Come on Baby Light My Cultural Fire

Ping pong tables, free beer Fridays, and unlimited Vacation are not culture.

 Culture is not an afterthought. It’s the pre-thought. It’s the essence of your company. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, it’s not the Kool­aid, it’s the water. Your company in it’s purest form.

 Contrary to popular belief, culture isn’t soft. It’s the lifeblood of every organization whether you’re actively cultivating it or not.

 “Culture, in a nutshell, is what you believe in as an organization, and what the customer sees and experiences at the end of the day. It is what you stand for, the whole philosophy that your company is built upon, what you are going to succeed at, how you run a company and how you, as a company, treat each other. Culture is a methodology for getting things done with the right motivation and the right sense of purpose.” —Didier Elzinga, CEO, Culture Amp

 It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup looking to scale or an established firm evaluating acquisitions. Culture should always be your top priority. It’s the yin to the yang that is your product or service.

Even the CEO one of the hottest businesses in the last few years, Slack, believes Culture is #1 priority.

“You need to really have the volume up. Cultural problems need to be addressed as they arise. Turning the volume up means constantly, and loudly, reiterating the company’s values and making sure they don’t get muddled as the company grows.”

—Stewart Butterfield

Your Competitive Advantage

Do what others are unwilling to do, to get what others will only dream and talk about.

 In a recent study, Deloitte reported that fewer than 3 in 10 business leaders (Deloitte) understand their own company culture. That’s in the face of:

     ● 82 percent of the respondents to the 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey believing that culture is a potential competitive advantage.

Leaders that prioritize resources (time, strategic plans, money, and people) for culture will be the ones that increase their odds for success and positive impact.

When people in a business are self-­aware and aligned with the culture, great decisions are easier to make. Trying to decide which strategic partners are best? Easy. Which one is most aligned with your culture. New hires? Culture fit (something that can be measured qualitatively and quantitatively).

With proper investments in resources, you can gain a competitive advantage through humanity…your culture.

No Culture­-Washing Zone

We see it with eco­-friendly products and green washing; gluten ­free products…seriously do you need a gluten free label on carrots; and even in diversity. There’s a multitude of companies that out there diversity programs and all they do is have one page on the website with something diversity with a stock photo of people of different ethnicities and genders.

 If you’re going to have and focus on culture be real. There’s already enough fake businesses or false businesses culture. Be authentic.

How to Amp up your Culture from Day 1

The best day to codify your culture is Day 1 of launching your business. The 2nd best day is today. How?

Here are the first 3 steps of the process based on the CultureLABx model that I use with my clients:

Each of the 3 steps, has 3 components:

● DO = The key actions for you and your team

● ASK = The questions that generate self­-awareness and understanding of what is happening at this moment in time. These questions should be answered everyone not just the management team.

● OBSERVE RESULT = Let’s you know what the signposts of culture look like for your organization.



     a. DO: ​Develop a brief, compelling story about what your team and organization        are trying to accomplish

     b. ASK: ​Why are you in business beyond making money? Why do you do what

you do? What does happiness mean to you (as an organization)?

     c. OBSERVE ​RESULT:​When done well, your team feels meaning. Their

         day ­to­day is in sync with the bigger picture.



     a. DO: Work with your colleagues to define how you get work done and what is

         driving those choices. Then codify them.

     b. ASK: What are the three most important principles that should guide our


     c. OBSERVE ​RESULT:​When done well, you and your team feel aligned, and

         decisions become clear



     a. DO: Map behaviors that you’d like to reinforce, and those that should stop.

     b. ASK: Do our actions reflect our values? Are there times when we don’t do

what we say we do?

     c. OBSERVE ​RESULT:​When done well, you and your team feel heard and


Anthony Ware is the Catalyst and Founder at Zen Doughboy, a firm that co-creates positive impact with clients at the intersection of culture, happiness, travel, and fun.

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