Is Your Company’s Organizational Culture Holding You Back? Three Strategies to Help Intentionally Design It

Organizational culture encompasses the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of a business.  It is evident in all organizations whether you have intentionally designed it or not.

In fact, in his book Culture Trumps Everything, Dr. Gustavo Grodnitsky wrote:

“What happens when people who are normally loud and boisterous walk into a church or a library? They lower their voices. Did they suddenly change their biology or their personalities?

Of course not. They simply responded appropriately to cultural expectations of behavior. It seems obvious in this case, but the truth is that culture has a similar impact on virtually everything that every one of us does – every day – without even realizing it. The many cultures that each of us simultaneously belong to have a disproportionate impact on the ways we think, feel and behave. As a result, leaders of organizations both large and small have the opportunity to shape their cultures in ways that foster positive outcomes for all stakeholders – from employees, to senior leaders, to shareholders, to the broader community.”

How would you describe your current organizational culture? Is it one of high collaboration? Is the culture’s vulnerability based on trust about each individual’s strengths and weaknesses? Have people shared with you what you not only bring to the organization, but also what you do that detracts from it?  If not, is your company’s culture holding you back?  You have the opportunity to shape it intentionally in a way that will positively support your organization through optimizing behaviors and determining and living your values.


We all have varying degrees of various behaviors.  Some of us have higher energy levels than others. Some are more assertive, more manageable, more independent, and more social (that’s not being able to go out to a party, but our ability to collaborate with others on teams).  Do we trust or are we more skeptical? Or are we more steadfast in our positions and beliefs than compliant?

These are all important as your company’s organizational culture is partly determined by how each person behaves.  If you are a company composed of highly decisive people, then outcomes might not be the best as you have not taken into account enough information to make good decisions.  On the other hand, if you are a company of low decisive people, then you will pursue so much information that the decision you need to make will never get made.  In both cases the company suffers.

Personality assessments are a good way to determine individual’s behaviors.  Determining what those behaviors are for the myriad of positions that comprise your organization is a good way to create the culture you are seeking.  Desired cultural behaviors such as collaboration, taking initiative, and exhibiting trust can be something is missing here.

For example, a high energy person may not be a good fit for a data entry position and low assertiveness may not be the best behavior for the leader of your organization.  Likewise, someone who is highly social will tend to take a lot of time in small talk at the water cooler.  Each position will have its requirements that can be measured and compared to the candidates or individuals that you are considering.


What are your values? What are your company’s values? Have you taken the time to define what they are?

Values like honesty, integrity, and high customer service are common among companies that have identified their values.  What about vulnerability-based trust, embracing ideological conflict, commitment, accountability, and team-focused results?  What are the values that truly represent your company that need to be identified and expressed?

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni wrote:

“If team members are making one another uncomfortable at times, if they’re never pushing one another outside of their comfort zones during discussions, then it is extremely likely that they’re not making the best decisions for the organization.”

We’re certainly not advocating fighting within your organization, but are you embracing ideological conflict that has nothing to do with individual personalities and everything to do with what you are attempting to accomplish the best way that you can?

Culture Strategies

Here are three strategies that will help you intentionally design your culture:

  1. Get the right people in the right seats

Once you know the behavioral traits of a position you need to fill, you can look for the best candidate to fit the position.  We call this “job fit.” Knowing the behavioral traits of a position, its required energy level, sociability, manageability, and how assertive and accommodating the person needs to be,  then assessments can match candidates to a model that will provide information as to how they “fit” into a position.  Good “job fit” leads to long-term employees and greater personal and professional satisfaction.

  1. Help them with their self-awareness and other-awareness

Once you have hired an individual to fill a position, share their assessment with them. If you have one yourself, share it with your team.  Share the team’s assessments.  Help them become more aware of their behaviors and how their behaviors have an impact on the company and its culture.

Another good assessment that we use for team awareness is Strengths Finder by Tom Rath and the Gallup Organization.  With this tool you can determine the strengths of the team and where missing strengths might need to be supplanted by additional team members.

  1. Lead them to their full potential

There are a number of workshops that can help your team and its members get to the next level.  We’ve already discussed Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Lencioni has developed a wonderful workshop that not only defines what makes up a great team, but also identifies what naturally gets in the way.  It’s the human nature that is affected by your culture that has a similar impact on virtually everything that every one of us does – every day – without even realizing it.

What is your organizational culture?  Is it holding you back? What if you could “shape it in ways that foster positive outcomes for all stakeholders – from employees, to senior leaders, to shareholders, to the broader community?”

What would be the results?

Steve Haber is a trainer and facilitator for IdeaTeam1. He owns The Haber Group, a leadership development company with a successful record for coaching, mentoring and team development through strategically-tailored workshops.