You’ve heard it a million times by now, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” WRONG! Culture is simply a part of a a triangle for success. Culture, strategy and the team make up the three sides of this triangle. So, lets talk about culture and explore the entirety of this success triangle for you to measure and guide your organization with.
Culture is obviously important but how well do you understand what it is? Culture, simply put, is the average behavior of your organization. This means it is important for you to be cautious in what behaviors you allow to flourish.
If you allow and encourage good behaviors then you will have a good culture. If you allow bad behaviors to thrive you will have a bad culture. Or, as Larry Winget puts it, “Nip it in the bud!” The basic idea is what you allow to exist in your organization means that behavior is what you condone. What you condone over a long period of time becomes your culture.
Now, here is the kicker. What I just said trumps anything you will say to your team. What I mean by that is that no matter what you tell your team acceptable behavior is doesn’t matter as much as what you actually do to enforce it. If you tell your team you have a no gossip culture but you tolerate gossip then you actually have a gossip culture. If you tell your team punctuality is a part of your culture but you allow people to show up late then punctuality means nothing to your culture.
Guard and nourish your culture!
Team is another side to the triangle. All the culture in the world won’t save you if you don’t have the right team to foster and promote it with you. This is why knowing the culture you want is important before you hire any team members or any new team members.
You see, this is a critical step a lot of organizations skip in their hiring process. They hire based on resumes or answers to the same interview questions hiring officials have been using for years. What you really need to look for in hiring is the right person. You can fill in minor competency gaps with on the job training for the right people. One way to do that is ask a new question.
The flip-side is that it is much more difficult to train highly qualified people to fit into your organizational culture. All the qualifications don’t matter if they clash and disrupt your current environment in a negative way. Don’t tolerate bad behaviors that don’t fit for the sake of credentials.
Strategy completes the triangle. You need a strong culture, the team that can live in it and a strategy to guide the organization to success. But not just any strategy will do. The strategy has to match the other two sides.
Just like any other pyramid, if one side isn’t like the others the whole thing will collapse. When that happens you are left with nothing mess to clean up and a decision to make. Do you move on or try again? Tip: You should almost always try again.
Bringing it all together
Now that you know what the three components are, where do you start? My suggestion will be with strategy. While I do believe that culture is the foundation of an organization it is strategy that dictates how the other two sides are constructed. A popular example of this is Zappos!. You have probably heard their story a few times by now but I’m going to use them again anyway.
Zappos did not set out to be a shoe company that was great at customer service. They set out to be a great customer service company that sold shoes. But, what if they hadn’t known that in the beginning and stayed with wanting to be a show company that provided customer service? What could the difference have been? Let’s look at each scenario and how it could of played out versus how it did.
Shoe company that provides great customer service: The focus of this strategy is being a shoe company. Customer service is secondary. Yes, it is still the desired culture but it isn’t the primary strategical focus. The means when hiring an emphasis would likely be placed on knowledge of shoes versus customer service. This view could lead to a team with much heavier shoe expertise than customer service expertise which would make the desired culture more difficult to achieve. The sides of the triangle would not match and the organization would have spent a lot of time trying to even them out or, worse, collapsed in on itself.
Actually, there is one other possibility that may have been worse. They could have compromised and changed their strategy so they could just be happy being another shoe company. Which would have likely only prolonged a collapse. It is never a good idea to make an organization something it just wasn’t mean to be.
Customer service company that sells shoes: This strategy clearly embraces the desired culture of customer service first. As soon as hiring begins people are hired more for their customer service skills than shoe knowledge. As a result they ended up with a great team that bought into the culture and executed the strategy. The sides of the triangle were pretty even and fit together well and the organization is a success.
Now, sure, there are exceptions. Maybe with the first scenario they would have ended up with a team with “good enough” customer service and improved from there. Or, in the second scenario, they could have ended up with a team that didn’t know enough about shoes and had a lot of teaching to do there. The point is if you have the clearly defined strategy, clearly defined strategy and the team that buys into both you are much more likely to see success.
If you believe the old saying that you are the average of your five closest friends then you should also know that you, and them, are only as good as their tools. Everybody uses them and some use more than others but they are all there for a reason.
Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite leadership resources. These leaders all have unique perspectives and experiences that make them valuable assets for your toolbox. Here are their names and why I value them.
Simon Sinek’s works include “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Least”. He is also a renowned TED Talker and public speaker with a background in cultural anthropology. That background gives him a perspective relatively unique among most leadership experts these days.
His works come from a perspective that what we look for in leaders is a natural function of how we evolved. And, if you have read these books, he is likely right. I believe that is why the 25 fundamentals I write about work so well, they are naturally evolved markers. So, put these books in your toolbox.
Larry Winget goes by the nickname of Pitbull of Personal Development. And, if you have ever read anything of his you will understand why. He has a no-nonsense, no fluff and in your face style of relaying really amazing content.
His books include titles such as “Its Called Work for a Reason” and “Shut up, Stop Whining and Get a Life”. The titles are self-evident to their contents. He is a regular contributor to several media outlets and considered one of the world’s top leadership speakers.
If you are looking for a touchy feely experience, Larry is not your guy. If you want to hear it straight with no spin then you won’t be able to get enough of Mr. Winget. He is the hammer in your toolbox!
Richard Rierson is the mind behind the “Dose of Leadership” podcast. If you have not heard of it then you are missing out. Richard has accumulated some of the best interviews across all the podcasts and I absolutely love his signature question.
“If you were going to have a dinner party and could invite any five people, living or dead, who would you invite?” This is a brilliant question because you learn a lot about people by who they select in answering this question.
Dov Baron is an expert on building great teams and working with millennials. He has a great back story with a very interesting past set of experiences. Dov’s brand is centered around his “Full Monty Leadership” platform.
I suggest adding Dov’s new book, Fiercely Loyal to your toolbox. While you are at it be sure to add his podcast and catch up on his blog.
Jim Bouchard is known as the C Suite Sensei for a reason. He has a rough past that he has overcome in order to become a leadership expert. His teachings are deeply rooted in the martial arts teachings that helped him turn his life around.
Jim’s latest book, “The Sensei Leader“, is another great addition to your toolbox. It chronicles a lot of his journey and uses that as a backdrop for his leadership teachings. Full disclosure, I was lucky enough to do an advanced review that is in the front of this book so, yes, I am a little biased on this one.
If you add these resources to your toolbox, along with the leadership fundamentals I talk about here, you will have everything at your disposal to be a more successful leader. I hope you enjoy reading their works as much as I do. If you have more suggestions feel free to include them in the comments section below.