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A Strong Culture Can Set You Apart From the Competition

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
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Our organizational alignment research found a strong and aligned culture accounts for 40 percent of the difference between high- and low-performing teams and organizations in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer satisfaction, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement.

Definition of Workplace Culture

We define corporate culture as how things truly get done in an organization. Culture can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave, and work. This includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors—especially in leaders and in who they hire, fire, and promote.

Organizational culture is set in large part by its founder. Your culture also represents what a new employee needs to learn to be accepted as a member and what makes the company feel and act like itself. While often invisible, organizational culture becomes very apparent when people act in ways that are deemed to be against accepted cultural norms.

Company cultures, regardless of their strength, progress and change over time. How leaders define and shape their corporate culture over time has become a critical variable in defining the success and failure of their strategies.
Role of Accountability

If you desire a strong culture, leaders must cascade accountability throughout your organization. Without a strong culture of accountability, leaders risk a culture where:

  • people do not consistently do what they say they will do
  • one team member cannot depend upon another
  • targets are not reached.

What kind of organization can survive or thrive under these circumstances?

Components of a Strong Culture


To weave accountability into the basic fabric of your culture takes leadership and persistence across five key areas.

Compelling Purpose
A strong culture of accountability starts with a clear and fundamental mission that employees understand, accept, and fully commit to achieving. In addition to being short, believable, achievable, and relevant, you will know you are headed in the right direction when employees believe in the mission of the company and know what you want to accomplish.

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Clear Strategy
The strategic plans for both the near- and long-term future should be well-known throughout the organization—from top to bottom. All employees should have a clear sense of how they and their team contribute and what success will look like. You will know you are headed in the right direction when the strategy is being executed successfully and consistently across the organization.

It is almost impossible to have a strong corporate culture (the how) unless the strategy (the what) is clear enough to act upon and align desired behaviors to.

Clear Expectations
Each worker should have a clear understanding of the specific values and behaviors the organization expects. If, for instance, the company believes that the customer comes first, employees should focus on customer needs and, within the purview of their job, feel empowered to do what they can to meet and exceed client expectations.

Ambiguity is one of the warning signs of a weak culture. Strive for clear and fair expectation that align with your strategy and desired culture.

Transparency of Timely Information Flow
Of 410 companies across eight industries, 81 percent who reported high levels of performance agreed or strongly agreed that information flow was timely. Conversely, at lower performing companies only 6 percent agreed or strongly agreed that information flow was timely.

For a strong culture of accountability, leaders should actively share what they know, what they do not know and how they make decisions. Do not leave employees out of the process. Create an environment where they are encouraged to ask questions, offer ideas, and candidly discuss issues.

Performance Management
Each employee should know how they are performing at all times and have their own professional development plan to succeed and to get where they want to go. You will know you are headed in the right direction when employees understand how their success is measured, believe performance evaluations are fair and appropriate, and know how their contribution fits into the bigger picture.

The Bottom Line

Business and people strategies must go through culture to get fully implemented. If you want your culture to set you apart, make sure it is healthy enough and directly aligns with your strategy for success.

About the Author
Tristam Brown is chairman and CEO of LSA Global, where he is responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of the company and client services. He has more than 25 years of consulting and management experience. Prior to joining LSA Global, he served as vice president of organizational strategies at Proxicom, an e-business consulting and development company, where he ran human resources, organizational development, recruiting, training, and internal communications. He also previously he served as chairman of the National Outward Bound Professional Committee and director of Outward Bound Professional for the West Coast, where he ran the corporate leadership training and consulting division for Fortune 1000 Corporations. He currently serves on the boards of Outward Bound California, the Chief Learning Office Business Intelligence Board, and Advertising Audit & Risk Management (AARM).
1 Comment
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Agreed. Industry leaders, like Southwest Airlines, Capital One and BHP Billiton, and hundreds of private companies empower employees to think and act like owners, driving and participating in the profitable growth of the company. These Forbes and Harvard Business Review articles provide more background: https://hbr.org/2018/01/more-than-a-paycheck
http://www.forbes.com/sites/fotschcase/2016/05/31/engage-your-employees-in-making-money/
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