“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” – Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker: Shaping the Managerial Mind--How the World's Foremost Management Thinker Crafted the Essentials of

Building Culture

When you think about your shop you want it where employees are engaged, motivated, and excited to stick around for awhile, there’s likely one word you’ve heard again and again: culture. And for good reason—the vibe of your shop and the people who come to work there every day has a huge impact on your happiness, and your overall success.

But, fostering a vibrant and cohesive culture doesn’t happen overnight—and it certainly doesn’t happen by accident. So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about company culture—including how you can cultivate a positive one within your own organization.

Do you have the 6 characteristics of a high-performance culture? 

  1. Everyone understands why their work matters. 
  2. Values are practiced throughout the shop. 
  3. All activities provide real value to the customer. 
  4. People’s roles match up with their passion and capabilities. 
  5. Teams grow and flourish without dependency on individual leaders. 
  6. Bottom-line results and goals are achieved.

It is a widely held belief in the sports world that the team culture can have a big impact on how a team functions and performs. How team members think, feel, behave, and perform are all influenced by the environment in which they practice and compete.

For example, have you ever been on a “downer” team? I’m talking about one that is permeated with negativity, an unhealthy environment, and conflict? It sure doesn’t feel good and it can definitely interfere with your performing your best. As an employee, it’s difficult to do much about it; all you can do is accept it or find another job. But, as an owner, you can have a big impact on how your team functions.

Let’s start with an understanding of what team culture is and why it is of essential value.  

Culture is the expression of a team’s values, attitudes, and goals for the business, environment, and relationships. It determines whether, for example, the team’s focus is on fun, improvement, and performance or whether it promotes individual accomplishment or team success. Team culture is so important because it directly influences many areas that affect team functioning and performance:

The culture establishes norms of acceptable behavior on a team, either explicitly or implicitly conveying to members what is allowed and what is not. These norms can dictate to team members on how to behave, communicate, cooperate, and deal with conflict. When clear norms are established, everyone on a team is more likely to abide by them.

The culture creates an atmosphere that permeates every aspect of a team’s experience. Is the atmosphere relaxed or intense? Supportive or competitive?

All of these qualities of culture have real implications for how the team functions, how its members get along, and, crucially, how the employees on the team perform and the results they produce individually and collectively. When a team has a defined culture that is understood and accepted by all of its members, they feel an implicit pressure (in a good sense) to support that culture.

Your goal is to create a team culture that nurtures individual and team growth, success, and fun.

Three Pillars of Team Culture

Team culture is composed of three essential pillars that support all team functioning and performance: Values, Attitudes, and Goals.

Values are defined as “Principles or standards of behavior; your judgment of what is important in life.” Values are so important because they guide the decisions and choices you and your employees make as a team and as individuals. Whatever you value most is where you will devote your time, effort, and energy. Here is a list of values that I believe are essential for individual and team success:

  • Ownership: no excuses.
  • Hard work/best effort
  • Purposeful/focused
  • Quality
  • Teamwork
  • Trust/openness
  • Humility
  • Respect for self and competition

Attitudes are defined as “The way you think and feel about something.” Attitudes are vital because they guide how employees think, feel, and act toward their job. Here is a list of attitudes that I think are helpful in business:

  • Process, not outcome
  • Challenge, not a threat
  • Seek out discomfort
  • Experiment
  • Mistakes/failure are good
  • Never give up!

Goals defined as “The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” As you know so well, goals are vital for employees to motivate them and to direct their efforts. Here are some team goals that I believe are useful for a team:

  • Support and communication
  • Process focus
  • Consistently fast
  • Respond positively to adversity
  • Total preparation
  • Bring it!
  • No regrets: take your shot!
  • Have fun!

For values, attitudes, and goals, the above lists are just suggestions and you should work with your employees to create values, attitudes, and goals that best fit your employees.

How a Team Culture Develops

Owners/Managers can allow the culture of their team to develop in one of two ways. First, it can emerge naturally as an expression of its individual members. The benefit of this “organic” approach is that team members feel a sense of ownership for the culture because they created it. But there is a risk that the creation of the team is unfairly shaped by one or a few team members who may be particularly assertive or controlling, leaving other members of the team feeling marginalized and powerless. And a real danger can arise when the team culture is hijacked by a small subset of the team who are more interested in exerting their own power over the team, however unhealthy it might be. The result can be a truly toxic culture that serves neither the best interests of the team as a whole or its individual members.

The second approach, and the one that I recommend, is for owners/managers to take an active (though not dominating) role in the creation of team culture. Through your leadership and open discussions with team members, your team can identify the values, attitudes, and goals that you and they want to act as the foundation of the team culture. This collaborative approach to team culture will ensure that everyone on the team feels a sense of ownership for the culture and, as a result, are more likely to live by its dictates.

Tools for Building a Team Culture

There are also some specific things you can do to actively develop and foster a healthy team culture.

Be explicit in defining your team’s values, attitudes, and goals (make lists!).

Identify and enlist team leaders to support team culture.

Provide opportunities to build team culture.

Create shared responsibilities in which team members have to work together.

Create team rituals such as beer after work once a week or pizza after work.

Schedule weekly check-ins to get feedback about how things are going.

Recognize teachable moments and use them to encourage your team culture.

Make Team Culture a Team Effort

Owners, I encourage you to sit down with the rest of your staff and discuss the kind of culture your team wants to have. Proactively creating a healthy team culture will pay off in so many ways during the competitive season including improved communication and reduced conflict, a more positive vibe, better team functioning, and, almost always, higher levels of performance and success for the team and its individual members.

Why Is Culture Such a Big Deal?

The best way to think about culture? It’s the personality of your company. Culture culminates in your organization’s mission, values, and beliefs to form the overarching spirit of your workplace as a whole. And, much like with people, personality matters.

Culture has proven to directly correlate with a number of factors that are important to both employers and employees alike.

Take employee retention, for example. A Columbia University study discovered that the likelihood of turnover at companies with rich cultures is a mere 13.9 percent. At companies with poor company cultures? It’s a whopping 48.4 percent.

Job satisfaction is another key component. Understandably, employees who believe their workplaces have a positive culture are much happier in their careers—which is beneficial for everyone when you consider that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than the average worker.

Ideas for a positive culture

The main intention is, “to make employees happy.”

Happy faces in an office lead to a healthy environment. And a healthy environment is a way to innovate which is no doubt the most required asset of any business.

Your employees are your biggest assets.

Are your employees leaving you so soon?

Are they not interested in working?

Are they not able to think out of the box?

Are they skipping their work and always asking for leave?

Then look for the Why(s).

Here are 5 strategies that will help you in building a positive culture in your company and doesn’t require a heavy bank balance.

“You don’t build a business – you build people- and then people build the business”

                                                                                                                                                         Zig Ziglar

1. Make Your People Feel Valuable

Ask yourself:

  • Why have you built this company?
  • What are you willing to give back to society?
  • What are your vision and mission?

The most probable answers:

  • Build a company that you would want to be a part of and can work betterment of people.
  • Try to invest yourself personally in the fate of your company.
  • Give a personal attachment to your employees and
  • Make them feel that they are working for themselves, not for you.

There is nothing more personal than finding meaning in one’s job and life.

So make your employees feel that they are valuable for their company.

2. Listen, Learn and Apply

No matter how hard you’re working to keep your employees happy and how much you’re thinking for them to make them feel valuable, it won’t be counted until it doesn’t mean for them.

So, before coming to a conclusion and applying your idea to improve your company culture to follow a mantra to make it work.

Listen, Learn, and Apply.

Let’s say, you give them a good amount of money as incentives for every extra sales achievement.

Great, but are they happy?

Yes! It’ll be pleasing to them, but they would be more satisfied if they can get one or two paid off so that they can spend time with their family.

The best way to find out what they want? Simply ask them.

How would they like to get praised by asking them personally or through some email surveys and then adopt a culture?

3. Clarify Your Company Vision and Mission

Half of the problems can be neglected from very starting only while you’re hiring.

Clarify the vision of your company and let them know what is your mission to achieve the vision.

One spoiled apple can spoil a whole bucket.

By understanding the values that you want to seek beyond just generating the money, it will be easier for you to hire people with the right attitude and perspective.

If your company culture is mission-driven, then it will be an easy task for your employees to match it with their values and work accordingly and let go of those who are not able to.

4. Make Work A Fun

You’ve probably heard about the shops with a lot of fun activities. Consider my list of “Ideas on How to Create a Company Culture

5. Show Gratitude

When is the last time you thanked your employees for doing their job?

When was the last time you talked to your employees about their problems?

When was the last time you worked with your employees?

They get a salary for their work and why should I go and do all these things?

Do you think the same?

One smile, a little praise, and small conversation about their work can break the wall between you and your employees giving rise to an open and free culture.

When people get good words publicly for their job and their extra efforts, they tend to push their boundaries more and try harder to be their best.


Caring for your employees simply can help you in bringing a positive wave in your office.

Be flexible when dealing with the personal situations of your employees.

Be welcome to new ideas.

Work with your team to develop new strategies.

Take care of the employees’ health.

Creating an Accountability Culture

Accountability is an odd concept. It has been defined as having the responsibility and authority to act and fully accept the natural and logical consequences for the results of those actions. Personal accountability is an admirable trait, one that everyone should strive to attain. But as a leader, or even as a high-functioning member of a team, it is essential to create an accountability culture for individuals and the group as a whole.

While some may attach a negative air to the word accountability, research indicates that holding people accountable for their results has very positive effects: greater accuracy of work, better response to role obligations, more vigilant problem solving, better decision making, more cooperation with co-workers, and higher team satisfaction.

At its foundation, the tips for creating an accountability culture are S.I.M.P.L.E.:

  • Set expectations
  • Invite commitment
  • Measure progress
  • Provide feedback
  • Link to consequences
  • Evaluate effectiveness

But as it goes with all foundations, there must be a firm structure added in addition to having a complete building. Here are several additional tips to help build an accountability culture in a company:

Set expectations

It is important to set firm, clear, and concise expectations for any group. Accountability will not grow where team members are unsure of the group’s purpose and vision. Teams need to know what is expected of them before they, in turn, can be expected to be held accountable.

You can set expectations by:

  • Clearly communicating the team’s mission and vision. (Which hopefully you have already done in the previous sessions)
  • Emphasizing the urgency and importance of whatever task you have assigned.
  • Laying out the standards that will be upheld throughout the process. Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort.
  • Clearly and explicitly defining each member’s role and responsibilities.

The clearer initial goals and expectations are, the less time will be spent arguing when someone is held accountable because of ambiguous initial goals.

Invite Commitment

Although you may make these initial conditions and goals clear, it is important to have the team members commit to these standards and expectations. Work with your team to make sure that everyone commits to their role, understanding how it will benefit both the individual and the team. Be sure to put it in writing, too. This will give the commitment a physical representation that cannot be debated.

Accountability grows when this connection is made and is enhanced when other people are aware of the commitment. Team members are further motivated to accomplish their tasks and will more readily welcome you holding them accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Measure progress

Measure the progress of team members in alignment with the goals and expectations set out at the beginning. Goals can only be measured when they are quantified. Compare the measured results to the goals to find out where team members need the most improvement.

Provide feedback

After setting clear expectations, committing to set goals, and measuring progress, it is important to provide feedback to team members so that there can be improved towards the goal. When creating an accountability culture in a company, make sure that the feedback that you do give highlights both the positive things that the team member has done and the areas where they can improve.

Here are some tips to give the best feedback possible:

  • Talk about work and behavior, not the person.
  • Work with your team member to improve the situation.
  • Don’t harp.

Link to consequences

Not all people are driven by internal motivating factors. It is important to emphasize the link to consequences, whether as a ‘whip’ behind the team members to drive them forward or as a carrot for them to chase. As a leader, it is key to assess and realize which type of motivation different people may need.

Evaluate effectiveness

Not all methods of operation are effective! Waiting until the end of the process or project to evaluate the effectiveness can severely hamper the potential of you as an individual or your team as a whole. Step aside and assess the plan and the participating team members. Evaluate the effectiveness of each component, good and bad, in relation to the goal and mission.

An accountability culture does not end with evaluating effectiveness, and it is not established by going through this process one time. Once you take stock in the efficiency of the process and team, use the information you have gained to improve the process moving forward.


When assigning a task, make sure that at the end of the day, a single person is responsible for its completion. It is acceptable to have a team helping to get it done, but when something goes wrong that person is the only one accountable. This eliminates confusion and opportunities to blame someone else.

So after reading that how does your team stack up with the 6 characteristics of a high-performance culture? 

  1. Everyone understands why their work matters. 
  2. Values are practiced throughout the organization. 
  3. All activities provide real value to the customer. 
  4. People’s roles match up with their passion and capabilities. 
  5. Teams grow and flourish without dependency on individual leaders. 
  6. Bottom-line results and goals are achieved.

“How do you create a culture of success?”

As a shop owner, your own talent, qualifications, and skills will only get you so far in business. To really succeed you need to have a team that shares common goals and beliefs, that’s what I call culture. So where and how do you start and what are the main areas to focus on if you are going to develop and nurture that winning shop culture?

It starts with recruitment 

If you don’t have the right people to work with, you’re beaten before you start. Your quest to develop a culture of success begins with the recruitment process. Take time to make sure that all new employees will fit into your organization and help strengthen your shop’s values and vision. Don’t rely purely on a quick interview. (See my interview list under “Owner/Manager” add/subtract questions to get the right mix for you to recruit properly). Your business is your people, so getting the recruitment processes right, getting the right people on your team is essential.

Tough love 

Once you have found the right people, it is just the beginning. Don’t think you can sit back and watch, assuming that they know what to do to transform your company into the success you envision. Some shop owners/managers avoid confrontation feeling that it is damaging to the shops’ culture and go to the other extreme of letting staff get away with murder. A culture is created but it is one of apathy, lack of direction, and lost clients. In short, it’s a culture of failure. Your team needs challenging goals and guidance on how to achieve those aims. By getting your team to understand how their actions have a direct effect on the success of the business, you are ultimately providing them with a certain amount of ownership. And if you own something you are more likely to look after it.


Work with members of your team on a one-to-one basis; they all have different skills, needs, and attitudes. Some people respond well to a direct style of management, while you will alienate others with such a confronting approach. When there is conflict within the group, sometimes it is advantageous to break the group down by engaging with individuals rather than addressing them as a whole. This will not only be less intimidating for the minority, but problems will be highlighted more quickly and give you the opportunity by one-on-one discussions to come up with solutions and let individuals save face.

Give and take

If your team is in the middle of winter rush working long hours and missing breaks to accommodate customer’s needs, cut them some slack when you’re able, on things like lunch break and leaving times. Let them go when they get a natural break in their work or if there are no late customers and some staff standing around waiting, consider letting them leave early. Having a give and take attitude and allowing employees to manage their own time will help motivate and usually means your team adopts a more responsible attitude to taking unnecessary time off.

Getting people to take ownership of their future 

Let your team know that their ideas and opinions matter and that they can contribute to the growth of the business through their creativity and innovation. If you can create a culture of belonging and ownership, your team will feel they owe it to their colleagues to always give their best for the mutual benefit of everyone.

Summary: The payoff 

The main reason for developing a strong company culture is the pay off for everyone, customers included. Word quickly gets around when you have such a company culture and as a result, you attract more like-minded people who share your vision and values. We all spend a lot of time in our place of work and people need a company that can be fun, fulfilling, and mutually rewarding. When your team is satisfied with their job, they will not be in a hurry to move, so staff turnover will be reduced. Motivated individuals want to be involved with a business where they are surrounded by success.

Group Task – Create your Culture

  • Develop a bullet point list of the top 7-15 values that are important to you and your team. For example teamwork, professionalism, fun… 
  • Come up with a cultural statement [max 50 words] for each of these 7 points and what they mean to you as a team.
  • Get the team to score where you would currently rate on a scale of 1-10, [10 being the highest].
  • Get the team input on how collectively they can all contribute towards making everything a 10.
  • Develop an action list and delegate tasks to different team members and review progress at the next team meeting.

Points to consider for your Company Culture 

  1. Commitment – to the process – to help everyone – team
  2. Ownership – own your decisions – good/bad
  3. Integrity
  4. Excellence
  5. Success – focus on success – play for the win/win
  6. Education
  7. Team  Player/Leader – What’s the goal
  8. Balance – Life/Work
  9. Systems – Systems run a business – people run systems
  10. Consistency
  11. Gratitude
  12. Abundance
  13. Deliver WOW through service
  14. Embrace and drive change
  15. Create fun and weirdness
  16. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
  17. Pursue Growth and learning
  18. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Positive Communication
  19. Build a positive team and family spirit
  20. Do more with less
  21. Be passionate and determined
  22. Be humble


Ideas on How to Create a Company Culture

  1. Encourage Feedback
  2. Pull Pranks
  3. Stir Competition
  4. Humour
  5. Music
  6. Hire the right type of people that fit your culture
  7. Add your personality to it
  8. Initiation Process
  9. Monthly Contests
  10. Invest in your people
  11. Read together
  12. Incentive
  13. Celebrate Bday/Work Anniversaries
  14. Sends Cards
  15. Emotion, Emotion, Emotion, Empathy
  16. Diverse Hiring if possible
  17. Surprise your team
  18. Get to know your people
  19. Turn your guys into heroes
  20. Allow for crazy stuff
  21. Accountability
  22. High Standards
  23. Send Gifts
  24. Funky (Feel Good) Fridays
  25. Celebrate the different kinds of holidays
  26. Get office/Floor perks
  27. Get everyone on board with a fitness program
  28. Ideas and Beers
  29. Office Massages
  30. Tennis Ball at the door (I can explain this one)
  31. Innovation Mondays
  32. Walk and Talks
  33. Starter Swag Pack for new Employees
  34. Lunch and Learns
  35. Investment Funds
  36. Weekly Lottery tickets
  37. Company Video
  38. Internal Mentoring program
  39. Budget to make work area/Lunchroom their own
  40. Get behind a charity to support (Go to Community Template)
  41. Form a slow pitch team (or bowling)
  42. BBQ day

Add/Subtract from this list. Get your ideas from your employees. 

Get ideas from other businesses that you deal with. Find the ones that fit in with the culture you are trying to create.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave toxic work cultures.  – Dr.Amina Aitsi-Selmi