What matters more – culture or brand?

Becca Timmins
Becca Timmins
15/12/2023

I see lots of business owners focusing a huge amount of attention on their brand. It’s understandable and important – how we are seen by the world is key for attracting clients, talent, and communicating what you and your business stand for.

Brand is all about how the outside world sees you.

Culture on the other hand, is how your team experiences working at your company. And this is something that I often see taken for granted. Many leaders seem to focus heavily on brand but neglect deliberate work on their culture. Here’s why I think that’s a mistake and some suggestions on how to focus on culture and drive results.

Culture retains top talent

Your brand attracts talent and clients. But your culture determines if talent stays or leaves. Without a positive work culture, you risk high staff turnover even as you grow.

The four months between April and September 2021 saw more than 24 million Americans leave their jobs. This article quotes significant research that indicates poor work culture was a major driver for this “Great Resignation”.

If you focus on your brand and building client numbers while neglecting your culture and the people you need to deliver on service, you’re going to find yourself in trouble. Training new people over and over again, struggling with the stress (and costs) of resignations and recruitment and fundamentally not having the people there to deliver on your promises.

You will end up busier than ever – and not in a good way.

Culture drives performance

It’s easy to think that performance is all about sales, and brand is certainly important for driving leads, both in quality and quantity.

But how we convert those leads, and deliver on service is more about culture – how our team behaves in their day to day towards each other and towards clients.

Back in 2012, Google published their research paper “Project Aristotle”. This huge multidisciplinary research project discovered psychological safety within teams is the #1 predictor of high performance.

Does your culture establish norms for psychological safety and trust?

Culture is a reflection of you

The behaviours modelled by those at the top of a business cascade through the company. Self-aware, ethical leaders shape collaborative cultures. Toxic leaders poison company culture. Do you know if that applies to you? Have you checked?

Have you ever asked “What’s it like to be led by me?”.

It’s a scary question to ask, but maybe how scared you are to ask is proportional to how much you need to hear the answers!

As an example, if you moan to your colleagues about their colleagues, they will moan to each other, about each other and definitely about you! As a leader, your behaviour sets the tone and shows others what is ok, and what’s not ok.

Another example: If you don’t deliver on what you promise, then others will think it’s ok to let their colleagues (and maybe even your clients) down.

Incidentally, dependability was number 2 on the Project Aristotle list for vital behaviours for high performance.

Make sure you model the behaviour that you want to see. Do as I say, not as I do doesn’t work.

Tips for Improving Your Company Culture

  • Seek feedback on your leadership and culture frequently.
  • Talk openly about challenges, including your own, without blame or shame.
  • Invest in developing emotional intelligence at all levels (starting with yourself).
  • Nurture psychological safety so people can speak openly without fear.
  • Communicate values and reinforce them with behaviour. Walk your talk.
  • Celebrate wins frequently. Recognise contributions of all team members and definitely make sure you don’t take the credit for other people’s ideas or work.

The bottom line?

Of course brand is important, I am not suggesting neglecting it. But a positive culture reduces staff turnover, unleashes talent, and enables performance. So, don’t take it for granted. Deliberately foster the culture you aspire to lead in.

The long-term gains will be well worth the investment.

If you are interested in having a conversation about how I could help you become more deliberate about your company culture, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
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Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
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