Creating an Excellent Culture


There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many weeks of vacation you are given; when you work in a toxic environment, you still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day. And that isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, there is nothing better than working at an organization with a great culture. You wake up every day looking forward to getting back to work on the mission with people you enjoy being around.

What a Great Culture Looks Like

I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, but here are twelve signs of a great culture in your organization, company, or church:

  1. People are waiting in line to join your team. It’s not because you are offering more money than they could find somewhere else. Many times the pay is less. But people have heard about your team, and they would give anything to be a part of it.
  2. Turnover is low. You should especially pay attention to this in entry-level and mid-level jobs. Often top leaders will stay forever because it’s safe and the pay is good. But if you see people staying for an unexpectedly long time in facility care, accounting, or children’s ministry, you are probably looking at a healthy culture.
  3. Top leaders are not insecure about other leaders succeeding. In fact, they encourage it. I’ve often been told how shocked people were that Mark Beeson, my senior leader at Granger, allowed multiple people on his staff to publish years before he ever did. That’s because he built a culture where successes were celebrated at all levels.
  4. Gossip isn’t tolerated. It isn’t just the leaders calling for people to take the high road in their communication. At every level, gossip is shut down with an encouragement to speak directly to the individual.
  5. Lateral leadership is outstanding. Leading people below you is easy. That is, it’s easy compared to leading people next to you over whom you have no authority. A great culture sees people coming alongside their peers to encourage, or occasionally to correct and redirect.
  6. Team members are energized by the mission. You hear leaders at all levels of the organization talking about the mission. It gives them energy, and they are constantly thinking of ways to get it done.
  7. It’s not just a job; people do life together. They go to movies, hang out at one another’s homes, and sometimes even vacation together. This doesn’t mean they don’t have other friends, but they really enjoy the company of the people they work with.
  8. The team believes they are more important than the task. There is a sense that, as employees, they really matter. They aren’t just people filling tasks; but the culture, systems, language, and structure communicate value. Even in tough times with salary freezes or benefit changes, the vibe is still, “You matter!”
  9. People are smiling. Walk the hallways and you will see people smiling, enjoying conversations, and having a good time in the midst of high productivity and intense focus.
  10. Fear is missing. People don’t fret if they say the wrong thing in front of the wrong person. There aren’t hushed conversations because of the fear of what will happen if they are overheard. Employees in an organization with a great culture can walk into the boss’s office with a concern and walk out knowing they were heard.
  11. Communication is strong. From the top to the bottom, people communicate. The staff isn’t surprised with information they didn’t hear until it was announced at a Sunday service or came out in a new product brochure. It is communicated well in advance, with leaders even asking the staff to help find solutions.
  12. Change is welcome. People aren’t afraid of change. It’s not that everyone likes change, but most have been through it so many times and have seen the leaders manage change with care and dignity that they no longer dread it.

Identifying the evidence of a great culture is all fine and good. But how do you go about creating such a culture?

I'm glad you asked. We'll talk about that next week...

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace