Do You Know Why You’re Successful – Part 2

The question can really be asked in 2 different ways: “Do I know what makes me successful”, or “How do I become more successful”.  We’ve all had our share of achievements; maybe it’s in business, or education, or athletics, or maybe you just married way above your pay grade.  Either way, it’s good to identify the contributing factors of past success if only to help clarify a path toward future success.

In part 1 of this series we began looking at systems as the first area of focus when answering the questions above.  Systems are easy to spot in organizations, but just as powerful in our personal and family lives.  This time I’d like to highlight what I believe is the single most influential point of leverage in this framework for success.

Culture

Over the years I’ve moved around, traveled a bit, and seen my share of cultures, both in and outside America.  People groups are so diverse in how they communicate, what they eat, what they value, how they drive, and just about everything else.  I think this is probably what most of us think of when we hear the word “culture”.  However, take a minute to think about each of the groups below and try to identify a culture that accurately defines who they are.  I’ll start with an easy one:

Chick-fil-A

Disney World

Wall Street

Your extended family

Your place of business

Some of those are easier to define than others.  If you’ve been to Chick-fil-A it’s pretty obvious that, among other things, they have a culture of friendly service.  But even though most of us know our extended family, it may be hard to nail down anything we’d consider a culture.  While systems are fairly easy to observe and define, often without speaking to a single person, culture is all about the people.  No people, no culture.  Put any group of people together for long enough, and a culture WILL develop.  Similar to systems, this will either be by design or default.

Excusing my rather junior high choice of example, why do most of us avoid farting on an elevator?  It’s not comfortable to hold it, and it’s not like we’ll avoid its assault at a later time and place.  We suffer for the sake of culture.  The power of culture is greater than our own comfort.  It compels us to act outside our own immediate interest.  Nobody has to follow us around and remind us; we don’t even put up signs!  And while some of us may tell grizzly stories of when it failed, 99 times out of 100 we all comply.

So here’s the shift in thought.  Think of the most important human factors, in any group, that contribute to success.  What if the social pressure to comply with those things was as strong as the elevator example above?  Honesty, diligence, kindness, preparation, tenacity, courage – imagine if there was no need to police those values because the culture did it for you!

Not only that, but when someone complies with a cultural expectation, it’s more likely that they feel a deeper inclusion in the team rather than just a pawn being controlled by authority.  For those in leadership, learning to leverage that kind of cultural energy is absolutely invaluable!


Here’s the question.  What cultures can you identify in your business/church/family/team that are positively drawing people toward your vision?  Once you decide, celebrate them!  Often!  On the other hand, we can all probably identify some negative cultural energy that’s keeping us from reaching the next level.  The key is to identify it, call it what is, and then begin working toward change.  And if you’re a leader, the change begins with us.

What are some ways you’ve seen the power of culture, either good or bad?