the ‘Wheel of Culture!’

Ever been part of a really great organization — whether it be a company, non-profit, or community group? An organization that just seems to be chugging along, knocking down barriers, getting things done, and everyone wants to be a part of it?

Those fortunate enough to experience a powerhouse culture know the incredibleness (I don’t think that’s a word) of what a group of people can do. There seems to be no bounds, the future is always on everyone’s mind and it’s hard to find a frown in the place. (To those of you who haven’t experienced one, seek out these organizations, read articles and books about them, discuss them & model your businesses after them. They exist. Trust me.)

These truly great organizations recognize what I like to call the “Wheel of Culture,” they feed it, and leadership spends every waking moment trying to make it better.

The “Wheel of Culture!”

Some quick definitions for you (so we’re all on the same page)

PEOPLE — they’re the humans in your office :)
WHY — Simon Sinek, author of the book Start With Why, defines WHY as “the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.” (btw…money is not a why)
CULTURE — PEOPLE x WHY = CULTURE. CULTURE is the culmination of all of the events, thoughts, ideas, practices, language, actions, decisions, etc. that shape an organization.

So what is the Wheel of CULTURE? The Wheel is made up of these three elements: the PEOPLE, the WHY, and the CULTURE. Each element is intrinsically linked to the other two and is constantly improving, constantly in motion. Think about those really great organizations I talked about above, I guarantee they’re “rollin’ the Wheel of CULTURE “…and it all starts with their leader.

When a leader is able to identify their WHY, communicate their WHY, and act & make decisions in ways consistent with their WHY — great things happen!

When that same leader is able to gather other individuals who believe in that WHY, you start to lay the foundation for a tremendous CULTURE!

Tremendous CULTURES are inherently stable, with each part of the wheel improving off the other two parts. PEOPLE feed the WHY & CULTURE; the WHY feeds the PEOPLE & CULTURE; the CULTURE feeds the PEOPLE and the WHY. The system is regenerative, and like a bike in motion, it wants to stay upright, it wants to attract great PEOPLE, it wants to share & further its WHY and it wants to touch the hearts & minds of as many PEOPLE as possible…all it requires is a little pedaling.

Cultures are like bikes — the great ones are inherently stable — they want to stay great.

How do I get my organization’s “wheel” moving?

1.) Find your WHY — If you have no direction, no purpose other than to show up, get your paycheck, “maximize shareholder value,” grow earnings, etc. your capacity for success will be limited. PEOPLE, both consumers & employees, want to be part of something. PEOPLE want to associate with organizations that believe what they believe, act the way they act, and represent something more than just “what” they’re selling. At right is a video from Simon Sinek’s 2009 TEDx, there’s a reason this has over a million views, check it out.

2.) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate your WHY — Integrate your WHY into everything. Into your hiring process, “on-boarding,” advertising, internal newsletters, company slogans, the company picnic/annual meeting, etc.. Everyone in your organization should know your WHY, and should be emotionally charged when it is talked about. When you’re able to emotionally connect with PEOPLE, connecting with what they believe, you’re able to go far!

3.) COACH YOUR PEOPLE! — I’m happy to say that in 2015, more dollars will be spent on learning, training & development than in any previous year…BUT, too often dollars are spent on bland, ineffective company-wide training (you know, the 2–3 day “leadership” training you’re required to attend every year). In order to develop our PEOPLE, we must coach on a one-on-basis. We must take the time, and money, to dedicate ourselves to our PEOPLE.

4.) Get out of your CULTURE’S way! — When you have great PEOPLE and a great WHY, get out of the way! As mentioned above, great CULTURES are regenerative. Abolish the countless committees, silos, useless meetings, redundancy, lack of autonomy, etc.. Simply FOCUS ON YOUR PEOPLE, FOCUS ON YOUR WHY, and watch tremendous things happen!


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