This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Company Culture, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
Creating a distinct culture within your organization is everything. Whether in sports or business, you must set a concrete foundation and an understanding as to what your culture is -- and it must be identifiable in all that you do.
Have you ever stayed at a 5-star hotel chain that made you feel like you were their most important guest? Have you ever visited a store or dined at a restaurant, where the customer-service level far exceeded your expectations? Have you ever wondered how a sports franchise is in the playoffs seemingly every year?
Sure, some people are just good at what they do, and when you gather a bunch of talented people together, you’re bound for success, right? Wrong. It has everything to do with a culture that is easily identifiable, attainable and respected by everyone working within the organization. Whether your culture revolves around creating a 5-star service standard, a family environment, a winning-culture, a customer-is-always-right culture, you must have one -- and it must be clear -- before your employees can buy in.
Although we often hear about the importance of culture, I still find that so many overlook how vitally important it really is. A weak culture, or one that is never established, can completely diminish performance levels within an organization, even if that organization possesses the best strategies, products or talent. On the other hand, a distinct and thriving culture can certainly make up the difference for just average strategy and talent.
Please don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say don’t try to create the best strategies and recruit the best talent for your company, but understand that all of that is just a byproduct to what really matters most -- the culture you create.
I have witnessed the incredible importance of culture in my own life. During my time as an athlete, I was on teams that didn’t have the most talented players in the world, but we still got the job done and won games as the underdogs. That came from the result of leadership instilling a phenomenal culture from day one.
I have also been on teams that had extreme talent, but the results on the field were mediocre at best. That same team lacked a presence of culture. Leadership wasn’t setting the tone or expectation as a whole, so it was each man for himself. In sports, of course, the main objective is to win, but if there is no set process outside of individual talent, no set standard for all to buy into and no leadership driving it, a star-studded roster means nothing.
In my world as a speaker now, I get the wonderful opportunity to travel all over and sit down with leaders from all different industries. Prior to each speaking engagement, I sit down with the leadership of the organization, and I spend time taking a closer look at the culture of the organization and where I can add the most value. During this time, I usually find one of two things. The first one is a leader who is incredibly passionate about creating a dominant, healthy and strong culture. These are the organizations that have a great employee retention and morale.
The leaders who aren’t as passionate about building and nurturing a strong and powerful culture unfortunately end up falling into the trap of directing all of their focus on outcomes and results. The major problem with all of this is that the presence of culture is what largely drives results. By completely neglecting the importance of building and nurturing a strong culture while focusing solely on outcomes and results, the process ends up backfiring somewhere down the line and being counterproductive.
I’m not telling you how to run your organization, but I do want to share with you that the results speak for themselves when it comes to organizations that focus on culture compared to the one’s who don’t. If you take a very close look at the New England Patriots, Disney, Apple or any other organization for that matter that dominate their market or craft, you will begin to see that they are crystal clear on the culture that they demand from their people.
All of the championships have great strategy and talent behind them, and the sales milestones have great products and value behind them, but the culture that leadership instills and demands throughout the whole organization is what actually drives results.
Culture is and will always be vitally important when it comes to your organization's growth, success and longevity. It’s my hope as a leader that you make it a major priority to create a crystal clear culture that your employees are proud to show up and be a part of everyday.