The "GIL" Culture:
Element to Long-Term Success
Culture is perceived to be a powerful force. We blame a failed merger on a clash of cultures. We describe heated political divides as the result of “culture wars.” We praise certain corporate cultures and reward them by placing them on lists of “Great Places to Work.”
Given that culture is almost universally recognized as a significant factor in our lives, how can leaders reinforce the strengths of organizational culture to maximize their positive impact? How can you build, promote and reinforce this powerful, sometimes hard-to-grasp dimension of your organization?
To keep things simple, we'll describe culture as the way we behave—or, as some have put it, "the way we do things around here." It's the way employees treat each other, it's the way owners and managers treat employees, it's the way everyone treats customers and other external stakeholders. And of course, all of those behaviors are influenced by the beliefs individuals and organizations hold about the world in which they live.
So if, as a leader, you want to build a "GIL" culture—that is, a Growth, Innovation and Leadership Culture—what does that look like?
If an organization wants to grow in a way that is sustainable for the long term, stakeholders need to perceive that they are getting value from the transaction or relationship they have with you. The fundamental question an organization needs to ask then is, "How do we help our stakeholders?"
Do you have an answer to that question for each stakeholder group? Have you identified the stakeholder group that plays the most important role in your success? Of course, all stakeholders are important. At the same time, most organizations center their efforts around one particular group of stakeholders. Your local grocery store has many stakeholders. But if your local grocer doesn't satisfy the person who walks through the door and grabs the shopping cart, that door won't be open long.
Do you have a clear understanding of how you help your stakeholders?
How, as a leader, do you promote a culture of innovation? Most innovative companies recognize the role of failure in being successful. Most of us didn’t learn to ride a bike without falling down a few times or learn to surf without first falling off our board. We’re not talking about catastrophic failures, but the normal failures of life. We have an idea, and we test it. If it doesn’t work, we figure out what we could have done differently. Though hindsight isn’t necessarily 20/20, it is certainly, more often than not, better than foresight. Do we allow for failure? Do we shoot down ideas as soon as they hit the whiteboard? Or do we let our people take calculated risks?
How well do we give our people the freedom to fail in order to achieve great things?
It has been said: "Average leaders give people something to work on. Great leaders give people something to work for." As a leader, have you given your organization something to work for? Do your employees understand what they're working for—what you’re trying to accomplish together?
And, if you think you've given them "something to work for," how do you know they get it? If things seem out of sync, do you question whether or not you're all working for the same thing?
What is our organization working for, who knows about it, and is everyone committed to doing their part to make it happen?
In summary, if you're leading a GIL culture, it is critical that you address the following questions:
1. How do we help our stakeholders in ways that engender long-term
2. How well do we balance the opportunity to fail with our ability
to mitigate risk?
3. What are we, in concert, working for?
The final question then becomes, “How well does our investment of time, energy, money and behavioral management support the answers to these
Having effective answers to these questions is a prerequisite to building a culture of Growth, Innovation and Leadership.