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Creating a Culture That Drives Growth

Increasingly, Daggerwing Group is called on by C-Suite leaders to transform corporate culture. Based on our experience with Fortune 100 firms across the globe and the trends we’re seeing in the marketplace, we’ve identified six elements of culture that drive growth – that any company can implement if they start with their people.

Culture has moved to the top of the list of priorities for many CEOs, with 40% saying they are looking to make significant culture shifts by the year 2020.1 A strong culture has always been a key element of great companies, but why the increased focus now? Because culture is now viewed as a fundamental pillar of growth. And growth is a priority, if not THE priority, for today’s CEOs.2

As one of the most valuable companies in the world, Cisco has made a name for itself because of the emphasis they put on the people that work there. Everything from their Networking Academy to their wide-reaching CSR program is notable, but their desire to create a “Conscious Culture” is what makes Cisco a “great place to work.” As an organization, they are committed to making sure everyone feels empowered to grow and use their specific strengths in everyday operations.

Strong cultures are rooted in shared beliefs, habits and values that create a unique proposition for organizations and their people. And with so many organizations looking for a competitive edge, culture is not only critical for attracting and retaining the right talent, but it can also be the secret sauce for how companies succeed in an age of disruption. In fact, some companies are now even stating that culture is the prominent asset for driving value in their organizations.

But what does all this have to do with growth?

We’ve seen first-hand how high growth cultures help companies reinvent themselves, as well as change the way they operate to win in the marketplace. Take Microsoft for example. This past February, their share price tripled. And last November, its market cap briefly passed Apple’s, temporarily making Microsoft the most valuable company in the world. There were a couple of notable acquisitions that made this possible, but CEO Satya Nadella cites Microsoft’s culture – one that focused on having a growth mindset – as the catalyst. Microsoft’s CMO Chris Capossela describes the shift as going from “a culture of know-it-alls to a culture of learn-it-alls.”3

So, what exactly is a high growth culture? To understand, it’s important to first make the distinction from performance driven cultures, which focus on performance management policies, rewards and recognition programs that hope to drive better financial outcomes. A high growth culture values the ability to take risks without consequence, a commitment to help each other grow and above all else, a desire to learn through innovation and curiosity.

At Daggerwing Group, we define culture simply as HOW employees behave each and every day to achieve the WHY (the reason the company exists) and the WHAT (their company’s business goals). And through our work, we’ve identified six key elements that high growth companies have in common.

1. A GROWTH, OR LEARNING, MINDSET: When people look at challenges as an opportunity to learn new skills and construct strategies to conquer them, it creates a growth mindset. But it’s not just about conquering what’s in front of them, it’s also about looking around the corner and having the capacity to see potential blind spots.

2. SUPPORT RISK TAKING AND EXPERIMENTATION: To grow, you need to try new things and do things differently. Being relentlessly inclusive of different perspectives allows new voices to explore new territory, new ideas and different ways of solving problems. A culture that promotes insatiable curiosity will go a long way.

3. FAIL FAST AND LEARN: Of course, you shouldn’t fail for failing’s sake, but failure needs to be fully embraced. Too often we see employees continue with projects they’ve determined along the way are not going to succeed out of fear of failing or even losing their jobs. Or they just don’t try at all. They remain complacent. When something fails, you learn from it, reset and try again. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re doing it wrong.

4. DRIVE DECISION-MAKING DOWN: Employees are right in the midst of the day-to-day. They are closest to the products and the customers, yet often do not receive the autonomy to do what they think is best. Putting the power in the hands of the people creates a sense of ownership and drives accountability.

5. BUST THROUGH SILOS: Have a common purpose and vision that the ENTIRE organization aligns with, not just your team or function. This creates a one team mentality, with the same end goal: to crush the competition.

6. TURN EYES OUTWARD: It’s common for companies to become insular. So, to get out of that navel gazing pattern, you need to be able to predict what’s around the corner. That’s the only way to disrupt your business and the industry.

It takes time to build a high growth culture – these traits do not appear overnight – but there are steps you can take to begin infusing these six elements into your organization today. Here’s a hint: it starts with your people.

Stay tuned for the second article in this series to learn how to implement these behaviors into your organization.

1 Gartner, CEOs Look for Serious Growth in Gartner 2018 CEO Survey

2 Page Research, The CCO as Pacesetter: What It Means, Why It Matters, How to Get There, 2019

3 Simone Stolzoff, How Do You Turn Around a Culture of a 130,000 Person Company? Ask Satya Nadella, Quartz, 2019

Tiana Ritchell is a Principal at Daggerwing Group. Her past experience in Human Resources and Organizational Development gives her unique insight into the human element of strategic communications and change management. She is passionate about helping companies drive cultural transformation in a way that delivers results, while speaking to employees and meeting them where they are. Outside of work, Tiana enjoys cooking for family and friends – especially traditional Italian dishes!