Building a Happy Leadership Culture – It’s Possible!

by Lee Ellis

“I came to see, in my decade at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”

– Lou Gerstner, Chairman, and CEO IBM 1993 – 2002 [Tweet This]

Think of the organizations that have strong connections with you—more than great service or products, you have a strong, emotional connection with them. To achieve this level of engagement, they’ve likely worked very hard to create an internal culture that reflects their external culture.

Current Culture Examples

I realized how popular the NASCAR brand had become a few years ago while facilitating a group of PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants, most of whom were only a few years out of college. During a break in the action, two of the young ladies carried on a long, informed discussion about the Bristol Race, which had occurred the previous weekend. I was amazed to see how NASCAR had transcended its provincial beginnings and gained loyal fans in sophisticated business circles.

Zappos Shoes is another compelling example of building culture and employee engagement with its staff and customers. They’re so committed to creating a culture of passionate, engaged employees that they now offer $5000 to anyone that would like to leave the company at the end of their training period. If a one-time bonus exceeds one’s commitment to the Zappos brand, then they want to know at the beginning of the relationship.

There are many other examples of companies making their mark in their respective industries—Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, and Duke Energy just to name a few. Their cultural development process is more than a tactical plan—it’s a deeper layer that taps into the emotions and deep desires of human nature.

In the work that Leading with Honor does every day, we also use the power of understanding natural behavior and managing differences to build a strong culture through tools like Leadership Behavior DNA.

The Honor of Building a Winning Culture

“Organizational cultures are shaped by the values and beliefs established by leaders and shared by the people and groups in the organization.” [Tweet This]

Positive cultures increase motivation, teamwork, and commitment. With a clear understanding about core values, operating styles, and standards of behavior, people can focus their unique talents and energies toward common goals. A common mindset also enables people to operate independently, while remaining aligned with the values and policies of senior leaders.

To also build a more cohesive culture, many organizations (and my clients) utilize behavioral assessment tools like Leadership Behavior DNA to meld the unique behaviors of team members into a cultural whole that maximizes the contributions of each person.

Establishing a culture requires clarity, commitment, and creativity:

  • Clarity about vision, mission, core values, and operational policies. Over-communication is a key to clarity—sharing it multiple times, multiple ways.
  • Commitment to the organization’s mission and defined values. An over-arching principle in the military is a “Be responsible, No excuses” attitude, for example. Creating an attitude of ownership and healthy accountability with your team also cranks up the commitment level.
  • Creativity to make the cultural story unique and compelling. What are some ways that you can make the culture-building process more fun or emotional? Think beyond a set of rules and descriptors.

Once the culture is defined, it must be communicated fervently and frequently, until it is caught and bought in every corner and on every level of the organization.

The Big Payoff

What’s the payoff for creating strong employee engagement and a positive culture?

In a Gallup article, organizations that engage their employees grow their earnings more than 2.5 times faster than organizations that do not. In addition, “optimized” teams within an organization — those that are in the top 50% of teams on both employee and customer engagement — generate a 240% boost in financial performance compared with teams that fail to engage their employees and their customers.

In summary:

  • Engaged employees yield engaged customers.
  • Engaged customers yield happy, committed customers.
  • Happy, committed customers enthusiastically use and enjoy your products and services as part of their lives.

It’s an emotional process that yields positive strategic and tactical outcomes. What has been your experience and tactical steps to creating a winning culture? Please share your comments.


[Tweet this Article]

Related Articles:


Gallup Article

Building Culture by Learning to Manage Differences

Every human is unique — and the best leaders know why this might be an advantage. Learn how embracing different talents and abilities, both our own and those of others, can lead to more effective leadership and success.

Grounded in statistical research and supported by data from millions of clients and more than 45 years of workplace experience, Lee Ellis and Hugh Massie reveal their personal stories and experience on how they’ve successfully helped organizations achieve their goals by applying practical insights on human design.

Get Your Copy

Additional discount available for bulk orders.

“…There are few that have made significant strides on making ‘knowing yourself’ operational and real as Lee and Hugh have in this marvelous book. Reading this book is a compelling adventure. If you follow the path, you will change for the better!” Richard Boyatzis, Co-author of the international best seller, Primal Leadership and the new Helping People Change

“This is the book that I have longed for during my decades in managing talent. Having seen the positive impact of DNA Behavior on my teams, this is a must-read for leaders who desire to build strong teams by accelerating natural talents in an authentic and lasting way.” – Belva White, CPA, MBA, Vice President for Finance & Treasury, Emory University






Leave a Reply