Co-workers laughing in a group together hugging

Every business has a culture. Like a recipe for a great meal, great cultures are created intentionally and with a variety of ingredients. Yet, leaders often leave culture to chance. Great cultures, the kind that help companies achieve a competitive advantage, don’t happen by accident. Every decision made, every interaction had, every new policy implemented either moves a team toward or away from the desired workplace culture. Here are a few key ingredients to build a winning culture.

Unite Your Leaders
World-renowned business advisor, Ram Charan said, “The culture of any organization is simply the collective behaviour
of its leaders.”

In uniting leaders, I’ve found it effective to work together to craft a culture statement that supports the company’s mission and core values. First, this requires taking a temperature check of the current culture. What are the relationships on your team like? Are you formal, casual, respectful, authoritative, serious, hierarchical? If there is one thing you would change about your culture, what would it be?

Next, I ask them to imagine the culture they want to grow together. Is it a culture of trust, accountability, fun, inclusion, empowerment, flexibility, competition, or all the above? What are the shared behaviours and attitudes your leaders need to model to grow the desired culture? What behaviours should be rewarded most in the workplace?

Once you have explored these questions, you can establish a culture statement. This level of clarity will help leaders to uphold the workplace behaviours, systems and practices that strengthen culture daily and to address those which do not.

Hire the Right Talent
Culture can be hard to build, yet can be easily damaged with one poor hire. A career-builder survey found that one bad hire can reduce productivity by up to 36 per cent and can compromise quality of work and employee morale by 33 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. Hiring the right talent means training your leaders not only to qualify abilities but to match people to your organization who embrace your vision, mission, and core values, and who embody your culture statement. Making your values known during the interview and asking for real versus hypothetical examples of how their past behaviour matches those values are effective ways to predict culture alignment.

Inspire Trust
Trust is eroded when the workplace behaviours, processes, systems, and shared norms contradict the culture you communicate to current and prospective employees. Preaching flexibility, yet developing practices that require rigid scheduling, or encouraging empowerment, yet being quick to reprimand employees when mistakes are made, are examples of contradictions that will undermine the culture you desire.

Observe how your team speaks to one another. Their words, tone of voice and body language are all a reflection of your values and reinforce the shared norms of the group. Adopting standards for communication that are respectful, inclusive, transparent, and with other’s wellbeing at heart will guarantee trust and set the tone for your team’s culture.

Every employee is accountable for upholding culture through their actions and interactions. Leaders must ensure that all systems, processes, and policies support this. Having the right culture is foundational to the success of any business.

By Cayley Dow is the Founder of Thrivity Inc. (, a human resources consulting and coaching firm that helps service-oriented businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving world of work.


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