A Matrix to Understand Winning Cultures

In my experience, many leaders look for a silver bullet to achieve a winning culture.  Many are often frustrated because they are doing so many of the right things but still feel they don’t have the winning formula – but there is no one thing.  The reality is, is that building a culture is a key combination of collective activities, ideas, symbolism, rituals and habits in which if one facet is missing, it may detract from the other positive efforts.  This matrix seeks to demonstrate this.

A winning culture has good leadership that sets a clear direction to inspire and grow their people; they encourage diversity of thought from their people; their people are respected and acknowledged for their contribution; their people have the autonomy to get on with their job unimpeded and the authority to makes decisions within their job sphere giving a sense of ownership; clear direction is given so that people know what is expected of them and they know what good looks like; there is regular open and transparent communication throughout the business; people feel their work is part of achieving something greater than just the job; they enjoy what they do and those they work with; and they have opportunities to learn and grow professionally and personally.  But if any one of these things is missing then it can detract from the other positive efforts to build the winning culture.

Winning Culture Matrix

A lack of leadership leads to under-performance. It has been said that only three things happen naturally in an organisation: confusion, friction and under-performance – everything else requires leadership.  Leaders set the tone for the culture. They model the way in which they expect everyone to behave, and exemplify the expected behaviours or core values.  Good core values are  behavioural type statements that define the key expected patterns for behaviour around things like safety, teamwork, quality, brand, innovation and attitude expressed in language that you r people use, and notably they can be aspirational to shift or lift behaviour.  We have all seen the scenario where we have the same players but a new captain and what a difference that can make in sport.  The same goes for business.

The absence of diversity of thought contributes to a lack of innovation.  If everyone is thinking the same then someone isn’t thinking.  We need diversity of thinking and healthy conflict to stimulate continuous improvement and we also need to stimulate collaboration to get the best results.  The best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams, and from those who have different experiences, knowledge and perspectives.

When people aren’t acknowledged and respected it erodes the culture to one where people perform to a mediocre level and resentment for lack of acknowledgement for performing above and beyond.  Why perform any better if its not recognised anyway? Also note that reward and recognition also needs to be linked to the desired behaviours and the drivers of the business outcomes.  Conversely the biggest demotivator for great performers is poor performers not being dealt with.

A lack of autonomy and authority sees and organisation become a traditional command & control environment.  It takes building capability and trust.  Delegation is an investment in the future of your business and builds a team where people feel empowered.  Autonomy and authority gives people a sense of ownership and responsibility and unleashes faster decision making and agility.

Infrequent and/or guarded communication creates and information gap.  Your people will fill the gap with rumour, speculation & gossip.  The biggest problem leaders have with communication, is believing that it has already taken place.  Frequent, open, often, many channels and consistent messages.

When people believe that they are making a contribution they have intrinsic motivation to perform and fell that their role is important to the business, community or the world.  If not their role becomes just a pay cheque.  The connection to the business purpose can significantly increase engagement and productivity.

People want to hang out with like minded people, enjoy what they do and celebrate the wins.  No-one wants a role that is monotonous & boring.  They spend most of their waking life at work so would prefer to have a bit of fun, enjoy the job they are doing with people who equally enjoy it, and take time to pause and recognise the successes of individuals and the team.  People want to have a sense that they are on a winning team and that you are hitting objectives and results – so take the the time to pause and acknowledge the wins.

Lastly people want to learn and grow as people and professionals.  That’s why many have hobbies and goals outside of work.  They want the same opportunities at work to experience or try different new things at work so that they can learn and grow, otherwise you stagnate potentialtheir potential and the potential of your business.  It doesn’t need to be a courses or qualifications, just the opportunity to experience a different skill, role, or extend themselves.

Black ferns

Every organisation has a culture – it is the patterns of behaviour that happen within the organisation.  The nature of that culture depends on what the leaders decide to make important or intentional.  It is what they do, what they don’t do, what they deal with and make important or celebrate and acknowledge, what they put time to and what they ignore, and what they don’t tolerate and what they let slide.  Your culture is the glue that binds you together as a business team and it’s the hardest thing for your competitors to copy, so make an intentional effort to implement the culture matrix and develop a winning culture.

Last thoughts. Culture is part of the soft stuff, but as we know the soft stuff is often the hard stuff, but it can make the biggest impact.  By the way, it takes time to build – so deliberately put some time to it.

One thought on “A Matrix to Understand Winning Cultures

  1. Thanks Greg, I really appreciated that read. A lot of inward looking and honesty required for a leadership team to make an assessment of their ‘winning culture’. I feel that this matrix serves as a great tool to start that reflection.


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