Let’s Talk About Workplace Cultures

Let’s Talk About Workplace Cultures


In one of my previous blogs, I had mentioned how establishing your WHY will help you attract the right people to work for you and that the right culture will develop within the group of people you work with. I also mentioned some examples of workplace cultures: Clan, Adhocracy, Market, and Hierarchy. Let’s dive into these categories.

Bruce M. Tharp of the University of Michigan gave definition to the term “culture” in his research about these examples.

“Culture… includes all of a group’s shared values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, artifacts and behaviors.” In his study, Tharp mentioned how culture runs so deep within an organization that it guides individual actions while members “are not even aware they are influenced by it.”

Let’s think about that for a second. The atmosphere at work, spoken or unspoken, can navigate the quality of work and the decisions employees make in the workplace without them even knowing it? That’s pretty powerful. That means that in the right atmosphere and with the right values set in place, managers and employees will be making decisions in accordance to your mission without you even being there, it will just be a matter of second nature.

So let’s look at these categories of workplace culture. According to business professors, Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron, the values of a workplace break down and fit into 4 categories. The result of their study is a four-quadrant chart below.

According to their study, the four cultures value different traits. While the two cultures on the top half of the chart value flexibility and discretion, the clan culture emphasizes loyalty and takes on more of an “extended family” vibe. The adhocracy culture focuses more on taking risks and innovation; they emphasize differentiation among the individuals in the company.

Image explaining the impact workplace culture has on quality of work.
Examining the effects of workplace culture.

In the bottom half of the chart you will find cultures that look to create more controlled and stable environments. In a hierarchy culture, however, you will find rules, standard procedures and what Tharp described as “a well-defined structure for authority and decision making.” In a market culture, the stability is sought after through external relationships that can help the company gain leverage.

What is it that you value? What traits would make the most sense with your WHY? For more details about these categories, check out Tharp’s in depth research on what they entail.

You Are The HOW to my WHY


Ralph Albernathy, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, Roy Disney. Who were these men and why are they important? Turns out if it weren’t for the aforementioned names, people like Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Walt Disney would not have been able to make their visions the WHAT that people bought into. They are what Simon Sinek calls HOW-Types, the brains in the operations that can rationalize and bring the WHYs to life.

Albernathy had the plan so that King could focus on the dream. Gates had a mission to put a PC on every desk, but it was Allen who built the company. Wozniak built the computer that Jobs used to challenge the status quo. And Walt admits that without Roy, “I’d have been in jail several times for checks bouncing.”

The HOW-type people construct the WHAT, the platform or medium, that the WHY-type people can use to channel their vision to their audience.

Interestingly enough, according to Sinek, the HOW people don’t necessarily need a WHY person to be successful, it is in their nature to get things done.

Illustration of the link between why, how and what.

However, their success would need constant maintenance for the rest of their lives, because their focus is on HOW and the WHAT, not on a vision or a WHY. And when that is the case, Sinek says, organizations will often try to push their WHAT forward with short term manipulations that prove to be expensive in the long haul.

On the flip side, WHY people, in order to reach success, need a HOW person that believes in their vision to push it forward. “Without someone inspired by their vision and the knowledge to make it a reality,” Sinek says, “most WHY-types end up as starving visionaries.”

If you are a small business owner, it can be easy to start with a strong WHY, but at some point shift the focus entirely to the HOW and the WHAT. After all you are wearing several hats just to keep your business running, from the CEO to the janitor.  However, as mentioned in the previous piece Do it for the Culture , if you billboard your mission heavily, it will attract the HOW- types who believe in your cause. You can designate these roles to those who are more savvy in that realm who will take on these tasks with the same belief in mind.

Do it for the Culture

Do it for the Culture

During the 1980’s Continental Airlines was considered the worst airline in the industry. Its own employees were not exactly excited to work there. Former chief executive of the company, Gordon Bethune, described the airline as “a crummy place to work” in his book, From Worst to First.
Employees were “surly to customers, surly to each other and ashamed of their company. And you can’t have a good product without people who like coming to work.”
As a business owner, working with the right people is essential in pushing the company forward. That may seem like a no brainer, of course anyone would look to work with the right people on board. Why, then, do some small businesses struggle with retention or with keeping a healthy workplace environment/culture?
According to Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, there are four types of organizational culture: Clan, Adhocracy, Market, and Hierarchy.
While there is not necessarily a right or wrong culture to incorporate from these four, there is a culture out of the four that best fits your values and beliefs. According to Simon Sinek, that is all a company is, it is a culture, or “a group of people brought together around a common set of values and beliefs.”
What that means is that before even hiring someone, your business’ core values must be established, the mission statement has to be founded as a compass for business decisions. From there you can look to hire people who believe what you believe in, not just because they have a particular skill set.
Bethune was able to establish the belief of winning as a unit among Continental Airline employees. He created a Clan culture by removing the excess security that separated the executive suites from the rest of the company and establishing an open-door policy to his office. The employees suddenly felt that they were a part of a family and their performance improved drastically. Rather than having a “every man for himself” mentality, the employees all worked together for the benefit of themselves, each other and the company.
Be the billboard of your mission, the right people will come along and help you propel business forward.

The Right Side of the Bell Curve

The Right Side of the Bell Curve


There have been very few products in the marketplace that, upon their introduction to the public, have caused people to line up for hours to get a hold of them. From the latest version of the IPhone to the newest Air Jordans, there was something about such items that had consumers wake up beyond a reasonable hour to be the first in line to purchase them or sometimes even pay others to hold their spot in line.

Why? They could have easily gotten all the sleep they needed and avoided a line by simply waiting a few hours. The people who lined up to get the latest IPhone would’ve still gotten that same IPhone if they had gone to the store the next day. It’s not like the first people in line got a different product or additional features on their item. So where does this phenomenon stem from?

In his book, Diffusion of Innovations, professor Everett Rogers explains the interesting, yet underrated concept of the Law of Diffusion of Innovation.

The Right side of the bell curve for business.

In this law, Everett explains that there are five groups of consumers. We’ll keep our focus on the first three as they are the most important. In his acclaimed best seller, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains the personality traits of these groups and their effect on each other. It is the people within these first two groups who would stand in line for hours for a product.

It is these first two groups that will then lead the Early Majority to also buy a particular product. Once it has been adopted by the groups of the left side of the curve, the rest will follow. The problem, Sinek mentioned, is that most companies look to appeal to the groups in the bell of the curve.

“… the early majority, according to Rogers, will not try something until someone else has tried it first…They need that trusted, personal recommendation.”

The reason for the existence of your product must resonate with these smaller groups for that sort of fierce loyalty. It begs the question, why are you in business?

Please… Just… Don’t…

Please… Just…Don’t…


If you read my other blog, you know what having and leading with a clear WHY can do for you and your business. But what happens when you don’t establish a mission statement for your business? Have there ever been businesses that have established themselves without a WHY?

The answer to that is ‘yes’, however, it is expensive. In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains that there is a difference between manipulating action and inspiring human behavior. “When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need.”

Sinek explains five manipulations, price, promotions, fear, aspirations, and novelty (a.k.a. innovation). That’s because the focus is on the HOW to push a WHAT out to the masses, not WHY a WHAT exists in the first place.

The price tactic is one that we are familiar with. This is a tactic we usually see at the end of a retail season when products are “priced to move.” Promotions is another strategy we as consumers have seen before; the “two for one” special or the “free toy inside” deal. While this may make your business look attractive to the consumer in the moment of a purchasing decision, it is not sustainable as it will, at some point, cost the company.

Fear and aspirations work in the same way, just in opposite directions. We have all seen advertisements using the fear tactic. Sinek names the classic PSA from the 1980’s where the speaker cracks an egg into a frying pan to describe our brains on drugs. “When fear is employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.”

Aspirations, on the other hand, lead us to something that we want or someone we want to be. “Six pack abs in 30 days!”, “Six Steps to a happier life!” and so on. Through the company’s product or service, customers will apparently achieve a desired result quicker or more easily. Fear and aspiration may push someone to respond quicker, but it doesn’t create loyalty.

Innovation is a common strategy in which companies will talk about what makes their products the best; its features, added benefits, etc. However, companies can often mistake novelty for innovation, and can quickly be replaced by the next shiny thing. Innovation is not just a list of cool features. “Real innovation changes the course of industries or even society.”

It is not enough to just know tactics to create sales if you are looking to create a loyal following. It takes a clear mission, a clear WHY that resonates with your target market. Only then will people do business with you without the need for the manipulations game.

“Why” Are You In Business?

“Why” Are You In Business?


When you think of the leading companies of the 21st century, have you ever wondered, how did they reach such an incredible amount of success? What did they do to ascend so high in society?

As a new business owner, it may be in your plans to, at some point, reach a similar level of success. But how? Perhaps “how” is the wrong question. In his 2009 book, Start With Why, TEDx speaker, Simon Sinek dissects a common trend that most successful businesses share. Sinek explained that leading companies and inspiring leaders all had a WHY, a mission that they would carry out every day. It may seem like such a trivial detail that is not necessary at all. However, Sinek explained how by not having a clear “WHY,” companies would often struggle to create a loyal following, much less become household names.

An example Sinek heavily uses is Apple, Inc., a company that started off making computers but now has a foot in several other industries such as the music and phone industry. It is often a wonder how Apple went from creating computers to creating IPhones that people will stand in line for hours to buy. Sinek takes a look at the beginning of Apple to suggest that the reason why they started in the first place is what propels their dominance in whatever arena they decide to take part in.

“Everything they do,” Sinek explained, “works to demonstrate their WHY, to challenge the status quo. Regardless of the products they make or the industry in which they operate, it is clear that Apple ‘thinks different.’”

Perhaps your reason for going into business for yourself was not to “challenge the status quo.” Perhaps they were more personal reasons, such as setting your own hours. How, then, do those reasons create a mission statement that creates a loyal following?

Sinek explained that finding your WHY does not come from setting your sights on a future goal as much as it comes from hindsight.

“It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you are now. Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.”

Once you discover your WHY, the HOW and WHAT of your business serve as evidence of the former. Only then will people do business with you, not because of what you do, but because your WHY resonates with who they are.

Why are you in business?