The Keys To Building A Culture For Success

A business’ fate is determined in large part by its culture. That culture is the internal architecture of an organization created by how people act, react, and interact with each other based on their attitudes, beliefs, and ambitions. It is determined by the leadership of the organization. In order for it to be developed and maintained, the leadership must commit to it and model it. If that is not done, the culture will develop inconsistently and often ends up as a disrespectful, unhappy workplace.

In the following portion of this article, I will outline both what can damage a business culture as well as how to build and maintain a culture for success.

The most poisonous business cultures are those in which aggression, neglect, disrespect, micromanagement, and a lack of appreciation are present. This approach leaves employees feeling unappreciated, unmotivated, uncomfortable, and lacking in the ability to do their job as they see fit. All of those feelings can lead to low achievement, low productivity, poor efficiency, many sick days, and high turnover. All of which cost the company dearly. In addition, it usually means, that in the end, the organization ends up with “disengaged bums in seats” who are stuck and only coming in to collect paychecks because they have family and other personal commitments they need to fulfill. The reason this happens is because all the motivated and valuable employees will have left for workplaces that are more engaging, challenging, and appreciative of what and how they can contribute.

When HR departments do exit interviews they usually find that most people do not leave due to money. Rather most leave because they feel disrespected, unappreciated, bored and because they did not get along with their manager or co-workers. If an organization has a high turnover rate, it is likely time to examine the culture and consider a change.

Instead, what you likely want to create is a culture that unites, engages, acknowledges, supports, and encourages employees to be the best that they can be. It should also be one that exemplifies teamwork, collaboration, and respect for everyone’s contribution to the aims, goals and core values of the organization.

A culture that is built principally around rewards just for individual or group performance pits individuals and teams against each other, often in ways that can create class systems, in-fighting, and divisive loyalties. The winners in these sorts of cultures find meaning in their rewards, while the rest are left wondering what the point is for them and their employer.

A passive, benign, unappreciative, and inert culture can make the business subject to the resultant confusion that occurs when each individual’s quirks, tendencies, and even potentially questionable morality and ethics are accommodated. Again, this sort of approach will cause people to feel disrespected, unappreciated, and unsupported, resulting in poor performance and outcomes.

The most successful business cultures that engage their people with support through the offering of training opportunities to improve the skills they have and also to gain new ones which could provide them with expanded duties and the possibility of advancement. This sends the message that management cares about their well-being and their accomplishments and is helping them to be the best that they can be.   This approach sends a very different message, one that speaks to encouragement, emotional support and the possibility of a more ambitious outcome for each individual.

In addition, when management allows their teams the autonomy to do their jobs as they see fit as long as they meet the outlined criteria and timelines allow the individuals to feel empowered which increases their self-esteem and self-confidence, this, in turn, enhances their performance and creates feelings of self-motivation and innovation.

By consistently and intentionally conveying positivity and encouragement toward high performance as well as acknowledging the contributions that each employee makes to the team goals, you will be providing a set of unique and positive emotions which can greatly improve the workplace so that employees feel valued and appreciated. This generally results in a high happiness factor which greatly increases performance levels, productivity, efficiency, and creativity. In addition, you will get the added value, that happiness changes a person’s brain chemistry causing it to release more endorphins which not only give one a feeling of well-being but also enhance one’s immune system.   Which means, that there will be less downtime and less turnover…..great money savers!

All in all, it is certainly up to the leadership of the organization to develop, commit to, and maintain the culture of the organization. When this approach is adopted, success, longevity and great happiness will be the reward for all connected to the organization.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. I love the way you identify benefits of a culture where people are acknowledged, valued, and respected. “In addition, you will get the added value, that happiness changes a person’s brain chemistry causing it to release more endorphins which not only give one a feeling of well-being but also enhance one’s immune system. ” One way to assure this happens is inviting employees into the experience so they feel like they belong and that their contributions are part of the success of the organization.

    • Hi Jane,
      thanks for reading the article and comments and so glad that you found it interesting and relevant for you.

  2. What comes first? The strategy or the culture?

    That is a question I often ask clients. There is so much interconnections between the two that separating them may not make sense at all. So our approach is that for the initial discussion we don’t. “Success” cultures have three common elements. We call it “CAP”

    C – how employees handle conjecture, assertions, and arguments as individuals and as teams
    A -how employees do analysis and problem solving as individuals and as teams
    P – how employees plan as individuals and as teams

    By looking at culture this way, by looking at strategy this way, we can drive both to where they need them to go.

    • Hi Chris,
      I like your approach it sounds practical. I think, again the main issue is that the upper management or executive team need to be able to articulate it and commit to it by modeling what they expect others to do. If there is no buy in by the upper management, the rest of the employees will not likely care or engage. So whether you use your CAP approach, or Daniel Pink’s approach: AMP: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, the outcome will not be satisfactory of the “boss” does not “walk the walk”.
      I have worked with many companies where it is truly an uphill battle to establish a productive, efficient, creative culture if the CEO only “talks the talk”.
      I wish you great success in helping organizations to develop and maintain a success culture.

    • I totally agree. We call these people “Stella”; a reference to “Street Car of Desire”. Our first step is getting all the rhetoric from the politicians (in business) and putting that into a coarse model. That gives us an idea of the political wars that will be waged and gives the politicians a sense of ownership. Then we restructure that model to limit the warring and “pump” in the data needed to succeed. As long as the politicians engaged from the start and see that they are part of the evolution, they usually do their best to nudge things through.

      The challenge today is that some politicians are swapped in because of politics. This muddies the water because they don’t have that sense of ownership. They don’t feel they are part of the big picture, so they have the drive to either control it or destroy it.

      I love talking about this stuff. 🙂

    • There is no question that a culture change can easily go off the rails if the management or “politicians” as you call them do not get on board and commit to the restructure. I call change the event and transition, the process….without an excellent transition plan that change will never happen! Many organizations do not put into place a good enough transition process, allowing the opportunity for dialogue and buy in from the stake holders.

    • It looks like we’re chiseled for the same block of granite Sandy. 🙂

      I’m currently design workshops that would use data to glue all the stuff we’re talking about together. We have two acronyms, BEST and C-SUITE, that we are using as two of our five pillars.

      The [T] in both of them stands for “Transition”. 🙂

      Awesome stuff!

    • Obviously we have a lot in common and seem to do some similar things. I mainly deliver live workshops in a long list of soft skills topics but customize the sessions to fit the specific needs of my clients….discovered through what I call a discussion interview. Then I create a program incorporating the elements decided upon and also write up a fully documented syllabus for them to give to the participants. My sessions are very interactive in nature with lots of exercises and games to illustrate the concepts and get the attendees to try out what they have learned right away. I have lots of fun! Hope your do as well, you look like a fun-loving guy!!

    • I’ve enjoyed reading this discussion thread. It reminds me of one of my past positions where one of my responsibilities was new manager assimilation. 🙂

    • Hi, I am pleased that the article resonated for you. I always hope that the information will be helpful to the readers. Have a great week!

  3. Hi Larry,
    You are most welcome and thank you for your comments. The upper management of any organization needs to be connected the people who work there. Whenever I give a workshop to a company and the management is represented at the workshop, it speaks volumes about how they run their business and to the attendees. Those are usually the organizations that actually move forward with action plans and implement what was offered in the training sessions. In other words, they get a great ROI from the training investment. The CEO not only needs to define the culture, but they need to commit to it and model it! Glad you found the article beneficial, have a great week!

    • I had a manager once who used to say, “Pay me now or pay me later.” She was saying it was better to make sure everyone was trained well in the beginning because somewhere along the line she was going to be paying for it anyway and delayed training was going to cost a lot more in rework and more work.

  4. Nice read. I think in has to start on the street level. It is up to us to execute and develop the culture the company embraces. You can look at retail and see who is doing it and who is not. I have to say in a some places I have worked the CEO defined the culture but failed because they had no idea what took place in a store or as we say street level. I am grateful to work where the upper management is as engaged as the store level teams. Thank you for very useful information.