Put some “cult” in your culture

What makes some organisations more OK than others as a place to work? It’s about the culture, and there are ways of improving it. Every organisation has a culture of some kind, some are just a little more “cult” like. Actually, for many of the organisations I work with, it’s the Holy Grail. But how do you get there – what makes one company only an OK place to work, while the one next door invokes a passionate zeal?


Fact is, there isn’t a magic formula, but there are some elements that in my experience seem to be shared by organisations that do have (sometimes more than) a little “cult” in their cultures.


  1. They fervently believe in what they are doing – 101%. From top leadership throughout the whole organization, everyone sings the same song – vision and values, chapter and verse. US outdoor apparel company Patagonia is known for its passionate defence of the environment. It’s a unifying cause that everyone in the company gets behind.


  1. The minute you walk in the door as a potential employee, the process of letting you know about the company, what it stands for and how it operates, begins – and I’m not talking about just handing over the employee manual. At the company that makes Gore-Tex fabrics, every new hire is given a “starting sponsor”, someone on their team to help show them the ropes and help get used to the way they do things.
  2. The organisations go to great lengths to make sure that the people they hire are the right fit. Google uses many methods to find the right people. One is a questionnaire that potential employees have to fill out to even be considered for an interview. My favourite item in this questionnaire is: “Below is an empty space. Fill it with something better.” No pressure!


  1. The people who work there feel their organisation is the best, bar none – and yes it is a bit elitist. In the United States department store Nordstroms, the people who work there have inordinate pride in being a “Nordie”, even forming a receiving line and applauding customers as they enter at new store openings.


So, those are some of the elements that make the difference – there are plenty of others that various organisational experts and anthropologists throw about. If you are interested in exploring a bit, the wikipedia page on corporate culture is a pretty good place to start.


Or better yet, ask yourself how your culture measures up. Is it a ho-hum place that people can’t wait to leave at night, or a place where you can feel the hum of the energy the minute you walk in the door?


See you next week.


PS. I have just returned to Australia after living and working in the United States for over a decade, that’s why my examples above are from US-based organizations. But I would love to hear about some Australian “cult”ures, so drop me a comment if you work in one or know one.



Max Hardy writes: Interesting piece there Michel. Of course when they are inconvenient, really inconvenient, people are inclined to review their values. Think about a time when you had a major change of heart, or mind. About something significant. Think about it – chances are something that you thought was core – suddenly looks wobbly. It is scary and our core values don’t change often but they do change and can. Just not very often. People being exposed to other cultures is a time when this can happen. Good piece. Thought provoking. Keep it coming Michel!


Joyie writes: The best company that I have worked with over the past five years since I graduated was a boutique size financial planning company. The boss embraced an open communication, have a go, all honesty approach. There were no silly ideas. Sometimes it may take some time for him to have the idea “sink in” but he is very good with accepting new ideas. He listens and he acts. He encourages and appreciates. He keeps thinking outside of the square to do things better and I felt very much part of the company.

It was a small company but I was given the office key on the second day of my employment. There was a high level of trust, ‘believe in you’ approach. When one really enjoys the work, it does not matter, the way I talked to others make them feel like I actually own the company – which was how I felt. I can see a clear future to it.

I really loved what I did and it was great to go to work. I even went to work on weekend despite an hour drive to work. This is my personal experience 🙂



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