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The ABCs of creating a positive culture

4 min read


This guest post is by Arte Nathan, a veteran HR professional with more than 30 years of practicing human resources, most of it as chief human resources officer for Golden Nugget and its successor companies, Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts. He now lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., where he consults, writes and teaches. Follow him on Twitter at @arte88.

This is part two of a two-part series. In part one, Nathan explains why “Companies need to cultivate a culture of inclusiveness.”

Creating a positive culture that will address and satisfy workers’ hopes and expectations is as simple as ABC:

Appreciate attitude

  • We talk about hiring for attitude, but remember that good attitudes have to then be nurtured and reinforced continually. Show employees that you appreciate their attitude by thanking or recognizing them in some public way and by promoting only those who have the best attitudes.
  • Let them represent your company or brand, teach others how to do what they do, and be role models.
  • Post their pictures and sing their praises in internal newsletters or on Facebook, and let them know you recognize how good they really are.
  • Catch them doing things right: it’s one thing to be attentive to policies and procedures, but you should balance that by being a visible and vocal cheerleader when things are done right.

Behave well

  • You need exceptionally talented people to execute your business plan. And this kind of talent has a high expectation for a great culture so these employees need to be carefully and effectively managed in order to get the most from their talents. And because ideas are clear in your mind, you often can’t or won’t understand when others (such as these talented managers) don’t get it.
  • Slow down and communicate more, listen more to the questions that your team has, nurture ideas by being collaborative and sensitive, and spend quality time with them. That’s not something that comes naturally – most bosses see themselves as idea people; your team, however, needs you to be a people person.
  • Put your ego aside and let others run with your “baby”. This is all about trust, and the more you trust your team the more they will trust you.
  • Be flexible and let the team develop concepts their way. Remember: two heads are better than one.
  • It’s not always what you say, but how you say it and how you act on what you say. Everyone watches what you say and how you say it; then they decide what they really think. Make sure that what you say and how you say it are consistent.

Collaborate and communicate

  • Remember that culture isn’t just about empowerment and engagement. Those buzzwords are overused and generally misunderstood. They are not the policy; they’re the outcomes realized when more basic concepts like listening, communicating, understanding, trusting and respecting are in place.
  • You must have the patience to explain what you want, what that means and why you want it. That’s how to get talented people to buy into a plan.
  • You need to listen to your team, to be flexible and let them mold concepts and plans their way. Do you sit in your office or sit with your team regularly? Do you really listen to what they have to say? Think about impromptu brainstorming meetings and group lunches as ways to sit around and have robust two-way discussions.
  • You should consider a Culture Plan section in your overall business plan, complete with the same level of research and analysis that goes in the overall plan.
  • You need to make sure that everyone feels a part of and knowledgeable about what’s going on. Then they will be empowered to act appropriately and become engaged.
  • And if you want a great culture, it has to start at the top (that’s you). Whatever it’s going to be has to be nurtured and lived by you in order for it to be  supported by everyone else.

These are interesting and challenging times, and everyone’s seeking to do more with less in this difficult economy. You need something to differentiate your business and workplace, and at the end of the day that could and should be the culture that is supported by your staff. If you follow these ABCs, the cost should be minimal; but make no mistake, you must make the maximum commitment. That’s easier said than done but not impossible. Done right, a great culture can make your company very successful.

Image credit, YinYang, via