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Posted: October 26, 2011

The gifts of a great organizational culture

Here are three

Steve Sorensen

One of the most requested talks I give is "Connecting the Dots to Create a High Performance, High Profit Business." The talk ranges from the role of social media, the future of hiring, trends in leadership etc. However, the most important (or enlightening) point that I go out of my way to underscore is the power of a positive culture and the extraordinary profits that come with it.

"C" level audiences must hear the message of: "The culture you have is the one you've created." The reaction is instantaneous and leaves little doubt as to which "C" level person is in trouble and which one understands how to create a winning culture. Our workers tend to mirror our actions. If we're a visionary, positive, authentic leader, we create a radically successful, strategic organization of empowered workers. If we're tactical, autocratic, micromanagers, we will have a tactical, ineffective, disenfranchised workforce. In short, high performance organizations embrace a strategy based in continuous cultural implementation and improvement.

I've discovered three gifts that great organizational cultures bring:

Gift #1: The best and the brightest. Hiring is always a challenge. Hiring into a dysfunctional culture or highly functional culture is a self fulfilling prophecy. High-performing people seek out the positive cultures of high performance organizations. High-performing people attract other high-performing people. In contrast, highly dysfunctional organizations/people attract highly dysfunctional people.
Obviously, your culture is the face and attitude that your workforce interprets and delivers to clients, the community and their co-workers. Only through cultural audits will you know your culture barometer and what steps required to enhance your chance of hiring and keeping the best and the brightest. If you've not yet preformed your cultural audit this year - it's time.

Gift #2: Clients chose to do business with you. (Or not to do business with you). Happy employees create happy customers, happy customers buy more from you at a higher price, spend more time with you and refer you to others. It costs 6-to-8 times more to sell a new client than to sell to an existing one. Great organizational cultures think of their clients as partners then design their programs based on strategic customer engagements. This means a value proposition based on the clients' business drivers, not yours and your salesperson's quota.
Clients today are becoming more sophisticated and have numerous choices of whom they will do business with. They will seek out those who look to fulfill their needs with real solutions. not salespeople pushing widgets. Stop selling - start engaging.

Gift #3 : Reduced costs, improved revenue. Would you rather increase top line revenue growth or cut expenses? Hopefully you've said "both." Two of the biggest financial hurdles to creating a high profit, high performance organization are customer churn ratios and costs associated with workforce turnover. Organizations that foster great cultures are sought out by workers (reducing hiring expense) and become the employer of choice. These workers are more inclined to stay and help attract peers that are high performers (reducing high turnover costs). They are also interested in career advancement and typically advance into the leadership pipeline, (reducing expenses associated with succession planning, possessing skills and knowledge based on your organizations leadership needs).

A culture that focuses on real customer solutions and customer engagements will attract a higher level of client through trust, improved revenue due to purchasing new line extensions, new services as you roll them out. These clients will receive and measure the organization's performance on customer excellence, which drive improved top line and bottom line revenue growth due to retained clients that are in the system and ready to "buy" from you.

It's simple: An organization that understands the power of a positive culture is a fun, highly effective place to work. It fosters innovation, creatively, trust, participation and teamwork. A positive work culture is the equivalent of working with people with great attitudes. An organization's workforce will illustrate/demonstrate to the world how they are treated at work. The question becomes "How's the culture at your place?" Does it need some energy - or have you achieve cultural nirvana?
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Steve Sorensen has spent more than 30 years helping companies achieve a competitive advantage by improving their sales strategy. Steve's experience includes Vice-President of a Fortune 500 company, Manager of Corporate Accounts for a Fortune 500 company and Western States/Western Canada Regional Sales Manager. As president of Enlighten-360, LLC, Steve uses his wealth of experience to help companies achieve increased revenue and velocity of growth through improved sales strategies. He can be reached at 720.343.0033 or


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Readers Respond

Great article, so true. C-levels need to acknowledge that the culture is driven from the top, via example. Some organizations have serious culture issues because the top is failing to lead culture change and pointing down the organization saying "what are you guys doing to fix this situation" - when the un-said answer is "looking for a new job, if you don't care enough to lead, why should we bang our heads agains the wall to get you to?" If the CEO walks around to ask people how they are doing, so will all the other managers. "A good example is the best sermon." By Chris G on 2011 10 26

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