How (and Why) to Transform Your Broken Company Culture


I've always said that if you aren't intentional about building your company culture, it will build itself, and you won't like the results.

Creating a company culture from the ground up is one thing; repairing a broken culture requires in-depth exploration, a significant shift in perspective, and commitment. To see things from a broader perspective, you must release your stress and judgment and step back to view things from a mindset of curiosity–a quality that's innate to entrepreneurs but often underutilized. 

The exploration begins within you, the leader. 

Your values, integrity, commitment, level of confidence, and the effects of your overall mindset will trickle down into your organization. An evaluation of the current condition of your company culture is not about placing blame; it's about personal growth. Observe your thoughts and behavior. How have you contributed to a damaged or even toxic culture? 

Explore your values; what is most important to you? 

If you are living in integrity with your values (especially your top three), they should dictate just about everything you do. When there's an imbalance in your life, reviewing your personal values will typically reveal that you're not living in a way that represents them well. 

Which values will you introduce to your company culture?

If your ideal customer got an inside peek at your daily operations, what would they say to others about it? How do they respond when someone asks one of your employees what it's like to work for you? When people talk about your product or service, would you feel proud or embarrassed by their assessment? 

Thinking from your customer's point of view, write your ideal product testimonial or review. What values, actions, structure, and philosophies are required to live up to such a review? 

Your attitude runs through your culture. 

The stress of running a business that is not functioning well (because if your culture is imbalanced, it won't) is overwhelming. Add personal issues to the mix, and it can become more than you can bear. You have to be super-human to leave the stress behind when you come to work, but that's what a great leader does. Otherwise, you become a part of the problem, and your team follows suit. Much like a parent/child relationship, if you aren't safe and secure, neither are your employees. 

Don't shoulder the burden alone. Take steps to build an inclusive culture and work with your team to brainstorm and implement changes. Ask others for help: mentors and coaches are a great place to start. 

Culture is attention-grabbing. 

I have a client who is building a franchise operation in the restaurant industry. When we began working together, there was no intentional, healthy company culture in place. Employees were uncooperative, job candidates ghosted them, and customers were unimpressed with the service. 

As my client incorporated onboarding processes, employee reward systems, team meetings, and more, customers took notice. The average ticket price went up, and word spread in the community. 

What do your employees want?

Not everyone is motivated by money alone. A Gallup study showed that employees who receive praise and recognition are more engaged, committed, and productive. Some employees work best autonomously, others need frequent guidance. What benefits are most important to your team? For some, medical benefits are not important but a semi-flexible schedule will reward you with a loyal, hard-working attitude. Ask your team what is most important to them.

Your employees need things that you don't understand.

Entrepreneurs and employees have very different personality types. Business owners often tell me they don't understand why they need to hand-hold (at least that's how they view it) their employees. They wonder:

  • Why do employees need praise? After all, they get a paycheck. 
  • How come they can't follow instructions and do it my way? 
  • Why do they have to ask so many questions? 
  • Why aren't they more reliable?

The answers to these questions go deep, but to touch the surface, remember that if everyone were like you your company would not grow. Have you heard the saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? You are the chef and your employees perform all the jobs you are not good at or would waste your talents. If you listen to your employees and construct a culture that feeds and challenges them while appreciating their contribution, your company will thrive. 

Begin here to improve or repair your culture.

Once you've explored these insights, begin working on your culture by learning more about your team members. Countless assessments are available to identify their strengths, learning and communication styles, and personality types. Ensure that each employee holds a job that leverages their strengths and keeps them engaged. Don't set an employee up to fail by putting them on the wrong bus, keep them moving in the right direction by leaning into their skills. Lastly, encourage teamwork and camaraderie and offer incentives that mean something to them. 

Final thought: When you invest your valuable time, patience, and money you will be rewarded by reduced payroll expenses and employee turnover. It will improve your product and customer service. It can increase customer retention rates and improve your public image. And you'll love this: you will have fewer headaches and much less stress. 

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