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Five More Characteristics of Great Culture

By Kim Shepherd, Chief Executive Officer
And Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Ignore Culture at Your Peril, Part 3

A lot of business leaders think culture is squishy. They don’t like squishy. They’re more comfortable with data in spreadsheet rectangles. But culture makes up MORE of the foundation of a successful business than sticks and bricks do. Employees don’t come in to your company every day because of the paint on the walls or the water in the cooler. They come because of culture.

As I wrote in my last post, culture is the framework employees use to create meaning and purpose, and THAT’S what motivates people to give their best. We’re proactive about that framework at Decision Toolbox (DT), and it helps us put some nice numbers in those spreadsheet rectangles. As a continuation of my last post, here are five more ways to create great culture.

1. Great culture hires right then lets go. In recruiting, take your time, hire people who are smarter than you, and then get the h#!! out of the way. Forbes contributor Mike Myatt wrote an interesting piece saying that competency-based leadership models are incomplete. In addition to competency, you need to cultivate your people’s “ability to align purpose, vision, values, character and commitment” with competency.

2. Great culture builds exponential energy. It’s hard to stay disgruntled when all around you are shooting off fireworks. Those A players you hired? They help shape your culture. They set the bar high, motivate their colleagues and generate momentum with great ideas. Your culture should encourage people to rev the company’s engines, and reward them for doing so.

3. Great culture welcomes like family. Invest in onboarding and you’ll see the returns. When a new team member starts at DT, we send a giant fortune cookie that says, “We predict a very bright future for you at Decision Toolbox.” We let them know they have the freshest eyes, and that makes them one of the most important people on our team . . . please tell us what you see that’s missing or inefficient or redundant. Not only does that set the stage for them to engage and participate, but it also sends a loud and clear message that they are valued.

4. Great culture isn’t afraid to make mistakes. Everyone screws up. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. But if you think about it, there’s great power in screw-ups. If you screw up good and then share it, no one will EVER screw up that way again. So at DT we celebrate the screw-ups with a Boo-Boo of the Month award, a Starbucks gift card for the biggest mistake. That helps ensure that people come to management for help in smoothing over any rough spots, and it gives everyone a chance to learn.

5. Great culture PIECEs it together. Passion, Integrity, Ethics, Compassion and Empathyyou need them. I wrote in my last post that you build your business with your head, but create culture with your heart. It can be hard to switch back and forth, so why not integrate them? At DT every dollar of our advertising budget goes to support nonprofit organizations. It gives us visibility, allows for networking and, most importantly, lets us give back to our community. We also have a unique channel partner Nonprofit Relief Program. The channel partner chooses a nonprofit and DT donates 8% of our first TWO years of revenue with a company brought in by that channel partner. The channel partner gets revenue, DT gets business and — most importantly again — we all get to give back.

Hopefully that squishiness is starting to look a lot more substantial. In the final post of this series, coming up, I’ll delve deeper into the WHY: why people work for your company, and how the quality of WHY separates great companies from merely good ones.

Follow Kim on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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One Response to “Five More Characteristics of Great Culture”

  1. May 22, 2014 at 9:15 am, Five Characteristics of Great Culture | DecisionToolbox said:

    […] YOU want to work in. And it’s more than just good sense, it’s the right thing to do. Next post: five MORE characteristics of great culture. Absolutely free. How’s that for a chunky […]


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