What is the Caliber of your Company Culture and How Can You Develop It? Is your company culture aligned with your values? Learn how to improve your culture by using the CALIBER acronym.

By Jason Zickerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The term company culture can sometimes feel like a lofty, modern catchphrase. But make no mistake, embracing a defined and thriving company culture is one of the essential elements of business success.

When we talk about company culture, we refer to a shared set of values, standards, behaviors and practices embraced and fostered throughout an organization. The concept of company culture really only made its way into our workplace vocabulary in the 1980s and early 1990s. A few decades later, company culture is now a red-hot topic in countless boardrooms and team meetings.

Every organization, whether by luck or design, has a company culture. The big question is whether yours is the one you want. When a workplace culture is more accidental than nurtured, organizations can lose sight of their foundational mission. Not to mention that productivity usually flounders, and the entire system often suffers from a lack of identity and shared values. This is all just a fancy way of saying that fostering a positive company culture can be tremendously impactful.

Related: What Makes a Great Company Culture (and Why It Matters)

Defining a company culture

As the CEO and President of The Alternative Board, I knew our global organization had a pretty positive culture from the start. But we operate in 25 countries worldwide, so I was also acutely aware that creating and supporting a culture on such a massive scale presented its challenges. If every country possesses its own unique set of underlying values and norms, how does such a diverse system like ours foster a consistent culture based on common core values? I was stumped.

Then when I was working in the UK a few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a keynote presentation by organizational psychologist and author Damian Hughes. Damian works with professional athletic teams and is an expert in high-performance sporting cultures. I listened as he discussed the importance of striving for a culture of commitment and devoting ourselves organizationally to high-performance standards.

While I always believed culture is king, a big takeaway for me that day was how Damian emphasized the importance of having a memorable and repeatable culture. He suggested employing an acronym, each letter representing a core cultural value. I left that presentation energized. Then my leadership team and I got to work.

We landed on the acronym CALIBER. It changed the face of our organization in so many beautiful ways. And it just might transform yours as well.

Related: Business Owners, Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Let's talk CALIBER

Coming up with an acronym that supports your values and company culture is one thing; living and breathing it is quite another. For our global organization and franchisees, we knew how important it was to define a culture that works as well in the U.S. as it does in India or South Africa or Austria. It also had to apply to the thousands of business owners that we support and who are scattered across the globe. The task was challenging but undeniably important.

COMMUNITY — Fellowship and belonging are robust organizational connectors with long-lasting positive effects. When we support each other in the trenches, in both good times and bad, we become better members of stronger communities. This allows us to leverage collective experiences, achievements and knowledge to increase our chances for success dramatically.

Related: Building Community Is Good Business

ACCOUNTABILITY – Do what you say you will do and expect others to do the same. It sounds so simple and yet can test our limits. But accountability is a necessary part of growth. When everyone on your team embraces accountability for their actions, they tend to value themselves and others more.

LIFELONG LEARNING – Actively acquiring knowledge consistently demonstrates a thirst for information and a willingness and eagerness for personal and business growth. Particularly in our current fast-paced, post-Covid market boom, knowledge is both powerful and transformative.

INNOVATION – Forward thinkers and futurists love progress. They embrace new ways of doing old tasks. They seek opportunities and set the bar for growth and advancement for everyone around them. Innovators aren't defined by inventing a new gadget or system but rather by opening themselves up to possibilities – then leveraging the ones that make sense.

BELIEF – Believing in yourself, your team, your mission and your family are vital to creating the business and life you want. Belief here is not about adopting a specific theology but rather the conviction that optimistic and confident beliefs create positive outcomes.

Related: Company Culture Comes From Good Leadership

EXCELLENCE – A culture that celebrates the pursuit of excellence is remarkably powerful. Striving for excellence is not about never failing but rather the desire for consistent improvement. Our willingness to encourage improvement in ourselves and throughout our organization is key to a compelling company culture.

RESPECT – The adage, "You must earn my respect," simply doesn't apply in today's modern business cultures. Demonstrating high regard for everyone in your organization tells your entire team — from the bottom up — that they are valued and appreciated for their personal contributions and achievements.

By all accounts, basing our culture on CALIBER has been a huge success throughout my organization, and I believe it is foundationally strong enough to work for yours as well. However, if you want to create a unique acronym of your own, start by defining your company culture in a way that makes sense to you.

Make it memorable. Make it sing. Make it matter. Then watch as the caliber of your culture soars.

Jason Zickerman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of The Alternative Board | Business Development and Growth Advisor

Jason Zickerman is the President and CEO of The Alternative Board, an international organization helping business owners and their leadership teams improve business and change lives.

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