You can't keep holding on to how it used to be. You can't stay where you are because it feels comfortable. You must stand up and say aloud, "We must change together to become the team we have always dreamed of being." This will start with you, by the way, not with them.

Let me share a short story.

A Story

I was touring the great Pacific Northwest with three other college teammates. We were presenting special events designed to encourage churches in mostly rural settings. We led weekly stuff full of music, activities, games, speaking, and sharing our faith, especially with student culture.

One night before an event, Mitzi started to share how distracted upset she was because of the breakdown of her relationship with her boyfriend back home. Rather than thinking it to myself, I opened my mouth and said something like, "Well, can you get it together by tonight? I mean, we have an important work to do tonight and this is going to blow it all up." I know, I know. I am horrible. At the time, though, it seemed like I was helping everyone with their priorities. They needed to adjust.

I was wrong.

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Chris, the team leader, pulled me aside a few days later and asked me if I had any idea how negative a person I was. I think he told me I should record myself sometime and play it back. He also gave me a pretty stern encouragement to help me avoid causing further pain in the team: "If you don't have something positive to say, maybe you shouldn't say anything at all."

I took him seriously. Embarrassingly, I found I didn't have much to say.

You get the picture. It was I who needed to change. It was my mindset that was bringing the team down. I wanted them to change to be more like me: in love with the mission, sold out to success, completion at all cost, etc. What was really needed was a change in my mindset.

It took many years for me to discover the joy of people over projects.

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Time to Plan for Change

OK, now that we have established the importance of the right mindset, let's make serious applications to our own organization's culture. Let's overcome our negative thoughts and make some decisions with our team toward healthy culture. What follows in this article are three solid strategies for designing a better workspace culture and a better business future. Do you want to stop enticing average clients? The wrong employees? The wrong professional colleagues? More importantly are you ready to start enticing your ideal clients? New customers? Your ideal employees? Your perfect professional colleagues?

Then it is time for you to get ready to change alongside your team.

You change first. They will be more willing to follow.

Here is how to begin building the company culture you have always wanted.

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Summary of All Three Steps to the Culture You Want 

  1. Stop Selling the Benefits, Start Selling the Mission
  2. Stop Promoting Projects, Start Promoting People
  3. Stop Sharing Your Elevator Pitch, Start Sharing Your Story

Let's dig into each of these three steps:


Stop Selling the Benefits, Start Selling the Mission

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You are a business owner. Your business message must be singular and exciting if you are to win the best people as both potential customers and as great employees. When your message is all over the place, it confuses people and turns them off. But when you refine your message and make it clear, it becomes winsome. A strong business identity will intrigue others. If you want to win great clients, you need to have a strong business identity. This means being clear about who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you different. When you're clear about your identity, winning new people happens naturally.

Who are you? This image represents "The Archer". The Archer is the heart of your business. The Archer is known by the stories he tells of his early days...

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The same goes for attracting great employees. Your business mission must be attractive. It will win new clients if your mission is clear. It will win new employees if it is meaningful. A strong business identity creates a gravitational pull. The right people are naturally attracted to you. If you want to build a great team, start by being clear about your mission. Whose lives do you want to improve? How can a great team help you do it?

This means when you are interviewing new hires you should be talking more about the mission you are on as a company and way less about what they can earn or what financial perks they may be able to gain. When you are trying to motivate your present workforce, the same is true. An inspiring vision for the future will win over a financial bonus based on grinding work with no sense of the valuable impact on the world.

Also remember, when you focus on growth, your mission becomes more attractive. People are naturally drawn to things that are growing. If you can show that your business is growing, you'll attract more attention from potential clients and employees. Focus on what's working and continue to do more of it. This will help you appeal to the right people: those who share your values and are excited about your mission.

If you want to engage the right people, start by being clear about who you are and what you stand for.


Stop Promoting Projects, Start Promoting People

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If you're like most business owners, you've probably put a lot of time and effort into creating a winning strategy. But what good is a great strategy if you don't have the right people in place to execute it?

This is what the phrase "culture eats strategy for breakfast" means. It is all about people.

Building a strong company culture should be one of your top priorities. Why? Because culture eats strategy for breakfast. In other words, no matter how well-crafted your plans are, they won't amount to much if you don't have the right team in place to carry them out. Strong company culture will attract and retain the best talent. It will also help you build a more cohesive and productive team. So if you're serious about growing your business, start by promoting your culture, not your strategy.

Here are a few tips to get you started building culture:

  • Define your company's core values. Your company values are the beliefs that guide everything you do as a team. Make sure they reflect the kind of business you want to build. Make sure they reflect who you really are as a person, as well. There is no such thing as core values in a company that are not actually the core values of the people who lead it into the future.
  • Hire for fit. When you're interviewing candidates, look for people who share your company's values and who will be a good cultural fit. It is time to add questions right at the top of your interview process that allows people to opt-in or opt-out early based on values, not competency. Hiring for skill alone is foolish. Corporate cultures grow strong over time because they only attract and hire people that share their cultural values.
  • Communicate your culture. Once you've defined it and hired for it, make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page about what your culture is and why it matters. Use every opportunity—from team meetings to one-on-ones—to reinforce your company's shared values. Usually, a team that is open and collaborative can distill their cultural values down to a few key phrases that drive their company mission statement.
  • Promote transparency and open communication. Create ways to collaborate as teams. Create opportunities for employees to get the 1:1 time they need with mentors or leaders. Transparency is often related to the speed of communication. If team members can't get honest and fast feedback they will feel discouraged and their productivity will suffer. Transparency is also the byproduct of a caring culture. When we trust that others are interested in our best futures, then we can receive criticism or praise in more constructive ways.
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  • Encourage employee input and feedback. Foster a sense of community and collaboration. This may sound like one of many values inside of any great organizational culture, but I think it may be the most important for your business' success. Employee satisfaction goes off the chart when each team member feels like they are listened to and have an active part in contributing to the organization's vision. This means your company is ready for culture change as the natural influence of your best people is received.
  • Invest in your employees' professional development. Professional development includes things like continuing education opportunities, clear pathways for advancement, employee perks based on performance, and mentorship that supports them with leadership training. Yes, your compensation structure should be clear for everyone, but it must also be attached to the expectation that rewards are based on the value of the contribution. The desired culture is based on merit, not on a stiff corporate hierarchy with unclear rules of advancement.
  • Create opportunities for employees to socialize outside of work. A healthy organizational culture is often built outside the workplace. This will definitely help flatten out the undesirable aspects of hierarchy cultures. Hierarchy cultures do not promote the kind of buy-in and "one culture" that the entire organization can rally around.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures. I have written on the value of celebrations in another article at more length, but I have learned the hard way that just promoting a great cause is not enough to grow your company's culture toward the ideal you are hoping for. It is not enough to get behind the mission. First, we have to get behind each other! Culture change flows from the practice of pausing to celebrate one another. One of the ways we do this is by making regular, special times to call out team members' successes and celebrate when we hit our goals together.
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance. Much has been said in recent years about balancing work life and personal life. If you are an owner, then your perspective may be different than your employees'. As the founder, it may be that your drive toward your mission is so powerful and internal that your primary challenge is knowing how to turn work off. It may be hard for you to unplug and rest. For some of the team, however, they may have trouble in some seasons unplugging from their social and personal life and getting to a 100% focus at work without additional support from the leadership team.
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Benefits of better team culture

Your business culture will recruit better employees. The culture of your business is like a magnet that attracts or repels people. It’s what makes your business unique and will help you attract and retain the best people.

When you have a strong culture, you will have less turnover. Less churn. Less turnover means less cost to replace employees. A study by the Work Institute found that the average cost of replacing an employee is $15,000. The attraction and retention of great employees starts with having a strong company culture. If you want to build a better culture at work, start by promoting your culture, not your strategy. Growth is a measurable result. Culture affects your bottom line. In a study of 200 companies, CultureIQ found that companies with high-performing cultures grew four times faster than those with low-performing cultures

Remember: Culture eats strategy for breakfast.


Stop Sharing Your Elevator Pitch, Start Sharing Your Story

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If you're like most people, you've been taught that the best way to attract clients or employees is to share your "elevator pitch." You know, the 30-second speech that tells people what your company does, how great you are, and why they should use your services or products. It is common in corporate culture to write this on an index card for new employees as basic sales training. The problem is that corporate culture has a hard time telling personal stories.

People are attracted to personal stories. They want to know who YOU are, what YOU stand for, and what drives YOU to do what you do. In other words, they want authenticity. I define authenticity as living your mission from the center of your story. This is important because before people will trust what you have to share with them, they want know if they can trust you to share it.

But how do I get in touch with my own story?

I am fine talking about my business, but not about me. I have never considered myself a storyteller.

Those are legitimate questions. They are reasonable concerns. But they are not excuses to opt-out. Let me ask you: Can you effectively present yourself to someone else if you are not confident in your core identity--in who you are?

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It's time to develop your own story.

Don't worry, everyone has a story. The first step is to sit down and think about the experiences that have shaped your life and made you who you are today. Once you have a good understanding of your own story, you'll be better equipped to share it with others. Here are a few things to try.

Let's begin to discover your core identity by brainstorming just a few questions. Would you consider writing these out in your journal and sharing them with significant partners and mentors for feedback?

  1. What is an early story of success that shaped you as a person? How does that early success influence the work you are presently in? Write one paragraph in your journal pages.
  2. What early story of failure--maybe in school, sports, or relationships--marked your journey and changed your understanding of the world? How has this shaped the better version of you today? Write one paragraph in your journal pages.
  3. Name a significant moment when someone saw your potential and "called it out." Sometimes a parent, coach, or friend speaks about you in a way that inspires your forward motion. Write one paragraph in your journal pages.

By journaling these simple moments, you are beginning the journey to discovering where your deepest values were birthed. This creates an authentic story that only you can tell ... but many others can relate to!

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Here is how to practice your story

So if you're tired of attracting the wrong clients or employees, stop sharing your elevator pitch and start sharing your story. Here's how:

  • Share your story with your friends and family. Let them know what you do and why you're passionate about it. Share a story of failure or a story of success.
  • This week share at least one of these origin stories with a professional colleagues as well as one of your clients. Follow your short story with how this moment shaped your heart and has focused the way you serve in your business.
  • Start a blog or write articles about your industry and share your story with your readers. Mention your significant mentors who helped you become who you are today.
  • Make a video about how your story led you into your business or industry, and share it with others. In a video you can be yourself and share from your heart. You could also do an interview, like a podcast style video, and ask others to share their stories.
  • Get involved in social media and share your story with your followers. Including short stories of failure is a great way to disconnect from the culture of "look at me" on the web. Showing some humility is very endearing. Include your family life and relationships of significance.
  • Speak at industry events and conferences and share your story with the audience. Begin with the story, don't end with it. It is most winsome to open any public engagement with a personal story that everyone can relate to. After you finish telling your story, find a way to compliment other people that are in the story. Compliments for you can come later on.
  • If you're still struggling, consider hiring a professional writer or coach to help you tell your story. The important thing is to start sharing it with the world because that's how you'll attract the right clients and employees. And that's how you'll make a difference in your industry. So what are you waiting for? Start sharing your story today!
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The Big Value

I guarantee you will get amazing feedback from those you love and serve if you begin this process of getting your story into the center of your mission. Remember, this is what authenticity is made of.

Be authentic.

Tell your story.

Let your heart drive you forward. If you invite your team to tell their stories, magic will happen. It will be the power of all of your stories together that weave your best culture together.

The culture you always dreamed of will come to life as every single member of your team can be valued for the unique story they bring to your company. When everyone's stories find a spot in the center of your company's mission, then your company can also find its own kind of authenticity. 


H.B. Pasley, Growth Advocate®