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Here's a simple, but interesting observation: Every company has a distinct culture. In fact, every group of people that comes together regularly has a culture. This is as true for your company as it is for a group of golfing buddies or a Girl Scout troop or an athletic team.

There's an unwritten set of rules about how the group works - what topics are off limits, what it's OK to joke about, how things get done, etc. It's simply not possible for there not to be a culture.

Strong Personalities Dictate

But did you ever stop to wonder where that culture came from or how it started? In most groups, the person in the group who has the strongest personality - the alpha person, exerts the biggest influence on the culture. While it may not be intentional, by sheer force of personality, this person tends to establish the group norms. And as new members join the group, they tend to follow those established norms (or leave the group) and the norms become more and more deeply ingrained.

Why does this matter? Well, absent an intentional force on your part, the same thing is happening in your company. The culture of your organization is mostly being dictated by those who have the strongest personalities - and they aren't necessarily the designated managers, supervisors, and leaders. They're simply people who have strong personalities.

If these people are positive, enthusiastic, high-performing superstars, this will work out great. And if they're not - if they're negative, cynical, low performing people, it's going to be a problem.

Culture By Chance or By Design?

Here's the real issue: If you understand that your culture has a significant and direct impact on how your people perform, and that it's one of the biggest opportunities you have to establish a sustainable competitive advantage, would you want to leave that to chance? Would you want to just hope that your culture is being influenced by the right kind of people?

World-class organizations don't leave any of this to chance. They don't hope the right culture emerges. No - they create and drive their culture intentionally. It's simply too important to your success to do anything less.

Contributed by David Friedman, author of Fundamentally Different


Larry Hart

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