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Global organizations of today are increasingly changing due to challenging environments, employees and customer needs. Current business climate dictates that what differentiates a corporation’s sustainability is the workforce culture that is driven within the wall of its own environment. 

Southwest Airlines shocked the world when they chose to focus on a culture that was laid back, engaging with happiness, and no seat assignments for their patrons. The culture not only drove higher sales, but it also created raving fans that fell in love with that type of customer service. It was more authentic, more real, and more direct. It was their way of "doing things".

When the right culture becomes the glue of an organization it becomes very difficult to replicate when executed successfully. Thus, organizations need their own unique cultural process that meets that needs of their people and their customers. 

Imagine Starbucks; we are all customers. In fact, 45%[1] of all American visited a Starbucks last year. 

Walk into a Starbucks in San Antonio, TX - you will automatically experience their culture. Then, walk into one in New York City, Singapore, Amsterdam, Munich, Dubai, Mexico City or Paris. 

Each one of these has been designed to uphold the winning culture of Starbucks. And guess what? It's not the building or the logo, or even the coffee necessarily. It's the people; and how they act and interact with each other and their customers. Why? Because culture is people driven and only people can sustain the culture of the organization.

A winning culture, established through its people doesn't change - in fact; it's recreated and exported and does not lose its own specifies and unique process.

A strong culture can become a competitive advantage and the thriving forces that differentiate you form the competition. Let's look at some examples:

"Working Together" is vastly expressed by Alan Mulally from Ford Motor Company. 

"Reality is suspended" and "anything is possible" was often exclaimed by Steve Jobs to build a challenging culture at Apple.

A survey conducted by Bain & Company[2] showed that amongst 400 senior executives, culture was strongly disconnected from what it took to win.

Only 15% of those surveyed saw a lack of opportunity as barriers to growth, while the rest saw culture and other components as the main reasons for lack of performance.

Why? Because many have an erroneous view of culture as an emotion making people feel good and not as a way to help empower, engage and grow their employees to perform at higher levels.

Their overall results suggested that companies that become market leaders do three things, “they focus, they simplify, they adapt”, as part of their continuous improvement culture.

High performing companies understand these distinct issues clearly and promote the viable changes to create such a culture. 

Harvard Business Review[3] clarifies that a wining culture is composed of two main ingredients.

Companies that perform at higher levels have a unique identity crated by very specific characteristics that make them stand out from others. This identity provides employees a meaning of fulfillment and collaboration.

High performing cultures also create a strong and viable passion for what they deliver, for their brand and for their customer experience.

By looking at seven strategic drivers, organizations can be properly aligned to experience a performance culture. [4]

 1. Honesty – Integrity is number one for all employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders. People like to work with others who are truthful, sincere and honest. Be real, be true, and be honest. Others will appreciate your candor and sincerity.

 2. Performance focused – All underlying drivers to perform are consistently practiced; development, rewards systems, talent management, training, etc. Walk people through what it means to perform in your organization. Show them the step-by-step roadmap and then give them the practical tools to accomplish it themselves. If their target was 80% and they hit 60%, don’t penalize them for the 20% they missed, but reward them for the 60%! Consistent positive reinforcement with opportunity to fail will encourage them to work stronger and more diligent.

 3. Accountable – Responsible ownership of tasks, roles and authority. At the end of the day someone has to be responsible for tasks, goals, measurements. With consistent check-in's on your people, you will help foster an environment of ownership and accountability. Be close and coach them through the process.

 4. Collaborative – Sharing ideas with each other and build camaraderie in teams. All have been born with creativity. Tap into new ideas, opportunities, suggestions that will benefit the team as a whole. Harvesting such ideas will lead into a culture of innovation that can become a competitive advantage over the competition. Encourage weekly ideas form your team. In fact, take it one step further and make it weekly challenge!

 5. Agile and Adaptive – Flexible and ready for change in response to market demands. "We've never done it like that," can no longer be a way of work or risk avoidance of thriving organizations. The changing business landscape demands quick precise moves that places you as the number one option for your customers. Give your employees the same resilience you desire to provide your market.

 6. Innovative – Help employees foster new ways of thinking, behaving and producing. Sir Richard Branson explains it this way, ABCD "Always Be Connecting the Dots." What dots are your organization missing that others aren't? Often, you have a talented pool of people who can see those errors and design solutions. Be on the lookout for those dot connectors in your organization and provide them opportunities to connect.[5] 

 7. Oriented and Winning – Radical focus on obtaining performance success in all levels of the organization and celebrating wins together. Winning gathers the team together and provides an overall motivation that inspires performance. Listen to Winners, watch Winning episodes, experience live speeches from Winners, and create Winners in your group. The more you promote the urgency to win, the more the winning you will experience.

Performance can be directly connected to the culture of our organizations. Corporations that continue to promote a winning culture often see performance as a direct output of their work.

In today’s rapidly moving business landscape, organizations that establish drivers to promote performance will continue to see success in their horizon.

What is your feedback on your teams and your culture. How are you crafting the correct drivers to promote performance in your organization? If it was all up to you, what would you do?

 1. Statista, “Starbucks – statistics & facts.” 2017

 2. Bain & Company, “New Bain & Company survey of nearly 400 executives worldwide finds only 15% cite lack of opportunities as biggest barrier to growth—lack of focus, organizational complexity and a risk-averse culture to blame.” 2011.

3. Harvard Business Review, “The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture.” 2013.

 4. Ibid.

5. Fast Company, “What is Innovation?”, David Brier.

Alex Sanders is President of Global Executive Institute, a Management Consulting Firm. He specializes in consulting executive leaders and their organizations towards building uncontested market space by constantly creating and constantly solving problems. By taking organizations from Competing to Creating and Challenging Assumptions, Alex guides business leaders towards developing long term Strategic Value Innovation to help Shape their Market Space.

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