THE BLOG

It's the Culture, Stupid

04/26/2015 05:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2015

What separates the marketplace heroes in every industry from the has-beens and wanna-bes?

It isn't the products, price or even your location. It isn't the competence and qualifications of your staff. Your competitors don't hire all geniuses and leave you with the dunces. Their computer systems, compensation and operational processes are not dramatically better than yours. When they discuss strategy, the words on their flip charts are not significantly more insightful than yours.

The difference is an intangible. It is a culture where every person at every level is focused on and committed to delivering results that drive long-term success.

What the Best Do Differently

Your culture is the habits your organization displays over time. Habits are built by repeated action. And, actions are driven by the choices made and reinforced in every area of your operation every day.

Strategy provides the competitive direction, but the culture is the fuel that ensures your company delivers meaningful results. The best companies make different choices, and as a result, they don't just compete -- they dominate their markets. Here are six choices that will -- when reinforced and repeated to the point of habit -- enable your culture to enable significant results for your company.

  • Tell yourself the truth and value candor and honesty. Despite our belief that we embrace the cold, hard truth, most of us are guilty of 3D Vision: Denial, Distortion and Delusion. We deny reality, distort our performance and delude ourselves into blaming our lousy results on things beyond our control. The cure for 3-D Vision is the continuous search for and acknowledgement of the truth. You don't have to be brutal. You do have to be relentless and unwavering.
  • Pursue the best over the easiest in every situation. This one choice changes every decision you make and action you take -- strategy, resource allocation, operational goals, product and service delivery, hiring, information systems, education and training. It sounds easy, but most of us do what is easy rather than what is best. What would be different if every person in your company did what was best rather than what was easy?
  • Leverage the power of partnerships both internally and externally. Do your customers love you so much they sell for you? Do your employees volunteer their commitment to go beyond the minimum in product quality or service? If you answered no to either question, you are not leveraging the power of partnerships.
  • Focus the energy to make the main things the main thing. In today's world, fundamentals are the minimum. Being distinctive is the difference... if it adds value. A culture that consistently executes at a high level on the basics and encourages your staff to add value makes a difference in both the top and bottom line.
  • Learn, grow, and improve every day. Continuous improvement and development are a business imperative. The difference between consistent excellence and random brilliance is the ability to learn, grow and adapt. Past success proves you were right once.
  • Show the courage of accountability. There is a line from the often-quoted "Unknown" that applies here, "If you really want to do something, you will find a way; if you don't, you'll find an excuse." A culture hat promotes and recognizes accountability puts you in a prime position for success.

Culture follows performance and behavior, not the other way around. The difference between you and the competitor who is beating you is the discipline to make these choices more often and effectively.

This is not a twelve-step program or a one-year performance objective. Developing and sustaining the culture is an every-day job that lasts for the rest of your life as a leader.

So what are you waiting for? It's the culture, stupid.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author and a leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To learn more or to hire Randy to help your company, visit www.penningtongroup.com or call 972-980-9857.