What Successful CEO’s are Saying About Corporate Culture

Businessman at Press Conference

One thing that most successful CEOs have in common is an almost fanatical focus on their organization’s culture.

In January 2015, Entrepreneur Magazine wrote an article quoting Virgin Groups’ Founder Richard Branson. He said:“Culture is one of the most underappreciated essentials in business: No matter how visionary, brilliant and far-reaching a leader’s strategy might be, it can all come undone if it is not fully supported by a strong and spirited corporate culture.”

How connected is your culture to your strategy? How can you better align your culture to deliver remarkable results?

David Novak, chairman of Yum! Brands, parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC believes the only way to make big things happen is to take people with you. David advises, “If you’re one person getting big things done that’s pretty good, but it will take you only so far. If you can help a whole team or organization full of people reach big goals, then there’s no telling what you can accomplish together.”

For David it’s all about creating a culture where people are encouraged, appreciated and their results are celebrated. He says, “The most important thing you can do as a leader is create an environment where everyone knows that what they do makes a difference.”

Does your culture bring your people with you?

Tobias Lutke is the CEO of Shopify and the Globe and Mail’s Canadian CEO of the year for 2014. In an interview with Year One Labs, Tobias declared that a fantastic company culture is the price of admission. “Your product is a manifestation of the company that built it, just like paintings are a manifestation of the painter behind them. No great product has ever been made by people who didn’t love their work. I could list all the crazy stuff we do for having fun, but the point is that every company has a different DNA and I doubt you can adopt another company’s culture wholesale to fix your own. If your company culture is mediocre you won’t fix it by having Street Fighter tournaments.”

As the leader in your organization you are the artist. What culture are you painting at your workplace?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos hasn’t always got the culture thing right. With one of his first companies, LinkExchange, Tony said:, “I think we did a decent job with the right skill sets and experiences. But we didn’t know any better than to pay attention to company culture. And not everybody we hired was good for our culture. By the time we got to 100 people, I, myself, was dreading getting out of bed in the morning to go to my own company.”

However, by the time he got to Zappos, Tony knew better. “Researchers found it actually doesn’t matter what your core values are. What matters is that you have them and you align the entire organization around them; and you’re willing to hire and fire people based on having nothing to do with their actual job performance. Our whole belief is if you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long-term brand or business will just be a natural byproduct,”

How committed are you to purposely managing your organization’s culture?

These and many other successful CEO’s have made their corporate culture a priority. They’re applying the attention necessary to getting it right. You, too, can deliberately design your culture! Start by getting a baseline on the culture that exists today. Only then can you mix the right paints and create the work of art your organization deserves to be.

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