Every company has a culture. Whether it is explicit or implicit, a culture exists. The question is, who owns the culture?

Let’s get straight to the point. Leadership owns the company culture. Full stop. End of story.

Creating and maintain a company culture is a top down activity. Founders, owners, partners, the C-suite, Executive Teams…whoever makes up the company’s leadership team is responsible for setting the culture and following through on it.

What is a company culture?
A culture is the company’s identity. It’s an attitude. It’s a way of being. It defines who you are and what makes you unique. It’s how the business actually gets done.

It is a thousand things done a thousand times. It is defined and reinforced through the actions and behaviours leadership deem tolerable. What is tolerated is the accepted norm.

A company’s culture is found in how the values are embraced, how people are held accountable, how conflict is addressed, how communication is shared, how people are acknowledged and promoted, and how & why people are hired and fired.

“Beer-cart Thursday” is not a company culture
Company parties, softball games, Beer-cart Thursday, personalized workspace or Halloween costume contests are not the company culture. Don’t get me wrong, these acts are integral to contributing to a company’s culture, but they are meaningless if there is no set foundation for them sit.

Four Cornerstones of Culture
There are four cornerstones that establish a strong and powerful cultural foundation.
• Company Purpose – why the company exists.
• Company Character – the guiding principles of “how” the organization will act.
• Company Deliverables – what are the goals/metrics to achieve their purpose.
• Company Interdependencies – working together as one team.

PS: the four cornerstones can only be set and led by leadership. Employees can contribute to them, but it is the leadership that owns the integrity of the foundation.

Culture’s Contribution to the Bottom Line
Time and time again research has shown that explicit, strong, and positive cultures outperform their counterparts. In the book, Primal Leadership, the authors found a company’s culture accounts for 20-30% of business performance. Most telling was the research done for the book, Corporate Culture and Performance, where companies with enhancing cultures delivered six times higher revenue growth.

The Take-Away: Culture matters. It impacts the bottom line.

A final thought: Remember the Titans
One of my favourite movies is Remember the Titans, based on the true story of the T.C Williams High School football team dealing with complexity of desegregation. There is a critical point in the movie when one of the players points out to the Captain of the team he is responsible for leading the team culture.

The Quote: Julius says to Berteir, “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain”.

When the Captain chose to take accountability for the culture, a shift occurred and the team moved from segregation and dysfunction to inclusion and high performance.

So to reiterate, leadership owns the company culture.

What is your company culture doing for you, Captain?