How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work

UPDATED: June 7, 2023
PUBLISHED: June 7, 2023
Amy Somerville, CEO of SUCCESS

I am incredibly passionate about building thriving cultures and believe that community is where organizational culture comes to life. There are four phases of culture development that I recommend to leaders: curiosity, collaboration, clarity and connection. Let me walk you through how to use these four Cs to identify issues and intentionally build a thriving culture at work.

Curiosity helps build a thriving work culture

When I first stepped into my position as CEO of SUCCESS, I made it my goal to personally meet with every single person on the team. I conducted a listening tour spanning several weeks. Through back-to-back calls and Zooms, I uncovered and learned from each person’s perspectives, passions and personal stories. This helped me understand key value drivers and points of joy or discontent. I tuned in to how people feel about their purpose, their contributions and their teams. It was enormously enlightening and set a baseline for me to evolve and improve our culture.

Whether you are a leader building a culture from scratch or assessing an existing one, it is important to stay curious and ask genuine questions. The experiences and stories that are shared with you will reveal what you need to know about the energy of an organization.

The importance of collaboration

Leaders understand how important it is to have a strong vision, mission and values for an organization. I believe co-creation of these elements is where culture development is galvanized. People need to fully understand where a company is headed and, most importantly, they need to be on board. Skillfully refining, reimagining and reinforcing these precepts together is a vital task. Spending a day together working “on” the business and not just “in” the business helps secure buy-in and really makes a vision come to life.

Clarity helps build a thriving culture at work

Curiosity and collaboration help bring priorities into focus and ensure they are shared by the group as a whole. The job of a leader is to maintain that focus and clarity, which can be challenging. In an organization, the vision, mission and values define what the business is, what the business aspires to be and how people are expected to show up for the business. These elements and alignment of the culture become nonnegotiables and require leader stewardship with a passion for the organization’s success. This clarity results in people moving from telling “my” story to telling “our” story. Clarity encourages trust and collaboration, and it inspires innovation.

Connection is necessary

Leaders must continuously reevaluate culture from the 30,000-foot view, observing and addressing how connected people are to the vision and to each other. We often think that culture issues are about individuals. However, I like to stay curious and ask: Is there a misaligned expectation? Is there a system or process that is creating conflict in the culture?

Leaders should also consider: Where’s the real friction? What’s the possible mismatch? What is needed to move forward? Then they will be equipped with the data to actively build—or rebuild—tight, reliable connections between people and purpose.

A thriving culture at work is alive

Culture lives and breathes. Culture must be nurtured and maintained by curious, collaborative leaders. It needs ongoing clarity and is enriched through our productive connections. I encourage you to take a moment this week to evaluate your own culture using these four Cs. As a result, you will discover that there are always things to celebrate and there is always room for your culture to grow and thrive.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by ©Mike D’Avello.

Amy Somerville, CEO of SUCCESS® Enterprises, is a mission-driven leader with demonstrated success in developing highly effective teams, delivering dynamic learning strategies, and building engaged communities. She is a passionate community-builder, gathering like-minded, successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople to share best practices for success. She lives her life intentionally and is driven daily by the acronym L.I.V.E.: LEAD, INSPIRE, VALUE, EMPATHIZE. Follow Amy on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.