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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

Is your Workplace Culture by Default, or by Design?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

I had the pleasure of speaking to a room full of very bright minds at the NBIF Cox & Palmer and Deloitte R3 (Recognizing Research Results) Gala recently.  This event aims to connect researchers and business people to network and discover the opportunities they can bring to each other. My presentation took place at the afternoon, during the “Tech Trends & Scaling Startups Successfully” session.

I was in great company – Jeff Roach of Sociallogical presented Aligning Social Media with Your Brand, Wayne Chamberlain of Atlantic Growth Solutions presented the 5 Components of a Sales Machine, Duncan Stewart of Deloitte presented Technology Trends & Predictions and I talked about Developing a Leadership Culture. The hardest part was keeping our presentations to 20 minutes, but that’s another story. (Next time I see you, please ask me.)

What was the big take away from my presentation? I’d have to say that there was one big question on the minds of most at the event. The majority of our participants understood and could describe and define  “culture”. They understood the importance of having a healthy culture and the impact a strong culture has on an organization. But most stumble on the big question – HOW do you create a healthy, vibrant work culture?

That’s a question I could help them answer. Not in my measly 20 minutes, but I tried!

Have you ever worked in a place where you liked your job but the culture of the place pushed you out?

It happens all the time. At Vision Coaching, we are often in discussion with organizations on how they define their current culture. We strongly believe that coaching is a strategic business driver so we help companies create a culture that embraces coaching.

Why is culture important? Having a solid corporate culture is instrumental in…

  1. retaining employees

  2. maintaining a good reputation

  3. increasing productivity

  4. enhancing quality

When employees’ personal values and company values are misaligned, stress and conflict arise. In order to be productive you need to have engagement and respect from your employees. When you nail down what your organizational values are – your working culture is where the values live – then you can start working towards building a culture around those values.

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” – Gruenter & Whitaker

A great example where a major culture shift had massive results is the story of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team.

In 2004, the All Blacks were really struggling. They had another devastating loss that ended with an alcohol fueled after party – behaviour that spoke to their culture at that time (the aftermath is well documented).

New Zealand ALL BLACKS

It became a learning organization. Their new vision was to be the most dominant team in world history. They knew they needed to weed out some players if they built a solid culture. They ended letting senior players go who were not fitting with the new culture. Their coaches had a new job: to develop leaders.

The New Zealand All Blacks legacy was built on a culture by design…

  1. A Case for Change

  2. A Compelling Picture of the Future

  3. A Sustained Capability to Change

  4. A Credible Plan to Execute.

The All Blacks story is fascinating because their deliberate culture change, which didn’t happen over night, resulted in them reaching their goal of becoming the ‘most dominate team in world history’.

If you want to begin, or continue, to shift the culture at your organization there are some fabulous books to dig into. I highly recommend reading Legacy, by James Kerr (Kerr goes deep into the heart of the world’s most successful sporting team to reveal 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business.) and Dan Pink‘s Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. These books are both inspiring and practical.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at or follow him on twitter @dave_veale.

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