Developing Leaders – Building Teams

Winning cultures: Five keys to long-term success

Does your organization suffer from: high turnover, lack of trust, low morale, excessive politics, illegal or unethical employee conduct?

If so, then culture is likely at the heart of the issue. A winning culture can not only help prevent these conditions, but can also be the catalyst that ignites an organization into truly becoming a “best place to work!”

If you are interested in understanding more about how to build a winning culture – read on!

In today’s environment, organizations need to adapt to changes in technology, market demands, sales and logistic systems, and more. But what does not change are core values – those deep beliefs that help define an individual’s character and an organization’s culture. Values form the bedrock foundation for driving behaviors, business strategies, and decisions at all levels. In the words of management guru Peter Drucker “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

There are great examples of winning cultures in Augusta,, Georgia. You cannot enter a Georgia Bank and Trust facility without seeing “Doing the right thing.” Jeff Annis at Advanced Services Pest Control built a powerful winning culture around their 6 values: honesty, hard work, high productivity, continuous self-improvement, community service, and teamwork.

The U.S. Army became a value-based organization in 1998, adopting their 7 values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honesty, integrity, and personal courage.

Cynthia Cooper, the whistle blower at WorldCom who uncovered the largest accounting fraud in our country’s history (at the time), was a guest speaker at Georgia Regents University recently. In her presentation, Cynthia passionately described the values in her heart that drove her decisions. When asked about the corporate values of WorldCom during this crisis, her response was “they had none.” This tragic downfall might  have been prevented if a value-based culture, that included integrity, had been instituted early in the company’s history.

I offer the following keys to establishing a winning culture in your organization.

  • Establish a corporate set of core values. If you don’t have them – develop them. It is that simple. If you do have them, reassess them to ensure they truly represent what is most important to your organization. The values chosen must highlight being a champion for doing the right thing and taking care of people.
  • Communicate the values. The values need to be communicated by the leadership over and over again until everyone gets it. The executive leadership team needs to be absolutely committed to the values, demonstrating this commitment through words and deeds.
  • Hire people who fit your values. How costly is it to hire the wrong person? Jim Collins, in his best selling book Good to Great, highlights one of the most important elements that enables companies to achieve sustained greatness: “get the right people on the bus.” Invest the resources – time, money, energy – to determine if a candidate fits with your values.
  • Enhance employee sense of ownership. In addition to living the values, a winning culture exists when employees feel a sense of ownership of the company. This ownership is derived from opportunities that enable employees to know their leaders; to being informed on the success of the company; to know who their customers are; and future plans for the company. Recognition of outstanding performers is essential. Enhancing the feeling of ownership builds unity – a trait found in every great company.
  • Assess employee passion and satisfaction – and act on results. It is a fundamental truth that people do not care how much the boss knows until they know how much the boss cares. The attitude of employees drives how they approach work. Do employees believe that the leadership genuinely cares about them? Are people treated with respect? Are employees informed of their contribution to the mission? Do opportunities exist to learn and grow? Do people feel appreciated for their work? Employee satisfaction assessments and engagement by the leadership are important ways to determine answers to the above questions. Actions taken to address the challenges build trust – one of the most important elements in establishing a winning culture.

Developing a winning culture does not happen overnight – it takes time and deliberate effort, especially by the leadership. I enjoy working with executives whose organizations need help in establishing powerful, valued-based cultures. Like the game of tug-of-war, the only way to win is when everyone pulls in the same direction.

Sam Walton, the original owner of Walmart, hired Don Soderquist in 1988 to be his COO and “keeper of the culture.” Don highlighted the reason Walmart continued to reach unprecedented levels of success long after the passing of Mr. Walton was the winning culture that was instituted and kept alive.

I wish you the best in your leadership journey!