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Great leadership creates great organisations.

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How A Positive Workplace Can Make Your Organisational Culture Great

A solid organisational culture is a differentiator between you and your competition. Jason Cunningham shares the lessons he learned in changing his own business’ culture.

Any successful business owner knows the power of creating positive workplace culture; a place where people enjoy coming to work, have the technology and tools to do their job and are able to get the most out of themselves.

I was reminded of this while reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Zappos.com is an online shoe and clothing shop that was sold to Amazon for about $1.2 billion in 2009. Zappos was built on three core areas: brand, customer service and culture. Brand is driven by customer service… which is driven by culture. So your culture is key.

75% of Zappos clients are return customers
How can you improve workplace culture?

The main source of Zappos’ rapid growth has been repeat customers (over 75 per cent of customers are repeat buyers), underpinned by a legendary reputation for customer service. This is largely due to employee empowerment – built on a bedrock of trust – a solid organisational culture that makes people feel great about what they do.

It becomes more than just a job; they’re genuinely helping people, and making a difference. Who wouldn’t love that?

So – how can you improve workplace culture?

The first step is to never assume – ask the people that matter, your team members.

It’s the best way to ensure they feel heard, so they’re more likely to buy into it. When we asked our team at The Practice how we could make this an even better place to work, they said:

  1. They want an environment that enables them to be successful in their role
  2. They want to feel a part of something successful; they want to share in the wider success of their colleagues, and of the firm overall

And so we’ve started to make some changes. Some of our key areas of focus (and lessons learned) have included:

Leadership, Leadership, Leadership

Great leadership creates great organisations. And as owner or leader, you’re the most important component of culture.

Apart from providing a vision of where you’re all heading (and helping people understand their role in achieving that vision), your most important role is to implement and drive the initiatives that create a high-performance culture – a place where everyone strives for success, individually and collectively.

Best Of The Best

I believe it’s important to set lofty goals (so even if you miss, you’ve still achieved great things). We modelled our culture on world’s best practice by studying what the most innovative companies were doing. You can’t match their scale or budget… but you can get some fantastic ideas.

Give Your Team The Tools To Succeed

All your employees ask is to be given the right tools to do the job as effectively as possible. Take advantage of technology to make their jobs easier and more effective – and always look for better ways to do things better.

Show Them What Success Looks Like

Clearly convey to your people what is expected of them (through a job description) and what it means to succeed (through key performance indicators). If you want your people to strive for greatness, you have to articulate what is expected, and what constitutes above-and-beyond performance.

Recognise Awesomeness.

Reinforce the behaviours you want to see in your business. This doesn’t need to be financial – recognition by leaders and peers, and a simple ‘well done’, go a long way.

Call out great performance publicly, so others are reminded of what ‘success’ looks like – and themselves aspire to be recognised. People love to share in the wins of colleagues.

People love being part of a winner – so share business as well as individual successes, as they show you’re on track to achieving your overall business vision.

Create A Learning Environment

Making your people better requires a commitment to training, developing and mentoring your team. This requires a lot of time and resources… but the payoff for both your team members and your business are well worth it.

Like most initiatives, they start at the top – so you as the owner need to drive this commitment, especially if you want other senior people to follow your lead.

In It Together

The whole is definitely greater than the sum of all parts. As leaders, it’s so important to appreciate your people – we often think we’re the most important component of our business; but without your team you’d just be working for yourself.

Foster a sense of togetherness and interdependence; build a tribe of passionate people all marching together towards a shared goal. You’ll be unstoppable. 


Empowering your people to take initiative and solve problems takes trust. As does providing flexible working arrangements. It may go wrong sometimes. But the overall result is a happier, more motivated and more effective team.

And if your people feel valued, they’ll naturally strive harder to satisfy the customer – which, folks, is the name of the game.

Build It And They Will Come

If you can create a great culture, it can become a tool to attract (and retain) great people. It can also be an important differentiator when competing against bigger firms for the best people.

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