Notable management expert Peter Drucker said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It sure is a catchy statement but means nothing if we don’t understand what culture really is. Of course it would help to be clear on strategy too but that is for another time.

Most people assume that culture is parties and gatherings, creating fun environments, great coffee and company provided snacks. It is not, although might be by-product of a having a powerful culture. If we don’t understanding what culture is, how can we create one intentionally? We can’t. So let define culture before I share the four points that keep organizations from building robust, powerful and effective cultures.

As suggested, culture is not about parties and gatherings unless one of your core values has to do with having fun and creating a connected environment among your people. Culture is simply a commonly-held set of beliefs and values that get regularly acted upon by the people in an organization.

People Living Core Values = Your Culture

Let me offer an example. Let’s say you’ve adopted a core value of “We Get Stuff Done”.

The potential definition could be: Our team members regularly take active and passionate initiative and accountability to make sure that projects, assignments and work is being completed quickly, efficiently and resourcefully.

With this core value in action you would likely observe people being extremely focused and committed to their work and the company.

So culture is lived and observed through the active and intentional behavior of its people.

Now that we have a better understanding of culture, here are three major mistakes that organization make that impact the quality or even existence of an effective and empowering culture.

1) Not Having a Well Articulate Set of Core Values
Not having core values well writing that describe the desired behaviors in details is the first big mistake. The value itself must be defined. Having a value like – “We are a Great Team” without a detailed description leaves the desired behaviors too open ended and subject to misinterpretation.

In addition, having a set of core values written and just posted on a wall has no punch or value either. It might serve as a reminded to people what your organization stands for but the context must be articulated. This leads me to the next mistake.

2) Not Spending Sufficient Time Training People on the Core Values and the Culture that You’re Creating
Speaking with a manager of a company that had recently hired some new employees, I asked how much time she spent training them on the company core values. Her response was “None”.

How can we expect people to understand the expectations and behaviors we have of them if we’re not sharing and helping them understand them? Even if there happens to be an occasional conversation on the subject of culture, most companies simply don’t spend time enough time on the topic. Our ultimate goal of our communication is to ensure that the culture is threaded into the fiber or personality of the organization. We are looking for transformational change.

The Level 7 Principle of Threading Culture suggests that an organization creates a systematic approach that includes robust and ongoing conversations and training that results into full organizational adoption. Which ultimately means your people are living it. Creating a wide variety of forums to share the culture like all staff meetings, one-on-one meetings with team members, shout outs and visual and auditory reminders is part of the process. There has to be an investment in time and energy into the process.

An environment of accountability must be created as well. Once we’re having conversations with people about living the businesses core values, we also have to hold people to the task. When we observe behaviors that are not in alignment with the culture, we need to engage in retraining.

3) Not Hiring and Screening for Culture
The third mistake companies make is not being intentional about the people that they are hiring. We tend to hire for skills and qualifications and neglect screening for values that line up with the company. Good hiring practices involve careful and intentional screening of candidates from the very beginning of the application and candidate screening process. Carefully crafted questions are designed to help identify whether or not that person is accustomed to acting and behaving in a manner consistent with the core values of your business. Past behavior is a strong indication of future performance and therefore good screening processes look for evidence that people are likely to living the values when they are hired.

In summary, creating a sustainable, inspired business culture requires clearly defined values, thorough and intentional recruiting for people who will fit the culture and robust, consistent and empowering training. Do so will position your organization for greater performance, differentiation and enhanced employee and owner satisfaction.