A Culture that Wins

Priceless principles that translate to success

Photo courtesy of Rula Sibai

Photo courtesy of Rula Sibai

When the St. Louis Cardinals made it to the World Series last month, so much was written about how successful the organization has been as a sports franchise. Many sportswriters drooled over the seemingly unending pool of Cardinals talents. Several praised the scouting and player development strategy of the club. The result is the success that the Cardinals have enjoyed over the last decade. This year’s was their fourth trip to the fall classic over the last 10 baseball seasons.

In all that was written about the Cardinals, one can see several parallels with how a winning organization attracts and develops talent. Allow me to share just a few of the top ones with you.

It Starts with Culture

Having the right culture attracts the right candidates. In fact, a good culture will attract all kinds of people. But an organization that knows what it stands for, will find ways to select only those it believes will fit well into its culture and help sustain it. In St. Louis, it’s called The Cardinal Way. It’s the culture of an organization that has sustained its success for more than a decade. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch describes it well as he wrote about what it means to be a Cardinal.

Also, The Gallup Organization is well known that for its Strengths Finder publications. What may not be known by many is that Gallup uses the themes described in those publications to identify how prospective employees will fit into its culture and the specific job roles that are being filled. By doing this, the organization builds and maintains its strong culture.

All About the People

A winning organization cares about its people. Many organizations claim that their people are their best assets, but very few live up to that mantra. Most pay lip service to it. One that seems to blaze the trail in this area is Costco Wholesale. Costco has grown while its competitors groan. In an excellent piece, in which he called Costco the cheapest, happiest company in the world, Brad Stone looked at how the organization has successfully weathered the stormy American economy over the last few years. And it comes down to how it treats its people.

Furthermore, every year since the rankings began until 2007, Synovus Financial Corporation made the list of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. It was number one in 1999. James Blanchard, former Chairman and CEO of the company shared what he believed was the main reason why the company was so successful:

“The secret, the clue, the common thread is simply how you treat your folks. It’s how you treat your fellow man, and how you treat your team members… How you value the worth of an individual, how you bring the human factor into real importance and not just a statement you make in your annual report.”

Likewise, Founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group of companies, Richard Branson said, “I try to treat people as human beings… If they know you care, it brings out the best in them.

Do you want to bring out the best in your people? Treat them with dignity, show them genuine respect and value them for what they truly are: your greatest assets.

Motivating Achievement

In some organizations, there’s a lot of in-fighting for recognition; people want to be recognized for contributing the most. However, the ones with a winning culture are filled with people who celebrate one another’s achievements. Someone’s success does not threaten another. Instead of resentment, there’s rejoicing when others do well.

There’s no backbiting. Nor is there badmouthing. People are loyal to the absent. They speak about others as if they’re present. One CEO was given the following feedback from her 360-degree trust audit by an employee:

When someone leaves the company, don’t bad-mouth them in front of your current employees. It makes me feel that no matter what I contribute to this company, it will be forgotten the moment I leave, no matter the circumstances.

Showing loyalty is a sign of a strong culture that wins. It communicates allegiance and the extension of trust to the individual.

At the end of the day, successful organizations are those who know what they are truly about. They’re unwavering in their commitment to living their values. They care about their people and foster an environment where everyone can flourish. With dogged determination, they forge ahead against all the obstacles that may come their way. Just like The Cardinal Way, they have a culture that wins today, and one that ensures continued success for many years to come.