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Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

Discover how culture eats strategy for breakfast.

– 5 mins read –

It is too often true that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, so how do we actually create a culture that will help our people deliver and strengthen company strategy?

According to a 2007 survey conducted by the management consulting firm Bain & Company, worldwide business leaders identified corporate culture to be critical for business success. The mobile technology company Ericsson, for example, has understood that for continued performance its culture needs to be adaptive and agile.

To help them on their way, our Global Director of Coaching & Leadership, Tiffany Gaskell, recently delivered a keynote at Ericsson’s Innovation Conference in Madrid. Marta San Martin, their Agile Driver and Coach, underscored the importance of culture by saying “continuous evolution and innovation is essential in our business in every aspect, including culture”.

“Has encouraged me to look more deeply at myself and to understand what I am capable of.”

Chris Wade, Head of Strategy, Acquisitions and Partnerships, Sage Pay, UK – participant at Coaching for Performance, Level 2, London, October 2014

in Madrid. Marta San Martin their Agile Driver and Coach, underscored the importance of culture by saying “continuous evolution and innovation is essential in our business in every aspect, including culture”.

Why not start off the new year by creating the culture you need to perform?

In this month’s newsletter, we share the secret to creating your own winning culture that you can put into practice right away.

Join one of our webinars to find out more about a coaching leadership style

Create Your Own Winning Culture

We always knew strategy was important but how many companies proactively create their own winning culture? We can all influence and create the culture we need to perform. Follow these three simple steps to Create Your Own Winning Culture. You can do this in a company, a team or as an individual:

Step 1: The Secret

The secret is “awareness”. When we become aware of something, we have choice about it. So by simply becoming aware of what you want for your own winning culture and what the reality of your existing culture is, you will have a choice to do something about it.

We define culture as “the way things are done around here” – an unwritten system of shared approaches and of similar behaviours.

To learn more about your culture, do the following exercise:

The below graph sets out the four main types of culture. We all need different levels of support and challenge. Take a moment to think about your current working environment.

  1. Choose a spot on the graph that describes what your current culture is. Jot down the characteristics of your current culture.
  2. Now choose a spot on the graph that represents what you would like your culture to be that would best support your performance. Jot down how it would be different and any similarities with your current culture.

Step 2: Responsibility

To explore the different relationships we have with culture, we invite you to watch this video:

Now ask yourself what relationship you tend to have with culture – pick the ones that could describe you (you can pick as many as you like):

Are you like the frog put in boiling water who can immediately recognize if the culture isn’t a fit for you and so you jump out?
Are you like the frog in slowly heating water who allows the temperature to rise to uncomfortable levels?
Are you not like the frog in the video and able to know and ask for what you need, ie get out and turn the temperature to what you need to perform well?

Which did you choose?

A: Generally we are quite good at spotting A – it is something so alien or unsupportive of our performance that we jump out. Think of a company that you didn’t join. Or perhaps even a project that you tried to do but failed.

B: Most often, like the frog in B, we allow ourselves to become unconsciously absorbed by culture. The water might be a little too hot or cold for us to perform well, but we make do and get on with things. However, what we need to keep in mind is that, at the same time as being influenced by culture, we are also influencing culture and we can use our influence to create the culture we want.

C: This is the challenge of the 21st Century in organizations – proactively managing culture so that it empowers people. You can choose to do this yourself and create your own winning culture – once you are aware of what you need, you can ask for what you need and set the water temperature just right to perform well.

Step 3: Action

Now you know what you would like your culture to be:

  1. Make a list of at least three things that will help you get from where you are now, to where you want to be.
  2. Now pick one thing from your list and take steps to complete it.
  3. Notice what changes and repeat until you have completed your list.


Creating your own winning culture marks the next step in the evolution of the relationship between companies and individuals. It’s not about top-down, hierarchical structures anymore; now it is about individual empowerment and responsibility. At Performance Consultants we focus on building the management and leadership skills to create winning cultures. Through our coaching and leadership development programmes, we provide individuals and companies with the tools, skills and insights to create cultures that not only support strategy but deliver more.

To create a winning culture in your organization, join one of our public courses:

Is Sir John Whitmore one of History’s Greatest Business Pioneers?

Over the next few weeks The Financial Times is asking people to nominate their top business pioneers of all time.

We think that Sir John Whitmore’s pioneering work in bringing a coaching style of management to world-class organizations puts him in the running. His work was the foundation for the birth and explosion of the coaching industry that we have seen globally and which is now helping business to transform from the inside out. His book Coaching for Performance has sold over a million copies in 23 languages, while his coaching programmes with innovative tools and techniques are now being delivered in 40 countries around the world. He has been at the vanguard of the paradigm change in management thinking and practice from heroic to post-heroic leadership where the focus is on people finding purpose and fulfilment in their work.

The FT article notes: “Their [pioneering leaders] achievements are seldom theirs alone”; this is absolutely at the heart of the coaching style of management which Sir John Whitmore has championed. We would love you to join us in nominating Sir John Whitmore as one of the top business pioneers by emailing or tweeting at #FTPioneers. And please let the FT know why you are nominating our pioneering leader.

meeting your needs

How can you bring coaching into your organization?

Sir John and his colleagues at Performance Consultants were the first to take coaching into the workplace and coined the term “performance coaching” in the early 1980s. We continue to lead the field in performance improvement through coaching leadership training.

Select one of the options shown. Or get in touch and one of our world-class leadership development consultants will work with you to create a tailored programme that meets your specific needs.

  • Attend a Coaching Course – experience the benefits of coaching first hand. See our Global Training Calendar to find the right course for you
  • Transformational Leader Pathway – learn how to be a leader–coach with a coaching leadership style that creates a culture of high performance for you, your team and entire organization
  • Performance Coach Certification – become a coach or take your coaching skills to the next level so that you can practise transformational leadership coaching
  • Individual Coaching (1:1) – take your leadership to the next level with a tailored, fast-track professional development coaching programme
  • Team Development – unlock the next level of potential in your team with team coaching