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Why You Should be Managing Your Culture
Why You Should be Managing Your Culture
Aileen Gray and Katie Camargo
By Aileen Gray and Katie Camargo
March 30, 2017
Culture is getting more attention these days as a competitive differentiator for employees and customers.

Culture is getting more attention these days as a competitive differentiator for employees and customers. Studies show that 97% of values-based organizations demonstrate better performance than competitors.[1] But while 91% of CEOs recognize culture is important, only 15% believe their own organization’s culture is where it should be[2]—all the more reason (realizing business gains) for leaders to intentionally transform and manage their cultures.

What is culture?

The simplest definition is “the way things are done around here.” We can go one level deeper by defining culture as the collective values and beliefs expressed through behaviors, narratives, and norms of the individuals and teams within an organization. You can see culture both in tangible things like a mission statement and intangible things like the conversations that happen (or don’t happen) between your team members. In other words, your culture is your people—what they believe and how they perform. And a healthy culture is one in which your people live a set of shared values, understand where you want to go as a leader, are willing do what it takes to get there, and are accountable for shared outcomes.

Managing culture with intention

Your organization has a culture whether you intentionally shape it or not. A common misconception THRUUE has seen among leaders is that hiring high-performing individuals will carry your organization by itself. This simply isn’t true. The people you hire will make hundreds of small choices every day that either move your organization towards or away from your vision. Even high-performing employees will make ineffective decisions if they don’t understand your strategy, and how their work fits into your goals. And studies show most employees don’t understand: Less than one-third of American workers believe their leaders have a clear direction for their organization, while only 13% of employees think their organization’s leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.[3] Leaders not only have to set a clear strategic direction; they must also ensure it is understood by and inspiring to their people. In today’s fast-changing world, leaders can’t afford not to make sure their people are working toward and accountable for the same goals.

How can you get started?

Managing your culture doesn’t mean trying to become the next Google. A snazzy office space and all the perks in world will do nothing to shift your culture if you haven’t taken a much more fundamental step: communicating your vision (where the company is going) and helping employees ground themselves in that vision. To do so, THRUUE often recommends leaders start by answering Peter Drucker’s “Five Most Important Questions”:

  • What is our Mission?
  • Who is our Customer?
  • What does our Customer Value?
  • What are our Results?
  • What is our Plan?

Without clear answers to these questions, your people will likely feel confused, overworked, and frustrated. They will remain unaware of or uninspired by your organization’s direction, which will undermine their productivity. Answering these questions, on the other hand, can help you paint a fuller picture of where you want to take your organization, and why. This picture can, in turn, help your people understand how their individual choices will move the organization forward and provide the source of enthusiasm and inspiration they need to thrive.

[1] Ethics and Compliance Program Effectiveness Report, LRN, 2016.

[2] How Corporate Culture Effects the Bottom Line, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, November 2015.

[3] State of the American Workplace Report, Gallup, 2017.