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Lisa Earle McLeod: Company culture is the key

What’s the culture of your organization? Is it an environment where things get done on time, every time? Or are deadlines more flexible? Do you believe in having fun? Or is it more serious?

Every organization has a culture, so does every family. Culture is the, usually, unspoken beliefs about how things work around here.

Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Culture is often what enables or prevents an organization from achieving goals.

For example, if an organization sets a goal to increase on-time deliveries, but the culture tolerates excuses, it’s unlikely that the team will achieve the goal.

The company can provide incentives, and it may drive a short-term spike, but in the end, the culture will ultimately prevail.

Why does this happen?

It’s a case of implicit versus explicit.

Most leaders are explicit about goals, they write them down, share them, and measure against them. But when it comes to culture, it’s more implicit. We assume people should just “know” how to behave.

In my work with top-tier organizations and my personal study of high-achieving, happy families, I consistently observe that success is directly connected to a leader’s ability to be explicit about their culture.

Here are three ways you can fast-track your team, be they your co-workers or your kids, to a culture of success.

• Name and claim your own true and noble purpose – This is not the goal you want to achieve or the revenue you want to attain. A Noble Purpose is about the impact you want to have on your constituents, and the concept applies to any endeavor, including families.

For example, early in our parenting journey, my husband and I decided that the higher purpose of our parenting was to raise future leaders who would make a difference in the world.

I didn’t become a Tiger mom. In fact, just the opposite. The goal wasn’t to have them win every competition or get the highest score on every test – it was to provide them with a mental construct that would enable them to make good decisions, harness their own unique talents and have a positive impact on the world.

Clarity of purpose keeps your culture focused on the right end game.

• Establish clear, concise values – One of our clients, G Adventures, literally wears their values to work. The global leader in adventure travel, G as they refer to themselves, prints their five core values on T-shirts that team members wear to work. Values such as “We love changing people’s lives” and “Embrace the bizarre” communicate what’s important to their business.

G Adventures founder, Bruce Poon Tip, was intentional about working with his team to craft values that are simple and easily understood across multiple cultures. They didn’t settle for generic language such as “We’re customercentric” or “Be a team player.”

Instead, they narrowed it down to five core values that speak to their competitive differentiation, and the passion they want to evoke from team members and ultimately customers. This provides performers with a framework for making decisions and setting goals.

• Focus on behavior first, outcomes second – When a manager says, “Great sale,” or a teacher says, “You got them all right,” the performer doesn’t know how to replicate those results. But when the manager says, “You studied well in advance,” “You made notecards,” “You focused on the higher-concept items,” the performer knows how to do it again.

Goals are where you want to go. Culture is the critical element that determines whether you get there. Be intentional – and explicit – about both.