The Cartography of Culture. The 10 Things you Need to Build & Grow a Strong Corporate Culture.

Everyone’s talking about it but what is company culture exactly and how do you build it? These are two of my favorite definitions of culture.

1. What you reward and what you punish. 
2. The sum of behaviors you encourage minus the behaviors you discourage.

Is ‘everyone’ really talking about it? Yes. In Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report, 86% of Executives ranked Culture as an important or very important issue facing organizations, #3 next to Organizational Design and Leadership. Yet, 2 out of 3 executives admitted they don’t understand their organizations culture. Sadly, they are the keys to building a strong culture that delivers results. Why don’t they understand it? Because it’s easy to talk about and hard to build and affect, let alone manage, without a roadmap from your real Chief Culture Officer, the CEO.

Meanwhile, your employee base is telling Stories, Tweeting, Pinning, Glassing your culture and brand in fully transparent ways. Every day. C-Suite — hear me when I say, it’s time to huddle and commit to your unique and identifiable culture. No BS perks or lip service, they’re not the real foundation of your competitive advantage.

Here’s a 10-point roadmap for building and managing a strong culture. The daily habits, quarterly work and fortitude to keep culture front and center over the years so as to reap the rewards, that’s the hard part. In this fourth industrial revolution, technology and minds are blending faster than ever.Your amazing product or service can, and probably will, be copied. Your culture? It cannot be. It’s arguably your most valuable IP. And in this time of the Talent War, it builds an organizational system that attracts, grows and retains committed, engaged talent. There are only so many A+ rock stars out there, if you want to scale mindshare and innovation, culture is your guide.

The 10 Way Finders of Culture Cartography:

1. Define your culture and align your brand: Why do you exist? Why are you here? Why now? (Vision) What are you going to accomplish together? (Mission) How are you going to do it? (Values). Now, architect this into something everyone can relate to and remember. No giant decks. They’re uninspiring, unmemorable, and devoid of the soulful stickiness that a story and short phrases deliver.

2. Build your upper Executive layers and C-Suite with a diverse team who are values-led and propagate culture without having to refer to a Power Point deck. They should have the IQ, EQ and CQ required for greatness as defined by #1, when everyone is looking and when no one at all is looking.

3. Train and reward leaders across the organization who know the core of their role is to be a talent accelerator. They should fortify confidence, discovery, growth and intelligent curiosity. These leaders expand your capacity and are the keys to a diverse pipeline and inclusive growth mindset of the future.

4. Define how you train, encourage, reward and get feedback from your employees. The method/s should pay off your brand ethos — are you crafty? Super digital? Value the outdoors? Obsess over design? The user experience of this process, rewards that match your soul, and how feedback is collected and shared matters to everyone involved.

5. Create a system of genuine performance dialogs that are intense, useful and contribute to authentic opportunities for growth. Leaders are never late and should never reschedule them. They’re that important. This deep, two-way discussion deserves a commitment to help grow and scale the culture by investing fully in talent at every level with every job title. Behind every great culture are people who have the confidence that comes from clarity and belief in the system they are collaborating with you to build.

6. Create performance plans and exit employees who do not contribute to your vision, mission or values. They are immensely distracting and disheartening — more than any senior executive can really know.

7. Source candidates and interview for vision, mission, values fit above all else. As Warren Buffett says, “When you have able managers of high character running businesses about which they are passionate, you can have a dozen or more reporting to you and still have time for an afternoon nap. Conversely, if you have even one person reporting to you who is deceitful, inept or uninterested, you will find yourself with more than you can handle.”

8. Measure it. Find the levers of culture within Gallup’s Q12 and the corollaries you track, use Culture IQ or RoundPegg. We measure what matters, culture is not exempt.

9. Monitor GlassdoorThe Muse, social channels and Comparably for candidate experience insights, current and exited employee feedback in a different forum from your Exit Survey. Does it marry with your other data? Your brand? Expose something new?

10. Create a Cultural Habit. Embed your values into your brand, your communications, your handbook, your templates, and every internal and external presentation — sometimes overtly, other times discreetly. The message becomes undeniable about what is valued and what is not. There should be no guessing when it comes to identifying your culture.

Commitment is a pledge, a promise. Commitment to culture is not an offsite or a discussion. It’s a fully fledged promise to yourself and every employee. The C-Suite must partner with someone who has pathological empathy for accelerating talent and is ready to operationalize your cultural architecture and values. That’s a commitment. They serve as your co-pilot so the capital “C” Culture can thrive and produce the results research proves are possible — innovation, EBIT-contributing brand value, employee satisfaction, employee engagement and discretionary effort, retention, better customer service, maximized profitability. Oh, and your legacy.