Create an Extraordinary Culture

How would you describe the organizational culture of your dreams? What are its essential elements? How would people treat each other? What core values would shine brightly every day? If you could eavesdrop on members of your team describing their workplace at a family gathering or social event, what would you hope they’d say?

We often lead exercises like this during executive planning retreats. We’ll then gather all the descriptions together and cluster them for key themes. This collage becomessnapshots of our preferred future” and provides an ongoing and energizing focal point for defining core values, identifying desired and undesired behaviors across the organization, aligning systems and processes and focusing Strategic Imperatives.

This month’s Harvard Business Review features research by Rob Goffee, emeritus professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School and Gareth Jones, a visiting professor at the IE Business School, in Madrid. Their work evolved from three years of research on authenticity and effective leadership. This led to searching for what conditions create the most authentic workplaces. They call that “the organization of your dreams.”

In “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth,” Goffee and Jones report they “found six common imperatives. Together they describe an organization that operates at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work … in a nutshell, it’s a company where individual differences are nurtured; information is not suppressed or spun; the company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them; the organization stands for something meaningful; the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and there are no stupid rules.

The six essential elements they uncovered are:

1. Let people be themselves.
2. Unleash the flow of information.
3. Magnify people’s strengths.
4. Stand for more than shareholder value.
5. Show how the daily work makes sense.
6. Have rules people can believe in.

Given all our work with Zenger Folkman and our Strengths-Based Leadership Development System over the past year it’s not surprising to see magnifying people’s strengths is essential to building an extraordinary culture. It’s in the sub-title of ZF’s latest book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths.

Goffee and Jones also report on research showing that highly engaged employees are 50% more likely to exceed expectations than the least engaged. Companies with those highly engaged employees have 54% higher employee retention, 89% great customer satisfaction, and four times the revenue growth. Our research shows even sharper differences in many cases.

We’ve also seen that helping leaders uncover and magnify the 3 – 5 natural strengths that others see in them means moving their effectiveness from good to great (the top 10% of leaders in our global data base). Those leaders create dream teams and extraordinary cultures.

For over 30 years, Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership approaches have been inspiring action and achieving results. He has delivered thousands of keynote presentations, workshops, and management team retreats to hundreds of organizations around the globe moving his audiences from inspiration to application. He’s listed in the World’s Top 30 Most Influential Leadership Gurus based on research with 22,000 global business people, consultants, academics and MBAs. His website is

1 Comment on "Create an Extraordinary Culture"

  1. Edward Mondini | May 11, 2013 at 12:07 am | Reply

    Great concepts; reminds me of Tom Peters and W. Edwards Deming. You and I both know Tom Peters (or Deming) has never occupied a place of prominence in corporate America. What you are describing is passion, which is the mother of………… everything else good and successful, and I applaud you. Still, I cannot get my arms around how to marry your vision with classic American capitalism, which is already passionately married to the Shareholder model. The vision you describe works in Japan right now; a lot of things need to change in the States to enable that vision to work here (yes, it’s true, there are little islands of exceptions, but it is not yet imbedded in American culture). I say, wait another 60 years.

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