Creating a Culture of Belief


Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. Andrew Carnegie

As I was passing by a colleague’s office the other day I saw a book on her desk with the title, All In, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Since our company president and CEO, launched a recent campaign called “All In” I was intrigued. What this means here at my company is that we each pledged to be all in with building the company we want to work for. We are engaged and support creation of an extraordinary customer experience. With this in mind, I just had to download the book. And to answer your first question, no, the president hadn’t read the book, but he certainly could have written it himself.

For those of us who have managed people, the book illustrates how we each can create a culture that works. A culture of engaged employees who understand the “why” behind what they do each and every day. The authors cite research studies and case studies that illustrate the importance of building a culture like this and that it is the manager who makes this happen.  This culture of “belief” is one that is engaged, enabled, and energized. The authors also show evidence that companies who have this type of culture are at least three times more profitable than those who do not.

After reading the book, I believe that the most important key to building this type of culture is to always be able to explain the “why” behind what you are asking your employees to accomplish. This why needs to be built around and be in alignment with the overall corporate strategy. In order to do this, every manager must understand how their work fits in to the strategy and what success looks like for their team. They must then be able to communicate this effectively.

That might seem simple on the surface, but how many times have we asked ourselves these questions. “Why am I being asked to do this? How is this important to the business? What does success look like?” We as managers owe it to our employees to be able to give them the answers to these questions. The ability to do this will build a culture of belief. In this culture the employees are engaged, they understand how their work benefits the organization. They are enabled, the company provides them with the right tools and training and their leaders give them the coaching they need. And lastly, they are energized, they have high levels of energy due to a balanced work and home life and recognition for their individual contributions.

The book was very interesting and reinforced the “why” behind a lot of what we are doing at my company. I commend our CEO for starting this initiative as well as our senior HR leadership for supporting and driving the success of this program through training for all of our managers and staff.

Not to spoil the book for you, but to give you some of the highlights that I found particularly interesting, I have included some excerpts below. I’d love to get your feedback on the book and what you found of particular interest.

On Embracing Change:

“All In” transformation occurs when a leader anticipates change and helps us embrace it. New worlds are discovered, governments are built, laws are written, religious and civic organizations grown, communities bond, and corporate cultures thrive when our leaders see potential on the horizon and help us adapt…. It’s about how some managers are able to help their people feel confident about facing the future and facing a shared fear

On Agility:

Agility is arising as one of the top skills of leaders in high-performance organizations…. “change masters” reported three-year revenue growth a whopping three times higher than their high-performance peers. What was different? First, change started with managers who were considered “authentic” by their people. That meant leaders at all levels provided a clear sense of direction and made decisions promptly, they treated employees respectfully and took action on issues their people raised, and finally they behaved in alignment with company values. They “walked the talk.” Second on an organizational level companies faced market pressures through innovative product development, a customer-focused culture, and social responsibility and integrity in dealing with their customers.  Third, managers used sophisticated talent-management practices to attract, develop, promote and retain the best people; they ensured employees had regular, clear, and objective performance evaluations; and they fairly recognized efforts through non monetary measures.

The study shows that agility is more important in sustaining above-average business results than clever strategy, compelling products, or the other typical focusses of leaders.  Today, employees feel a heightened need for their leaders to help them adapt.

From a study by Lehigh University researchers on the subject of organizational agility:

Enrichment – an agile company enriches the lives of its customers.

Cooperation – an agile culture employees the “core competence” approach.

Organization – The most agile companies are not afraid to allow different interesting organizational structures to exist. These organizations can change and redeploy people and assets to meet the rapidly changing market shifts.

Leverage – Finally, according to the study, the most agile organizations leverage the impact of people and information, with an emphasis on putting their talent and intelligence up against the most value-added products.

On Listening:

Leadership from the top is important but just as important is “360 listening.” The most effective managers were found to spend more than 80 percent of their time interacting with others. Instead of hunkering down “getting their work done, “ by investing this time with employees, peers, and customers they were better able to perceive issues as they were arising and to gain the knowledge necessary to tackle those problems and formulate changes in strategy.

The key to successful leadership is to stop worrying about yourself and lose yourself in helping those in your care. This means that we need to see ourselves as  “gardeners” for our employees – helping our people grow and evolve.


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