Each year, I am afforded the opportunity to attend a number of conferences and events focused on growing, improving and transforming businesses. As I sit amongst attendees, I often like to observe their engagement as experts take the stage and begin presenting. One subject that always seems to elicit a variety of responses is Culture.

While the majority of attendees are actively scrawling notes, I am surprised to find there are still a fair few who seem either intimidated or completely uninterested in the discussion of culture. Perhaps they assume their company is too small to feel its effects, too established to make a change this late in the game or, worst of all, too broken to fix. Whether oblivious or overwhelmed, these leaders are doomed to fail without recognizing the importance of workplace culture.

Everywhere you look there are case studies of both culture done right and culture gone horribly wrong. It is, after all, a topic which universally affects all industries and professions. In each example you find– good, bad and ugly – you’ll discover a common theme: Internal culture drives external brand.

The way you are perceived by prospects and clients is heavily dependent on what happens within the walls of your office. When the brand you present to the outside world isn’t aligned with the culture a person experiences, trust will vanish. The curtain drops on your whole façade, leaving those you serve feeling disillusioned and deceived.

In an article I recently wrote for InvestmentNews , I touched on the Wells Fargo fiasco that ruined the bank’s reputation and forced consumers and advisors to abandon ship. This well-known and ongoing saga has inspired the one question I think could incite an evolution in your firm. Regardless of your size, your tenure or your widely-professed culture, your answer to the following question determines how much work you have yet to do.

What stakeholder behaviors do you reward?

It seems almost too simple. But, I promise, this is not a trick. Your stakeholders perform their duties according to behaviors that have been praised or penalized in the past. So, those behaviors which have been intentionally or unintentionally rewarded become the basis for their collective consciousness, also known as your culture.

The Cultural Creed we developed as we were rebranding to Carson Group Coaching and Carson Group Partners features a number of core values which are a direct reflection of the behaviors our executive team rewards. From innovation and collaboration to client-centricity and GSD, I can confidently say the culture we preach is supported by daily activity in all three of my companies. Are you as confident?

If you fall among those I mentioned who are apprehensive about embarking on a cultural change, realize nothing has to happen overnight. Start with building positive behaviors, then move on to formalizing your practices and sharing your purpose with the public. This process can go as quickly or as slowly as you’d like. Whatever you do, however, avoid standing still when you could be taking a step towards a better future for you, your stakeholders, your clients and your firm.

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