5 Tips to Create the Culture You Want

by Valerie Schlitt

July 16, 2018

The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.

—Edgar Schein

This is one of my favorite quotes by leading culture expert and best-selling author of Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar Schein. In my 40+ years of experience as both an employee and now a business owner, I have seen the truth of this statement demonstrated over and over again.

I own a B2B cold-calling and appointment-setting operation, which typically has a notoriously high turnover rate. However, ours is only 9.6%. In fact, most of us have worked together for 10+ years. Our high retention rate is the bedrock of the success of my company. You may be wondering: how have we managed to retain the best talent? Simple. It’s the culture.

I will humbly admit that I stumbled into this culture by way of past experiences and the particular constraints of being a start-up, not by any exceptional genius or insight. However, I will pat myself on the back for having the where-with-all to recognize that a supportive culture was the key to my success. During my company’s 16-year lifespan I have taken great care of that culture to ensure its survival through all stages of growth.

Here are my 5 tips for creating a winning business culture:

1. Remember that You Are the Orchestrator, NOT the Boss.

The term orchestrator comes from Edgar Schein, called the “father of organizational development” and bestselling author of Humble InquiryThe newest of the Humble Leadership series, Humble Leadershipwill be coming out later this fall. The idea is that instead of being the traditional boss who tells others what to do, you are instead the orchestrator that enables the abilities and strengths of your staff to achieve the goals of the company. This viewpoint is outlined as one of the core principles of The New Leadership Paradigm. A great orchestrator is not afraid to hire people smarter and more qualified than they are. In fact, they seek out those people, as a conductor that wants the best musicians playing in their orchestra would.

2. Walk the walk, talk the talk.

Culture isn’t just lip service. It’s as important as living and breathing. In order to have a healthy workplace where people feel that actions are just as important as what is being said, leaders must set the example of the level of integrity that is the standard for your organizational culture.

3. Inspire with a Clear Vision.

We all want to be inspired. We all want to be part of something larger than ourselves. It’s in our DNA. The foundation of that inspiration starts with how we communicate. Author and leadership expert Ken Blanchard notes that effectively communicating with your employees promotes engagement, development, and provides them with opportunities to succeed in the organization. Your staff needs to first clearly understand the vision of your company and then be inspired to work towards that vision.

4. Build a Team.

In today’s complex world of B2B sales, no one can fly solo anymore. To accomplish anything in this growing market, you need an outstanding team of people. A study from the Harvard Business Review finds that most industries place a strong emphasis on developing collaborative teams because it builds a sense of community amongst their employees to achieve their goals.  A great team is comprised of talented players who value each other, support each other, communicate openly with one another, and have fun together.

5. Value Your Staff. 

This is a big one. Maybe the biggest of them all. Every employee holds value, not just because of what they can do for your company but because of who they are. Your employees occupy a space in this world that is much larger than the confines of their roles at your company. If you can demonstrate value for their whole selves as well as what they do for your business, you’ll create and sustain a healthy work environment where your employees reach their full potential and understand their worth. This is the key to avoiding running into issues with recruitment or retention.

At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy. It’s the motivation underlying every human endeavor. Given the choice between a little more money and a happier place to work, most people will choose the latter. If you can create a business culture where employees actually want to come to work, then you will have created a true foundation for business success. 

Valerie Schlitt  holds an MBA from The Wharton School and started her business career at American Express and also worked at Travelers, CIGNA, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG Consulting. After a successful corporate career in marketing and consulting, she created VSA from her family room in 2001. VSA is a high-end B2B Lead Generation and Appointment Setting firm with more than 100 employees. Throughout Valerie’s leadership of VSA, Valerie has leveraged her people management, direct marketing and consulting skills build and sustain her business. VSA is thrilled to have been named as one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work 2018.

Topics: Your Team, Workplace Culture, People and Culture

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