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8 Ways to Ignite Your Culture

by John Zettler

November 24, 2015

Culture is defined as the personality of your organization and is the sum of your values, beliefs, traditions, attitudes, and behaviours – in essence, it’s how you do things!

Here’s the problem. In my experience, we assume we have a strong culture because people are happy, get along well, and work hard. Consider yourself lucky that the individuals that work for you have high standards and personal values. At best, I’m willing to concede that you hire well and know the type of people that will succeed in your environment, but don’t get complacent – you didn’t create anything, and it’s certainly not a culture by design.

Diverse group of people

How Do We Ignite Our Culture?

Our current culture, like many companies, have simply evolved over time and often are not aligned with what we desire. This happens because we don’t take the time to define our desired state and we haven’t built the rigor around bringing that desired culture to life. There are many different factors that make up a culture, here are 8 that will help you Ignite Your Culture:

1. Mission & Vision: Daniel Pink writes, in his book, “Drive”, that people are motivated by Purpose. Having a strong mission and vision is really defining the company’s purpose and with that purpose mode in place, it will be the driving force for any decisions that employees make.

2. Values: With a strong mission and vision in place, the values are then the behaviours and guidelines that drive the bus. For example, at Dale Carnegie we use the Human Relations principles to guide how we treat people:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
  • Give honest, sincere appreciation
  • Arouse in the other person and eager want
  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile
  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. 
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

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3. Practices: The values above may just seem like words, but I assure you we live by these values each and every day and we hold each other accountable to them. Here’s where practices come into play. There needs to be congruency between who we say we are and what we actually do. So, if we say that we’ll treat each other with mutual respect, then we ought to have policies and procedures in place that ensure we treat each other with mutual respect.

4. Leadership: I was talking with a colleague this morning about implementing some new processes into a business. We talked about the need for Leadership to lead by example. Leadership has the capability to make or break a culture, be sure they support your mission, vision, values and practices.

5. Communication Strategy: I remember talking to a client a while ago about the results of an engagement survey. The results were poor, and I encouraged them to transparently communicate them to the employees, after all they took the time to provide the feedback. The client refused to communicate the results and you can guess where the results went the following year. Decide the frequency, transparency, and degree to which you’ll communicate to employees and deliver on that promise. Oh, and I encourage you not to decide that no communication is your strategy.

6. What’s Your Story: We all have unique stories about our companies that help others see who we are and what we stand for. For example, although I didn’t personally know Dale Carnegie I can tell a story of how Dale Carnegie came to be, the 103 years of our existence, the legacy Dale left, and so on. A great culture doesn’t have just one person who can tell the story, everyone can tell the story.

7. Workspace: In the same way Facebook has the largest open concept floor plan in the world, and tech companies collaborate in open concept floor plans, you too have uniqueness in your environment that makes you who you are. Now, I’m not suggesting we all have unlimited funds to create these spaces, but the geography, layout, and aesthetics within our environment says something about who we are.

8. People: No culture can exist without the people who support it. That’s why your recruitment policies become critical to the success of your culture. As a side-note, it’s also why many mergers and acquisitions fail – they fail to see how the two cultures will integrate, and/or they fail to plan for it. Be relentless in your pursuit for the type of people that support your culture and settle for nothing less. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be the same, it means that people share the same values as you and, support your vision and mission.

What’s in it for You?

1. Attraction – Candidates today will be looking for indicators of what your culture is. They’ll talk to people that work for you, they’ll look to your website, and they’ll look to other websites like Glassdoor.com to find out. A strong culture creates your value proposition and with that you’ll attract employees who fit.
2. Engagement & Retention – We know engagement is winning the hearts and minds of employees. Often we lose the hearts and minds of employees when our value proposition doesn’t live up to reality. If we’re consistently living our culture, employees will strengthen the engagement within our firms.
3. Performance – It should be no surprise that if we’ve hired the right people, and we follow through on our value proposition, the result will be employees who perform at a high-level.
4. Customer Satisfaction – When your culture all comes together you can be assured that customers will take notice and want to be a part of the success.

Like many things in business, igniting and maintaining a culture is an iterative, never-ending process. Your process will evolve over time as your business does. It’s important to note that as the evolution takes place you’re constantly looking at how your culture will support your new vision and mission. With that in mind, you can’t help but be successful.

Dale Carnegie Business Group offers a variety of culture and change services including diagnostics, assessments, training and development, strategy consultation, and employee engagement surveys. For more information on any of our services please contact John Zettler at jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca.

Best Success!

John Zettler, Director, Talent Strategy & Development, Dale Carnegie Training®
Contact me at 905-826-7300 x 235 or jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca


Take a look at our previous Accelerated Talent Development Newsletters!

10 Engagement White PapersA recent research study by Dale Carnegie Training, identified the specific behaviors you need to employ to create an engaged workforce. Our Employee Engagement White Papers explore business issues and tips critical to for an organization’s success.Employee Engagement White Paper - Dale Carnegie
About the Author 

“John’s commitment and passion to the growth and development of individuals, teams and organizations is evident,” says Kevin Crone, President and Managing Partner, Dale Carnegie Business Group. “His engaging and collaborative approach along with his strong business acumen and focus on results make him a great fit for our team. We are thrilled he has decided to join us.” Read more.John Zettler brings almost 20 years of human resource experience to the challenge of better leadership we all share. He has invested his skills and energies and debated leadership with some of our country’s best leaders. Through this, he has refined a style of management that focuses on leadership conviction, authenticity and caring as the cornerstones of a more nuanced set of management skills we can all benefit from.

Instead of balance in our life, he challenges us to a new style of work life blending that both gives us:

  1. The rush of seeing our people grow and prosper in a company that truly cares about them and their dreams.
  2. The time and focus to also contribute the same level of passion to the needs of our families.

To hear more of his insights, click here.


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