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.

The Essential Ingredient for Success in Business

There are many ingredients required to grow a successful business. Many of those ingredients can be, and in fact are, provided by leaders at every level of the organization. 

 

But there is one ingredient, the one essential ingredient, that can come only from the leader at the very top. That ingredient is organizational culture. 

 

Leaders at the top must never fool themselves that the culture is developed “near” the top, or that it comes from the majority of the leaders. It does not. It comes from the very top and that’s the only place it comes from. 

 

If you’re a leader at the top of an organization then it is you who determines the overall health of the culture in that organization. You set the tone, you model what acceptable culture looks like and what it sounds like. 

 

You can’t do that by telling people what healthy culture looks like, you must show them. If your words don’t match your actions you can be sure that your people will follow your actions and not your words. They will do what you do light years before they will do what you say. 

 

The culture within any organization is merely a reflection of the top leader. 

 

Stop for a while today, a long while perhaps, and ask yourself what kind of culture you’re modeling for your people. Are you providing an environment where it’s impossible to maintain a negative attitude? Are you nurturing a culture where caring for others is encouraged and even rewarded? Are you demonstrating a culture where recognition is freely given and feedback is actually sought? 

 

Do you display a culture where people are free to provide suggestions and point out weaknesses within the organization… without the fear of reprisals? Is your culture one that values loyalty and does that loyalty work both ways? Is your culture one of “spending on people” or “investing in people?” Is yours a culture that supports and promotes the same opportunities for everyone regardless of their appearance or personal preferences? 

 

If you’re a leader at the top of an organization you must be able to confidently answer those questions. If you can’t then your organization could be lacking the essential ingredient for long-term success. 

 

That’s on you! You cannot shift responsibility for a healthy organizational culture in your organization. The moment you accept that fact is the moment the culture in your organization has a chance to improve.


Organizational culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that top leaders completely control. If you’re not controlling that then what the heck do you think you are controlling?