Success Rises and Falls on Culture by William Warren

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Culture is everything: success rises and falls on culture.

I’d define “culture” as the shared personality, values and beliefs of a team. It’s intangible but absolutely crucial.

If you have a good culture, your team will love working for you, you vendors will love working with you, and your clients will love hiring you. The opposite is true for a bad culture.

To build a culture, it must be defined, modeled, and reinforced.

Culture must first be defined, usually through a written mission statement (what you do), vision statement (where you’re going) and set of core values (how you act). At the Sketch Effect, we go a step further and have outlined “key behaviors” associated with each value. This is our filter for hiring decisions and performance reviews.

Next, culture must be modeled by leadership, which begins with the boss. A team will naturally replicate the behavior of their boss.

Finally, culture must be reinforced through activities and artifacts. Activities are things like scheduled retreats, lunches, celebrations, etc. The key word here is “scheduled” – it must be intentionally calendared and protected. At The Sketch Effect, we have quarterly retreats, semi-monthly team lunches, a weekly “sketch up” (i.e., “catch up”) meeting, and bi-weekly individual hangouts. Artifacts are physical things that populate your workspace. Examples are printed posters of your values, physical manifestations of inside jokes, or objects that hold special meaning to your team. For example, at The Sketch Effect, we have a “Gong of Awesome” in our office that we strike whenever anything awesome happens…whether that’s receiving a positive client survey, landing a big project, a team-member anniversary, etc.

At the Sketch Effect, we want our culture to be fun. I believe that if you hire people who are responsible and remarkable, you don’t need to worry about them having too much fun.

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I believe culture is king! Posted high on a central wall in our Home Office is Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

When someone walks into your work environment, culture is the emotional energy they feel—it’s the temperature in the room. It’s the DNA of your organization.

I’m often asked how I have been able to build a strong culture at Boosterthon. I always tell people that culture begins at the top, and you and your leadership team have to be intentional from the very beginning, and at every moment. Culture never sleeps.

At first, the Founder is the culture: Whether you like it or not, culture is born through the personality of the Founder. How the leader interacts with and addresses the organization sets the cultural foundation. If you’re making a cultural promise — “we have a culture of enthusiasm” — it must be fulfilled through hundreds of small interactions between you and your team. You must live it — daily!

Create culture: Throughout the year, make big cultural statements by designing experiences that shout your culture loud and clear to everyone. If someone peered in from the outside during one of these events, how would you want them to describe it? Then create an event that is centered on those words.

Hire with culture in mind: When your culture begins to have an identity, pass it off to your team to multiply. That’s why you should always hire people who will add to and reproduce your culture. Ultimately, your team members will be your thermostats, setting the temperature for their teams. Leaders multiply culture.

Lead by example and pass the torch: As the Founder and CEO, I’m setting the cultural direction, tone and fun, but my leaders often determine the creative ways to get there. And it’s extremely fun to watch them craft and lead in their own unique and personalized ways. This St. Patrick’s Day, I was running around with our Home Office Team popping 1,000 green balloons, trying to find one with a gold coin in it. It was outrageous and fun. And it wasn’t my idea. It was someone else’s. They get our culture of fun.

Not happy with your current culture? Eventually, culture can grow into the size of an ocean liner, and it takes time to turn around if it’s going in the wrong direction, but it’s not impossible. The leader can only change the culture if they change themselves first.

So, how do you want the cultural temperature to feel in your organization?

Go make it happen!

- Chris Carneal, Founder and CEO of Boosterthon

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A Secret from Disney by Rob Lott

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When a family begins the pilgrimage to Walt Disney World, their expectations are exceptionally high.  They can’t help themselves.

They’ve been inundated with marketing from Walt Disney World, the Disney movies they’ve seen, and the stories they’ve heard from the Disney-loving family down the street, and it’s all building toward their own euphoric anticipation of the moment when they finally get their own stroll down Mainstreet U.S.A., toward Cinderella and Prince Charming’s Castle. 
I have the distinct pleasure of getting to call myself a Disney Cast Member. Even better, I belong to the Entertainment Cast of Walt Disney World. For almost twenty years, I have called the stages of Walt Disney World home. 
Okay, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s something we’re not supposed to talk about. It’s definitely something you’re never supposed to see. The thing is, it happens every day, and sometimes right in front of our Guests. Don’t tell anyone, though. Let’s try and keep this between us. Ready? Here it is. Lean in close.
We rehearse. 
We rehearse a lot. When learning a new role or a new show, we break each moment down to its irreducible minimum, and we drill it to perfection. The goal is to become so comfortable and confident with each dance step, each harmony line, and each comedic punchline, so that we know of no other way except to deliver it perfectly. And on the rare occasion that we mess up, we must be so polished that even the mistake should look excellent. That’s the goal, at least. 
The thing is, everything drifts. Not on purpose, but simply due to human nature. The high kicks, over time, begin not to be so high. The original harmonies drift out of tune, and sometimes the notes settle in to a new harmony altogether. These adjustments happen. From the wear and tear of daily use, it just happens. 
What to do? Well, we combat this with a team of experienced and expert artists who not only teach and maintain the shows and parades, they also inspire Cast Members to exceed the expectations of our Guests and Creative Team. 
These expert artists sit quietly in the audience, a secret shopper of sorts, tucked away, although not hiding. They applaud and they laugh when something is funny, but they also take notes on what could be better. They hold the cast accountable to the standard of expected excellence. 
These are teachers dedicated to their Cast. They use every method they can find to help a young performer get it right. They point out what’s working, and then they apply that strategy to the moments that are not. 
That’s the secret. We rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. And when rehearsal is finished, we continue to work on it, sharpen it, and make it excellent.
People often ask me, “How does everything at Walt Disney World work so smoothly and come off so perfect?” Well, first I tell them, we don’t always get it right. But when we don’t get it right, we try to make it right. As for all the things we do well, my answer is, we do it every single day, usually multiple times a day. When you do something every day, with the intent to do it better today than you did yesterday, your work should exude excellence rather quickly over time. 
So, I ask you, what does your organization do every day that should be excellent? You have your procedures and routines, and the same things are happening over and over every day. What systems do you have in place that will hold everyone on your team accountable to the excellence you’ve agreed upon?

-Rob Lott

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Thoughts on Culture by the Team at See.Spark.Go.

BY: Monique Jacques & Brittany Thoms, See.Spark.Go

A company culture reflects the passions, challenges, hopes and history of its collective team and mission. At See.Spark.Go, we work diligently to create a culture of high fives, fun, genuine care and say-it-with-me, “hard work!”

We believe that doing work that matters is a product of a culture where both results and relationships win. Without both, you’re either boring or just plain friends. So, while day in and day out we’re professional storytellers, thought-leader champions, vision constructors, platform builders and microphone stands, rallying digital audiences and methodically and creatively engaging raving fans, we’re doing it with the music on, the laughter flowing and our heels kicked up (or off!) every now and then!

As Plywood always says, “It’s hard work changing the world.”

So, how do you cultivate a healthy culture in a work environment or even just your personal community?

It all starts with attitude. Can do. Believe it. Achieve it. Find joy and passion in it. Attitude.

Leaders do not simply train team members in how to accomplish tasks, they also show them how to communicate, problem solve and resolve conflict in a professional, caring way.

Ask yourself—do I show my team that I believe in them? That I believe in the projects we are doing together? Do I put myself first? Or focus on equipping others? Do I challenge others to be better versions of themselves? Or do I hinder them?

When people feel known and empowered, celebrated and cheered on, they confidently take risks and work with tenacity. Feeling isolated, unheard or unequipped makes everyday challenges much larger, and we all would retreat in that environment. People over tasks, and healthy culture will follow. Tasks, too.

So, have fun, be honest, invite others in, enjoy the process and MAKE IT HAPPEN!

-Your friends at See.Spark.Go are here to help.

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10 Points on Culture by Billy Boughey, Elevate Live Events

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Culture is the most important metric in business. At Elevate, we view our hiring process, business strategies, and scope of work through the lens of our company culture. We intentionally design a team and environment that go hand in hand with our company vision. People should know our core values by looking at our team and how we interact with one another and our clients.
Positive organizational culture takes effort to create and maintain. Our core values are: Relationships, Remark-ability, Enthusiasm, Initiative, and Bravery. We greet delivery drivers by name, celebrate guests, and even break into dance parties when appropriate. Also, we foster growth by participating in team-wide book discussions, attending relevant conferences, and diving into leadership opportunities. 

Culture doesn’t happen by chance. It’s intentionally created and designed. 

Quick Culture Points:
1) Think for your team (Schedule, team building & growth opportunities) 
2) Put time aside weekly to encourage your team with your words.
3) Challenge team members one-on-one who have an issue with someone else on your staff. Don’t let lower emotional maturity seep into your culture. 
4) Be real, share your struggles and don’t shy away from honest conversations.
5) Assume the best in people.
6) Prioritize fun. 
7) Celebrate things that matter to others and not only what matters to your business model.
8) Speak life into people.
9) Your “NOs” are more important than your “YESs”
10) Always welcome ideas from your team. This fosters creativity and leads to momentum and buy-in. 

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