On Killing a Wonderful Culture


You know the type of business?  The one you admire and respect.

The one that you want to emulate in your business and ensure that your people are as engaged as the crew in that business.  The business that is successful – almost in spite of itself because the people in the business work harmoniously and have developed a formal and informal management structure that delivers outstanding results.



I knew of one such business.  It was special in so many ways.  I admired their whole approach, ethos and especially cutlure as new people became fierce advocates of it and the supportive network that existed ensured that everyone could be their best selves.

Unfortunately, it has died.  This business, where one of my best friends works, has changed.  It has moved from being an inclusive and caring operation to one where there are now petty feifdoms and the focus has gone from “large” to “very small”.  It has become an internal business focussed on the personalities within it rather than the outward and forward-looking operation it once was.

This is incredibly sad.  Not only for the people involved, but also for other businesses that have looked to it as a beacon of what can be.  But, it can also provide an incredibly valuable lesson in what to do and what not to do.

The information I have received is that a large number of long-serving people within the business are now looking for work elsewhere.  These were the people who helped to create and curate the culture over the years.  These were the people who ensured “newbies” were inculcated with the culture when they started.  These were also the people who went “above and beyond” to serve the business, the staff and the customers.  They set the examples that became the norm for other staff.  They have now “checked out”.

Simon Sinek discusses this issue in far more erudite terms than I can here.  In short, the trust has gone from the business.  This is due to many factors but comes down largely to some of the senior management being a little bit too caught up in their own issues rather than seeking to ensure that the team is working effectively and creatively together.  In short, they have killed the passion and replaced it with work.

A consequence of all of this is that there has been the establishment of cliques and malicious gossiping within the organisation.  This has resulted in the curators of the culture losing their care for the business and the other staff.

What is happening is that all the good people will leave and the business will be left with the crap.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.  If you don’t manage and care for the culture you want, you will be left with one you don’t.  In every respect, you will be left with “the cream of the crap”.

There is a way out of this.  It is hard work, it requires deep honesty and introspection and it requires the re-establishment of a vision.  It’s called the Stages of Growth process – research-based and proven, it can resurrect organisations that are going through issues such as what this once-beloved business is going through.

I’d love to be able to help this once-fine business.  Unfortunately, they don’t see themselves as requiring any assistance.

Admiration and respect are earned.  And they can easily be lost.

How are you and your people curating your business?

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