Building a Purpose-Driven Corporate Culture


Susan Kuczmarski. Ed.D.

Shared values and norms are the DNA of a culture and serve as its compass. A purpose-driven leader models these core beliefs and behaviors and determines the buy-in and adoption of them by others. Here are six guidelines for purpose-driven leaders:

  1. A shared set of values and norms serves to connect employees and management together. The best approach is to have everyone participate in generating and agreeing upon a common set of values. They simply can’t be handed down from senior management, no matter how reasonable and fair they might be. Everyone has to be part of the process.
  2. As values guide the culture, the “proof” that it is working is found in energized and happy people who create a shared culture that enriches their work lives. The people-focused process begins with a workplace that is meaningful and gratifying.  Purpose-driven leaders must nurture a highly productive group of individuals who have a genuine sense of their own value, strong relationships with each other and a group identity.  They know they are appreciated members of a common community. The workplace is propelled by the power and energy of a shared spirit and inspiring culture.
  3. Praise, rewards and recognition are powerful tools to teach, inspire and motivate, however each is terribly underused in the culture of the workplace. A verbal thank you, of course, is the easiest and quickest recognition to give. When was the last time you wrote a brief note thanking the people who helped you with an assignment? Be sure to describe what they did particularly well.
  4. Recognition is different from providing feedback to an individual. Recognition personally conveys a sense of appreciation and continued encouragement for a task or job performed well. It’s fine for the focus of recognition to be the completed task, but for recognition to provide maximum benefit, it’s important to have the individual feel greater self-worth—not just satisfaction about the action being recognized.
  5. Recognition can be offered in a variety of ways and under different circumstances. It can be given for an employee’s insight into identifying a problem, acknowledging the difficulties the employee encountered while solving the problem or understanding the benefits of the employee’s solution. Providing positive reinforcement to employees along the way is far more motivating than waiting until the task has been accomplished.
  6. Team and group leaders need to give far more thought into effective ways to provide their team members with recognition. At the same time, group members also have a responsibility to provide their leaders with positive recognition and reinforcement. Most people expect the flow of recognition to stem from the top down. How often have you complimented your boss for a job well done? Probably not often. And yet, providing recognition to those at the top can be enabling and motivating for them. Providing frequent recognition is beneficial because it leaves groups stronger, more confident and better motivated to perform productively and focus on the tasks at hand rather than worrisome self-doubt.

About the Author:  Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D. is the author of six books, three on leadership and three on the contemporary family, including a newly-released leadership book, entitled Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition. She is the co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation, which provides thought leadership on innovation, culture, management and values. She speaks and teaches on the topic of leadership, culture, norms and values around the world.