Your Most Important Business Strategy Is Culture

How healthy is the quality of your business culture? Does your work environment ensure every player – leader, team member, customer, even supplier – is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction?

When I engage business leaders in discussion about their culture, most shrug their shoulders. “Our culture is OK,” most of them say. The reality is that most leaders don’t pay attention to the quality of their culture.

Deloitte’s recent Global Human Capital Trends report, found that “few factors contribute more to business success than culture.” 87 percent of business leaders who responded to their survey believe that culture is important. 54 percent believe culture is very important.

If that’s the case, why don’t leaders make culture a priority? They don’t know how. They’ve never been asked to manage culture. Deloitte’s study found that only 28 percent of respondents believe they understand their current culture well. Only 19 percent believe they have the “right” culture.

This data shows that most leaders don’t know what to look for. Few leaders know what to do if they discover their culture isn’t healthy.

What leaders do know is managing results. They invest more time, energy, and attention in results than they do in their business culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organization – for better or worse.

Don’t get me wrong – results are definitely important. But they’re not the only important thing. In fact, managing results is exactly HALF the leader’s job.

The other half? Managing the quality of their work culture.

Those leaders that invest time and energy in the quality of their culture reap tremendous benefits. A purposeful, positive, productive culture boosts employee engagement by 40 percent, customer service by 40 percent, and results and profits by 35 percent. I can prove it.

How can leaders create a healthy work culture? By making values – the way people treat each other – as important as results.

Just as leaders create clear performance expectations then hold people accountable for delivering those expectations, leaders must create clear values expectations and hold people – including themselves – accountable for acting in alignment with those values, every day.

To make values observable, tangible, and measurable requires that values – ideas like “integrity” or “teamwork” – be defined in behavioral terms. Why? Behaviors are measurable.

If you define your integrity value with a measurable behavior like “I keep my promises” or “I do what I say I will do,” everyone will know how they’re expected to behave to ensure they’re demonstrating that value, daily.

By formalizing values in behavioral terms, then requiring all leaders to model those behaviors themselves, you build credibility for your values. You build credibility in your leaders. And you model the purposeful, positive, productive culture you want.

In the absence of formalized values, your culture is one of default rather than one of design. Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance.

Make culture one of your critical business strategies – and implement valued behaviors as a means to creating a purposeful, positive, productive culture.

About the Author

S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine, an executive consultant and founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and a featured presenter at SXSW 2015, Chris’ blog, podcasts, research, and videos are enjoyed by thousands at Driving Results Through Culture. Check out his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.