There is an age-old argument that asks the question “Is it more important to get talented individuals and attempt to build a culture around them or do we need a strong culture that nurtures our existing talent and allows for talented individuals to thrive and succeed?


While there is no simple or obvious answer to this question the argument for a strong culture may be showing its value as we enter the next normal. In fact, in the era of job-hopping professionals, and remote working, a strong culture may be your last line of defense if you want to stay competitive in an ever-changing marketplace.


Let’s take a look:


This past weekend Matt Stafford, the Quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams finally won the NFC championship and is heading to the Super Bowl. For the past 12 years he has acquitted himself as a talented individual and his statistical records and achievements warrant the talent argument for success in the workplace. And let’s not kid ourselves, of course it’s always nice to have the best talent around you in any type of organization.


The problem is he has never been on a successful team, had never won a single post season game and in fact in his last 12 seasons his team has only had a winning record 4 times. How could such a talented individual in the most important role be so unsuccessful? Did he not work hard enough? Was he not competitive enough? What’s going on?


The answer to this question may lie in the culture of his previous organization. During his tenure the leadership was unstable, 4 General Managers, 3 different head coaches, 4 different offensive coodinators, ownership support is questionable, the list goes on. Clearly this revolving door in at the leadership level creates uncertainty for players and a lack of clarity on the expectations which ultimately impacts performance.


The same can be said of many underperforming companies large and small. Leadership defines, sets, communicates, and supports a strong culture, so a void of leadership can create real obstacles for any organization no matter how talented the individual contributors may be. Culture is caught, not taught so a bad culture permeates the talent pool and spreads through the team like a virus making even the smallest of challenges seem insurmountable.


In the workplace we all know someone that would qualify as very talented and smart and overall, really good at what they do. Yet when these talented individuals are placed in a weak, undefined, nasty, or toxic culture they are destined to fail. This failure causes them and others to question their actual talent and ability. The virus spreads and soon not only are the individual contributors struggling but entire teams start underperforming on even the most basic tasks. Ask Matt Stafford if his talent and ability was questioned over the past 12 years?


Yet we all know someone of limited talent or ability, maybe not to mostly skilled in their roles, but were placed in a strong and supportive culture and they thrived and achieved success beyond their wildest hopes and dreams. History is filled with these types of individuals and will continue to be.


Think about this next gen of worker coming into organizations. They are smart, and they have talent but the New Workplace, requires a new type of worker, which in turn requires a new type of leader. We are asking people to be nimble and flexible, asking them to learn skills they never knew they had or didn’t even exist just a few years ago. The only thing that will allow for this talent to grow is an underlying strong culture.


While the term strong culture is somewhat nebulous and is defined by each organization based on their values and mission there are a few common denominators.


Strong cultures support a growth mentality which rewards those that choose to be lifelong learners.


Mistakes are accepted as part of the growth mentality and used as coaching opportunities to make improvements and develop sustainable processes.


Investment is made in the development of those at all levels of the organization and is looked at as a necessary cost of doing business.


Growth and promotion from within creates loyalty and engagement that causes the business to not only survive but thrive despite market fluctuation and external disruptions.


New hires are brought in because they are a good fit for company culture not just because they have a “Rock Star” resume.


Leadership sets the vision, communicates the expectations, and provides the tools to support the culture which is deemed as the organizations most valuable asset.


Sure we all want the most talented individuals to come and work for our organizations and of course we need talent to achieve our desired goals. Yet talent alone it seems will not get you over the hump. Start this week by focusing on the existing talent that you have, build a strong and supportive culture that fosters this talent. Then watch as talented individuals from other organizations ask to come and work for you.


Cheers to Building Your Culture

One Quarter Turn at A Time


Thoughts for the week:


Our belief is that if you get the culture right most of the other stuff will take care of itself. – Tony Hseih, Zappos


You can have all the right strategy in the world; if you don’t have the right culture you’re dead.

-Patrick Whitesell


-Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place. –Simon Sinek


-Culture is how your team behaves when no one is looking. -Unknown


Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the organization. – David Cummings


For individuals, character is destiny, for organizations, culture is destiny. -Unknown