The Four Corners of a World Class Culture

January 11, 2022

Company culture is more than a ping pong table, kombucha on tap or a gym membership. This realization is one many companies have arrived at over the past year as they transitioned from working in-office to working remote and easing into hybrid schedules. As author and business growth guru Cameron Herold shares, “They [the media] talked about the foosball table and the free lunches and the massage therapists coming in to do massages. That’s not culture. Those are perks that you’re giving your employees.” If you’re looking to position your business for long-term growth, the place to start isn’t with “perks,” it’s with culture. Herold describes a world class culture as the four corners of a puzzle – here’s what it takes to assemble it. 

Corner 1: Creating Your Vivid Vision 

As we discussed in our last blog titled, “Teleporting to 2025,” and Part One of our podcast with Cameron Herold, a Vivid Vision is a four- or five-page written description of what your company will look, feel and act like three years in the future. This process typically begins with the CEO, who envisions every detail of the company three years out and transfers it from wishful thinking into detailed writing. Later, a copywriter can go in and polish each of these thoughts into a cohesive, streamlined document which will be a guiding force in the company from then until it becomes reality within the next three years. Ensuring that everyone is aligned with the Vivid Vision and sees what the CEO can see sets a precedent for how the company operates. Herold explains, “If you get rid of all the people that don’t like what they see and you keep attracting more people that do like what they see, that’s the first corner of the jigsaw puzzle.” 

Corner 2: Defining and Living By Your Core Values

The second corner is made up of the company’s core values. These core values are of utmost importance. “You have to hire, fire and live based upon your core values,” Herold says. Here’s the criteria of what strong core values consist of: they’re guiding principles, typically formatted as phrases rather than buzzwords, that are easy-to-understand, direct and meaningful. To ensure that they’re being fulfilled and not overlooked, Herold recommends limiting these core values to four or five significant ones. The Hilton brand, for example, makes their core values easy to remember by using “Hilton” as the acronym to define them, as shown below.

Hospitality: We’re passionate about delivering exceptional guest experiences.

Integrity: We do the right thing, all the time.

Leadership: We’re leaders in our industry and in our communities.

Teamwork: We’re team players in everything we do.

Ownership: We’re the owners of our actions and decisions.

Now: We operate with a sense of urgency and discipline. 

Rather than a “set it and forget it” mindset, the key to keeping core values alive is to incorporate them into day-to-day life. “You’ve got to thank people for emulating and living the core values, and you have to reinforce them on a daily basis,” Herold says. 

Corner 3: Going for the Gusto with a BHAG

The third corner is what author and researcher Jim Collins refers to as a BHAG (pronounced bee-hag), which refers to a “big, hairy, audacious goal.” As explained on Collins’ website, “a true BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort – often creating immense team spirit.” This goal is an exciting and tangible cause to rally behind. Deserving of its name, the larger-than-life aspect of this goal may be met with disbelief from those who aren’t directly involved. “It’s an aligning force inside of the organization that from the outside seems impossible and from the inside feels plausible,” Herold explains. One of tech giant Apple’s big hairy audacious goals can be found right on their website in alignment with its environment value: to have every Apple product be carbon neutral by 2030, from how it’s designed to how it’s recycled. 

Corner 4: Understanding Your Core Purpose 

Your core purpose is a deep-seated connection as to why you do what you do. It’s the emotional driver behind your organization. Like the Disney/Pixar movie “Up,” says “adventure is out there!” Opportunity is out there, too, but companies should evaluate each opportunity to see if it aligns with the organization’s core purpose before setting sail to go. For instance, when Herold agreed to be on “The 19 Podcast,” it was an easy decision to make because it aligned with his core purpose: “to help entrepreneurs make their dreams happen.”

National grocery store Trader Joe’s core purpose is “to provide customers outstanding value in the form of the best quality products at the best everyday prices.” One way they fulfill this is through one of their seven values: the Kaizen mindset, a Japanese word for “improvement,” which to the Trader Joe’s team means continuous small improvements every single day.

Now that you have the four corners of your culture puzzle, you’re officially ready to bring together your unique big picture. With your Vivid Vision, Values, BHAG and Core Purpose at the root of every decision you make, you’ll be able to create a world class culture and team.

Written By: Michelle Komala

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