Intentionally Building Culture

The words people say and actions people do on a consistent basis define the culture of a group.

I was sitting in the lobby of a company for the first time. During my five minutes of waiting, three people looked me in the eyes, smiled, and greeted me. One person walked up, introduced himself, and welcomed me. Based on these behaviors, I would define this culture as friendly, welcoming, and receptive. My experience did not happen because of some fluke cosmic force. It happened because the defined culture told people to behave this way.

Culture will happen. It cannot be stopped. However, culture can be shaped and cultivated in a desired direction. I believe leaders intentionally create “healthy” cultures by defining, modeling, and affirming desired behaviors.


Intentionally creating a culture starts with defining the culture you desire. Both the broad definition and specific behaviors must be determined.


Broad Cultural Attribute – We will work together with focused attention.

Specific Behaviors

  • When interacting with others, the person is first and the device is last.
  • We are fully engaged on conference calls by focusing completely on the people and discussion.
  • We show up to meetings prepared and uninterrupted by outside distractions.


People do what they see you do. Your behaviors must epitomize the culture you desire to create. This is leading by example.


Tony walked into Elizabeth’s office for a scheduled meeting. Elizabeth shuts her laptop, grabs a tablet, greets Tony, and invites Tony to sit at the round table. Prior to the meeting, Tony has cleared his calendar, silenced his device, and created an agenda. They are both ready for a meaningful productive conversation.


The final step to intentionally creating culture is to affirm defined behaviors. When a defined behavior is demonstrated, the influencer of culture will recognize the behavior and appropriately affirm the person.


When Carol walks around the office, she always has her device put away, smiles, and greets people.

Mark sees this behavior and privately says to Carol, “I noticed that every time you go from one place to another around the office, you smile and greet people. I really appreciate the focused attention you give everyone.”

These three steps are a starting point to intentionally creating culture. However, creating culture is a long process, especially if “counter” behaviors are prevalent. Thus, it is critical to elicit others to join your cultural renovation, view it as an ongoing experience, and keep going even when you do not see immediate results.


  • What cultural behavior would you like to see demonstrated more often?

  • What behavior will you model?

  • Who will you affirm doing this behavior?