wardell books

Corporate Culture

Your Corporate Culture is the way your people relate to each other and to their jobs. It's the environment inside your company.

Your Corporate Mission, Vision and Values paint a picture of the Corporate Culture you’re aiming for with your business. It’s likely, however, that there is currently a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Following are some strategies for helping you bridge that gap.

Walk Your Talk

If your Corporate Foundation is to become anything more than just a set of documents, then they must be used. Communication and documentation are necessary steps, but as we have noted, they are nothing without action. Employees must see for themselves that you truly mean what you say, so “walk your talk” and make sure your managers do too. You can’t change a corporate culture overnight, but if you persist, it can be done.

Tell a Story

One of the most effective ways an organization can keep its values alive is through the practice of storytelling. As a business leader, you can do dramatic, story-worthy things that illustrate your company values. Then let other people tell these stories for you. Interesting stories also happen naturally in your business all the time. An employee goes out of her way to solve a customer’s complaint, a salesperson lands a difficult account by providing outstanding service, or your bookkeeper stays late on a Friday night so your employees can have their paycheques before a holiday. Make it a habit to capture these stories and spread them around. Encourage people to look for them and to tell them. Make a contest out of it and give away a prize at your next company-wide meeting for the story that best represents your company’s values.

A story illustrates and defines a culture without being bound by rules and regulations. Stories get passed along between employees, customers, social media, even the press. Consider the example on the next page from Nordstrom's:

Nordstrom: The Power of a Story

Here's a story to prove the power of unconditional guarantees: Early in Nordstrom's history, a guy walked into the former Fairbanks, Alaska, Nordstrom department store with two snow tires. He walked up to the tire counter, put the tires down, and asked for his money back. The clerk, who'd been working there for two weeks, saw the price on the side of the tires, reached into the cash register, and handed the man $145.

The extraordinary part of this story is that Nordstrom's does not sell tires. Never did. This story may be more urban legend than fact, but it illustrates the tremendous power behind a story.

Every Nordstrom’s employee faced with the question of whether or not to allow a particular return will instantly be reminded of this story. Every potential Nordstrom’s customer when making up their mind on a particular purchase will be instantly reminded of this story, and their confidence in the purchase will be increased. Stories are an extraordinarily powerful and under-used way to continuously promote your Corporate Values.

Write a real life story about your business that you can use to communicate one of your company's values..

What will you do to make sure these stories come alive in your business and have the opportunity to make a real impact on your culture? Do all stakeholders (employees, shareholders, partners, etc.) have access to these stories? What else can you do to bring them to life?

In this chapter you should have designed, shared, and made a plan to review your:

  • Personal Values.
  • Corporate Values Statement.
  • Corporate Code of Conduct.
  • Culture-shaping Stories about your business that are worth telling.