The world needs more culture builders

By Simon D’Arcy

Have you ever worked with someone who seemed to have a magical effect on groups?  

When they are around, conversations are more engaging and productive. Having them at a meeting always seems to make the meeting better. Conversations are deeper, more thorough and more energizing. When they are on the team, other high performers flock to it. Where they go, others follow.

Their presence in a meeting inspires others to be a better version of themselves. They ask questions; they slow down conversations in crucial moments. Regardless of their role, they are able to contribute in a way that moves things forward. They are like an elite point guard in basketball who is able to bring out the best of everyone on their team. They are highly valued.

I call these people “Culture Builders.”

A “Culture Builder” is someone who chooses to intentionally shape and influence the culture of their team or company.

A “Culture Builder” is someone who—regardless of role—acknowledges the influence they already have on others and chooses to harness that influence in service of creating a better group experience.  

Culture builders create high trust environments that attract top talent and a track record of success. People will go out of their way to get on their team, because they know that they will grow personally and professionally, add to their own success story and have a great time doing it.

If culture is so powerful, why is still so often ignored?   

Because it’s hard. Most culture-change efforts fall short. The landscape is littered with failed culture change efforts. Successful implementation is counterintuitive.

None of the usual methods work: it can’t be delegated, can’t be mandated, can’t be outsourced, can’t just be hired and fired, can’t be given to internal SWAT teams.

To succeed, everyone from the CEO down to the janitor must be involved. Cultural fitness requires every person in the company to do their own pushups. The goal is to change company DNA and intentionally shape, build, enhance, and transform the culture of your team, organization and company.    

To do this, you have to start with people: In fact, you need to build an army of Culture Builders.

Twenty years ago, when I first started supporting culture change efforts in Fortune 500 companies, it was managed a bit like a project:  

A key executive would sponsor the effort. They would invest in a bunch of off-sites, training and coaching for their leaders, and roll out a new mission and values statement. The project would last 1-3 years. And then that key leader would move on and the culture effort would later falter.    

Two years ago, I joined forces with the talented team at Evolution to help fast-growing companies create thriving cultures that last and scale. One thing we have discovered is that the ‘one leader approach’ to culture building—no matter how talented and influential that person is—just doesn’t cut it any more. Maybe it never did.

What we are seeing more and more now is that at the companies that are most successful at scaling culture, leaders at all levels embrace the role of culture builder.  Yes, there is still a senior leader willing to be accountable for maintaining focus over time. But they have a team of culture builders behind them.   

Last month, I delivered a program for 100 already successful managers at a biotech company aimed at inspiring and training up more culture builders. They realized that they had a lot of people who already had a natural inclination for it and most, if not all, of the necessary skills. They just needed a little inspiration and someone to give them permission to step up and lead in this way. This company has now expanded their “culture building” team by 100.

Creating a company culture that is a source of pride is an ongoing, never-ending effort.  It makes sense that the more culture builders a company has, the more successful their culture building effort will be over the long-term. More culture builders = better results.

Your company (and the world) needs more culture builders right now.   

  • More people bringing their best selves to difficult moments and inviting others to join.
  • More people inviting the higher conversation.  
  • More people able and willing to welcome what’s happening—in all its complexity  without getting triggered, or sidetracked, or polarized.

Not just once a year at an offsite, but every day.

Are you a “Culture Builder?”

What can you do to increase the number of culture builders on your team?

Simon D’Arcy   Curator @ Partner at Evolution.  Champion of the Culture Builders Manifesto.

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Simon D’Arcy is a partner at Evolution, where he works with leaders of fast growing growing start-ups and high-growth companies that strive to be iconic, world-enriching entities. He is an executive coach, consultant and leadership mentor with over 20 years of experience assisting leaders and companies on six continents. His work focuses on helping leaders become highly effective culture builders for their teams and companies. Recent clients include Tile, 8i, Slack, Dropbox, Yahoo!, Genentech, and Slack. He is the founder and curator of—a resource for leaders curious about the latest inspiration and insight on culture building. He is also the author of the forthcoming Culture Builders Manifesto.

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