The Client-centred Blog

Culture and getting the best from your people

Why is the culture of an organisation so important?

The late Peter Drucker, one of the world’s leading business thinkers, is credited with the saying…

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

He believed that the culture of an organisation was the prime mover in the successful implementation of business strategy. If the strategy was incompatible with the culture then it was likely to fail.

But what is culture?

Although it is often defined as the behaviours, beliefs, values, vision and environment of an organisation, it is something more fundamental than these.

Ultimately, culture is the collective state of mind of the people in the business.

For example, imagine how different a culture of collaboration and always putting the client first would be to a culture of fear and blaming.

Obviously, each will have a completely different effect on behaviour and, ultimately, results.

It would be true to say that when people are in a clear mind they are more creative, productive, make less mistakes and can easily see the bigger picture and how they fit into it.

When a team of people are ‘in the zone’ they will out-perform any process and be far greater than the sum of the parts.

On the other hand, if people feel insecure, under pressure, fearful, tense or aggrieved then things like values, vision and collaboration will often suffer greatly.

Even the very best processes, knowledge and resources will come up short when people are in low moods.

Most, if not all, leaders and organisations recognise the importance of creating a great culture but only a few seem to understand how to create it.

One example caught my attention recently.

I read about the highly successful US retailer Nordstrom, which is well-known for having great customer service, among the very best in the industry.

The employee handbook is just a single card that says “Use good judgement in all situations.”

They aren’t telling people how to think or what to do because they understand that doing so would work against, not towards their goal.

The antithesis of this is where people’s heads are filled with rules, regulations, policy and they are micro-managed. This will often bring out the worst in people.

So, if you want to improve the culture of your organisation (and why wouldn’t you?) where can you begin?

With the fundamental understanding that the human mind only works from the inside-out.

Why is this so important?

Because if the leaders and culture-setters believe that circumstances cause feelings, then their ability to create a great culture will be drastically weakened.

You have to be the living example of what you want to create.

Nordstrom, for example, clearly demonstrate that they trust their people and their ability to make good judgements.


John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.



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