Making Company Culture Stick

November 7, 2022 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

It’s often said if you want to know what’s really important to someone, look at where they spend their time, money, and energy. The same goes for companies. If you want to know how important company culture is to any given organization, how they spend their time, money, and energy is a great place to start. Building and curating a meaningful company culture takes all three. But it also takes something bigger that can’t be bought. It takes buy in from your team and that has to be earned. Every day, every week, every year.

Think about your present company culture. Do you tell your team that culture is an important part of your organization? And if so, do the time, money, and energy you spend on your company culture match your words and your actions? Trust is wholly built on congruence. People buy in to your vision, your purpose, and your company culture when what you do and what you say match up. When they don’t, you risk losing people forever. Sometimes, they even leave the company.

Add meaning to your culture.

For more than a decade, The LOOMIS Agency was proud to work with an extraordinary bank out of Oklahoma that grew from a small-town bank to one with 80+ locations and more than $10 billion in assets. When asked about the growth, our longtime client would immediately rave about his team at the bank, their hard work, and their commitment to the company’s vision.

From the beginning, he wanted to build a company culture that shifted people’s mindsets from doing a job, to building a career, to fulfilling a calling. That only happens when people find meaning in what they do.

When you’re trying to build a transcendent company culture, meaning goes a long way. Study after study after study shows people want to feel the work they are doing is meaningful. And, that they want to spend their careers in a place that values both who they are and the work they provide. Too often, companies fixate on what’s cool, hot, and trendy and try to pass it off as great culture. It’s not. It’s instant gratification, and while fun, it doesn’t last. Real meaning comes when you tap into what your people really care about. Do that, and it’s really tough for them to imagine working any place else.

Here’s what your team cares about.

In any great company culture, meaning and purpose go hand in hand. At LOOMIS, we often talk about purpose being a “we” orientation rather than a “me” orientation. When cultures are toxic, everyone is out for themselves. It’s self-preservation. In a supportive, nurturing, healthy culture, people watch out for each other. They’re thoughtful. They inspire and mentor each other. In great company cultures, people extend grace, give the benefit of the doubt, and look for good instead of jumping to conclusions. A positive, unified company culture is the catalyst that gives your team the belief they’re working toward something bigger than themselves. That’s meaningful.

In the shadow of “quiet quitting” and “the great resignation,” today’s leaders have to know how to create a strong, positive culture if they want their organizations to succeed. If you’re already doing that, fantastic. Keep it up. But if you haven’t yet given your company culture much thought, or you’re struggling to get cultural traction with your team, here are seven helpful things to keep in mind.

1. Start Small

As important as your company culture is, building it is something that will take some time. Fortunately, your culture doesn’t have to be fully formed to start paying dividends. Start with a plan. What’s important to you and your employees?

Picture what you want your ideal culture to look, feel, and sound like and then start taking intentional, consistent steps toward reaching that vision.

Your culture lives on a continuum. It’s either getting better, or worse. Every step toward better is significant.

2. Include Your Team in the Process

Company culture works best when everyone is involved. There’s nothing wrong with starting with your most engaged people in the planning stages. But as soon as you can, start integrating everyone into your plan for a better culture. Challenging your entire team to understand how to create a strong culture in your organization and then shepherding that culture through whatever changes come is crucial to your success. Give your team the opportunity to make suggestions, call out what’s not working, and hold each other accountable.

3. Give Yourself Permission to be Messy

One thing you have to understand about culture building is that it’s an imprecise science. That’s a nice way of saying stuff can get messy. But that’s also what makes it great. Broken eggs and omelets and all that. The goal is not to build a perfect company culture. There is no such thing. It’s about building the best culture for your organization. Give yourself permission to make some mistakes. If you do this right, you’ll make many and make them often. The key is addressing the missteps, being transparent about them, and fixing them just as quickly.

4. Pay Extra Attention to the Newbies

Every company has a shorthand. Its own institutional knowledge. Inside baseball. Stories that only the most senior veterans know. As you build and curate a great company culture, never forget that not everyone has been there from the jump. Belonging and connection are two of the seven foundational elements required to build a lasting company culture and those two things are built through shared experience. Fresh people coming into your company bring lifetimes of new experiences, new perspectives, new energy, and new ideas, but they need those who have been around to help bring them up to speed. New team members are like fresh water flowing into a body that can sometimes grow stagnant. Overcommit to making sure they feel welcome.

5. Constant Review

If you want your team to buy into your company culture it cannot be an afterthought. You don’t have to discuss it every minute of every day. But it needs to be weekly at least. How often have you held a management retreat or a once a year off-site where you discuss all the meaningful things you’d like to do — Like focusing on your employees? Like building a great culture? — only to come home and get consumed by the day to day.

Just as your culture is an ever-present part of your company, so too must be your attention to it. Engage your people personally and often.

Ask how people are feeling. Open yourself up for questions. Reiterate your purpose. Actively look for ways to connect. That’s how good cultures become great.

6. Embrace Evolution

No matter how mature your company culture is, it’s going to change. Whether you know it or not, your company culture is a living, breathing part of your organization and as your company’s True North leader, you have to take ownership and look for ways to consistently improve it. That’s not to say this lies entirely on your shoulders. It doesn’t. Challenge and inspire your team to find ways to make your company culture better. Encourage new perspectives. Solicit new ideas and embrace change even when it’s hard and awkward. It may not seem so pretty at the moment, but often that’s just greatness about to blossom.

7. It’s Never Too Late to Start

Insert your favorite metaphor or advice here, but don’t sleep on building your culture. It’s never been more critical for companies to understand the extraordinary role company culture plays in success. If you haven’t yet taken steps to focus on your culture, take the plunge. Lean in hard. Culture is a gamechanger and every day you wait is another rich opportunity missed.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president and CEO at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising, and marketing, leadership, culture, and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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