The essential factor for success

Terry Thompson, Surrey, BC, CYBF Mentor,

Managing Corporate Culture article series

Pick up any book or article about corporate culture and you will read about a number of factors that impact culture. However, what the authors often don’t emphasize enough, and the single most critical factor that will render all others useless unless it is successfully attended to first, is related to the abilities and commitment of the CEO.

The CEO must be committed to:

  • Articulating and communicating a compelling vision and set of values  for the company,
  • Ensuring that the employees of the company (particularly the managers) are the right people, and
  • Communicating important organizational developments/accomplishments/challenges regularly and effectively to the entire company.

It is that simple. Unless the CEO lives, eats and breathes these three functions and sets an example as to how every manager/supervisor should behave with respect to them, any other initiative designed to improve corporate culture (e.g. compensation, coaching, training, etc.) will be seriously compromised. These are, by far, the three most important responsibilities of a CEO with respect to culture. These responsibilities should be the first thing that a CEO thinks about when he/she wakes up in the morning and where CEOs should continually improve their own abilities and those of managers.

These were precisely the areas that I focused on almost entirely for the first two years of my quest to improve our company’s corporate culture. The work took that long because:

  • I had to step away from other responsibilities and significantly increase the time I devoted to these activities
  • I had to  improve my skills considerably in these areas
  • We had hundreds of employees, a number of which were not the right ones.

For those of you with a young company, you will not face as daunting a challenge if you start now. To make one thing clear – there are other areas that should be addressed (which I will describe in future articles) but I did not spend much time on those during the first two years. I knew that first, I had to achieve significant progress in the priority areas and be confident that our management team had thoroughly ingrained this way of being into their day-to-day activities.

The next articles will provide more descriptions and instructions related to each of the three priority areas and the one absolute truth that a CEO must acknowledge in order to succeed in building great culture.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding the content of this article please email me (Terry Thompson) at

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