Use Stories To Define Your Culture

When we ask executives if their organization has core values that define their culture, most proudly answer yes and either produce a laminated card they keep with them, or describe how they are prominently posted in their building.  We next ask the executive to tell us about their culture or core values and most will stumble, but passionately direct us to their card or wall so we can read all about them.

Every organization has it’s own culture whether it’s intended or not.  Smart executives define the culture they want, share it, live it, and hire for it.  One of the best ways to define and impart culture is to tell stories that reflect what an organization is all about.

Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, wanted to create a culture that embraced failure and making mistakes.  IBM executives love to tell the story of a 1940’s employee who made a mistake that cost the company $1 million. Knowing that he was about to be fired, the employee typed up his letter of resignation, and handed it to Watson. Watson responded: “Fire you? I’ve just invested $1 million in your education, and you think I’m going to fire you?”

Stories are a powerful way to communicate how things get done.  Encourage your team to share stories that reflect the culture you want, and you’ll empower success.

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