3 Steps to Create a Culture of Greatness

Are you creating culture by default or design?


Don Yaeger is a former journalist for Sports Illustrated Magazine, an acclaimed speaker and the best-selling author of nine books. In this video, he talks about the difference between building a culture on purpose and just letting it create itself by default. Even the best leaders expect that since they treat their employees well naturally, the organizational culture will also naturally fall into place.

On the contrary, says Don, great culture is designed and built. “[Truly great teams] are intentional about what they value, and they make it clear.”

I think cultures of greatness really are built, and there's some building blocks to those cultures. The first is that you have to declare it. You have to say, "This is the culture we desire."

There are a lot of folks that allow culture to happen by default. Truly great teams are doing it by design. They are intentional about what they value, and they make it clear. Then, they realize that building a culture or changing a culture takes time, and so there's not a sense that this has to immediately happen.

Third is that they realize that if you want to effect change the most quickly, you do so through recruiting, and you recruit not always the best talent that's available to you. You recruit the best fit. You look for cultural fit and the people that actually they will do for you what you're looking to try to achieve. Then, if you want to reinforce that culture, the next thing you do is you celebrate daily victories.

I have an amazing basketball coach, Jim Calhoun, Hall of Fame basketball coach from UConn, who told me about how when he was trying to change the culture or the lack of academic success that his team had when he came on board, he started praising the players, who achieved great things academically, during practice. Everybody on a team wants to be praised. So pretty soon, they all started paying a little more attention to their academics because they wanted to be praised. He celebrated their daily victories, and they were able to more rapidly change the culture of that team.

So if I'm offering an action point, something you can go out and do right now, it would be about declaring it. It would be about sitting down and saying, "Here is what we value."

I say all the time that culture to me is what you will do organizationally when your back's against the wall. Sales numbers are down. Times are tough. Are you willing to shade things? Are you willing to make the . . . You know, culture is not what you put on a wall. It's what you do when your back's against the wall.

When you've declared it, when you've made it clear to everybody, then you start rewarding those people who share your culture with you. In declaring it, you would be sitting down and saying, "By the way, this is who we're in service of. This is why what we do matters, and this is what happens if we fail."

If you can answer those three questions, if you can put yourself in a place where those answers come together, and then make sure that they flow throughout the organization, you're far ahead of about 95% of the companies out there in being effective in designing your culture.

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a nationally acclaimed inspirational speaker and author of 24 books, nine of which have become New York Times best-sellers. He is currently a Forbes contributing writer and a former associate editor for Sports Illustrate...

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