Is Your Culture Blinding You?

· by Alicia Leary

Alicia is the Marketing Team Lead at HTI. She started her career with HTI in 2015 as a Sales Coordinator.
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Show of hands if you wear corrective lenses. (You can’t see me right now, but I am holding my hand up.) It always amazes me how over time, if left unattended, you begin to lose focus. It often takes a professional showing us how much clearer things can be before we notice what we have been missing.

What is my point, you ask? I recently attended the Great Places to Work conference in Dallas, Texas, and for lack of a better description, my vision became clearer. This event was attended  by over 400 companies from 48 countries and hosted many of the industries’ Top 100 Places to Work as ranked by

Keynote speakers Dick Costolo from Twitter and Kevin Cleary from Clif bar, along with countless others, shared their insights on how to create a dynamic culture that drives excellence and defines them as a Great Place to Work.

While strategic execution for each organization was unique, the messages shared came back to six understandings:

  1. Know Your Purpose 

    “Work without purpose is drudgery”- Kevin Cleary, Clif Bar. Whether it is your Value Proposition, your Mission/Vision Statement, or your Why, great organizations have a very clear sense of who they are and the impact they want to make on the world. It is the responsibility of leadership to clearly define the organization’s mission and live it daily.

  1. Communicate Constantly

    “You can’t tell your people you love them through a PowerPoint slide, even if it’s a really good PowerPoint slide”, stated an anonymous employee survey participant. Regular, clear communication that supports and reinforces your purpose empowers your employees to innovate, create, and execute solutions that will ultimately improve the experience of the customer, the employee, and the organization.

  1. Be Transparent

    When combined with communication, transparency is the most powerful tool of a strong culture. Celebrate your victories, but learn from your mistakes. Managers who openly communicate their mistakes foster an environment where employees are more willing to bring to light issues as they arise. Reward integrity and nurture a culture of honesty.

  1. Work-Life Balance is a Myth

    “It’s not a cult, it’s culture.”- David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions. The strongest cultures encourage Work-Life Integration; seeking to have the whole employee at work. This is achieved through developing a sense of community. Encouraging diverse social/community groups creates an environment where employees view their coworkers as a second family. A sense of Work-Life Integration has  been proven to reduce turnover and absenteeism while increasing employee engagement.

  1. Hold People Accountable

    Whether your organization is in the process of culture change or has made it to the 100 Best Places to Work elite, the accountability of your leaders, your managers, and your team is essential. A quote from an additional anonymous employee survey participant stated that “you will lose your strong performers if you do not address your weak ones.” Every decision you make is a vote for your culture. What are your votes saying?

  1. It’s a Journey, not a Destination

    “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree a long time ago.”- Warren Buffet. Developing a strong culture is hard work. The easiest stance to take is no stance at all. Like any good relationship, it takes active, deliberate effort to cultivate an environment of mutual trust and understanding. Leaders are often reticent to draw lines in the sand because of fear that people we care about will be standing on the other side, but strong cultures require long term commitments.

At the end of the day, time saving initiatives and process improvements can only produce so much. We are human. We need to know that what we are doing matters and that we serve a purpose greater than ourselves. Simon Sinek said it best, “if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

Do you know what you believe? Do your associates? If the answer is no, today may be they day to plant a tree for the future, or at least consider getting your vision checked.