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How To Build A World-Class Workplace Culture

“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 new 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 

Mayberry shares 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? 

Mayberry:

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.

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