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Three Culture Lessons from Culture Thought Leaders

I was humbled and honored to find myself at the top of recruiter.com’s recent list of “Top 10 Company Culture Experts.” But I also saw it as a great opportunity — an opportunity to learn.

If there’s one thing I know about building a great organizational culture, it’s that I don’t know enough. So when the website released its list, I skipped my profile – I already know about me – and looked to see what I could learn from the others on the list. What do we have in common that supports and confirms what I believe? And what do they know that I don’t?

Here are three of the things that hit me as I reflected on the other thought leaders who were on the list:

Serving others builds strong cultures.

No. 2 on the list was Steven Covey, the late, great author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m a big fan of Covey’s “abundance mentality,” which argues that leaders should operate with the belief that there are enough resources and successes available to us that we can share them with others and not lose anything. In fact, we gain something. His “habits” all reinforce the idea that we lead best when we serve others, and that’s a critical key to building a great culture.

Don’t define your organization’s values without knowing what your people value

I first came across S. Chris Edmonds while researching a book project. Edmonds, No. 8 on the list, wrote The Culture Engine, and his consultancy focuses on developing strong organizational cultures. What I appreciate about his approach is its emphasis on aligned values. For me, this is a huge area in which most organizations can improve. And one way I believe most leaders can improve is by not defining the values for the organization. Instead, they should engage people throughout the organization, understand what they value, and then incorporate those values into their organizational culture.

Build cultural trust through transparent leadership

Katie Burke, the VP of culture and experience at HubSpot, is known for helping people around her get better and advance their careers. I certainly appreciate that, and I see it as a key to a strong culture. But she also wins me over with her understanding of the importance of transparency. Here’s an article she wrote explaining how transparency was the key to maintaining a great culture when HubSpot went public.

Ultimately, everyone on the recruiter.com list has great insights into what it takes to build and maintain a successful culture. And frankly, I was a little surprised to make such a list, much less see my name at the top. But I’m not surprised the website sees culture as an important topic, because we live in a time when the most successful organizations are the ones that can recruit and keep the most talented people.

A great company culture is critical to attracting and keeping that talent. I believe you only build a great culture when you lead with transparency and establish trust. And the more great thought leaders who are working to make that happen the better.

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