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Thirteen mind-sets that foster great cultures. 10 through 13.

Thirteen mind-sets that foster great cultures. 10 through 13.

Culture is a journey, not a destination. You can’t buy it in a do-it-yourself box, and you can’t install it in an afternoon. It’s all about the road being travelled, and that’s all about the attitude, or mind-set, of the leaders of the brand.

As I studied the habits of great (and not-so-great) cultures, interviewed people leading brands, and spoke to the teams in the trenches, the one constant that kept arising over and over again was mind-set. Mind-set was either the catalyst to a magical culture or it was the culture killer. The desire to build magical culture isn’t enough. The brands that succeeded in building authentic cultures had leaders with distinctive philosophies, approaches, and mind-sets.

The following list of healthy culture mind-sets showed up consistently in the leaders of successful cultures. I ask that you pause and reflect on each of these. If your current mind-set to building culture mirrors these, congratulations. If you recognize an opportunity to adopt one or more of these to give your culture journey a boost, please feel free to do so.

10: Get From, Not Through

The military has a saying I love. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and fast is lethal.” When designing your culture, this statement serves as a great guide. It’s about taking it slow enough to absorb all the nuances, to find the real root of an issue, and to give yourself a fighting chance to remember what you’ve just learned.

My observation of fast-paced entrepreneurial brands is they rarely get from the important things because they are so busy jumping through one thing to another. They just don’t take the time to slow down and put the foundational pieces in place.

Think in terms of building a house. You would never build a house without a strong, well-engineered foundation. Once the foundation is in place, the framing, wiring, plumbing, and heating come next. You do not start to decorate the interior until the walls are up and the roof is on.

There’s no question the pressure is on in our wired world to jump to a solution to solve a problem in no time. Here’s the challenge:

  • By quickly jumping to a solution, although it may appear that things are moving quickly up front, you most likely are adding more waste to the problem/process, because you have not taken the time to understand the root cause.
  • Moving too quickly actually creates more work down the road for someone else, which builds resentment. Resentment will kill culture.
  • The symptom (problem, or what you are experiencing) usually has nothing to do with the root cause.
  • Taking time to understand the root cause actually sets you up for success because you understand all the moving parts, can focus on eliminating the waste, and keep what is of value.
  • Although the upfront time looking at the root cause is slower, in the long run, things will move faster and more smoothly as the waste will be eliminated.
  • If you do not take the time up front to look at the root cause, you will be repeating small errors in judgment. Small errors in judgment will kill your reputation, which will kill your culture.

 11: Engagement

Being engaged starts by living the purpose and core values of the brand each and every day. Demonstrating this does not have to be a massive event. It can be a series of tiny little things that make a huge difference. If everyone is engaged in their own way (big or small), they are all engaged and this engagement builds an incredible rhythm and an awesome culture.

In Vancouver, we have an annual event called the Dragon Boat Festival. In each dragon boat is a group of very dedicated, engaged people that are all rowing in the same direction with incredible focus and pace. They work together in unison. They have a rhythm. What they don’t have is half the team facing one way and the other half facing the other, each rowing in opposite directions.

Building culture is a lot like team rowing. When you build your culture, you build a platform from which to execute. You build brand integrity guidelines to help keep your whole team rowing in the same direction.

Every once in a while you can expect one of your team members to decide they want to row in a different direction. They want to do things the old way, or a new way, on their own, and they do not have time to wait. They just want to get it done, they can do it faster than anyone else, they don’t have time to follow the process, they use shortcuts.

You probably already recognize this scenario.

What generally happens, in this case, is that it sends chaos throughout the team. It causes resentment, it interrupts the rhythm and nothing really good happens because of it. It can completely shut down any culture-building momentum you may have built. To build a successful culture everyone needs to be engaged, and row in the same direction. Each day, ask yourself, and ask each member of your team to ask themselves, this one question:

“What can I do today to get engaged and contribute in my own special way?” Then go act on it.

12: Emotions & Energy

Everything is made up of energy, and our energy affects everything we do. You will need to get your head around this if you are going to build a great culture.

Emotional energy affects mind-set, and a culture is only as strong as the mind-set of a brand’s leadership. The emotional energy and mind-set of the leaders are responsible for inspiring the whole team, for influencing every individual’s energy toward the collective in a positive way.

Collective Energy

If you act as a cohesive unit and the synergy of energy (output) is laser-focused on creating internal and external value, you become very effective. Being effective at the things you focus on is how you build a sustainable culture. If you effectively deliver a great product or service the net effect is that all runs smoothly and the energy of the recipients is enhanced, which allows them, in turn, to direct their energy on growing their business.

Note that I said effective, not efficient. It’s the whole from versus through concept again. A focus on getting from each experience will build effectiveness while rushing through may lead to the perils of efficiency. It’s popular to be efficient, I know, but I believe this popularity to be misplaced. Efficiency is often more about symptom relief while effectiveness breeds root cause identification, among other things. The problem with being efficient is that it is easy to become very efficient at doing, or focusing, on the wrong things. I call this the multiplier effect.

Here is an example. One of the brands that I was working with had a discovery meeting with a potential client about using their services. The potential client explained that their current service provider was very efficient at solving what was initially a relatively minor problem. They came in, assessed, and fixed the issue quickly, well within the timeframe laid out in the service level agreement. But they were so efficient, and fast, that they didn’t check, and then re-check their work. As a result, a compounding problem meant the potential client of the brand I was working with had to shut down their plant for four hours. The service provider may have thought, “Oh well, just a little mistake and a little four-hour shutdown. No big deal.” It was a big deal. The potential client had to send 60 people home. That is 60 people x 4 hours = 240 hours of lost productivity. They value their productivity at $300/hour, so at 240 hours they suffered a productivity output loss of $72,000.00.

This is the multiplier effect at work. If you deliver a poor product or service, the net effect is you most likely will cause the recipients to focus energy on making it right, or waiting to have it made right, and this detracts from what they should be focused on.

So, be very careful when you detect your collective energy focusing on being efficient. Always ask yourself whether you have missed an opportunity to get from and build effectiveness, and where you are instead racing through.

Return on Energy

We talk a lot about ROI, return on investment. ROI is important, but so is ROE. Return on energy. What is the energy cost, and return, and how does that enhance or detract from building culture?

Let’s take a performance example from a team member, or members, that you are unsure about. They may not be living the purpose and core values, or they’re not providing value to the team or your clients. Where do the individual and collective energy go with respect to the amount of time you spend trying to fix, complain about, or change a person? It’s important to direct your energy to grow your ‘A’ players as you grow your culture. Time and energy spent trying to make excuses for people, or to get them to fit with your culture, is wasted time and energy. It is damaging to culture and brings your whole team down.

 Emotional Energy

Depending on how you use emotional energy, it will either enhance or kill your personal reputation and your brand’s culture. I put people and their emotional energy into two camps: accelerators, and detractors.


  • Energy based on a true passion for what they do, a genuine desire to have the best interest at heart for everyone and everything.
  • These people are usually calm, collected, thoughtful, tough when needed, fair, balanced, collaborative, inclusive, introspective and self-aware, and have a good reputation for treating everyone with equality. This is great for culture building.


  • Energy based around “what’s in it for me”.
  • These people can be aggressive, then passive, like things done their way, are externally influenced rather than introspective, focus more on getting through something rather than from it, focus on things that really don’t matter at the end of the day and generally there is an uneasiness about being around them.


So, when you hire new team members or bring on new clients, one of the things you should always look for is an alignment of energy, and in particular emotional energy.This is key.


When you surround yourself with people that are accelerators of emotional energy your culture and brand get an immediate lift. Positivity breeds positivity. Go to great lengths and take care when considering inviting someone to join your team or become a client. You owe that to everyone who is an accelerator.

Surrounding yourself with detractors of emotional energy will kill your culture. And being a detractor on a consistent basis will kill your personal reputation.

I hope I’ve convinced you that it is important to focus the energy on your brand in constructive, thorough and positive ways. I also want to persuade you to consider that your results are directly proportionate to how much energy you and your team commit. Anything in life worth pursuing is worth pursuing with all the energy you have. Full on, full tilt, with laser focus and action. The same applies when building a culture. If you want to build a great culture, a real culture, where you are known as thought leaders and pioneers in your industry, it requires more than a casual approach.

Many people I meet want the results of being part of a great culture, but they aren’t interested in putting in the effort to achieve it. A casual approach = casual results. And if you think others around you (team members, clients, vendors etc.) won’t notice your casual approach, you’re wrong. Taking a casual approach can lead to complacency. And complacency will lead to a broken culture. Not a fun–or profitable–place to be as a brand.

13: Celebration

It is very important to celebrate, whenever and wherever you can. It is good for your culture, and good for your collective team energy and good for your soul.

Oddly, high-performance teams are those most likely to forget to celebrate. It’s because high-performance teams have a fault. That fault is that they are high-performance teams! They move at lightning speed and without knowing it, fall into the habit of getting through things instead of from them.

Let’s take an example from sales. You close a big deal. Big deals are great for your brand and for your culture. They keep the lights on and the pay checks coming. So how do most brands or sales teams celebrate? They say “Great work!” and then move on to the next prospect or lead on their list. What should you do when your team closes a big deal? Given that big sales keep the lights on the pay checks coming, you should celebrate like hell. Play loud music, do the money dance, ring the bells, cheer, high-five each other, pop the champagne… you get the picture.

 This is one way you and your teams get from the event or experience, and not just through it.

For culture mind-set 7 through 9 click here:


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