4 Keys to a Great Company Culture

We often confuse culture with a vision or mission statement. In reality, it is defined by the behaviors we tolerate! 

If you talk about trusting employees but allow even 1 leader to intimidate, then that is your company culture. If you talk about enabling team members but let leaders manage through fear, then that is your culture. If you talk about innovation but don’t give your teams the time or tools to innovate, then that is your culture. 

Talk is cheap! Action is what defines your culture!!

So how can you ensure you are building a strong culture?

Here are 4 Steps to ensure you are building a strong culture and not just talking about one.

1) Start With Alignment

Ensure your companies' leadership team is aligned with all of the elements that will make up your culture. This will typically start with your CEO and their direct reports.

Why is this alignment so important?

Check out the video below from Patrick Lencioni as he explains the importance of Team #1.

2) Share the Message

Your teams need to know what culture they are building and pursuing. This can be done in lots of ways, but one of my favorites and most effective is through storytelling. NYTimes bestselling author Mark Sanborn once said:

“Stories are the coat rack that you hang ideas on.”
— Mark Sanborn

You want people to remember what your culture is? Then create some coat racks!

Imagine you are trying to build a culture where people take risks. You need to inspire them around the idea that it takes hard work, and that you have to be okay with failure. You could send out a communication, or you could put up some poster, or you could talk about it in an all-team meeting, or any of a million other ideas.

OR, you could use stories. The video below is a great example of people telling their stories to hang an idea on. They are sharing stories to drive the concept of never giving up. How much more effective are these stories than an email or a powerpoint?

Challenge yourself to think different about how you share the message!

3) Build Responsibility and Accountability

We have all worked for a company that had a leader who acted completely contradictory to what was espoused as the companies' "Culture". The company may have talked about valuing people, yet there were leaders that openly devalued employees and nothing was done.

This will kill your culture in an instant!

You need a team that is empowered to take on the difficult work of building and maintaining a culture. There are lots of ways to implement these skills, but a great framework I have used for responsibility and accountability was developed by John Izzo. The video below is a great model for developing responsibility and accountability to drive your companies culture.

4) Be an Authentic Example

The power of Live Video is all over the internet. It started with companies like Meerkat, Periscope, Blab and then was quickly adopted by the large players. There has been live video functionality launched at Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube and others. These services have exploded! The stats below articulate just how impactful it is:

  • Average time spent for video on desktop is 34.5 minutes for live streaming versus 2.6 minutes for pre-recorded video.
  • Live video is outpacing the growth of other types of online video, with a 113% increase in ad growth yearly.
  • Consumers are 8x more likely to make a purchase from Live Video versus pre-recorded video.

Why is live video so impactful? Simple...Authenticity.

It's not scripted, you can't edit out mistakes and as my grandpa used to say, "It is what it is". Authenticity is a new currency. It buys influence and belief.

Find ways to leverage authenticity in your organization to build your culture. You can acknowledge failures, share missed opportunities, articulate ways to get better, use live video and more. This will go a long ways towards building authenticity to drive a strong culture.


It's easy to talk about people that are not living your culture or to complain about a leader acting inappropriately. But I want to challenge you to be the change you wish to see. Read the story about Gandhi below and then ask yourself if you have stopped "eating sugar". Take 1 step in the direction of being the example of culture you want to see in your company and you'll be amazed at the results.

During the 1930’s, a young boy became obsessed with eating a lot of sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Being totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see Mahatma Gandhi who was the boy’s idol. She had to walk many miles across the country, for hours under a scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi. There, she recounted her difficult journey and shared with Gandhi her unpleasant situation: “Gandhi, my son eats too much sugar. He will die if he continues. Would you please advise him to stop eating it? “Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied: “Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son then.” The women was angry. She took the boy by the hand and went home. She made the long journey home and in two weeks time made it once again as Gandhi requested. When they arrived, Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said: “Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for you.” The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was angry again. She turned to Gandhi and asked, “Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?” Gandhi smiled and whispered to her. “Mother, I was not qualified to advise the little one because I too, was just like him, eating a lot of sugar. I had to first stop eating sugar, before I could tell him to stop.” You Must First Be The Change You Want To See In This World -
— Mahatma Gandhi