Building a Strong Culture—Simplified


Let’s first clarify the term “culture,” then let’s talk about how to make one great. It’s undeniable that at the root of what makes a great company great is a strong culture. This can be validated by the great quote that is believed to have originated from leadership guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Much has been written about this hot and timely topic. You can Google and find thousands of articles, data and consultants to help you build a great culture. There’s so much information, it starts to get overwhelming and quite confusing. It can twist you in a knot and make it unclear where to start. So, in this Clarity Break, I want to simplify it for you and, in your next Clarity Break, urge that you please give this some deep thought. What I’m about to share has been proven with thousands of companies. There is no theory here. Some companies are great at building a strong culture, most are terrible, and I’m going to give you five ways to help you become great at it. So, what is the definition of culture? Culture is defined by the way your people in your company act and how they treat each other. It’s how it feels when anyone interacts with your organization. If anthropologists studied your organization, its people, your leaders and how they communicate, what would the report say? That’s your culture. That’s the definition of culture. The definition of a great culture is defined by those anthropologists’ results being a direct reflection of your Core Values. Core Values are your company’s three to seven essential and timeless guiding principles. When your leaders define a clear set of three to seven Core Values that you want to build your company upon, and everyone in your company acts, speaks, and lives by them, you have a strong culture. So how do you do that? Well, first of all, you must know your Core Values. I’m assuming everyone reading this Clarity Break knows his or her company’s Core Values. If you don’t, please read pages 35 to 39 in Traction, which will walk you through the process of discovering your company’s Core Values. With your Core Values clear, you simply must (1) hire, (2) fire, (3) review, (4) reward and (5) recognize all of your people with your Core Values in mind. It’s truly that simple, and it only requires those five things. We’ve proven this thousands of times with our clients. Now, we could leave it right there, but we won’t. The following is a little deeper dive into each of the five, with some how-tos. Please know there are hundreds of ways to do each of the five. I’m going to give you the most effective how-tos in my experience. Let’s take them one at a time. 1. Hire After we help each client discover their Core Values, we have them create a Core Values speech. This is a simple document that helps every leader communicate your Core Values the exact same way. To learn more about how to create a Core Values speech, read pages 39 to 44 in Traction. Once you have a Core Values speech, you must deliver that speech with passion to every potential hire. You must prepare them for what they’re about to get themselves into. You must try to scare them away. The ones that light up and are drawn in are the right ones for your company. The ones that have a lack of interest or a blank neutral stare, you shouldn’t hire. 2. Fire If someone isn’t living up to your company’s Core Values, then you must free up their future. This does assume you’ve given them every chance, however—that you’ve clearly and specifically communicated where they’re falling short and you’ve coached, mentored and guided them to improve. And assuming nothi