What Makes a Great Culture Great?

Posted on Jan 21, 2019 by Tonya Dittman

CultureCulture is a competitive advantage. Organizations with great cultures tend to outperform their competitors, not just in business outcomes such as profitability, but in their ability to innovate, meet evolving business challenges, and recruit and retain top talent. These great cultures—and the teams within them—have an extra layer of strength, resilience, and ability to adapt. This begs the question, what makes a great culture…great? It’s a challenging but important question that leaders around the globe are trying to answer. What makes it even more difficult is that no two organizations are alike; what makes a culture great in one environment doesn’t necessarily work in another.

I have recently been promoted to director of culture at Miron. In this role, I’m searching for that answer and what it means for Miron, a company that has existed for more than 100 years. Many people spend the majority of their lives at work, and I truly believe that this time should be spent doing something they love (or at least like), with people they enjoy working with, all in the pursuit of a larger purpose to which they feel connected.

Great cultures, in my humble opinion, are ones where employees are genuinely cared for, empowered, and feel valued. That is the mission I share with my small culture team—a team I hope to grow in 2019 and beyond.

On the surface, this may seem like a simple answer to the question, but it is incredibly difficult to execute, as evidenced by the discouraging statistic that over 68 percent of employees are disengaged at work. In addition to care, empowerment, and value, I believe great cultures exist in organizations that intentionally build an environment of trust. The infamous quote from Steve Jobs says it all: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Where trust exists, you will see people fully showing up, extending trust to one another, and working together through challenges. When there’s a culture of trust, people aren’t afraid to fail. Instead, they view failure as an opportunity to grow.

Building a culture like this doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly is not constructed by accident. Rather, it starts out small, with a shared vision and a clear focus on the behaviors that will achieve that vision. These behaviors (unspoken and spoken rules for how work gets done) need to be modeled by leadership, grown through advocates, and spread over time from person to person. The best, strongest, and most authentic cultures are built in the small moments between people. That’s where relationship-building, the bedrock of culture, truly happens.

Typically, it is not during the easy times that true relationships get built, but rather in the most challenging parts of our work. The same is true for culture. Many companies, including Miron, focus a lot of energy on building a sense of team outside of the normal work day. I’m proud of everything we do in terms of team building, annual summits, and even having a dream coach on staff. These events and programs are what make this organization special, and I talk often about this during our new hire experience and with others in the community.

However, I think our next opportunity will be to concentrate on the work day and the employee experience that happens during the week. I want to focus on the little moments, making sure we start people out right and welcome them into our culture. This will be accomplished through demonstrating care, articulating how and why we value each team member, carving out time to truly know our people, checking in, and providing feedback and opportunities for growth throughout an employee’s entire experience.

What’s Next?

Throughout 2019, we’ll bring you a series of blogs on company culture, exploring what makes great cultures great. I’m excited to share more ideas on the importance of trust, empowerment, demonstrating care, and providing regular feedback to employees, as well as how each of these key components contribute to building a great culture. Stay tuned!

If you have an interest in culture, I invite you to share your ideas with us as we share our ideas with you. To that end, I recently listened to a Coaching for Leaders Podcast with Ginger Hardage on Unstoppable Cultures. Ginger is a former senior vice president of culture at Southwest Airlines and has some fantastic, practical ideas for cultivating an unstoppable culture. Click the following link to learn more: https://coachingforleaders.com/podcast/350/.

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Tonya Dittman

About Tonya Dittman

Tonya has held various marketing roles during her tenure at Miron, which began in 2007. As the director of culture, Tonya is dedicated to Miron’s goal of being a great place to work for its employees. She inspires a positive work culture, identifies Miron’s ideal employee experience, measures and provides recommendations to enhance Miron’s employee experience, and leads the development of Miron’s C5 culture. As director of culture, Tonya is also responsible for enhancing The Miron Way orientation program and supporting additional culture-related Academy of Excellence learning programs as well as Miron’s Dream Project and Wellness Program. Tonya holds a degree in psychology and business from St. Norbert College. She is a LEED Green Associate and a graduate of Leadership Fox Cities. Tonya is a member of the United Way Fox Cities Campaign Volunteer Committee and the Utech Consulting Leadership Collective.

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