Building From a Culture of One

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • All organizations begin with a culture of one.
  • It's critical to make sure the first examples drive the desired behaviors you want throughout the firm.
  • Culture is contagious. Be careful about what you spread.

In talking with a number of people as we start the new year, it’s been interesting to hear them talk about the challenges they face at their organizations.

One of the biggest ones that I’ve been hearing is that while their organizations are doing relatively well in financial terms, they’re no longer focused on wanting to push, learn and grow. Most of the work is focused on being “just good enough” and the predominant mental state is “just get by”.

In simpler terms, the organizations have lost their zeal to be great.

While many people in these situations might look for the door or simply begin emulating the organizational culture around them (something that happens very easily), I think these situations represent an exciting opportunity to lead, grow and help build the type or organization that you want to be a part of.

But it all begins with a culture of one. And that’s you.

If you believe that the way of doing something doesn’t make sense, don’t do it. Show others around you how an alternative makes sense. If you see things that aren’t being done, don’t ask others to do them, but do them yourself. If you think that the business needs to go in a certain way, begin going down that road - alone. Start building your own skunk works project. Get some data and use it to help bring people around to your view of what things should look like. In the end, if you believe that greatness is possible in the work your organization does, then it’s critical that you be an example of that first.

Once people see you taking a different tack with things (and you’re not immediately fired or told to can it) they will begin to see that there is opportunity for change. Your culture will be contagious and in time others will begin to follow. And that's when things will really start getting interesting.

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