Can we create a more positive culture in our company?

by Sam on March 9, 2010

One-Minute Answer:  There’s much talk about corporate culture these days. So, what exactly is it? Culture is the way the people inside an organization relate to each other, to their work, and to their customers. The right culture translates into consistent prosperity, whether your corporate goals are for-profit or not-for-profit.


The leaders of a company make the effort to draw up a list core values when they want to inculcate a particular culture. They hope these values will shape norms of behavior that collectively constitute an organizational way of life–one that leads to better outcomes.


Has your company established a powerful and a positive culture? Many make the effort to craft and transmit values to employees, but few see those values directly and consistently influencing what employees do with their hands, mouths, and feet.


What can you do to ensure that the values you select for your company inspire a culture that takes your organization to the next level of greatness? Click the blue link for the answer.



Five-Minute Answer:  Culture creation begins with the identification of values, but doesn’t stop there. The real work is what you do with those values. How much of what’s prescribed below has your company done? Have you made it past #4?


1.    Ponder the universe of values.  Among these are accountability, character, creativity, dignity, excellence, honesty, integrity, leadership, personal responsibility, positive work ethic, respect, selflessness, stewardship, and teamwork.

2.    Don’t confuse values with strategic priorities.  Values are attitudes and beliefs that compel behavior. The outcomes that you want those attitudes and beliefs to drive are your strategic priorities. Through strategic planning you might pinpoint priorities such as these: client focus, continuous improvement, corporate citizenship, cutting edge technology, development of people, diversity, employee engagement, health, innovation, safety, shareholder value, and sustainability. The measurements of how well these priorities are achieved serve to evidence adherence to your values and ultimately to the strength of your culture.

3.    Identify your values.  Do your best to limit yourself to three values. The further you exceed three, the more your values will mirror everyone else’s. Here’s your chance to create a distinctive culture to accomplish distinctive goals. Don’t exceed five.

4.    Decide how to express them.  Assume you just did an excellent job of distinguishing values from priorities, ending up with four. Great work considering that six is closer to the average. One idea for expressing them is to enumerate the behaviors required within each value—an effective way to communicate fully the intent of the values to employees. (Indicate in the comment section below if you’d like to see how this is done.) A second and less comprehensive approach might be equally effective, and that is simply to attach a catch phrase to each one-word value. These four values are now ready to undergird the strategic priorities you have also committed to.





“Giving our best”

“Caring for each other”

“Doing the right thing”

“Showing the way”

5.    Preach them.  Let me tell you a story about CEO Stan—not his real name. At almost every meeting with the emerging leaders in his company he hands over $20 bills from his own wallet to those who can recite from memory selected portions of the mission, vision, and values of the firm. His actions convince managers that the values are important to him and to them. A positive culture follows Stan in every assignment he tackles.

6.    Integrate them into hiring.  State your values in recruitment literature. Post them in advertising for new people. Use them to make hiring decisions by directing candidates to rank order the company’s values from most to least important and explain their choices. Or, press them to choose the one value they expect to fulfill most readily and one that they expect will be more challenging than the rest. Both exercises will reveal a great deal about candidates and stress the import of values.

7.    Integrate them into new employee orientation.  Here is another opportunity, not to be missed, to vaccinate the uninitiated with your company’s belief system.

8.    Integrate them into special events.  Make clear to employees the connection between core values and community projects, charitable campaigns, and celebrations. Remind employees at every opportunity of why we do what we do beyond the workplace.

9.    Role model them.  Members of the leadership team, from first-line supervisor to CEO, must regularly challenge each other on how well their individual and collective behavior reflect what they profess to be important. How well do they walk the talk?

10.  Integrate them into training & development.  Make every training session and development program in your company internally consistent with your values. Teach courses on how to integrate them into the workplace.

11.  Integrate them into performance management.  See that your employee goal-setting form contains a section where a vow is required for greater integration of core values and performance. Also, the portion of your performance review that assesses how people perform, as opposed to what they accomplish, should measure adherence to core values. After all, they are the how. And, just about every employee who has been placed on a performance improvement plan has the need to progress relative to one or more of the core values. Be certain the plan points that out.

12.  Provide consequences.  Reward compliance with, and discipline defiance toward, core values.

13.  Evaluate culture.  Seize every opportunity to assess culture. Conduct employee job satisfaction surveys. Perform customer service satisfaction assessments. Hire mystery shoppers. Examine the overall evaluations employees receive on the how side of performance reviews. Get upward feedback for managers on how well they live the values. At exit interviews learn what voluntarily and involuntarily terminated employees think of the culture. Make the improvements that these and other culture evaluations cry for.


Enough Said:  “Man’s chief purpose…is the creation and preservation of values; that is what gives meaning to our civilization, and the participation in this is what gives significance to the human life.”  ~Lewis Mumford


Next Week:  The night before I wrote this page someone stopped me in my tracks with the most profound question about life I had ever heard. I thought, “Wow!” And then I started writing next week’s ASK: “What questions do I need to ask myself?” Get ready for some deep (pun intended) introspection.

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