It’s an elusive concept to describe. When someone asks me how our organization cultivates such an incredible culture, my first reply is “we started there.”
It is much easier to create a compelling culture from the beginning than to rebrand a struggling culture later. It’s an essential beginning, not just to a business, but also to any organization, including families, teams, churches and educational institutions.
A compelling culture begins with a clear purpose for existing. WHY are we in business? From early on, our company ownership decided that stewardship and influence were key motivators. Sure, serving great food in a clean environment by friendly and courteous people is what we do, but what unites an organization is a common purpose; a reason for existence. For our business, we have a higher calling than just selling chicken. Selling chicken is a means to glorifying God by being a faithful steward and having a positive influence. A compelling culture is built on understanding the all-important WHY an organization exists.
The next step to growing a compelling culture is a challenging mission. WHAT are we in business to do? Over time a mission might change depending on the goals of the organization. Once the goal associated with the mission is achieved, it might be time for a new mission. A mission should be clear as to what is the business of the organization and what it aspires to do and for whom. The Orlando Magic’s mission statement is: “To be world champions on and off the court, delivering legendary moments every step of the way.” They are clear that they aspire to be world basketball champions and deliver special experiences for their fans both on and off the court.
Determining core values is the next crucial decision necessary to create a compelling culture. These are the fundamental beliefs that inform decisions and action and sometimes are called the heart of a culture. Core values answer the questions: What do we believe in? How do we express those beliefs? Do we have experiences in our organization that support our beliefs? The key to identifying core values is to select a few of the very most important attributes that our families, teams, organizations can remember and live out day-to-day. Teach for America has 5 Core Values that describe the behavior expected to fulfill their mission to: “grow leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.” Their five core values of transformational change, leadership, team, diversity and respect and humility are critical to achieving their mission. (Learn more at teachforamerica.org.) When the core values of an organization match the purpose and the mission, its members are inspired to be an integral part and help the organization succeed.
With a clear purpose established, a challenging mission before us and a commitment to core values, establish guiding principles that acts as “true North” on the compass of your organization. The principles serve as a guide of what the organization does, why it does it and how it does it. Every organization needs key guiding principles that direct its members and shape the behaviors that support the purpose and mission. The ownership of our company decided we would be closed on Sundays and that practice has continued since 1946. He also decided to remain privately held and family owned. Another principle for our company is to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect. Guiding principles serve to enhance and strengthen the understanding of the overall purpose.
While creating a compelling culture is an essential beginning for an organization, it’s never too late to help your family, team or organization strengthen theirs. Start your strategy with the WHY through defining your purpose. Continue with the WHAT in developing your mission and then focus your efforts day in and day out on the HOW through constant commitment to your core values and guiding principles. With unwavering focus and discipline on the process, you can create a compelling culture for your organization. Given the great success of organizations that do, why would you not?