Skip to main content

How To Build A Culture For Speed, Impact And Excellence

“When it comes to culture, one of the most glaring issues is that far too many leaders do not recognize it as one of their greatest competitive advantages,” says Matt Mayberry, author of the book, Culture Is The Way. 

Mayberry, former linebacker for the Chicago Bears and now keynote speaker and global expert in leadership development, culture change, and organizational performance, took the lessons he learned on the field and in the locker room straight to the boardroom. 

“Over time, I realized that the same characteristics that distinguish the best football teams are also required to succeed in business,” shares Mayberry. Those characteristics include: 

  • A strong commitment to excellence.
  • An emphasis on teamwork.
  • Practicing like a champion every day.
  • Perseverance in the face of adversity. 

Other key lessons from sports coaches include these says Mayberry: 

  • Develop a burning desire to improve culture.
  • Generate and bring positive energy daily.
  • Don’t just manage people, coach your people. 

Additionally, Mayberry explains that culture is NOT things such as: 

  • The flexibility to work three days per week.
  • Reciting the company’s mission statement at team meetings.
  • Having ping-pong tables and other fun games in the office. 

Presented as an actionable playbook and in a very conversational style, Mayberry writes in his book about the confusion and negative misconceptions about culture and explores the five roadblocks to cultural excellence. Those are: 

  1. Lukewarm leadership buy-in.
  2. All slogans and no action.
  3. Temptation of instant gratification.
  4. Distortion and distraction.
  5. Lack of cascading change. 

Additionally, creating a Cultural Purpose Statement (CPS) is a critical shares Mayberry. Your CPS should not be confused with a mission or vision statement. Instead, it’s designed to help your organization’s culture be defined and its fundamental foundation be made crystal clear. Additionally, it should be unique to your organization. 

You can ask yourself at a minimum these questions as you formulate your CPS: 

  • What do we deeply care about as an organization, both internally and externally?
  • Where are we now and where do we want to be?
  • What is our culture’s most significant impact area?
  • What experience do we hope our culture will provide?
  • Can we, as leaders, live up to this mantra or statement daily? 

Finally, as you read the book, you’ll learn about the five steps to build a world-class culture: 

  1. Define Your Culture
  2. Discover Through Collaboration & Inspiration
  3. Launch, Cascade, & Embed
  4. Drive Long-Term Impact
  5. Leaders Blaze the Trail 

“Building an extraordinary, sustainable culture takes time, effort, and energy,” says Mayberry. “It doesn’t happen overnight, and it may not happen in six months or a year.” However, Mayberry says that the more challenging the journey, the more special and fulfilling it will be when you reach your destination. 

Matt Mayberry 

Earlier this year, Mayberry shared these additional insights with us: 

Question: A recent Glassdoor survey found +50% of employees said work culture is more important than pay. Why do you think workplace culture has become such a priority in recent years? 

Mayberry: I believe it has always been a priority in some capacity, but Covid has accelerated its evolution and prioritization. Ultimately, culture is the factor that determines the overall employee experience and the performance of an organization. Every worker aspires to be a part of something much greater than simply increasing profits or just doing a job.

Question: What is the most common pain point of a company trying to change culture? 

Mayberry: There are numerous common pain points, but the most significant challenge is a lack of a committed leadership team dedicated to living and bringing the culture to life on a daily basis. And this leads to another common paint point, which is when the company’s culture is perceived as meaningless fluff that has no bearing on how it can assist employees on-the-job.

Question: Describe your notion of a Cultural Purpose Statement. How does it differ from the mission statements we’re used to companies issuing? 

Mayberry: The Cultural Purpose Statement (CPS) is nothing more than a mantra, theme, or word that defines the essence of your culture. It clarifies your company’s culture, ensuring complete alignment throughout the organization. 

Most companies lack a defined culture. They have a mission statement that simply states why the company exists. The CPS is used internally to define your workplace culture. The leaders use this statement to unite the organization around a shared vision. 

Question: What is the first step you’d give a leader to start transforming their workplace culture today? 

Mayberry: The first step I would recommend is not so much an action step as it is a mentality. And that is to fully commit yourself. Don’t simply tell the organization and all employees that culture is important, and then let it devolve into a lip service routine rather than the foundational core of your organization. 

Once you’ve made the commitment as a leader, the next critical step is to raise awareness and alignment among the rest of the senior leadership team. At its core, especially in the beginning, building a great culture is simply an extension and reflection of the leaders’ commitment and performance. 

To begin transforming your workplace culture immediately, its simplest form would be to define your culture and ensure that your values are clearly translated into repeatable daily behaviors that all employees can relate to. Every company has core values. The real question is whether those core values have been translated into specific daily behaviors that help to bring those values to life. This is a solid starting point that will set the tone for enhancing your workplace culture if done well and correctly. 

Question: How best does a leader build alignment and togetherness when the bulk of their team members are working from home and when some may have never been together in an office setting? 


Ongoing Feedback & Adjustment 

First and foremost, it is crucial to recognize that there is no universal solution. The leaders who continue to thrive despite most of their team working from home were devoted to discovering what works best for their team and organization, and continually challenged the status quo.   

Many people realized during the discovery process that these new working norms were more efficient in certain areas of their organization, while also consistently seeking feedback and ideas from team members. This is vital, as what works well for one team or organization may not have the same effect on another. It all boils down to identifying and cultivating the optimal working environment for team members to flourish. 

Voicing & Setting Clear Expectations 

Articulating and setting clear expectations and standards is important whether team members are in an office setting together or not, but it becomes even more important when the majority of team members work from home. 

So much of building a great culture, especially in the early stages, is about ensuring complete and consistent alignment while also setting clear expectations for all team members. This isn't a mandate or form of micromanagement that I'm referring to, but rather being extremely clear about what's important from the start and then shifting to explaining why. 

Some examples as it relates to working from home, could include providing a list of expectations for how internal team meetings will be run and conducted virtually. One organization I work with set the standard that all team members turn on their cameras to have some form of face-to-face interaction with colleagues. They then went into detail about why this was important and how it would benefit the team. 

This one simple action completely altered the dynamic of virtual meetings because, prior to this, only about 10 or 20 team members had their cameras turned on. 

Balance is Key 

It is essential to continue seeking the optimal balance. When most companies were forced to have employees to work from home, certain aspects of their processes, culture, and operations were greatly improved, but they also discovered that adopting a more hybrid approach would further improve the overall health and performance of the company. Constantly assessing and modifying existing methods of operation in order to advance and unleash peak performance is a characteristic of all great leaders. 

In order to build alignment and cohesion when the majority of team members are out of the office, it is essential for leaders to conduct frequent one-on-one check-ins with each team member. The leaders I observe who excel at this do so in such a casual yet genuine manner, and it becomes ingrained in their daily leadership practices. Individually connecting with team members can yield enormous benefits in terms of alignment and sense of connectedness, despite the fact that this won't solve all existing problems or replicate an office environment in its entirety.


Mayberry's clients include JP MorganChase, Allstate Insurance, Phillips 66, Ambit Energy, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Optum, Mack Trucks, Fifth Third Bank, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and WESCO. 

Prior to his current career, he was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears where Mayberry took the lessons he learned on the field and in the locker room straight to the boardroom. His playing days give him a unique perspective and platform to apply those lessons directly to business with a laser focus centered around leadership, culture, peak performance, and teamwork. These invaluable lessons as an athlete have been instrumental in helping him build stronger leadership teams and execute high–impact cultural transformations enhancing the performance of organizations in every sector for over a decade. 

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


Popular posts from this blog

Eights Ways To Demonstrate You Value Your Employees

There are  eight specific actions  business leaders can take to  show that they value their employees , according to  Andrew Leigh , author of the book,   Ethical Leadership -- Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Business Culture . Those  eight behaviors  are: Attention  -- Pay attention to what people say to show your interest. Listen  -- Make time to hear what colleagues, peers and employees have to say to show you care. Positive Language  -- Find words and phrases to show employees they're needed.  Examples are, "We couldn't have accomplished this without you," "That was really useful." Document  -- Put praise in writing to increase its impact.  Make clear where the credit belongs. Micro Sessions  -- Create two-way communication sessions. Visits  -- Schedule visits to teams and work areas. Stories  -- Share stories that highlight unusual contributions and provide your personal response to them. Invite  -- Ask people to contact you directly with their issue

How To Be A Go-To Person At Work

Bruce Tulgan ’s book,  The Art of Being Indispensable at Work   is   all about  how to win influence, beat overcommitment, and get the right things done in your workplace .   Tulgan says that what truly sets “go-to people” apart is how they think and what they do, including:   They understand the peculiar mathematics of real influence  – doing the right thing for the long term. They lead from wherever they are  – going vertically before going sideways (or diagonally). They know when to say no and how to say yes . They work smart  – creating checklists, step-by-step instructions, and professionalizing everything they do. They finish what they start . They get better and better at working together . They promote “go-to-ism”  – finding other indispensable people throughout the organization and building new go-to people whenever there’s a chance to do so.   Other  characteristics of indispensable people , are:   Maintaining a positive attitude Doubling down on hard work Taking personal res

The Fresh, New Approach For How Governmental Leaders Achieve Unparalleled Success

  The new book, Bridgebuilders , should be on the reading list of every public official, CEO, and civic leader. That is because throughout the book, authors William D. Eggers and Donald F. Kettl share compelling and instructive stories about some of today’s most successful bridgebuilders—federal state, and local government leaders who transcend boundaries and partner across sectors, to achieve success and meet their goals.  “Bridgebuilding is the fresh, new approach that strengthens institutions, and government agencies by breaking free from organizational boxes and rigid, top-down leadership,” explains Eggers and Kettl. “Furthermore, the outdated model that worked well at one time—identifying a problem and creating a program designed to solve it—is giving way to new, muti-sector approaches to create public value.”  The authors stress that leaders need to manage horizontally, making connections with other departments, as well as with stakeholders outside government to create ne

How To Lead With Heart

Those who lead with heart consistently have discussions with their teams about their unexpressed  needs, fears, desires, gifts,  and  sense of purpose , explain the authors of the compelling book,  Leading With Heart .   CEO coaches and authors  John Baird  and  Edward Sullivan  share that anyone can learn how to make an authentic connection with their teams in order to drive better outcomes. And their book provides readers clear and practical insights to help them succeed in making those connections. Be sure to read the highlighted key principles and takeaways at the end of every chapter.   Baird and Sullivan further share that workers today want to feel respected, seen and appreciated for who they are. That’s why companies with the best retention, morale, and productivity are led by leaders with heart.   As Alexander Den Heijer said, “ When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower .”   “In heart-based cultures, people feel safe pushing back and

A Guide To Superior Management Effectiveness

Forbes  named,  A New Way To Think , as one of the 10 must-read books for 2022.  In the book, authored by  Roger L. Martin , he urges business leaders to toss out the old ways of thinking, and instead try new models in every domain of management – from competition and customers to strategy, data, culture, talent, mergers and acquisitions, and everything in-between.  More specifically, within 14 chapters, Martin explores his recommended new ways of thinking about: Competition Stakeholders Customers Strategy Data Knowledge Work Corporate Functions Planning Execution Talent Innovation Capital Investment Mergers and Acquisitions Roger L. Martin  Recently, Martin answers these questions for us:   Question: As The Great Resignation rages on, what is the most important thing leaders must know about recruiting and retaining top talent?   Martin : Leaders need to keep two things in mind in dealing with The Great Resignation.  First , a key driver is adverse reaction to talent being forced back

How To Strengthen Both The Employee And The Customer Experience In Concert

“The most successful companies are those that adopt an Experience Mindset that strengthens both employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CS) at the same time,” explains Tiffani Bova , author of the new book, The Experience Mindset: Changing the Way You Think About Growth .   The book’s teachings are based on exclusive research from two Salesforce studies of thousands of employees and c-suite executives around the globe, and further validated by hundreds of executive conversations and other industry research.  “The needs and preferences of both customers and employees must be considered with every decision made, large and small – requiring an entirely new operating mentality,” says Bova. “To remain completive in today’s marketplace, investing in people is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a must have.”  Bova recommends that when companies are attempting to keep up with the relentless demands of customers, that they don’t favor the customer experience over the employee

Effective Listening: Do's And Don'ts

Here are some great tips from Michelle Tillis Lederman's book, The 11 Laws of Likability .  They are all about: what to do and what not to do to be a leader who's an effective listener : Do : Maintain eye contact Limit your talking Focus on the speaker Ask questions Manage your emotions Listen with your eyes and ears Listen for ideas and opportunities Remain open to the conversation Confirm understanding, paraphrase Give nonverbal messages that you are listening (nod, smile) Ignore distractions Don't : Interrupt Show signs of impatience Judge or argue mentally Multitask during a conversation Project your ideas Think about what to say next Have expectations or preconceived ideas Become defensive or assume you are being attacked Use condescending, aggressive, or closed body language Listen with biases or closed to new ideas Jump to conclusions or finish someone's sentences

6 Ways To Seek Feedback To Improve Your Performance In The Workplace

Getting feedback is an important way to improve performance at work. But sometimes, it can be hard to seek out, and even harder to hear.  “Feedback is all around you. Your job is to find it, both through asking directly and observing it,” says David L. Van Rooy, author of the new book,  Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be . As today's guest post, Van Rooy offers these  six tips for how to get the feedback you need to improve performance at work . Guest Post By David L. Van Rooy 1.       Don’t forget to as k :  One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming things are going perfectly (until they make a catastrophic mistake). By not asking, you’re missing out on opportunities for deep feedback: the difficult, critical feedback that gives you constructive ways to improve. 2.       Make sure you listen :  Remember, getting feedback is about improving your performance, not turning it into a “you versus the

The Four Components That Create Customer Satisfaction

Great customer service tips from author Micah Solomon's new book, High-tech, High-touch Customer Service : You provide value when you deliver the four components that reliably create customer satisfaction : A perfect product or service Delivered in a caring, friendly manner On time (as defined by the customer) With the backing of an effective problem-resolution process Micah has been named by the Financial Post as “a new guru of customer service excellence.” He is a keynote speaker and consultant on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture.  He previously coauthored the bestselling Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit .      

Business And Leadership Quotes That Inspire Me

These quotes truly inspire me : “The three common characteristics of best companies -- they care, they have fun, they have high performance expectations.” -- Brad Hams “The one thing that's common to all successful people: They make a habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don't like to do.” -- Michael Phelps “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." -- Harry S. Truman “The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.” -- Peter Drucker “Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” -- Dwight D. Eisenhower “Good leadership isn't about advancing yourself.  It's about advancing your team.” -- John C. Maxwell "People buy into the leader, then the vision.” -- John C. Maxwell “Great leaders have courage, tenacity and patience.” -- Bill McBean "People never lear