A Tale of Two Cultures

Take inventory of what makes your business successful and you will quickly discover that your company’s culture is its most important competitive advantage.

The roots of culture touch every corner of your business. When culture thrives, you attract talented people who perform exceptionally on behalf of the business, which in turn drives positive growth in your numbers. When a company’s culture is broken, your best people move on to other opportunities, and the people who stay are unlikely to act in the business’s best interests, which means profits will eventually falter.

Which is why establishing, shaping and nurturing your culture is profound and impactful work of the highest order and it is only the CEO who can oversee it.

Your company’s culture can either be the result of your choices as the CEO, or it can be the collective result of the unguided, unmonitored choices of your people. Culture is like a plot of land. If you plant crops—and water and care for them—you can grow a lush garden. If you leave the plot unattended, weeds will overrun the property. No matter what, something will grow. That’s how culture works.

Cultures fall into two categories:

1. Least Common Denominator—These cultures are accidental at best, determined by what members do and how leadership reacts, making them fragile and fluid. They break easily and always take the form of what an employee feels is best for him or her. Clients take a backseat in these cultures, and so do the best interests of the business. No mountains are climbed, and no records are set.

2. Intentional—CEOs who take the time to do the difficult work of being intentional about the core ideology of the business are the unsung heroes of the American business landscape. They pour themselves into working every day to make sure that these values are personified in every employee. Their work is not produced, it is breathed into life. In this culture, employees will make choices aligned with business and client interests.

Culture exists whether you want it to or not. If you are intentional about fostering and nurturing your culture, you can harness it. You can use it as an accelerant for growth, pushing you to greater heights. If you are unintentional about your culture, a least common denominator culture will fill the void. This is your garden. What will you plant there?

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