The easiest way to define your organization’s or department’s culture is a set of shared beliefs, values, decisions and, most importantly, actions. When you believe something, and consistently act in a manner that is consistent with your beliefs, you do not need a vision and values statement posted on the wall. When your decisions and actions consistently align with the shared beliefs and values, your organization’s or department’s true culture is clearly defined. 

The following 8 keys are critical in helping an organization or team define and create a great culture.

  1. An owner, CEO or senior leaders who really care about the culture they create.

  2. The leaders in the senior most positions have the single biggest influence on an organization’s culture.  CEO’s and senior leaders who want to create a legacy where employees love coming to work and customers love to do business with their organization have the best opportunity to define and create a great culture. CEO’s and senior leaders who don’t care, will also create a well-defined culture; it is just a culture that most likely you and I would only work at if we could not find another job.
  3. Clarify your mission, vision, values and strategic direction.

  4. All our research demonstrates it is difficult to have engaged employees when they are not clear where their organization and/or department is heading…and what is their roll in contributing to the organization’s success. Employees like reading mysteries…they prefer to not work in one.
  5. Hire great managers.

  6. The old cliché is so true. Employees don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. There is a really good chance that if you can say today, “I love my job” you have a good working relationship with your manager. If you have a poor working relationship with your manager, there is a good chance you have uttered the phrase, “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this crap.” Great employees deserve great leaders. Hire great leaders who are in alignment with the culture you want to keep.
  7. First define the job.

  8. A hiring manager recently told me their gut feeling can tell if someone is a culture fit in the first five minutes of the interview. What skills will be needed? What style is the candidate’s leader? What types of culture’s have they excelled in in the past? If this candidate excelled in a government organization that was slow and cumbersome, they most likely will not be a fit if this job needs someone to be a quick decision maker in the absence of policies and rules.  Your key to success is to first define the job, and then determine if the candidate is the right fit for the position.
  9. Hire great employees.

  10.   Once you have determined that the employee is a fit for the job and your culture, hire the best. One of the fastest ways to develop an engaged workforce is to hire an engaged employee.  I recently interviewed an employee who had completed three unpaid internships in her high school and college career to ensure she had the right skillset when she went looking for a job. The candidate had a great philosophy about looking for a job. She said, “I have no problem finding a job. What I am trying to do is find the best match for my skills and to accomplish my career goals.”  Not only was she engaged, she was also empowered.
  11. Coach, council and when that does not work, share the employee with your best competitor.

  12. It only takes one bad manager or one bad employee to ruin a great culture. We highly recommend you guard your culture by coaching and counseling employees who violate your beliefs, vision and values. And, when the coaching does not work, share the employee with your best competitor and mess up their culture and strategic plan.
  13. Make decisions and take action in alignment with the culture you want to keep.

  14. Many organizations have tried to copy great cultures like Zappos or Google. Here’s the problem. Copying a great culture seldom works because the leaders do not have the same shared beliefs. You can say you want a culture like Apple, but the ultimate test in determining your culture is the decisions you make and the actions you take. When the core beliefs are not in alignment with the decisions you make and actions you take, your culture will always be defined by the decisions and actions.
  15. Conduct an Employee Engagement Survey:

  16. Can you measure culture?  You bet you can with an annual engagement or opinion survey.  The top and bottom responses of the survey will clearly identify your culture. And, when the results of the survey are broken down by department, branch or geographic location, you will be able to quickly see which leaders are in alignment with the vision and culture.

What’s your team’s culture? Once you identify your organization’s mission, vision and beliefs (values), hire the right people who make decisions and take actions that are in complete alignment to turn the mission, vision and values into a reality. Employees believe much more about what they observe in the halls than what they read on the walls.


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