It’s Your Choice: Sit Back and Let Culture Happen or Intentionally Craft a Culture That Drives Performance

By Nicole Bendaly

We know that corporate cultures are always growing and evolving – they’re built on a foundation of values and behaviours, but as teams and organizations change so too does the culture. When leaders aren’t focused on deliberately growing and nurturing their corporate culture, when they let culture evolve on its own, they take a big risk: will the culture evolve in a manner that is best for the organization? Chances are it won’t.

Top performing organizations today are those that are focused on very intentionally crafting a high performance culture – they put culture at the centre of their strategy, and their senior leadership teams understand the importance of operationalizing culture and embedding it within the everyday operations of each and every function across the organization.

In a recent culture study by PWC, 66 per cent of C-suite executives and Board members surveyed said that culture is now more important to performance that strategy of the operating model. And from the surveys that we do with our clients at Waterstone and through our Canada’s Most Admired program, we know that when it comes to the question “who drives culture within your organization?” there’s a shift happening – respondents still indicate that the CEO, senior leadership and HR absolutely drive culture, but now more than ever they’re also saying, “Me. I do.”

In high performing organizations, individuals know they’re accountable, and feel they’re accountable to the culture. “I drive culture within my organization” is what all high performance organizations should be striving for – it’s a really strong indication that an organization is intentionally crafting culture, and that their people are engaged with the culture that is being created.

While every corporate culture is unique – in fact, culture is the one thing about an organization that cannot be exactly duplicated – intentional, high performance cultures share a few key attributes:

  • leaders enable their team members to demonstrate the candor, accountabili­ty, respect, and interpersonal risk taking that are essential to performance;
  • leaders create a collaborative and co-operative environment where team members are empowered to be proactive and to look for opportunities to contribute to the team and to the organization’s success;
  • leaders actively seek to understand what is most meaningful to each of their team members and then align each team members’ individual desire for purpose in their work with the organization’s purpose, vision, and strategy;
  • leaders con­nect team members to the impact they have on success, team members know their work is valued;
  • leaders foster continuous learning, allowing team members to embrace discomfort and agility, and to operate with the ambiguity, flexibility, and risk-taking that is required to thrive in today’s work environment.

Without a strong, clearly defined culture, your leaders won’t know how to lead, and your team members won’t have the tools or accountability to really engage with the organization and really drive performance – personal or professional.

Top performing organizations today take a deliberate approach to culture. At Waterstone, we use a tool called the Waterstone Culturepreneur Operating System to guide leaders and organizations through a process that includes:

  1. Assessing your current state
  2. Crafting your desired culture
  3. Planning for how you’ll get from where you are to where you want to be
  4. Implementing what’s needed to develop your leaders and transition your culture
  5. Aligning your systems and process to your desired culture

Transitioning your culture isn’t fast (or easy); nurturing and evolving your culture is an ongoing process that takes a commitment from the whole team. Top performing organizations today are putting in the time and effort to ensure that culture is embedded within every aspect of the organization so that every leader, every team owns the culture and that it’s embedded into the fabric of the organization. And then most importantly, they keep an eye on things – with annual and pulse surveys that measure the behaviours and practices you need to see most in your organization to drive the performance of it and drive a high performance culture is essential.

Learn more about crafting culture here.