August 2018 Motivate

The Foundations of a Winning Cluture


Written By: John Spence

Many people used to feel that “culture” was a touchy-feely issue, but nothing could be further from the truth. I firmly believe the success of just about every organization is tied directly to the quality of the talent you can attract to your team, and the single most crucial factor in attracting top talent is your organization’s culture. Great people want to work with other great people at a place that has a superb culture. But how do talented people define what a great culture is?

Here is what most of the research points to:

Fun. This doesn’t mean there are whoopee cushions under everyone’s chair and parties every night, what I am talking about here is creating the kind of culture where people enjoy the work and the people, around them. The easiest way to see if you’ve done this well is to walk around the office and see if people are smiling. Smiling employees usually indicate people who are having a good time at work, enjoying their job and having fun with their coworkers.

Family. The way workers define a “family-like atmosphere” is they know their managers and peers genuinely care about them as an individual. This is the sort of culture where people show genuine concern and affection for each other, both as valued members of the team and as valued members of the community.

Friends. People who are highly engaged and loyal to their organizations often consider many of the people they work with to be their friends, sometimes even their best friends. This is not something you can mandate, it evolves organically from the first two factors of fun and family.

Freedom. In organizations with an outstanding culture, people have the training, resources, time, help and support to do their job exceptionally well – and then they are given the freedom (empowerment) to go out and succeed on their own. One of the fastest ways to kill the creativity and engagement of the talented employee is to attempt to micromanage their work.

Pride. In organizations that build a winning culture, people are proud of where they work and what they do for a living. The easiest way to ascertain this is to ask someone what they do for a living, if they affiliate with their job function, i.e., “I’m an engineer” then they don’t take a lot of pride in the organization. However, if they affiliate with the organization first, i.e., “I’m an engineer at Microsoft” then you’ve got someone who takes pride in the organization and what they do is a job function.

Praise. It is hard to understate the incredible importance of recognition and celebration to a winning culture. In an organization that has highly engaged and satisfied employees, one of the main things that motivate them is receiving genuine, honest and sincere praise at least once every seven days. This praise does not have to come from the boss or manager. The key is that it must be specific and genuine. I heard a great quote the other day that brought this home for me. “When I do something right I am NOT recognized 99.9 percent of the time, but when I do something wrong I am recognized 100 percent of the time.” An organization that attracts top talent and builds a winning culture is an organization where the managers, leaders and the entire staff are looking for ways to catch people doing things right and then celebrate and reward them for that excellent performance.

Meaning. Perhaps more than any recent generation, millennials are driven not by money, not by achievement, not by power – but for the most part are motivated by having a strong sense of meaning in the work they do. It’s not just the paycheck to them, it has to be something more. So the goal here is to help people tie the work they do to real, significant positive impact in their family, community or the world.

What I’ve just described – fun, family,  friends, freedom, pride, praise, meaning – is what employees are looking for in the kind of culture where they would give 110 percent of their discretionary effort. From the organization side, what most leaders are looking for is having those highly engaged and satisfied employees embrace a culture of accountability, urgency, innovation, quality and superior customer service. The words I hear owners/leaders use most often is that a great culture to them is an organizational culture of highly talented people that embrace an “Ownership Mentality.” Creating a corporate culture that combines these two critical elements, engagement and an ownership mentality is a key to long-term success.

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