Winning with Culture
by Paul Northway, President & CEO
A company’s culture can have a powerful impact on its performance. In fact, Peter Drucker has often been credited for saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture is the glue that binds an organization together and is something that is difficult for competitors to copy. With that in mind, one can come to the conclusion that culture is a competitive advantage for high- performing organizations.
But what makes a culture? Each culture is unique but there are at least five common components of winning cultures.
- Credible Leadership – Credible leaders are the first and potentially most critical element of creating a winning culture. The executive team needs to set the tone by developing and driving the culture through the rest of the organization. In a winning culture, leadership sets great examples – culture building always starts at the top.
- Vision – A great culture starts with a vision or mission statement. This statement clearly defines a company’s purpose. That purpose will help shape every action and decision employees make. When purpose statements are delivered in an authentic manner they can help orient clients, vendors and other stakeholders. Thanks to Simon Sinek, much has been written about purpose and “Why”. Once a company uncovers its “Why”, everything else will begin to follow.
- Values – A company’s values are the core of its culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values are the bedrock principles that support the culture. The values are the “How” behind a company’s “Why”. They are the principles that your company values and stands for no matter what the situation. Values will also deter cultural issues that drive underlying behavior that results in undesired outcomes.
- Practices – Values are of little importance unless they are enshrined in a company’s standards of behavior. The standards revolve around the specific actions expected of each employee. Once standards become embedded in the culture, there becomes a “this is how we do it around here” attitude within the organization and peer accountability begins to take hold. People begin to support teammates and also be conscious of not wanting to let them down.
- People – No company can build a winning culture without a committed and unified team. People want to work for a company that has a purpose and know that they play a valuable role in the organization’s success. It is important to recruit employees who are not only the most talented but also the best suited to a particular corporate culture. In
sports, this recruitment is referred to as bringing in players with a “good locker room presence”.
The sports world tends to provide great examples that parallel the business world. When a sports organization has a culture with these five components, they tend to win championships. The same can be seen in business, when the culture is strong and everyone is aligned then the company can focus on developing and executing strategy with winning results. But your
organization cannot develop a win at all cost culture. A gap in any of the five components we discussed can lead to cultural issues. Maintaining a strong and positive culture that is aligned with an organization’s purpose is critical for achieving long-term success and for avoiding the pitfalls that can damage a company’s reputation. Let’s call it winning the right way!
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