How to Build a Bulletproof Company Culture. Executive Search.
Author Pat Lencioni lays out how to build a culture that will endure long after you’ve left your business.
By John Warrillow Nov 2, 2010
Is your company’s culture at the core of what makes your business valuable?
Pat Lencioni’s latest book, Getting Naked, is a fable about a business owner who abruptly decides to sell his successful company, Lighthouse Partners, after his daughter is involved in a car accident. Once the new acquirer takes over the business, they discover that Lighthouse is successful because of its unique culture as opposed to a superstar sales team or proprietary methodology.
Lighthouse Partners’ culture survives the departure of its founder and endures under new ownership, making the company even more valuable.
I asked Lencioni how business owners can ensure their culture will survive after they’re gone. Based on our conversation, here are three steps for creating a durable company culture:
Step 1: Figure out who you are, not who you want to be
Start by understanding your company’s core values. For example, at Southwest Airlines, humor is a core value and an essential part of everything the company does. AtNordstrom’s, employees love serving people. Even when customers are cranky and unreasonably demanding, Nordstrom’s employees embrace the challenge of making them happy. It’s who they are.
As you identify your core values, Lencioni cautions business owners to avoid what he calls “aspirational values,” which are attributes you would like your company to have rather than those it has today.
Lencioni recounted a story of a CEO he was coaching who said one of his company’s core values was “operating with a sense of urgency.” When Lencioni questioned the CEO, he admitted he had selected the core value to light a fire under the collective backside of his complacent management team. The CEO had fallen into the common trap of picking values you want your company to stand for instead of things you already do.
Working with business owners, Lencioni often sees a laundry list of aspirational values on a poster in the lobby: