Culture is Critical for Success

In observing organizations, I consistently find culture, expectations and excellence greatly affect success more than we acknowledge. Skills, finance resources, competition, marketing, operations etc. are critical but it is the intangibles that frequently make the difference.

A critical aspect of the intangibles is that we should we should accept more uncertainty and go for it. Jobs, Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, etc. all took incredible risk in order to succeed.

The most important incentive and cause of potential success is passion. Don’t underestimate it. Many experts argue we achieve a small portion of our potential because we are stuck in boring, unsatisfying, and dead-end positions. As Sheryl Sandberg said, “consider what you would do if you weren’t afraid.” For example, I have many colleagues in dying industries like retail that have suffered for years. They are stuck in declining companies that have failed to adapt to emerging trends like E-Commerce, logistics and operations.

Establishing a successful culture is crucial for the overall progress of any company. Maintaining a positive atmosphere with clear expectations is essential to facilitating employee performance. A great strategy that lacks a supportive culture is sure to fail, while an environment where people feel they are being given the resources to excel will result in a much higher success rate.

So, how do you find or create successful parameters?

We frequently underestimate denial and overestimate barriers. For example, the pandemic is clearly changing parameters and we need to adapt rather than wait for things to completely return. Entertainment industry, energy companies, work at home, urban real estate, are all undergoing dramatic change that will permanently change our lifestyles and economy. In contrast technology, E-Commerce, productivity improvements, Zoom etc. are changing our economy and opportunities.

Income inequality, partisanship, racial equality, and diversity are among the social factors that are changing our culture, practices and awareness. Similarly, the aging and increased minority population in our country are creating dramatic changes in our society. We simply spend too much time on partisan arguments about these issues rather than developing solutions and maximizing opportunities.

For example, women are playing an increasing role in our organizations and we need to better understand it and adapt. On one hand that requires equal opportunity and treatment. On the other it requires some changes like even creating proportional bathrooms and maternity areas. Working at home has allowed many parents to fill both work and parent duties.  The most important change is probably recognizing women that have been held back and maximizing their potential.

We need to accept failure and look for the positive. Edison may have said it best "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

Look for the Positive. We’ve all felt what it’s like to work with/around negative people—their energy sucks everyone else down to their level. We feed off of those around us. Create an atmosphere where everyone lifts one another up. When a problem arises, work to find a solution. When mistakes happen, look for the lesson to be learned and grow. Everyone will be better for it. A culture that focuses on learning from mistakes will always be more equipped to deal with them when they arise.

Develop collaboration. Make sure the organization has the resources they need to succeed. That may mean providing additional training, one-on-one feedback, updated equipment/software, or extending deadlines. Understand your organization's needs and let them know they can rely on you to back them up.

Ensure staff have a voice.The key here, however, is that all suggestions must be thoroughly considered. Just allowing people to voice their thoughts/opinions/concerns isn’t enough. Their suggestions must be appropriately addressed as well.

Treat people equally and individually. This might sound contradictory, but it simply means that, while everyone should be treated fairly and equally. Their individual needs also need to be taken into consideration.  Some might need more supervision or verbal encouragement while others thrive being left with complete autonomy on a project.

I have learned that traditional and detailed startup recommendations (like planning and budgeting) are not as important as we previously thought. Instead, a continuous process of analyzing, measuring, and adapting to ever-changing parameters, programs, markets, and risks has a much higher probability of success. Finally, expect greatness from yourself. Success requires positive thinking and high expectations. If you truly believe in something, you’ll work tirelessly to make sure it’s successful. So, why can’t that something be you?

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