Dispelling the Myths of Creating a Winning Corporate Culture

Developing a winning corporate culture is one of the developmental building blocks most often missing from training initiatives across all industries.

By Joseph Gianni, President and CEO, 2logical

Few would deny the majestic power of a winning corporate culture. When the odds are stacked against the success of a mission critical corporate objective, a strong corporate culture can persevere through all kinds of challenges and setbacks—and make, well, even the impossible…possible.

Even in the most turbulent market conditions, a strong corporate culture can shorten the recovery time from minor or major setbacks by as much as tenfold, when compared to an organization lacking the “right stuff.”

Despite its proven supremacy, developing a winning corporate culture is one of the developmental building blocks most often missing from training initiatives across all industries. While consultants churn out articles, books, and interviews about their success in lifting organizations from the crypt to the Promised Land by developing a strong corporate culture, far too many executive leadership teams fail to make the connection and thereby fail to make creating, building, and nurturing a winning corporate culture their No. 1 objective.

The fact remains, organizations that establish a winning corporate culture catapult to a leadership position in their respective industries over time—while those that don’t create such a culture eventually fall behind. The most famous success stories from business history all owe their origin to leaders who incubated powerful corporate cultures: Sam Walton’s creation of Wal-Mart, Jack Welch’s legendary leadership of GE, the well-known culture at Apple Computers led by Steve Jobs, the incubator of ideas brought into reality by the Google team and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and what Indra Nooyi did with culture to make PepsiCo a global leader in the snacks market. All of these are prime examples of corporate leaders who saw the value in cultivating their corporate cultures with the right ingredients for success.

The naïve often speculate that these companies rose to the top of the Fortune 500 because they had a sound business model, or because they had the right idea at the right time—but everyone knows that many strong business plans never find the footing they need to grow. Far too many of the right ideas at the right time never become reality, because of the stranglehold of a weak or dysfunctional corporate culture that destroys their promise.

Avoidance—and even outright denial—of the need to make corporate culture development a “Mission Critical Objective” lies in five common myths that destroy the impetus for any organized effort to create, build, and nurture a winning corporate culture. Often, even a cursory glimpse at these myths/limiting thoughts can dash any glimmer of hope an executive may have about attempting to achieve what far too many still view as the unachievable.

If executives from the list above dispelled these limiting thoughts and beliefs and germinated a winning corporate culture capable of making dreams a reality, why can’t every talented team of corporate Titans dispel these same myths and engineer a winning culture in their own organizations?

Quite frankly, myths can only shape beliefs and direct a team’s successes or failures if the leader fails to dispel these myths. The best practice for doing this, quite simply, is to examine each myth closely.

Let’s look directly into the eyes of the most common myths and see what we discover.

Myth 1: A winning corporate culture just happens.

In reality, some kind of culture does “just happen” in every organization—but a great, powerhouse corporate culture does not happen by chance. I have never seen any leadership or executive team create a powerhouse corporate culture without taking the time to carefully engineer exactly how it will be built. It’s never just happened in a sales team, a service team, or any other business team structure. For that matter, on a more personal organizational development level, I’ve never seen it happen in any family structure either; in fact, if left to chance, just the opposite usually occurs. In every case, a winning corporate culture is created by the conscious effort of the leaders. Without conscious and organized effort, delivered from the hands of inspired leadership, the culture that creates itself is almost always counterproductive to what is needed for corporate success.

Myth 2: A winning corporate culture cannot be defined.

A winning culture can and mustbe defined. To do so, we must understand the genesis of all corporate culture: the dominant beliefsof the people within the organization. Where do these dominant beliefs come from? Typically, they originate with the strongest willed person in the group or the strongest communicator. However, these people are not necessarily the leaders of the corporation! Far too often there are several strong-willed people whose negative and limiting beliefs become accepted as the foundation to the corporate culture. Conversely, if these same strong-willed people come from an enlightened, positive point of view, the dominant beliefs that lay the foundation of the corporate culture are vitalizing. Either way, a corporate culture is easily defined by whichever spring that feeds it.

Myth 3: A winning corporate culture cannot be created or built.

For close to 20 years, 2logical has helped “thought leaders” isolate and build the dominant beliefs that germinate a winning corporate culture, making this the ultimate foundation of an unstoppable workforce. These core beliefs center on three primary building blocks:

  1. Personal Responsibility: A culture defined by employees who are taught to accept 100 percent personal responsibility for the results they deliver. This dominant belief anchors a culture that tolerates little in the way of excuses and finding reasons why things can’t be done, and, as a result, gives way to a team that focuses on continuously finding solutions.
  2. Self-Efficacy: A culture defined by employees who have earnest and unwavering professional self-efficacy—in other words, they believe in their ability to execute business strategy and drive results. This belief is a cultural pillar that is not simply important in today’s business landscape—it is essential. Systematically developing the self-esteem and overall self-confidence of an entire workforce, across every department, is the secret to accomplishing this ideal. Self-efficacy incubates a culture of mentally healthy, happy, and Results-Capable workers.
  3. Self-Motivated, Self-Reliant, Personal Initiative: All of these traits of high character are byproducts of a culture defined by employees who have professional, as well as personal, goals—employees who understand the symbiotic relationship between personal and professional goals do not need to be pushed every day to reach their dreams, goals, and life aspirations. They simply push themselves.

Myth 4: Corporate culture has little bearing on performance.

The business archives are filled with stories from leaders who have attempted to execute corporate strategy without having a corporate culture that places and keeps their employees in the right “state of mind.” All performance, good or bad, owes its origin to beliefs—and when the beliefs of the workforce are not anchored in the three core categories described above, a weak culture is all that remains. Such a culture has little hope of achieving corporate goals.

Myth 5: Developing a strong corporate culture is too expensive.

When you consider the cost directly associated with the countless goals and opportunities abandoned or never attempted because of a weak corporate culture, it’s easy to see why investing to build a strong and healthy culture leads to both immediate and long-term success. The benefits derived from building a winning culture far outweigh the resources invested. These benefits often reveal themselves in a short period of time.

The fact is that a weak corporate culture can be costly to an organization in measurable ways: sales goals missed, poor employee morale, productivity figures that are well below expectations, employee turnover, accounts that go to competitors. Ask yourself: “What are we losing every day because our culture does not encourage our people to innovate, recreate, persevere, learn from mistakes—the special ingredients needed to ultimately meet and exceed goals?”

Your total losses will be far greater than the cost of teaching employees to accept personal responsibility for the results they are getting each day; bolstering their self-efficacy by helping them recognize their innate potential to master whatever is necessary to achieve success; and teaching them to harness this potential through the mastery of professional and personal goal setting.

Corporate Culture: The Bottom Line

How important is corporate culture to a company’s long-term success? Based on the myths we’ve dispelled here, it’s clear that corporate culture is critical. If these myths were true, then no company could ever be successful. How do some companies go from a gleam in their creators’ eyes to rank among the most powerful and profitable companies in the world today? Look at all of the most successful corporations, and you’ll see a common thread: a corporate culture that turns every employee into a capable and active participant in achieving organizational goals.

Joseph Gianni is president and CEO of 2logical. For more information, visit http://www.2logical.com.

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