Guest Post: Turning Values into Culture

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.–Samuel Johnson

Culture exists in every company whether you create it or not! The focus of so many lectures, industry articles, and board meetings is often around culture, but what is culture, and how do you create a culture you want as an organization instead of letting one materialize by default?

The simple answer is culture is what your organization honestly and intentionally believes about why they exist! If it’s profits alone, everyone in the organization will, consciously or not, pursue activities that return a profit.

This affects how relationships are built, how leaders develop (or don’t develop) their subordinates, and how information is passed along to superiors. Culture determines how you treat your customers or your constituents. Belief determines actions, and actions determine culture.

At our company, our culture started with our founder, Leon Lee, and was passed down through each generation: if you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers. We aren’t the first company to live by such a principle, but we feel it sincerely.

That foundation gave rise to our mission to create a workplace where our employees can thrive. That mission serves as the channel marker we return to every day to provide direction and a reminder of what we are all about.

The second part of our mission is in service to the first part: to find innovative and original solutions to meet our customers’ needs. It reflects the order of importance and a belief that our employees do their very best work when they believe they work for a company that is genuinely interested in their well-being.

These missions and beliefs are just words on paper unless the values are lived out from the top down to the front lines. We don’t miss an opportunity to remind our employees and ourselves what our mission really is and for whom we are really working.

Are we perfect? Do we get it right all the time? No, but we aren’t afraid to put our stake in the ground, to admit if we are wrong, and to return to the beacon that allows us to navigate the open water when circumstances may seem uncertain.

Our culture is further reinforced by our values: honoring God by serving people with respect, integrity, and compassion. We hold ourselves to the highest standard in all our dealings, and we serve not only our employees and customers but also our communities and the people within them.

The adage “Values are caught, not taught” finds its way into any discussion of corporate culture because, as the author and speaker John Maxwell writes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Culture is determined by actions and the dignity with which you treat each person you interact.

About the AuthorStewart Rawley is the VP of people and culture at Lee Company in Tennessee.

Lee Company | Stewart Rawley on LinkedIn