Cultivating Culture

Every time you reinforce the culture, you reinforce the fabric of the company.

–Arthur M. Blank

How’s the culture in your organization? The question is not meant to be a subjective one based upon your preconceived ideas of what you think it ought to be or how you see it. That focus is too narrow. The answer is and must be more inclusive and broad.

Your role as a manager and leader within your organization is critical to the culture in it. A study by  Gallup reports that  70% of the variance in team management can be traced back to their manager’s behavior. In addition, only four in ten U.S. employees strongly agree that they get to do what they do best at work. Over half are actively looking for a new job or are open to one- and when they do land a new role, 91% of the time it’s with a new company. So, again, how is the culture in your organization?

How we as leaders cultivate culture within our organizations is an ever-present challenge and opportunity. A hands-off approach to building culture will not work no more than an overbearing presence can boost morale. Is there a better way?

I was intrigued as I read a review in Inc., of the forthcoming book Good Company by Home Depot co-founder Arthur M.  Blank. I won’t give away all the details of the review, but I will share what he identifies as the most important question you can ask your employees: Is this organization worth your life? If the answer is yes, Blank explains, “it’s an indication that the company’s culture is thriving, and that its employees feel confident in making the best decisions for both the customers and the company.”

How can you reinforce the culture in your organization? What are some practical, even small things, that can make a difference? Here are a few ideas for starters.

Focus on ‘we’, not ‘me’

It takes a group of dedicated individuals who are willing to set aside personal agendas to advance the team. As Babe Ruth said, “ The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You can have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Hire the best talent you can find, but instill the concept of teamwork from the beginning.

Play to strengths

It’s already been alluded to, but your people will thrive best when they do what they love. There’s a fine line between cross-training and cross-contamination. Your people will thrive when they are free to do what they do best. When this happens you won’t have to manufacture a healthy culture and morale, it will take care of itself.

Prioritize relationships

Healthy relationships are the backbone of your employee relations. Your employees are the face of your organization and create a bond with your customers. If relationships are weak then the links to the most important people you serve will be strained. Every part of your cultural and customer experience will rise and fall on relationships.

Clarify values

Your values must be clear to your people. They can’t have buy-in to your organization without it. Roy Disney put it this way, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes much easier”.

Your people must know the ‘why’ of their work and why it matters to the marketplace. If your people are confused then so are the people you are trying to serve.

Have each other’s backs

Loyalty within your organization goes a long way in building culture. When you have the backs of your people and stand by them, they will not soon forget. It’s an essential part of your leadership that will see you through the good times and bad. No organization is immune from adversity, but every organization can endure it when the people in it have each other’s backs and stand united.

Final Thoughts

Cultivating culture in your organization is a process. It takes time and commitment from all those in it. Acting in good faith and with open communication are essential to your success. What the culture in your organization looks like all depends on the level of commitment of the people in it. It all starts with you.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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  1. I absolutely agree. There is no doubt that the suggestions are worth considering.
    We must manage the corporate culture and stop letting it “happen”. Various types of actions can be implemented according to specific needs: from the design by the company management to training for the company’s employees. We need to start thinking about organizational culture as a living organism, which draws its lifeblood from every single person and grows thanks to everyone’s contribution.
    Taking a path of this kind is not easy, but it can bring great benefits to the company over the long term.