Sustaining a Winning Culture

Creating a win-win situation at work and sustaining it can drive great results for the development of the organisation

A year ago, we concluded a global poll which comprised about 20 per cent C-suite executives, 20 per cent Vice Presidents and 60 per cent office professionals with a sample size of just over 1,000 respondents. In this poll, we found out, which they believed were the five most under-rated leadership skills. Here are the five skills that were identified as being rather underrated:

Negotiating skills
Managing expectations and performance
Creating a winning culture at work
Winning buy-in
Strategy implementation

In 2011, the winner by far was Creating a Winning Culture at Work. This had over 50 per cent of the votes with the distant second placed Managing Expectations and Performance with just 22 per cent of the voted. Around the same time this year, we ran exactly the same poll, albeit with a reduced base of respondents. We found that the winner, by a significant margin once again, was Creating a Winning Culture at Work with 43 per cent of the votes. The second place would have gone to the same leadership skill (Managing expectations..), but was replaced by Winning Buy-in at 25 per cent.

Last year, in this publication [CFO India, a sister publication of IT Next], I explored three key points as to why a winning culture could drive workplace results, and three ways how to create one; these are:

1) Cultures drive behaviours
2) Its free
3) You dont have to police a culture.

To create a winning culture, you need to:

a) Assess the present culture if one exists to see how far it is from the desired state,
b) Identify culture champions who would, by their actions and behaviours, drive the culture
c) Celebrate successes to further encourage winning attitudes.

So, how do we now sustain the culture we have (hopefully) assiduously been cultivating? The secret lies in to keep doing what we are good at. Time and history have shown that whenever we try to extend our brands and buy into a business we dont not truly understand, we take huge risks, and often fail. By being great at what we do, we keep winning, and a winning team has the confidence to know what it takes to secure the next contract, or agreement. In reality, many organisations that succeed at winning soon, forget to remind themselves what they did in the past that helped them succeed.

They also need to keep celebrating what brought them to their present apogee or pinnacle of success so the issue of celebration I raised in 2011 is still the key one. What else? If you have been watching the Olympic or professional team events, you will notice how team managers often insert a key culture champion in the team at a key moment or from the onset. Think of the influence of Usain Bolt on the Jamaican sprint relay team that brought them gold medals and record timings. Think further back, as to the influence of Tenzing Norgay on his team of Darjeeling sherpas in 1953. As the most experienced high-altitude mountaineer of the expedition (even compared to the British mountaineers), he was widely seen as the leader and driver of a key part of the whole machinery that eventual won the summit of Mt Everest that year. At the start of the expedition in Nepal, they were slighted in Kathmandu by the British High Commissioner, who made the whole sherpa contingent take quarters in the stables, while the British Commonwealth members made do in the much more salubrious diplomatic quarters.

The sherpas, to show their displeasure, lined up against a wall nearby and emptied their bladders in full view of the rest of the expedition. John Hunt, the expedition leader never forgot this letdown, and worked hard shortly afterwards in forging a team on the mountain that was united.

Sustaining a winning culture involves engaging with your culture champions, and acknowledging their contributions. You will also notice that this has been widely recognised as a key performance motivator in younger workers, or Gen Y, as they are sometimes called. Just because your generation didnt value a little deserved stroking here and there does not mean the upcoming one shares the same position.

Last but not least, sustaining wins over the long run and the engagement required demands high quality listening. By listening, you will be able to not only engage champions and the rest of the team, but also calibrate your own leadership style and pace. I like Doug Larsons take on this when he said, Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when youd have preferred to talk. So thats it, keep doing what you are good at, engage and use your culture champions tirelessly, and listen attentively these simple actions will help your organisation sustain a winning culture.

David Lim, Founder, Everest Motivation Team, is a leadership and negotiation coach, best-selling author and two-time Mt Everest expedition leader. He can be reached at his blog, or Courtesy: CFO India

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