Don’t Lose Track of This

There are many different types of assets that appear on the balance sheet of a business. Perhaps the most important asset however does not.

That asset is the organization’s culture. 

Culture can develop within an organization all by itself. It has a life of its own. It’s kind of like a wild dog. It’s a dog but you don’t want it as a pet.

A healthy organizational culture does not develop all by itself. It requires a constant effort by the organization’s top leader. Responsibility for an organization’s culture cannot be delegated. The top leader can enlist other leaders in the organization to assist with the development of the culture but they can’t turn the steering wheel over to anyone else. 

That’s because culture drives every other process. It drives innovation. It drives engagement. It drives the organization’s attitude. It is the soul of the organization. 

Productive, positive culture does not come from the top leader saying their organization has great culture. In fact, if you’re constantly having to remind the people in your organization of it’s great culture then it’s highly likely that it isn’t all that great. 

Truly excellent culture comes from the top leader showing that they care for their people. It helps if other leaders in the organization model a caring attitude as well but culture development begins at the top.

Sadly it often ends there too. 

Culture is developed in those brief hallway interactions. It grows into a productive force during those quick office “pop-ins” to “see how it’s going.” Every word and every action of the top leader and their leadership team either add to or subtract from the value of the culture. Every word and every action! 

Which brings us to a challenge of our unique times. I’ve never fired up Teams or Zoom on my computer and seen someone walking in the hall I could check in with. Most of those spontaneous interactions are on hold, at least for a while longer. The most effective culture building tool, face-to-face, personal, off the cuff conversations do not happen virtually. 

But they could. And they should.

Don’t lose track of the importance of continuous culture building because the halls of your building might be mostly empty. Pick up the phone. Start a spontaneous Zoom call. Make a FaceTime call on the spur of the moment. 

No agenda, no objective. Just one human connecting with another. 

I can only imagine the trepidation of an entry level employee receiving a call from their organization’s top leader. For many the first thought might not be good. But I can also easily imagine their chest swelling with pride when they realize the call is solely focused on them and their well-being. They know without a doubt that they matter. Their company and leader care about them as a person.

It makes no difference what size your company is, when the person at the top cares then the company cares. Do you care enough for your people to invest a few minutes a day to show it? If you do then you will. 

You want productive culture in challenging times? Then don’t wait for it to happen…go make it happen. Be intentional, be consistent and be caring. 

If you’re at the top of your organization’s leadership team then lead your organization to the culture you need for long-term success. It can happen by accident but you won’t like the result. Don’t let an accident happen, make culture your top priority every day and your organization will be at the top every day too.

Does Your Company Have Culture?

The answer to that question is an absolute yes. Your company most certainly has a culture. That makes the next few questions even more important if you’re at the top of your company’s organizational chart. 

 

Are you able to describe, with a high level of specificity what your company culture is? Are you the person creating, driving and nurturing that culture or did your culture develop by default? And maybe most important, can the people in your organization, at all levels, accurately describe the culture of the organization you lead?

 

A CEO or top leader in an organization can delegate many tasks but designing and fostering the organization’s culture is not one of them. Culture is driven from the top, the very top, down. Top leaders who understand that have the opportunity to create a culture that becomes a competitive advantage. It also attracts top talent to their organization.

 

Peter Drucker has been credited with saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This phrase doesn’t appear in any of his 39 books so some people claim the quote is not his but it certainly sounds like him. Regardless of who said it first the fact remains it is 100% correct. 

 

Organizations that spend tons on strategy while allowing culture to develop on it’s own greatly limit their potential success. 

 

Despite the importance of culture, research shows few organizations do more than pay lip service to it. While culture is reported to be one of the top three priorities for businesses only 20% of top leaders report investing any time to develop it. This after 62% of them also reported they were primarily responsible for their organization’s culture.

 

When asked when was the last time they had conducted an internal or external audit of their organization’s culture the vast majority answered never. Most relied on sources like employee feedback or surveys, customer surveys and risk events such as rule breaches, human resources issues and the monitoring of compliance.

 

If you’re a leader at the very top of your organization you must realize that you can’t simply let culture happen. Your culture needs to be intentional, focused, live-able and meaningful. 

 

As John O’Brien co-author on The Power of Purpose says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast but culture gets its appetite from purpose.”

 

If your culture doesn’t have a purpose and you can’t clearly state exactly what that purpose is then you are likely offering your culture a very unappealing menu. Developing an organization’s culture in not a “time expense” it is a “time investment.” If you’re in the 80% of top leaders not making that investment today then you need to begin now. 


Carve some time out of your strategy sessions and use it to develop what matters even more. That would be your culture!