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Accelerated Talent Development #12: Four Key Strategies for a High Performance Business Culture

by Kevin Robert Crone

September 8, 2014

Culture as a competitive advantage pays bigger dividends today than ever before.
In today’s highly competitive global environment companies need a strong set of values and purpose  in order to survive and prosper. A strong heart and soul are essential to build the necessary strength and persistence to dig deeper for better ways to serve at greater and greater efficiency.

To be a star athlete one needs strength, vision, tenacity, and determination and so does employee or company. A star athlete also goes through constant refinement and improvement using the inputs of trainers and coaches. So does a best performing company or employee.

Culture truly is the critical component that drives an organization’s success. Culture will outperform financial resources, patents, brilliant strategy and even strong well established brands. How do we get there?

We at Dale Carnegie have been studying and helping clients with this critical question for years, testing, learning, evolving and testing again and again.

This week I met with Scott Evans, Deputy General Manager at Edelman, Toronto. Edelman is a leading independent global PR firm with over 4,800 employees in 51 offices with global revenues of more than $ 500 million.

For Edelman culture is not just a label or an agreed upon definition. At Edelman, culture is a feeling felt by every employee and client – a reflection of their values and purpose.

Ideas are their products, their most valuable assets, and the delivery of their brand. It follows therefore that employees are their most valuable resource.  Without the best ideas from their employees excellently delivered they could not exist let alone thrive and prosper.


Edelman is a brilliant example of how an organization has used an appreciation of culture as a competitive business advantage. Culture is the cornerstone of their business on which their employee’s innovative targeted ideas are built and delivered.

Edelman has four key strategies they employ to build a culture where people respect each other, want to work together and enjoy each other and their clients.

1. Independence.   Edelman encourages three behavioral attitudes: initiative taking, acceptance of risk, and taking of responsibility for execution. They encourage this eagerness to take initiatives and be responsible for them  by creating an entrepreneurial spirit  that respects every idea. They consciously create an atmosphere where individuals can express their ideas without fear and be confident the feedback will be both frank and supportive of the individual whether the idea is endorsed and carried forward or just honored and evaluated then not taken forward.. Everyone is responsible for this open, accepting and transparent culture, and has ownership in it.

2. Language.   Edelman has developed a specific language in which they describe their culture. One example is their term:  “Show up Differently”. This term reframes how people think of themselves and highlights the benefits of innovation, and creativity by encouraging employees to think beyond common standards and look outside the box and explore new ways and approaches for problem solving. It helps employees enlarge their focus and be able to see the bigger picture. “Show Up Differently” is both a philosophy and a pneumonic device that drives the lungs and the pulmonary system of the company to generate truly winning ideas.

3. “Living in Color” is a third strategy used to create their high performance culture. It is both a pneumonic device and an example of their values and traditions. It is a short hand expression reminding employees to “have fun in doing it”. Color Your Day and The Little Give Program are two closely related tactical executions of this value. Color Your Day is a program that encourages employees to develop outside interests and explore more about their outside world. Employees each choose a day and tailor it according their specific needs, desires and interests whether it is developing a talent like photography, music or art, singing in a choir or helping a political party. Living in Color reflects the company’s commitment to well-rounded individuals that look outside for new ideas they can apply at some time for their clients.

The Little Give program is where a whole network of offices will come together for 48 hours to contribute to a local under resourced charity recognizing the importance of the community they and their clients live in and have families in.

4. E². The fourth culture development program is the E² program. The Edelman Excellence (E²). program provides an opportunity for all clients to give a 360 feedback based on five areas. The five areas include – Quality of Performance, Quality of Thinking, Quality of Service, Quality of People and Quality of Relationship.

The formality and thoroughness of the process keeps programs running smoothly, and respects the client while allowing for mid-course changes to best meet evolving client needs and fluctuating industry trends without losing sight of agreed upon goals.

The bottom line is that Edelman is thriving and will continue to thrive because they work hard at getting and keeping their culture aligned with their core values.

To hear Scott Evans in his own words click here.

If you want a better insight into what it takes to fully engage your employees to work together effectively, stay with your company and act as ambassadors for the organization attracting people who share their values and passions, give me a call at: 905 826 7300 x 328 and we can chat.

If you would like to hear the Insights of Canada’s top leaders in Talent Development click here and every two weeks we will send you their insights in their own words.

Best Success!

Kevin R. Crone, President, Dale Carnegie Training®
Founder of Accelerated Talent Development, Performance and Profits
Contact me at 905-826-7300 x 328 or krcrone@dalecarnegie.ca

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