12 Ways Leaders Can Build a Winning Culture

There’s a foundation to successful business execution that is undeniably critical – the workplace culture.

Bad cultures can’t execute very well.  Period.

You might even say that they are doomed to failure, rich in dysfunction, seeped in mistrust, and (most often) guided by fear.

Leaders have to face the culture building challenge straight on, and almost always in situations where the “nuts and bolts” side of the business still demands a majority of their time.

How can we make this juggling act work?

I’ve found that there are 12 ways to build a winning culture while still pushing the ball down the field.

  1. Keep Promises – Nothing poisons a culture more than a lack of integrity at the highest levels.
  2. Declare Values – Put them on paper, on the bulletin boards, and in every speech or talk you make.
  3. Less Thinking, More Doing – We’ve all heard the expression “Hurry Up and Wait“; decision paralysis is a culture killer.
  4. Do First Things First –  Attack the #1 things on the priority list, rather than pushing them off to the side.
  5. Relentless Positive Energy – A leader sets the tone; and must bring positive energy to every interaction.
  6. Set the “BHAG”  – Teammates want to be a part of something bigger then just “profit”,  find a “big, hairy, audacious goal” and run for it.
  7. Use Full-Spectrum Accountability – Set clear expectations, and when they are exceeded, reward, and when they are not met, coach, counsel or release.
  8. Raise Bars Constantly – There’s never room for complacency when you keep challenging to go higher.
  9. Eliminate The Negative Words–  Start with “can’t”. That one alone will make a huge difference
  10. Use The Right Pronouns – Get rid of “I” and ‘They”.  You’re all on the same bus to success
  11. Show Up (and Stay out of the Ivory Tower) – They say 90% of success is showing up?  Yep, that’s about right.
  12. Stay Human –  Care, empathize, laugh, roll up your sleeves, and love the journey (and your team).

Take a look at this list, and you’ll see that several of them could also show up on a list of “12 ways to execute a successful business plan“.

That’s all part of that juggling act – you’re executing and building a rock-solid culture at the same time.

In other words,  you’re a successful leader.

Show the way!

(Photo by Bigstock)



  1. says


    I resonate with being intentional about choosing your language such as eliminating “can’t”.

    There was an audio essay many years ago on NPR proposing we eliminate another word: the conjunction “but” negates the entire first part of the sentence.

    “You do good work, BUT…”

    The essayist recommended we substitute “but” with “and”. I have chosen to follow his advice AND like the result.

    The essay ended by noting this substitution can make sentences a little awkward, AND they sound more positive.

    Have a great week!


  2. says

    I recently have witnessed evidence positive vs. negative culture in my own company, at separate locations.

    After listening to Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast and other sources on the subject, I have been intentional about culture in one location — where I do the majority of my leading. The other location is led by someone who is unaware of the power of culture.

    One place has excited engaged (for the most part) team members who laugh, work hard and understand the “why” behind decisions. The other has issues with gossip, negativity and employees who are there because they either can’t find anything “better” or too lazy try.

    I am now working with the leader at the second location on changing the culture. While I didn’t purposely perform an experiment on culture, the results speaks for themselves.

  3. says

    Hi David, thanks for sharing your experiment with us – the results really do speak for themselves!
    I hope that second location will benefit from your insights.
    All the best!


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