BY JASON BARGER
It’s an instant gratification world where people/employees/leaders want things to change immediately. They want progress to be a flip of a switch. They want the easy button. Every leader, team and organization wants to snap their fingers and magically arrive at their desired outcomes.
However, developing people and culture doesn’t happen like that. There is no quick fix or hack to developing leaders and the team culture you desire. It’s a process. It takes commitment, discipline and focus. The most compelling team and organizational cultures invest time, energy and resources into shaping the culture they want, not just the culture they’ve experienced in the past. They know that one of their greatest competitive advantages in today’s day is not just WHAT they do as a company, but the culture of HOW they do it. People want to be a part of a compelling culture and contribute their skills to something greater than themselves.
Every team and company wants to be known for having an amazing culture, but only some understand how they are created and are disciplined enough to lead a culture-shaping process. If you’ve studied change theory in your spare time (you know, the process for how any person or group stimulates change) then you understand the reality that we grow as individuals and groups one step at a time.
All change follows the same pattern. The best leaders and teams on the planet know that growing the ecosystem they desire within their organization takes proactive leadership and support. The best team cultures don’t just magically happen, they are intentionally designed and led along the process. And it’s not a top-down dictator style of leadership that is compelling to people, but a participatory style that invites cross-functional representation throughout the organization to share in the dreaming and creation of the culture they desire.
The process to create your culture requires 6 A’s and participatory leadership:
Assess — Many cultures don’t even know where they are on the map. Where are you succeeding and where are you falling short? You’ve got to be honest about your current state as a culture. Momentum begins to build when you can establish urgency and identify opportunities to improve.
Align — People are the lifeblood of every team and organization and in today’s world your people want to participate. They want their mind and heart to be engaged and connected to the “Why,” the Mission at the heart of your efforts. It takes time and space to establish alignment with your people and constant efforts to stay in alignment along the way.
Aspire — What do you want to be different in the future? You have to be able to dream together and paint the vision for the future culture you desire. Give your people the opportunity to see beyond your current reality and into possibilities for a newly created future.
Articulate — If you can’t describe where you’re going and the values you want to guide you as a culture then you can’t be surprised when it doesn’t exist. Your people need common language and the ability to see and share the story of where you’re heading, together. “Language drives behavior” so the best cultures have compelling language linked to actions and behaviors for the future they are creating.
Act — All change requires action. However, action without vision and alignment is a nightmare. Once the aspirational vision for the culture is established, the best leaders and teams empower a bias toward action and identify the next steps they will take to stimulate progress. All change happens when actions grow out of an intentional vision and spirit.
Anchor — Culture-shaping is not a drive-thru experience. It’s not a one-time company meeting or a singular poster on the wall. Every culture must create habits that anchor the values within their organizational ecosystem. The organization intentionally anchors them with their structures for how they hire, onboard employees, identify emerging leaders, do performance evaluations, raise the bar on leadership at all levels, and develop and empower culture ambassadors.
So, does your team culture get all A’s?
Good grades don’t just magically happen. Great schools, great companies, great teams, great communities, and great collections of humans anywhere and of any kind in the world, don’t just magically happen. They are grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality.
It’s way easier to ignore studying, practicing, engaging with your people, and just put your head down and “do your job.” And because that is easier, that’s why many team cultures do not become compelling places to work.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged cultures never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to the continuous journey of development, vision, communication, engagement, authenticity, and action.
Good luck on your next test. I hope you get all A’s.
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at