What makes a winning organization? Is it strategy? Vision? Operational excellence? Talent?
All these things are important, but building a great culture might be the most powerful of all.
A great business leader, Robert Gore, died recently. Gore was most famous for discovering the waterproof but breathable material known as Gore-Tex. But the company he left behind is more important than the fabric.
The Gore company is regarded as a great culture company. It has also succeeded financially with a series of great decisions over a period of decades. Reading Gore’s obituaries along with other recent articles on the Gore Company reinforced to me just how much culture is the secret ingredient to long term success.
These days, company culture is associated with dressing down, fun activities, and employee perks. But what really matters is how people treat each other and our openness to ideas from across the organization.
Many people are still too fixated on titles, hierarchies, and formal authority. Everything is so much simpler when you have a boss telling you exactly what to do.
But easy isn’t the path to long-term success. What really works best in nearly all business circumstances is openness to ideas and empowering the right people (not the most senior, or the one with best executive presence) to take action.
Companies are always training their people in how to behave, even when it’s not intentional. Emphasize authority and that’s what people chase. To build a great company culture, leaders need to think very carefully about what their organizations reward.
As a business leader, I want to see my people focused on what drives long term value, not chasing status. This is a part of what culture is all about. When we value the right things, building a great team, developing operational excellence, and making killer deals, all get a lot easier.
There are a lot of great companies out there. Culture is what separates them from the pack.