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COMPANY CULTURE

Leadership Rule No. 1: Epitomize Your Company Culture

Only one thing is universal about company culture: You can't delegate it.
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The definition of company culture varies dramatically from leader to leader.  Some see it as the extent to which employees are engaged in their work.  Others view it as how well the company has defined--and employees live according to--core values.  Yet others describe it as the feeling you get when you walk through the front door and into the lobby.  Maybe it's a combination of all of those things.  Either way, all three definitions (and any others) are a direct reflection of the personality of the leader.

If you recognize this and take advantage of it yourself, you'll see tremendous results in your business.  As the leader, your company culture is only as valuable as your personal role in it.  

Company Culture Is About Authenticity

I originally thought that shifting culture-building responsibility to existing employees at BerylHealth, which I founded, would get those programs done.  But I soon realized that those employees needed ongoing cultural direction from me and I had to participate in the culture we were creating, not simply behave as a bystander.  If you don't commit to institutionalizing your culture initiatives as essential to your business, and implement traditions yourself, your employees will think you are disingenuous.  

To that end, I've dressed up in crazy outfits, made funny videos, attended community service events, espoused the importance of core values, and written thousands of personal notecards to recognize milestones in the lives of my employees.

Culture Became My Competitive Advantage

Over the years, I realized that company culture became something that was deeply aligned with my values.  And because the culture was grounded in that, it became the award-winning secret sauce that my customers feel and all stakeholders value.

This isn't to say that employees can't lead and execute on your culture programs.  However, you have to set the vision and give them permission to use their creativity to do the culture-building things they are passionate about.

Now that I've sold BerylHealth to Stericycle, a publicly-traded company with 13,000 employees, I am honored that--because of my culture experience--the role I will segue into is Stericycle's chief culture officer.  I'm excited to help define and shape the culture of a company that is spread over 12 countries, and implement programs that will enhance the lives of all employees.

Culture Remains the Boss' Job

But I have no illusions that my new role gives me the ability to set the tone or the culture vision for Stericycle.  That job is reserved for Charlie Alutto, who after 15 years with the company became CEO in January.  He will have the distinct opportunity and challenge to make this journey part of his legacy and a part of what Stericycle is all about.  I'm just there to establish programs, recruit passionate volunteers, and scale what I was able
to do at BerylHealth--now for a much larger company.  I'm up for the challenge.

As a leader, you can and should delegate most of your company's day-to-day operational work to those who have the talent to do it.  But you can't abstain from your responsibility to create the culture that drives your company's potential success.  

Last updated: Mar 28, 2013

PAUL SPIEGELMAN | Columnist | CEO of BerylHealth

Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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