ATD Blog

Debunking Six Corporate Culture Myths

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Culture Myths
No matter what part of the world you work and live in, one thing is certain: all companies and organizations have a culture. It is up to the people in that organization to create it. What’s more, you are either creating a culture that is moving toward excellence or one that is striving to be no better than the competition—that is, moving toward average.

All organizations have the ability to create a culture of excellence. Let’s debunk six myths keeping you from excellence. 

1. It Is Good to Have a Strong Company Culture, but It Is Not Imperative. 

It is good to have a strong culture and it is imperative. Culture is the environment within which you work and make decisions. It is what’s acceptable and what’s expected. It’s how we treat each other and the client. A strong culture is rewarding. Everyone is passionate about what they’re doing and constantly asking, “Am I making a difference at work?” “Am I making the world a better place with what I am doing?” “Is what I am doing worthwhile?”  

2. Culture Is an Intangible Commodity—It Defies Definition. 

It’s easy to say that culture is an intangible—until it starts affecting the performance of the organization. Then it is very tangible. Culture is like wind: you really can’t see it, but you can feel it—both positive and negative. It is easy to measure its strength. It has an impact on its surroundings. Harnessed correctly, it creates positive energy. Harnessed incorrectly, it could have devastating consequences.  

3. One Company, One Culture 


Many believe that an organization's culture is its permanent identity and that culture should not change to suit the context. Indeed, we have a clear understanding of the importance of a strong, tangible culture, and flexibility is a major component. A strong culture is constantly looking at what is working and what needs to be examined and changed. In achieving a culture that is rooted in excellence, you must relentlessly move toward it. If not, you are moving away from it—more than likely moving toward average, mired in the sludge of negativity.

4. Employees Don’t Have a Role In Shaping Company Culture; It Is Just For Them to Just Imbibe 

It is up to all employees to shape the corporate culture—frontline to leadership. The interactions everyone has with each other, and knowing what is acceptable and what is not. You also want people to come to work and make decisions based on the corporate mission and vision within the culture. This is where employees, especially on the frontline, can have a huge impact since they are closest to the action.  

5. It Is the Sole Responsibility of HR to Propagate Culture 

HR’s function is to identify and clearly define the culture and make it easy for everyone to understand. Employees will create culture, but it must become part of the hiring process. While technical skills are important, it’s equally important to discern if a candidate can live with, thrive in, and enhance the culture. HR is the keeper of the corporate culture identity and definition, making sure everyone knows and understands it and then helping it to grow organically. HR can’t mandate how to live in the culture, only what it is and what is expected. 


6. There Is No Connection Between Culture And Strategy 

The bond between strategy and corporate culture is real. Strategy is about being unique, so too is culture. To stand apart in business, rarely is the product the single factor in sustained profitability. Rather, it is the people who make the difference. That is where culture steps in. A culture that fosters apathy, doesn’t care about employees, and only focuses on the performance numbers can’t be expected to deliver positive customer experiences. Grumpy people abound, and if they don’t feel appreciated, they are not going to care about their customers.

When culture becomes part of the strategy, you make human capital decisions based on it. How will people work with each other? Who has the best personality for customer interactions, and so forth? When everyone in the organization takes ownership for culture, they are ensuring its success. It becomes theirs and they do not want to see it fail.

Want to learn more about how to identify and communicate a strong culture that is moving towards excellence? Join me in November in West Palm Beach for ATD’s TalentNext: Building an Engaged Workforce.

About the Author

Harry Paul is an internationally sought-after speaker and co-author of seven business books, including FISH! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. His books have been on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Business Week, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

Harry has over 30 years in business including running all aspects of a management training and consulting business, including sales, distribution, product development and international operations. He has served as a senior vice president for The Ken Blanchard Companies, where he personally managed the speaking career of Dr. Kenneth Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager.

Harry's latest book is Who Kidnapped Excellence? To contact Harry and his team please click here.

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