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Building Culture is Real Work

I think we can all agree that corporate culture isn’t pizza parties, ping pong tables, and corporate pep rallies. The real work of creating culture is getting the right people in the right places, empowering teams with effective tools and processes, eliminating overlap and duplication of effort, and creating clear career paths. 


I've been talking with people a lot about culture recently. Building great culture isn't easy work. Yet, it might be the most powerful thing you can do for your team to get more done. 

Here's what I've learned so far from all of those conversations -- creating culture starts with gaining a deep understanding of what people want out of their jobs. 

  • People want their jobs to be predictable. Chaotic environments leave employees feeling anxious and stressed out. Your number one job as culture setter is to reduce or eliminate chaos.
  • People want to do their jobs well. Make it a priority to give your people the right training and tools to be successful. Teach them to work independently rather than making them feeling incompetent when you intervene, correct, or micromanage.
  • They want to add value. When they start to feel like their job is unimportant, they disengage. Ensure they know why they are doing their work. Prioritize what’s important and take pointless tasks off their plate.
  • They want to learn and grow in their career. Career advancement is important in the long run. In the short run, the opportunity to learn through positive feedback, new tasks or bigger projects is more important.
  • They want to be fairly compensated. Undervaluing people erodes culture. People start to focus on the fact that they can get paid better elsewhere. All the other elements of their role then have to overcome the fact that they could make more somewhere else. 

I purposefully put the compensation bullet last. In my experience, when a company or a team becomes a “revolving door,” there are more cultural issues than compensation issues. Sure, people find better paying jobs and say they’re leaving for more compensation. The question is, why were they looking? Why did they take that recruiter call? Of course, a giant jump in compensation pushes them to take the leap. The real issue, though, is often that the gap in compensation only validates their suspicion that they were being undervalued.

Valuing people for their contributions and growing them into their next job is what gets them to stay. Make it easy for them to be successful. Invest in their development. That’s a successful culture. They won’t even think about leaving.

If you are looking for support for the middle managers in your organization, or you’re a middle manager looking for coaching, send me a message at