What Does a Winning Culture Look Like?

You can safely assume that as the world economy becomes more global, more volatile, more competitive and more complex, the organizations that thrive will be the ones with a deliberately crafted culture that attracts and retains talented difference makers and fosters open, fluid cooperation, collaboration, loyalty, trust and innovation throughout the entire organization. Organizations that "get" the importance of having and developing a strong culture will have an enormous competitive edge. Going forward this will be one of the key challenges faced by leaders.

Here are 5 key characteristics you will find in winning cultures making for superior and profitable results year on year.

It begins by recruiting the right people

The knowledge age is replacing the machine age and people are the new "capital equipment" driving profitable, sustainable growth. A winning culture knocks down its silos. Organizations too often operate in silos with limited communications and sharing of resources, clients and opportunities across the various lines of business. Often the various silos are battling each other for better compensation, more partnerships and bigger shares of the support services. The internal competition and lack of teamwork and camaraderie hinders or prevents cross selling of firm services with the obvious hit to the bottom line. The silo effect becomes an even bigger issue in companies with multiple office locations operating in their geographical silos. Having fun while developing trust and respecting and valuing each other's work just doesn't happen easily in a siloed environment. Winning cultures hire the right people who can improve communications between the internal business groups and create collaborative environments critical to the growth of the culture.

A winning culture minimizes the challenges created between the various levels within an organization

Everybody within an organization, from a managing partner or a senior vice president to the youngest associate and to the receptionist manning the front desk, needs to feel important, trusted, respected, valued and committed to helping grow the business. Responsibility for sensibly eliminating barriers to growth that come from having a rigid, layered organization falls on the top management and their actions. They need to set the example with their actions of how members of the firm at various levels can and should work together. We often observe how managers who have not been coached in their upward transition will create an increasingly divisive environment that leads to poor performance within their areas. These managers when passionately fighting for positioning of their teams can inadvertently create unhealthy competition and indeed raise the silo walls even higher.


A winning culture has everyone in sync with the mission

Everyone, not just the professional staff, understands the mission and goals of the organization. Every employee has to be committed and feel a responsibility for doing their share to grow the business. Everybody is the face of the firm when they come into contact with people. Even the lowest level employee is part of the firm's brand and culture. If a person is important enough to hire, then they are certainly important enough to develop and be made to feel an integral part of the team. How well do managers and peers know their team members? In winning cultures you’ll find they make a point of it and don’t leave it to chance. They know that small gestures like taking note of their employee’s community and family support or situation makes a tremendous impact on the person and their wellbeing.

A winning culture is transparent

It's astounding how many organizations share very little key information with their employees. This is particularly harmful when the business is struggling or going through changes and people's stress and anxieties go up and rumors replace facts. The lack of transparency often can drive the better performers, the ones with the most appeal in the market, out of the organization. The weaker performers, those with less market appeal, stay and get consumed by fear and worrying. Performance slips further down. Security is a key driver for people. Without it the focus and all energy will be directed towards obtaining it, at the expense of the work. Employees need to know the health of and plans for the organization. If they cannot be trusted with information critical to their own future, can they be trusted to continue making their best efforts and remain loyal to the organization? Winning cultures share the wins and the challenges, everyone is included.

A winning culture has servant leadership focused on performance improvement

If an organization has leaders who are constantly out of their offices going through the organization asking their people "What can I do to make your job easier and to create more personal upside for you?" what do you think this would do for the company culture and performance? Every person in an organization matters. All deserve to be treated fairly and with the same high degree of trust, respect and honesty. They also need to be given the tools and training to do their jobs. Therefore top management's critical role is to eliminate all barriers that prevent people performing at an exceptional level. It all comes down to how leaders see themselves in the organization. Winning culture leaders see stewardship and service as the defining elements of their job, which are given authenticity by every member of the organization accepting that leadership.

 A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”

~ Lao Tzu


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