The dirty secret about corporate culture

Whether as a coach or as a winning teammate – there are two ways to change the culture in your company.

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So, first of all… what really is “corporate culture?”

It is clearly a buzzword … and in athletic and corporate we know it is important… but what is it really?

Well, I’m glad you asked. 😉


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Corporate culture – regardless of how overcomplicated some people may want to make it – is simple to understand. Culture is the behaviors that are allowed and repeated in your organization.

But the dirty secret about culture is that You don’t build it!

Culture isn’t a pile of bricks … it is the behaviors of a group of people.

And as a teamwork speaker and author, one of the key ideas that shapes my interactive programs is this:

Culture is behaviors … and behaviors are the result of beliefs … and beliefs are influenced by awareness … and awareness is driven by experience!

Truly impactful teambuilding events and keynotes are full of stories and activities – because it is those experiences that ultimately become memorable moments and impact your team behaviors.

And behaviors are the stuff that become your culture.

But, again, you don’t build culture. You can only influence it.

And you influence it by giving your people new experiences (words and deeds) that change their awareness of the ripples their perceptions and conduct have on team performance!

So as a teamwork speaker, I tell people that – whether as a coach or as a winning teammate – there are two ways to change the culture in your company:

What you do and what you say.

1. What you do

The example you set

According to Albert Schweitzer, “The three most important ways to lead people are: … by example … by example … by example.”

What you do has immeasurable ripples of impact – and people are always watching. And when you do something, you give unspoken permission and encouragement for others to emulate that behavior. Are you being positive if you ask your team to do that in adversity?

Do you pick up trash off the floor and thank people for what they do to help your organization?

People don’t hear what you say … they copy what you do.

The expectations you consequence

Expectations are important – you need to be clear about what you want your team to do and how you want it done. But if you do not measure or inspect those expectations and consequence them with rewards (or correction), then your team will not respond to your future demands the way you might prefer.

Be intentional about praising the positives when people meet and exceed expectations and give tremendous effort … but also be sure to have an accountability conversation when they fall short of those expectations – that sets the standard for them, and for others who see the example you set for performance.

2. What you say

The stories you tell

Stories are experiences that we enjoy vicariously.

So – want to emphasize the importance of blocking out? Tell a story about when somebody didn’t, and the negative outcome it created … or tell about when someone did and the positive result they created. Stories are examples of values in action.

The questions you ask

The best leaders don’t tell. They ASSC– Always stay sincerely curious.

Seek to know more about your team and their perceptions and understanding and ideas. One of the most powerful questions a coach or manager can ask their team is, “What do you think?”

Instead of telling, be curious and check for understanding. Ask if they know why they are supposed to do something that you are teaching. Asking engages people!

If you are serious about improving your team culture, the dirty secret is that you have the power of influence – and your words and actions (the things your team experience) will affect their beliefs and behaviors.

To ensure that your people are Winning Teammates, you may want to be more intentional about creating those experiences by scheduling a book to read and discuss … or a team building event that would emphasize the accountability and communication that would lead to a successful team culture.

And for handouts and activities to use on your own, check out my free collection of over 50 resources in my team building toolbox.

Sean Glaze is an author, engaging speaker, and fun team building facilitator who inspires groups to have fun laughing together so they can have more success working together. His three books, The Unexpected Leader, Rapid Teamwork, and The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates are powerful parables for building and leading great teams!


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