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10 Unsurpassed Tips For Inspiring Authentic Company Culture

Culture, like it or not, will just happen if you let it and, like any game of chance, it’s not likely to go in your favor unless you take decisive action. It’s a powerful bellwether that evolves through choices made, who you hire, how you manage your people and ultimately who you are and how you lead. 

With all of the variables, It’s difficult to get it right although easier from the start then with a hard correction later in the game. Authentic culture should be an essential goal and part of your people strategy right from the start. If you are doing some catch up or looking for ways to improve existing culture these tips will be equally helpful.

These tips are not new, however they are valuable, perhaps from a slightly different perspective, and always useful as reminders. These tips have evolved from years of personal experience and many challenges along the way. They are tried and true. Entrepreneurs and leaders looking to develop a company’s culture can rely on them like a rudder to maintain steady as you go or plot a new course, no matter how rough the waters, into exponential authentic growth built upon passion and purpose.

1. Always Do The Right Thing

As you likely know, doing the right thing means doing what is best for the common good. It means making decisions that are not based on your own personal needs, popularity, or beliefs. Someone once said “Doing the right thing isn’t always easy – in fact, sometimes it’s real hard – but just remember that doing the right thing is always right” and everyone knows it. Set doing the right thing as your filter and you’ll always be on course and consistent. 

2. Be Clear About Your ‘Why’

Leaders are measured on one thing alone: culture. Entrepreneurs move so quickly to the “doing,” they rarely stop to make sure everyone is clear on the “why.” Carve out time each week to share with the team “why” decisions were made, systems were created, and what’s coming up next and why it matters. Tell your story often and share it especially with your influencers.  They are your voice when you are not in the room. Keep them in the loop.

3. Always Respond and Walk the Talk 

Develop the skill of always pausing to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting. Culture is expressed, mandating is not effective. You and your team must walk the talk. Don’t say you have a feedback culture and then avoid the tough conversations. They are your best opportunities to display character. Follow the principle of “show them, don’t tell them.” Don’t tell your employees that you value diversity, hire diverse talent. 

4. Build It With Respect

There are many aspects to a strong organizational culture and if you build it around “respect” for each other as individuals and professionals, it becomes much easier to meet the challenges of growth and those monumental crisis situations that require trust and cohesiveness to see them through. This creates safety, allowing for open dialogue, honest feedback and creativity. 

5. Hire People That Are Smarter Than You

Someone once said that the smart entrepreneur hires people smarter than themselves. Steve Jobs notoriously believed in hiring really smart people and then getting out of their way. This certainly worked for him as the culture at Apple has always been considered authentic. Remember your early hires will stand out and create the culture of either being a great place to work or not. Always be very selective.

6. Don’t forget, You Are The Culture 

Keep One Eye On The Mirror. As a leader, you don’t work in a culture, you are the culture. You are under constant observation. People take everything you say or do as a reference. So listen before you say, think before you do and do it knowing how you want to be perceived. You are the role model of the culture you want. An accurate awareness of yourself, starting with your weak spots, goes a long way in being authentic. 

7. Help Your People See The Big Picture

Company culture is directly linked to your business values, passion and purpose.  Your company will only ever be as good as the people in it. The best way to build company culture from the ground up is to act in alignment with core values, both personally and professionally, and to make sure each staff member has full buy-in and is acting in alignment with you toward the mission.

8. Stay True To Your Vibe

Starting your own business means you have the opportunity to do things your way. This is your chance to create a thriving company culture that aligns with your leadership style, not someone else’s. So my advice is to be authentically true to who you are and how you want to lead. Your vibe will attract the right employees that value the work you do and the impactful culture you are building. 

9. Focus On Creating Experiences

Much of the culture of a company is formed by events and experiences. What leaders do to address critical issues or unexpected occurrences will help develop a culture more than anything you will say or write. When you are in the startup mode, be fully aware of what is happening and how you will address the issue(s) in both the short- and long-term. By doing this you will develop your culture.  

10. Create Mutuality For Team Members

When creating a workplace culture, it is important that you and your team members share a mutual purpose and an understanding that you are both working toward a common goal. This mutual sharing of common feeling or purpose builds trust, which dissolves resistance, and creates a positive flow that establishes a healthy climate for discussion, so that effective collaboration and teamwork can take place. 

Bonus: Establish Where The Buck Stops

Continuously articulate that you have the power to make the final decisions.This will ensure future team members don’t walk into an unclear structure. The top is always clear and open to discussion when needed. Pre-existing or new power dynamics should be explicitly reviewed with all viewpoints welcome. Often, some tweaking is necessary to ensure transparency and break habits. The bottom line is that someone is ultimately responsible and in control.

Keep on sharing

One Comment

  1. Genny McGregor

    Thank you, Paul, for this uplifting, insightful and very SPOT-ON article. You are right: although these principles are not novel or new, it is always helpful to see them highlighted in a concise list. It gives us a chance to “check-in”, do some introspection and ensure that we are (as #1 says) doing the right thing.
    As a management and leadership *fanatic*, I am hyper-vigilant about creating and maintaining an authentic culture, using guidelines similar to yours. Seeing the abuses of poor (traditional, archaic, fear-based) leadership breaks my heart. And it’s –still– alive and rampant, even in the most progressive industries. **heavy sigh**
    Keep up the great work, Paul. Your efforts are so greatly cherished and needed!


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