Building a World-Class Culture

The leaders of the most successful companies know that success all comes down to culture. Why? Because companies are really just people working together.

Do you think your company has a world class culture? Ask yourself these questions: How well do your people communicate? How strong are your meetings? How well do people work across departments? Are they clear on the company priorities and how to align to achieve them?

Success leaves clues, and companies with world-class cultures have left a few for us. The following are tips from Robert Richman, corporate culture expert, and co-creator of Zappos Insights, on how the top companies he’s worked with get it right by getting real.

  1. Get Real About the Business

Strong cultures don’t try to make everything seem great when it’s not. They address the hard stuff straight on. They get real with the numbers and share those numbers with the whole company so everyone can be on the same page. Public information allows people to regulate their own behavior rather than force change.

Action:  Be transparent about your numbers, and educate everyone what they mean.

  1. Get Real About the Culture

It’s one thing to send a survey. It’s another thing to make all the data of the survey public, and do things like Live Q&A. Zappos makes their survey open to everyone, so they can see how well every department is doing. Is marketing failing? Everyone now knows.  If questions come up, they are routed to the right person to answer and then the answer is shared with everyone publicly. Google still holds weekly town halls where anyone can ask leadership a question.

Action: Use an internal NPS (net promoter score) for your survey and make the data open to everyone.

  1. Get Real about Your Relationships

A company is really just individuals, and those individuals have relationships. So how do you strengthen those relationships? You do it by getting real but in a way that is both connected and safe. To get the best data, use this specific question when you can look someone in the eye. “Please tell me the thing you think I don’t want to hear.”  Using these words gives someone permission to tell you that which they were scared to tell you up until that point. Saying it face-to-face holds you accountable to take that in and make use of the feedback. When people see that you not only value their input but utilize it, it builds trust.

Action: Ask, “Please tell me the thing you think I don’t want to hear.”

This article was written by Robert Richman, Culture Architect and Co-creator of Zappos Insights.   To bring a corporate culture keynote speaker to your next conference or event, contact BigSpeak Speakers Bureau at (805) 965-1400 or