"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
- Peter Drucker

If you agree that culture is important to your organization, here are some questions that might help you understand where your organization is now.How much time has your leadership team spent discussing/designing your culture in the last year? If one of your employees was asked to describe your organizations culture: What would you expect their answer to be? Have you recently assessed the alignment between your organization’s culture and your strategy and vision?


Culture is built up over time and can be deeply rooted in an organization. That does not mean that your organization’s culture cannot be changed or influenced. Are you worried about the culture in your organization? Are you finding hard to gain successes even though you are “hearing” all the right messages from your team leaders?

Maybe it is time to take ownership of your culture

Bring a team of your influential people together to co-create your culture principles. The principles should number no more than five or six and be clear and actionable. The team should, at a minimum, include your executive and team leads from around your organization. The more you can involve in the exercise, the better will be your discussion and the more accepted will be your outcome. 

This team should speak about their understanding of culture so that there is a uniform definition in use. Looking at your industry, your strategic needs and your organization’s priorities; this team should create a list of principles that they feel, if in place, would bring success to your organization. You may get better results by having a facilitator from outside the organization run this meeting as they will able to ask better questions and challenge some of the contributions and maybe unearth some “sacred cows” that are living within your organization. The statements need to “mean” something and be actionable. While words create an understanding, actions dictate the culture.


This is probably better done from the outside, or by a new employee, to get an honest assessment. This can be done by that person having a quick interview with a cross section of staff in your organization using a prepared questionnaire. It would need to be a large enough sample to avoid any individual biases. I would suggest a random method of picking the interviewees but also ensure that you get a mixture of new and long-term employees, male and female, cross racial/cultures (if appropriate) and in different locations and departments (also if appropriate). In carrying out the survey anonymity also helps. It is important that the questions reflect the areas of culture that you feel are important and are open and seek examples.


Examine the results with an open mind and take note of the comments and examples, remembering that in culture, “actions speak louder than words”. What are your employees saying about your culture? Does it match what you expected? Any additional comments can be helpful to judge the “mood” of your employees. Also note, as culture can be influenced by leaders, be prepared to learn that your organization may have more than one culture. In such instances, it may be appropriate to do some further exploration to understand these nuances.


Decide on a list of actions that you need to take to support. Publish the Principles and supporting actions, appropriate. As a leader, while you can delegate your culture work to a person or team, you need to be seen to be in control of this important area to ensure success. As part of the delivery, monitoring for results/change is hugely important. Employees respond if they see you are serious about change and are monitoring for results.

What Actions Influence Culture?


In most leadership areas, I suggest that leaders play a supportive role and lead from the back. Culture (and vision) are the exceptions. In culture your leaders need to be your torch bearers and strongest advocates. As a leader, you need to lead from the front!!


How much is culture, an issue when selecting new employees? Does it feature in the application, assessment and interviewing process? Hire for attitude, train for skills!!


When onboarding new staff is culture discussed. Your Culture Principles should be part of the onboarding process. Be upfront about how important your culture is!!

Reward of Good Behaviors

What behaviors will you reward that will influence culture? What actions are you currently rewarding? Sales Targets? Development Targets? Examine your principles to see what targets could be taken from them to create appropriate rewards. Activities rwarded are activities done!!

Tolerance of Bad Behavior

What actions will you take to support your principles in the face of bad behaviors? This can be a crucial area…and employees will be watching!!


Stories and experiences strengthen culture. Shared experiences, and the stories they create, build teams. Create stories around your organizations journey. Collect stories from your customers. Give your business vision a life and soul!!


Show that you are serious: Include culture topics in your management and executive meetings and any all-staff meetings.


Seek regular feedback from employees on what is happening “on the ground”. Leaders are often sheltered from any contrary opinions by their executive team. It’s your job as a leader to seek out opportunities to hear those opinions. Regular staff surveys that include culture questions help. If you want to know, start asking questions.

When is a good time to change culture? Now…Why would you want to postpone success?

If you have any thoughts on the culture within your organization, feel free to contact me. We can talk it through without any commitment to go any further than that.