Leaders must establish a framework that lays out the expectations for the proper way of working in the culture. The leadership team creates methods, systems, and policies to reinforce these expectations and recognize successful examples to emulate.

3. Leaders must clarify the thinking, standards, and actions that will be necessary for success. Culture is the shared set of beliefs that establishes the appropriate choices, behaviors, and actions in the workplace.

Many leaders set clear goals and can recite the company’s mission, vision, values, and yearly KPIs verbatim. However, when pressed about whether they believe the organization’s culture is strong enough to ensure sustained success—they are not usually as confident. They know what they want to achieve, but they don’t know where to start.

In my experience, I have found the following areas to be key indicators of cultural success (“yes” answers) or struggles (“no” answers):

People’s views about the organization itself:

  • Do they believe in and actively support the company’s mission, vision, and values?
  • Do they believe the company’s reward, recognition, promotion, the opportunity for development and advancement, and compensation systems are fair?
  • Do they believe the company’s standards, policies, and procedures make sense? Do these practices ensure quality; maximize efficiency, effectiveness, and consistency; and align with the company’s mission, vision, and values? Do they inhibit success or promote progress
  • Do they believe the company provides sufficient support, technology, tools, information, training, and resources to achieve the assigned duties, roles, goals, and responsibilities?
  • Do they believe the company provides a working environment that enables success? Do the people trust, support, and care for their fellow team members?
  • Do they believe the company cares about them as individuals and is willing to work with them to develop their skills and support their aspirations and goals within the framework of the company’s mission whenever possible?

People’s views about the organization’s leaders:

  • Do they believe the organization’s leaders are confident, capable, committed, and trustworthy?
  • Do they think the company’s leaders lead and live according to its mission, vision, and values?

So, how do the best leaders get to “yes”?

The best leaders clearly articulate the mission, vision, values, goals, and plans for an organization and then create an aligned, focused culture. These leaders understand the importance of creating clear expectations, common goals, high standards, and consistent leadership practices that align the team’s spirit, activities, and priorities.

But how do they do all that? Stay tuned for Creating a culture of success—Part 2: The leader’s solution.

How can we help your leaders and business excel?