“The Corporate Culture Wars”

Photo Credit: Lisa Marie Wark

“The best way to demotivate and lose top performers is to reward mediocrity in an attempt to maintain status quo”. — Jameson St. Claire

Do you have an interest in leadership? How about effective teams? Both of these items are part of corporate culture. From my many years in business I can tell you what it looks like from the “pointy end of the spear”, and it’s not always pretty.

Companies either have a winning culture or they don’t. Which is not to say that if they don’t have it they can’t get it. They can absolutely get it if they are willing to work at it.

Chemistry is part of culture. Any winning team will have a chemistry that binds them together and is part of the secret sauce of winning. I’m not suggesting that winning teams never experience any friction. They do, but it doesn’t stop them from staying focused on the objective. They keep their eyes on the prize.

What is the reason two companies in the same industry can have vastly different results? We witness it every day as we go about our lives. You can see it in the airline, oil and gas, and retail industries to name just a few. One difference is almost always the cultures of the companies.

Why do some companies enjoy long term success while others struggle? I would argue that the good ones have winning cultures. I think a great example of the importance of culture can be found in college sports. Certain programs field winning teams year after year. This despite the fact they have players rotating in and out constantly. The one constant is the coach, and he sets the culture.

The companies and teams that succeed have very clearly defined sets of winning behaviors. They find a way to mold the individual and the team with the culture.

A winning culture will deliver so many desirable elements. Among them the ability to generate positive results without expending out-sized effort. To maintain a lower level of stress while winning more business. And also to be a more effective leader or team member.


At home you are with your family. At work you are with your colleagues. In both cases you are really part of a team. They are different groups of people to be sure but they function like a team nonetheless. But just like other aspects of our lives, both the family and the work units can be dysfunctional. In both cases the right culture makes the difference.

So, what are the traits of a winning team culture? Well, there are many but some of the key characteristics are:

Generosity — Teams that make decisions based on what is best for the organization as a whole exhibit this trait.

Openness — Insuring that matters are debated openly rather than behind closed doors is a hallmark of great teams.

Coordination — Teams that are in alignment with respect to goals and priorities are more likely to win than those that are not.

Positivity — If everyone believes that their colleagues are supportive, even when not always in agreement, the team will prosper.

Honesty — In all settings, not just teams, we value truthfulness among our peers and colleagues. Teams that exhibit candor as a normal practice will be winners.

Unity — To quote the Three Musketeers, “One for all, and all for one”. Once a decision is made, all team members must support and defend the decision. No backstabbing if things go badly as a result of the decision.

The shaping of a great culture starts with the leadership of the team. The leader is mindful of the needs of each individual as they relate to the team and the larger organization. Formulating the right culture requires the alignment of the behaviors from everyone involved.

We all want to be our best selves as a normal part of life. Aligning our values with those of our team members to arrive at a shared version of our best self is the goal. Once this state of being has been realized the team will begin to function like a well-oiled machine.

An enjoyable and enriching culture will be the outcome, leading to limitless possibilities.

“A man should never be appointed into a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths”. — Peter Drucker