3 Essential Culture Rules all Leaders must Apply
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Leave a comment on this guest post by Mark Miller to become eligible for one of thirty-five complimentary copies of his new book, Culture Rules: The Leader’s Guide to Creating the Ultimate Competitive Advantage.
Deadline for eligibility is 03/12/2023. Winners outside the continental U.S. will receive an electronic version.
Be sure to scroll down and leave your comment and discover how you can schedule a 1-hour zoom call with Mark Miller when you purchase 11 or more copies of his book.
Every organization has a culture – either by design or default.
Our team just completed a global research project which included more than 6,000 participants – leaders and front-line employees. When we asked the leaders about the importance of culture, 72% of US leaders said culture was the most important tool at their disposal to drive performance (globally the number was 67%).
Unfortunately, when ranking their priorities, creating and maintaining culture didn’t crack the top ten for these leaders.
Motivated by this jarring reality, we set out to demystify and simplify this idea of culture, while at the same time making it approachable and actionable by leaders around the globe. We discovered three essential Culture Rules for creating a High Performance Culture.
3 essential culture rules:
Rule #1 Aspire:
Leaders must share their hopes and dreams for their culture.
What are your hopes and dreams for your culture? Can you share them in a way that is clear, simple, and repeatable?
Rule #2 Amplify:
Ensure your cultural aspiration is reinforced continually.
There are countless ways to reinforce the cultural aspiration. Here’s where to begin – Start with your own actions. People always watch the leader. What are your people learning from watching you?
Rule #3 Adapt:
Always work to enhance the culture.
What enhancements could you make to your culture? Sometimes these enhancements will be targeted at eliminating toxins. In other instances, they will be focused on leveraging existing strengths or adding new capabilities. In any case, leaders must always work to enhance the culture.
How strong is your culture? Do people find it life-giving and performance enhancing or is it soul-crushing? No culture drifts to greatness… it must be led there.
If you could create your dream organization, what three or four words would you use to describe the spirit of its culture?
Mark Miller is a business leader, a communicator, and an international bestselling author. He currently serves as the Vice President of High Performance Leadership for Chick-fil-A, Inc. Mark began his writing career almost 25 years ago when he partnered with Ken Blanchard to write The Secret. Since then, he has published 11 titles. With more than one million books in print in twenty-five languages, Mark’s global impact continues to grow. His latest book, Culture Rules is available now.
Culture is the heart beat of the body of an organization. My ideal organization with respect to culture would be described at – HAPPY, positive, empathetic and driven.
My dream org culture would be collaborative, inclusive, passionate and celebratory.
Five years ago I started this position as Director of Residential Services at The Arc of Cumberland and Perry Counties (CPARC). At the time the culture was one of distrust, retribution and fear. My Executive Director (promoted 2 months before she hired me) and I set out on a course to change our culture to be inclusive, supportive and positive. It is a long hard battle, and Covid didn’t help, but we have made some really positive strides forward. We recently conducted a survey in our company and the results show us we are on the right track!! One of my mottos is – fix the problem, not affix the blame. Staff are coming around, my management staff are all on board and together we are working together to improve our culture. Your book, I am sure, would have some insights we may not have thought of. Thank you.
I’d love to get a copy of the book 🙂
A useful reminder that one has to work at it in order to get it; there’s no free lunch when it comes to getting the culture you’d like to have.
“Every organization has a culture – either by design or default.”
I recently left an organization because of the toxic culture. This article encourages and equips me to bring a positive culture to my new position and company.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
I’m excited to read this much needed book. I belong to a non-profit communication where the volunteer leaders struggle to create a better culture.
Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on culture. I work in a school and people need to feel cared for as they are caring for others – their students. A culture of kindness, empathy, respect and collaboration is what I hope for!
Look forward to reading more about culture and how to aspire, amplify and adapt
As an aspiring leader in my organization, I’d like this book so that I can develop a foundation for success. I may not be able to control all aspects of my environment, but I can help to make a positive impression regarding culture and acceptance.
My organization is in the middle of a culture shift. This book would be so helpful.
I agree with Nancy that the book would show insights we may not have thought of previously. Also, she is absolutely correct with the culture change we have experienced.
This quote stood out to me more than any other:
“Here’s where to begin – Start with your own actions. People always watch the leader.” Good stuff!
Innovative, Inclusive, Collaborative, Authentic
Culture is the backbone of any organization. It is the glue that keeps the company together and with the leaders, of the organization, responsible for the message and continuity of that culture.
I work for the USG and want my office’s culture to be “Intentional,” “Empathetic,” and “Responsible.”
I loved the final thought concept from Ready Player One. I find the conversation about culture most often starts when an organization feels the impact of the inability to retain their employees. Some of the stale cultures in place may still appeal to those who grew up in them and were able to survive, but the workforce of today expects the Ready Player One oasis…they come because of what they can do there and stay because of who they become.
This comes at a good time – leading one of those BioTech’s that just went through a layoff: Aspire, Amplify, and Adapt is a concise version of our survival mantra. Aspire to do great things for our patients, Amplify what we do well and Amplify the traits of the individuals that were kept and obviously Adapt since what we were doing previously was not working on the scale or timeline our investors expected. Looking for help on turning the corner and rebuilding our culture but it feels like planning a party after a funeral right now. Embracing change without discounting loss.
The key I see in the article is in the area of aspire. A good culture focus is repeatable by all members of the organization.
This is extremely insightful and couldn’t be more true. Thank you for sharing.
Can’t underestimate the value of eliminating toxins. When you leverage strength, or try to introduce new capabilities, there is an extreme risk that the toxins can infect and destroy those efforts. Just like the human body…you are less likely to get maximum results while battling illness.
Returning from The Galapagos, I just wrote a blog along the lines of how to manage a culture and how to impact people and performance. Maybe you would find it of interest.
Great reminders! Culture is built block by block but can be destroyed much more quickly. We must give it consistent attention to be well maintained.
I recognize this is a 300 word excerpt from the book.
All companies have a culture whether they chose to or not.
I’d challenge those leaders who “Aspire, Amplify, and Adapt” to anonymously ask your employees what your company culture is all about and see the differences.
There are so many aspects of a culture it’s a challenge to encompass them all.
In my experience, we talk a lot about DI&E, Accountability, Agile, Caring, Trust, Social Responsibility, Community Involvement, and a few others.
Sample answers about our culture: “We can’t launch an initiative without postponing the date at least once.”, “We launch initiatives that are barely good enough, and have to do a lot of post-launch backlog work”, “We don’t reward our high performers the same, it’s different with each manager”.
So as much as we’ve achieved a culture of many of the items we are striving for, other items that we not in our list pop up.
I get that is where “Adapt” comes in. Sure does. Those sample answers can be addressed with Aspiring, Amplifying, time, and effort
After Adapting, survey again to see what people say next.
This is a full time job.
Couldn’t agree more with this article. I have joined an organization that has been in business for over 100 years. Such rich history and strong positive culture. I have been charged with ensuring as the org grows that Culture is steeped in the Talent Management and Leadership processes so it does not fade. This is a huge feat. The 3-A’s approach will be helpful. Definitely need to read the book! Love Mark Miller’s work!
The big surprise for me as a leader was the role of culture. Our mantra was Culture trumps everything. I am happy to alter that to Culture Rules. I would love to read what more you have to say about this. I coach healthcare leaders but also priests and ministers who lead congregations. Most times, I am their first interpreter of culture, which is an indictment on our seminary education,
Culture was foremost in our thoughts when we started building our new agency at the height of Covid in 2020. It was difficult climb as we had persons multiple other companies with very different corporate cultures. I think #1 and #3 were the mainstay especially adapting, especially ‘aspire’ where we dreamed and planned a new future to make a cohesive ISO9001 certified organisation only 2 years later. would love to read your book and see what else were can impove upon even more
Building culture takes clear vision and intentionality. I’m always mindful that my team is watching leadership for guidance and setting the tone.
Culture is EVERYTHING! It is the main driver for retention of employees. Love the concept of the 3 A’s. One person on the team can be like a virus, you have to remove the toxicity of it will spread and change your culture. Can’t agree more!
In viewing the attatched video, I appreciated the story of the 360 Assessment and the result. Those that add value to others, regardless of position, make the biggest contributions to an organization, co-workers and those they come in contact with. This is vital to creating a healthy culture.
how to change culture? no easy task since an organizations culture sits within the context of another or maybe multiple other cultures. so many dynamics to consider…would love the free read! 🙂
The first rule – Aspire – is critical. A shared vision – one that is compelling – energizes a group and can sustain it in the face of adversity. I chose to the place that I work largely because our motto – “an evolution to excellence through continuous improvement.” It fills my bucket every day.
Passionate, Purposeful, Proficient AND Patient! 😉
If I completely had my way, the #1 word that I would use to build a successful culture in an organization would be “communication”. Trust and commitment flow from sound communication.
I am newly joining the ranks of leadership in my company. Our company culture is amazing. Within my team I want to adapt that AND an internal team culture that values – Trust, Honesty, Accountability, and Creativity! All things that I would push myself to embrace.
I work to help schools develop healthy school cultures. Would love a book!
Accountability, Empathy, Trust and non-judgemental.
Great blog and podcast! Culture is an important topic at many organizations, especially as companies are having conversations regarding their culture as they have transitioned to hybrid or remote workforces.
I have worked for the same company for over 13 years and we have touted our culture which was based on relationships. However, once the Covid Pandemic happened, we went to remote work and now are in a hybrid work environment, there is some fear that a culture based on relationships is not as strong as it used to be. We are attempting to re-define what relationships look like to maintain such a strong culture. I think this book would be very helpful in this endeavor.
This is so right! Culture is super important but tends to get lost while we deal with the big fires of the day. Thank you for the great tips!
I have been following LeadershipFreak for years now and find myself sharing the articles with colleagues, friends and family. This one is being shared as well. Thank you!
Thank you for all the wonderful articles!
The culture of an environment certainly is a learning experience for every employee. You learn a lot from the toxic environments as much as you do from the positive ones.
I think Rule #3 Adapt is so important. Culture can’t remain stagnant; it must always be evolving to keep up with our changing world. This has only become more apparent than ever over the past 3 years. Thank you for these insights!
Amplify is key advice. You have to reinforce the culture you want every day in every way. I have been involved in too many situation where the leader believes the culture is fine because all the bad things that are happening aren’t happening around them. The bad culture warriors are clever enough to show the leader the culture they want to see.
For all the work we put into strategy, we tend to ignore Deming’s own belief that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
This quote sits on my desk as a constant reminder of culture first. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker
I will be purchasing the book regardless lol. I love learning how to improve upon and create better culture in the corporate setting. Thanks for the blog entry today.
Culture happens whether you plan for it or not. My dream culture would be joyous, productive, safe, and inclusive.
I have been working at the same University for 14 years. When I started the culture was a micromanaging workplace where the staff were not empowered to make decisions using the knowledge they were given to perform their job duties. In my current role my 3 words to describe the culture that I would like for our office is “Empower, Empathy, Selflessness” This must start with ME and my leaders.
Culture is hard to change. However, my attitude has help to drive a better culture by teamwork and including “everyone” in making it work better. I would love to have a copy of your book to gain better insight to be a better person at help to drive our company to a better culture.
I would love to see a culture of vulnerability, openness, and humility. All of which paired together create a community of trust.
I am interested in this book. I work in a high school, and we are facing a large turnover of staff next year. This concept timely for us and I am shamelessly commenting for a chance at a free copy! Culture is intentional…and it looks like this might have some great ideas/reminders on how to keep focus on building and reinforcing a great culture.
Culture by design, easy to say, harder to execute… and I love his quote: “No culture drifts to greatness, it must be led there.” Mark Miller is a dynamic speaker, I look forward to diving into his books.
Great tips on being consistent and persistent. The question “If you could create your dream organization, what three or four words would you use to describe the spirit of its culture?” would be a great one to have a whole workshop on. The answers will be telling specific to the maturity of the leaders answering. I would like the books to do just that – have them part of a Leadership workshop. Cheers
“No culture drifts to greatness… it must be led there.” I loved reading this reminder today. I would want my company culture to be inspiring, empowering, and kind. I personally prefer a workplace with camaraderie and competence over control and criticism.
Having a great culture is incredibly important for retaining team members. What I’ve learned in the past is that, while things do happen organically, you really need to be intentional to ensure you have a better chance at the outcome you want. In this case, to have a great team/organizational culture, you need to be intentional. Looking forward to reading more!
Culture can change in a very short time when a new leader is chosen.
As always, great stuff Dan. Mark has been an inspiration to me for many years. I’d love a copy of his book for myself or a give away to one of my clients.
Fascinating data on where leaders tend to prioritize culture creation and maintenance. The fact is, we’re always creating or maintaining the culture whether we’re doing it proactively or not, the question is the type of culture being created. Best insights here on how to create great cultures.
Mark Miller’s quote, “No culture drifts to greatness… it must be led there” struck a cord with me today. Leaders are responsible for the culture and need to lead by example – be great.
I’ve found that the teams I enjoyed the most were the ones where conversation about culture happened daily. Goals and checkpoints were discussed regularly; managers frequently offered their hopes and vision for the group; and the entire team met quarterly to assess how on track we were, or if any benchmarks needed updating. When good culture is a routine, it becomes habit. That’s how great leaders grow. Thanks for sparking the conversation!
Good stuff. As leaders, we sometimes overlook the culture of the organization and concentrate more on the employees, their performance, and ours.
Thank you for sharing quick tidbits and tips on how we can improve our leadership/culture. Organizational culture is often the only focus we have a s leaders often at the expense of leadership culture.
So important to remember that culture needs to be nurtured and developed. Must lead the change to keep your culture relevant, productive, and moving forward.
I would love to get a copy of the book to learn more about culture.
Thanks for the quick summary. While all of those can be difficult, the one I am probably struggling with the most right now is Adapt. With a lot of change occurring around us, it is hard to stay focused but also adapt to some of those changes in a positive way.
This could not be more true and serves as a great reminder for any organization. I would love a copy of the book as it sounds like an excellent read.
The current culture I’m part of is LIGHT and FLOWING.
It’s a small company and the CEO understands details which can be used to “catch” people but understands people, their shortcomings, the business needs, goals to be achieved and that it doesn’t has to be about him and his ego.
These are four words for my dream culture:
Faith – that even with the best of our intent and efforts, we might not get desired results and that that’s not the end.
Respect – to believe and understand that things are not wrong, they are different.
No lying – Speaking the truth is one thing and not lying is another.
No laziness – always being proactive is not humanly possible but let’s not get lazy.
Love the idea of cultivating culture for the leaders and helping them see how best to exemplify the three aspect listed.
Thanks Dan and Mark for this content.
Sure am looking forward to working on our culture
I think many leaders do well with 1 and 2. Number 3 is the one that takes the most courage and vulnerability and that makes it hard for many leaders to follow through on this step.
Culture is the backbone of any successful agency/group. Thanks as always for this helpful guidance.
What a great article for thoughts today. Breaking the culture and its ongoing nursing down to aspire, adapt, and amplify makes it operational for every level in any organization. Thank you Dan and Mark.
Our team is going through some culture difficulties currently and we are trying so many things to improve the situation. This is a very difficult topic.
#culture is where it’s at, thank you! I feel it’s important to lead by example when it comes to culture. Our teams should know how we feel about culture and they should see the company’s culture in us on a daily basis.
The interview was great in itself, loved it! I work with leadership development for young leaders and appreciate your clarity, challenges and cautions in cultivating CULTURE. I would be grateful to win a free book!
Culture is it, it keeps employees engaged, motiviated, passionate or else can result in resignations…..
This is spot on. The exercise of thinking how you want your organization to be described gets you thinking and processing what characteristics are important and allows you to prioritize and if needed develop action plans to address and get you there.
Nice food for thought here. I’d love to read more about nurturing culture, so getting the book would be nice. 😁
where you wish to see an organzation go is not much different than where we decide to lead ourselves – both are a lifetime process
Culture is the first step in defining an organization. Its simplest definition is “It’s the way we do things around here” (DuFour). The three words that best describe the culture of an organization I’d like to be associated with are: 1) GOAL/RESULTS ORIENTED (sets direction & stretches), 2) COLLABORATIVE (stakeholders have a say in how to achieve goals), 3) SUPPORTIVE (Stakeholders get support to necessary to change practices to achieve goals).
Aspire, Amplify, Adapt formula is the AAA Battery to charge-up and fortify organisational culture.
Culture reveals the PAST
Culture tells the PRESENT
If we can truly NURTURE
We can brighten FUTURE
As a vegetarian I do not eat at Chick-fil-A; however, my daughters are it’s number one fan. I love “it’s my pleasure” as a cultural response to the company’s purpose “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A”. Great leadership with integrity and genuinity.
Priority, Intentionality & Visibility come to mind spearheaded by devoted leadership ~ love this assignment! I’m excited to get started! Thank you for unveiling the path 🙂
Great post! I think management hope that toxins will go away on their own. Especially toxins with leadership roles. But the toxins don’t go away, they just become an ongoing inflammation in the organization until the good employees start leaving mentally, physically, or both.
Ownership, transparency, and trust are the three I would pick. Love the post!