Create a Company Growth Culture in 5 Steps

Highlights

  • A company growth culture is a business differentiator and revenue growth accelerator.
  • A high-performance growth culture is a sustainable competitive advantage that delivers improved labor productivity, customer engagement and revenue growth.
  • For most organizations, company culture is the single biggest untapped asset to boost staff productivity, employee tenure and company growth.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Every business has a corporate culture. Few have a growth culture.

When the corporate ethos advances to a growth culture it accelerates business transformation and lifts staff productivity, customer engagement and company revenues. In my three decades of management consulting, serving the Fortune 50 to the Fortune 5000, I've never witnessed significant or sustained revenue growth or business transformation without company-inspired values and behaviors.

While the business strategy plots the roadmap to move the company from vision to action, the company ethos delivers the informal customs and norms to move the organization from the status quo to something greater.

And while strategy is periodically measured, the company ethos is pervasive and perpetual. It's demonstrated in the shared values, unspoken behaviors and social norms that recognize what is encouraged, discouraged, rewarded and penalized. While business strategy and corporate culture are symbiotic, most leaders recognize their ethos is far more powerful than their strategy. In the infamous words of Peter Drucker, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

A 5 Step Process

To achieve the strategic benefits of a growth culture, you need to build on a foundation of five pillars that collectively drive high-performance behaviors and results.

Growth Culture Pillars
1

Ideology & Identity

The first pillar is company ideology. It defines a unique identify that stands for something important. Companies may have cultural identities such as pioneers, innovators, disruptors, or even outliers. These identities create an image that staff want to be a part of and an energy that permeates the company.

It's not the content of the ideology that inspires, motivates and galvanizes staff. It's the meaningfulness, authenticity, conviction and alignment throughout the organization.

2

An Inspiring Purpose

The second pillar is purpose. The goal is to affirm your overarching dedication to the ideology and drill down a level. It broadcasts who you are, what you consider to be important, and why you do what you do. It shapes what you do and how you do it.

While many companies interchange purpose and mission statements, they are different. Purpose statements are more focused on your reason for being. Purpose creates a goal that is bigger than any person. It thereby elevates the company ethos from a paycheck to a principle, instills pride and creates an emotional employee experience.

Growth Culture

In contrast, a company mission statement is a concise and inspiring declaration of what the company does for others. Mission statement beneficiaries may include employees, customers, stakeholders, community or the world.

In the absence of a clear purpose, most staff will believe the company's purpose is to make money. Achieving a profit is a business essential, but it's not a purpose that contributes to employee engagement. Company profits do little to inspire employees because profits are somebody else's money, and at best indirectly linked to staff motivation.

3

A Clear Vision and Destination

The third pillar is a clear vision of the company's destination. The destination may not be a last stop but a gate on the way to something greater.

The vision is the company's true North and provides clear strategic direction even when tactical direction is not clear or conditions are fluid. Company leaders communicate the vision frequently and management ensure employees understand how they contribute to the journey.

A good vision is clear, compelling and inspirational. It instills pride and creates an emotional employee experience. Most visions are aspirational, such as solving a complex problem, achieving something that has never been done, doing something better than anybody else or arriving to a destination.

According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace research, only 22 percent of employees agree that leadership has a clear direction for the organization, and only 15 percent agree that the direction makes them enthusiastic about the future.

4

Core Values

Core values are essential and enduring guiding principles. They align to the ideology, inspire actions, influence choices and incur consequences when violated.

Clear values create the social norms that give employees safety in their interpersonal communications, confidence in their decision making, and alignment with the company's ideology and purpose.

Corporate values without clear descriptions or management reinforcement are left to interpretation and voluntary participation. A lack of values will result in inconsistent actions, unintended behaviors, lower productivity, slower decision making and an overall wild west operational environment. Some staff will successfully navigate undefined or unclear expectations, but the majority will incur anxiety and missteps.

Core values are the most visible evidence among your pillars. Values are deeds, not words. If you can't physically see them in the workplace, they don't really exist.

Companies with growth cultures generally have 3 to 6 core values. If you have more than 6, you risk they are not really core.

Ideology and core values are generally the only things the company doesn't change. Most companies seek to change everything but their core values. They thrive on change and leverage it for continuous performance improvement.

5

Signature Behaviors

Behaviors bring clarity to personal accountability. They guide how staff work and provide confidence to staff that they are doing the right things right.

You cannot manage attitude, but you can manage behaviors. That make behaviors a powerful management tool.

Behaviors may directly align with values, but they don't have to. Common values and behaviors include things like integrity, respect, hard work and professionalism. However, many high-performance companies exclude these basic conducts as they are more of a cost of entry than something to aspire.

Instead, these top performers focus on behaviors that are not so obvious and create unique strengths. They often seek these strengths in the areas of engagement, collaboration, productivity, accountability and a rewarding work environment. I refer to these types of behaviors as signature behaviors. They are embedded in the daily operations and provide direct support for the mission and strategy. They become the visible behaviors the company is known for.

Actions Over Words

A growth culture is defined by what you do, not what you say. An ideology, without living and reinforced values and behaviors, doesn't work. The unfortunate but common approach of drafting culture design in isolation and then delivering a proclamation, sometimes called Management by Announcement, results in certain failure.

Unless the ideology is supported with frequent and vocal executive sponsorship, and management communicate, model, measure and reinforce values and behaviors, the effort serves no productive purpose.

However, when the company advances from words to actions, it instills clear norms to give employees safety, lenses to view opportunities and obstacles, levers to manage company growth and guardrails to maintain operational governance.

Company Culture is a Choice

Every company has a culture. Most low performance environments are a consequence of unplanned actions, unmanaged behaviors, and random outcomes. In contrast, high performance environments are proactively designed and in a constant state of awareness and improvement.

High performance cultures and high business performance are inextricably linked. If you want to see some real-world examples, just read the trade magazines in your industry. These companies have stories of impressive growth, market dominance and the conquering of competitors.

At first glance it can look like their success is the result of a superior product or charismatic leader. But these business leaders are likely the first to admit that products are easily copied and charismatic leaders are over-rated.

A deeper look will show these business leaders subscribed to some or all of the five growth culture pillars and as a result created their future by doing something unique and bigger than themselves.

See the 5 steps to transition an unmanaged company ethos into a high-performance growth culture.

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