The late Gwen Ifill, a successful and prominent newscaster, journalist, and author, said, “Change comes from listening, learning, caring, and conversation.” She made a simple but effective point. Yet, how often does a company (of any size) follow this concept?

Sure, many will listen and learn from their customers through an amazing array of methods. Marketing, social media work, and creating a lifestyle as well as a brand are but a few ways this happens. Companies also have conversations with and prove that they do care about buyers. They will engage in direct contact via social media and offer the very best customer service.

But what about the workers at the company? Are they listened to, learned from, cared about, or conversed with? These issues are at the heart of corporate culture and, believe it or not, this is going to play a huge role in whether a business of any size succeeds.


Entrepreneur magazine says that it’s a “blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals, and myths all companies develop over time,” but that is not really all it is. After all, some companies build their corporate culture around their logos, which might symbolize something that is the mission of the business, and that drives the culture. Sadly, a company culture can actually pull down performance.

Here’s what I mean. A leader may be a bit heavy-handed and use strongly worded memos to convey ideas to his team. This can create a situation in which no one feels comfortable stepping outside of their defined areas, stifling growth and leading to frustration and even employee turnover.

A New York Times article that talked about “The Real Meaning of Corporate Culture” explained that it always starts with the owners and the traits that make individuals in the company successful. An owner who prefers workers to remain independent or who dislikes collaboration may not be creating an effective culture.

My firm recently garnered recognition for our company culture from the SmartCEO organization. This is because we have persistently maintained a collaborative and creative workplace culture. Why? Because it is the only way I can be sure staff is able to present their individual strengths.

Corporate culture is powerful as it will determine whether a company succeeds or not. Recognize the value of mentoring to lay a foundation for your culture.

Why would this matter? After all, if I hire a person for their amazing successes in marketing, shouldn’t that be where their attention, energies, and efforts remain channeled? No. As someone who is a huge advocate of mentoring, I understand the importance of recognizing everything someone can bring to the table. There are folks out there who are experts on issues that do not relate to their title at all, and if they have knowledge to share and can mentor our entire team, I want them to do it! Not only does this lift that person up and help our firm, but it also allows us to build a network of support and encouragement. That is the kind of power that a good corporate culture can build.

People just starting out as entrepreneurs need to understand the importance of their corporate or company culture. It can be incredibly hard to change once it is in place and in motion. One of the best ways to lay down a solid foundation for your company culture is to recognize the value of sharing and mentoring. Good mentors pay it forward, sharing all they know to grow their company or industry or simply to improve the world around them. If you have this at the heart of your interactions with staff, crew, colleagues, and others, your firm (even if it is just you for a while) will have a reputation for that listening, learning, caring, and conversation so essential to a healthy culture. It will also give you the tools you need to succeed at every point.

Check out these Tips for Creating a Great Company Culture for Your Startup

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