Practice Makes Perfect – 3 Steps to Great Culture

This is Part 4 in our Cool Culture Counts series, featuring Wesley Middleton, Managing Partner of MiddletonRaines+Zapata. Don’t miss the introduction to the series: 5 Keys to a Cool Culture

Having a great culture takes intentional planning and preparation. There are great books to read, seminars to attend and webinars to listen to. These things are critical and are all part of the preparation and planning process. After the smoke clears, the new wears off and reality sets in, and the hard work begins. Putting the plan into action. The People, Place, Passion and Purpose are vital to a great culture, but without Practices, it is just a smoke screen for what really lies beneath, your culture.  There is what we say we do and how we think we get things done, but then there is that deep inner culture that is how we REALLY get things done.

While there are many ways to approach and define this, here are three practices that will get you off to a great start to having the culture you want.

Define Your Values

This may seem like a useless exercise but this is where it all starts. What are the core values or principles that drive your organization? These values are what you believe are a priority and important in the way you live and work.

First, before defining what you think they are and what you want them to be, ask the people in your firm (anonymously!) what they are.  This could be an eye-opening exercise. You will either find some general alignment or be totally surprised by what you hear.

After defining where you are, define where you want to be, in terms of core values. Keep the list short and manageable.  I find that 5 is a good number to focus on and implement.

Define Practices

If you found from the survey that you have values that are not what you want, you then have to ask WHY? Why do people believe this is what you value? What actions or practices are you undertaking that express those values to the firm? These are the practices to STOP doing. Before you can identify what to start doing, identify what you need to stop doing.

Next, take each value that you have defined and write down just ONE practice, behavior or communication that you can START doing to demonstrate that value.

Put it Into Action

This is where it gets hard, action. Keep those values close by and with every decision you make, take a look at those values. Does that decision, action, behavior, email or communication correlate with the values you say that you live by? Put your values into action.

It is a top down process. Culture will not change from the bottom up.  If you are the leader, then live it, breathe it, drink it and own it. It starts with you and what you do and say defines the culture. If you are not the leader, sit down with the leader and talk about it! You CAN influence the change and behaviors that are necessary for a great culture.  Take Action!

Do you want to learn more about specific practices that will improve your firm culture? Watch “Walking the Walk: Your Firm Culture in Practice,” the fifth webinar in our series. Watch Now


Wesley Middleton

Managing Partner, MiddletonRaines+Zapata

All stories by: Wesley Middleton