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What Is Culture? And How Much Does It Matter?

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By Vince Leisey

culture_sketch_sliderEditor’s Note: This is the first in a series of columns on the importance of Corporate Culture from Speaker and Coach Vince Leisey, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate.

Culture is critical to having a vibrant, successful organization in this ever-changing world in which we live in. Culture is the environment that we work within, which usually starts with a firm’s leaders and runs throughout the organization. Most importantly, culture breeds production. Companies with a great culture, such as Google, Facebook or Zappos, recruit and retain the best employees. Why? Because the leaders of such firms empower their employees—they give them a voice, and because they have a voice, these employees make a difference and contribute to the firm’s success every day. I believe culture has three main components:

  • The physical attributes of an office
  • The regular events and activities that create a particular vibe
  • The energy or feeling one gets when dealing with those employed by the firm
Vince_cooler
Above, a slice of life at BHHS Ambassador Realty: Vince Leisey delivers refreshments to employees via his mobile cooler.

  Culture is intertwined in so much of what we do—everything from leadership and how we communicate, to the physical spaces we have created within our office. Quite often, people will ask me how the physical attributes of an office can have anything to do with culture. To me it’s simple. In our new office building, for example, we will have a gym, patio area, gathering spaces and a kitchen connected to a 25-foot balcony overlooking a tree line. These spaces are designed to be cool, hip and friendly … to foster and encourage an environment—a culture—of energy, excitement and passion. Spaces where agents can come together to share ideas, collaborate, help each other and build better relationships. If you worked in an environment like this, you would love your job, right? In my organization, we focus on two things more than anything else: coaching and culture. Coaching being how we teach and develop our agents to reach their goals and do even better than they thought they could. Culture to us is to have an environment that is full of energy, excitement, enthusiasm, passion and people with a positive attitude. We believe if we can be great at these two things, then we will continue to grow our business and attract other new agents. We want a culture and environment where the agents and staff are excited to come to work everyday. Above is a bubble chart that my friend Seth Mattison, owner of Futuresight Labs, shared with me as part of a master mind group we were both involved with. I think it really illustrates the concept of culture quite well: Here are some goals to strive for in order to drive a positive culture within your firm:

  1. Have a leadership team that understands the importance of and focuses on creating and maintaining a positive culture (culture is usually a top-down approach)
  1. Have an attitude where everyone is there to encourage others to be better
  1. Leadership is open, where everyone feels like they have a voice—all types of people can exist and prosper within this space (not cult-like)
  1. Allow for open communication that is authentic, where people feel that there is a sense of trust, integrity and honesty
  1. Leaders inspire, motivate and make everyone perform at a higher level than they even thought possible

A good culture will create an environment where agents feel free to be heard—an environment that’s open and transparent. The leaders are approachable. Everyone has a say. People—from all walks of life—want to work in a place where they feel they can make a difference—a place they can go to feel like they are a part of something special. The environment should be one of inspiration, encouragement and teamwork. We believe that activity breeds activity and helps create that positive culture. Going forward, we’ll get into more specific strategies for creating a positive work culture, including why culture does not have to be expensive! The future of culture starts here. Vince Leisey_85x100Vince Leisey is the president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate, www.bhhsamb.com. Email Vince with your comments at vince.leisey@bhhsamb.com.

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