You don’t have to be the CEO of your organization to build and maintain a strong organizational culture (OC) – you can build an incredible OC in your own special part of the world – including your family, civic organization, Boy Scout troop, church group, non-profit, department, division, facility, office etc.

Recently I started working with a leader who is, at times, a real lunatic. This leader is often ready to fire employees when he goes looking for them and they are absent because they are on approved vacation! His moods are so unpredictable that he has summarily fired employees with little or no reason – just because he perceived they were not meeting his expectations. The problem is, he won’t let provide anyone with job descriptions and practically forbids annual performance reviews – so no one in the organization knows exactly what’s expected from year to year or even day to day – until it’s too late.

In the case of this leader, he’s inconsistent, hot headed, makes impromptu decisions and plays favorites. This behavior has driven fear and mediocrity into the organization resulting in a team of employees who do just enough to get by – no more, no less. These employees spend their time trying to get as much as they can from the organization before the lunatic decides it’s their day to go. And why shouldn’t they – they aren’t valued and they know it.

Zappos is easily recognized for setting the OC standard. They choose and maintain their culture by consciously deciding what it should look like and then consciously reinforcing and supporting that OC through all their Human Resources and management work systems. Here are the top 10 steps to help you establish and maintain a strong OC (values + philosophies X actions = OC (Organizational Culture):

  1. Define your Core Values
  2. Establish the philosophies by which you will “live” those values
  3. Determine how you will consciously reinforce and support your OC
  4. Set expectations
  5. Train your employees
  6. Establish and enforce policies and procedures in a way that supports your OC
  7. Hire based on your OC
  8. Reward based on your OC
  9. Fire based on your OC
  10. Get your employees involved in maintaining your OC

So, what does it take to build and maintain an OC that can be leveraged as a competitive advantage? It takes intentional leadership, the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard or expensive and most importantly it takes consistency.