Culture matters in business -- and a growing number of CEOs are acknowledging this. In a recent Vistage survey of 1,518 CEOs and business leaders, 65 percent reported they "strongly agree" that culture is critical to their company's performance and success. Another 60 percent said they "strongly agree" that the development and promotion of culture is an organizational priority.
At the same time, many CEOs said that their company's culture has fallen short of impact. In fact, only 16 percent of those we surveyed say that they're satisfied with the strength of their culture.
1. A great culture is built on a foundation of trust.
Trust is a powerful force. It builds connections between people, provides a sense of security, and invites employees to focus on their goals without fear. It also fosters community, encourages collaboration, and helps guide behavior in a company. All of these elements form the foundation of a great culture.
If you're the CEO of your company, building trust starts with you. Demonstrate your leadership competency and employees will trust in your decisions and direction. You'll also build trust by being transparent with your employees, consistent in your behavior, and honest in your decision making. Developing strong relationships with people at all levels of the organization will also go a long way.
2. A great culture is reinforced by words and actions.
Culture is reflected in both what people say and what people do. It is shaped by how your employees talk about your company and the people connected to your company (e.g., customers, co-workers, managers, and leaders). It is also influenced by how you and your employees describe your mission, vision, and purpose. Clear, consistent communication reinforces cultural beliefs.
Your behavior, and the behavior of others in your company, also impacts culture. If you are always late to a meeting, that sets an expectation that it's OK for anyone to be late. Rituals offer observable evidence of culture. Company meetings, team meetings, cross-functional meetings, and one-to-one meetings involve rituals of interaction and expectations that either strengthen or degrade culture.
3. A great culture is connected to mission, vision, and strategy.
Culture becomes relevant when it directly connects to the business strategy. Ideally, your company's strategy should be informed by your mission and vision, which in turn guide your company's culture. The mission should speak to your company's business and deliverables. Meanwhile, your vision should speak to what is possible for the company in the future. A vision that identifies a clear end-state helps facilitate decision making and establishes priorities.
4. A great culture is powered by purpose.
Purpose is the backbone of a strong culture. It binds people working together, in all capacities, to realize rewards beyond financial performance. It connects beliefs, values, and social responsibility with business goals and objectives. Purpose is the why, not the what, that fuels the organization and drives human behavior. If your company has a clear purpose, it will give meaning to your employees' work and motivate them for reasons that go beyond a paycheck.