Culture Beats Strategy

Posted by Rachel on 05/31/2016

How to Build People so They Build Your Business: The First Four Steps

        If asked, what would you say is the biggest issue you have in your small business? Is it an overall lack of revenue? Is it money or time management? Do you struggle to find a balance between the quality of services you provide and growth? If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you probably answered a resounding “yes” to all of the above. Most businesses struggle to find the absolute perfect strategy to tackle these problems, and fall short by a mile time and time again. And as a business owner, you can try with all your might to play every role and satisfy all of those avenues on a daily basis, but that is neither sustainable nor practical if you plan to grow— ever.

You will burn out, you will miss something (or everything, depending on how you look at it), and you will never be able to build a business that will function properly without you in the building.

        So what can you do? You need to shape your people in a way that allows them to continuously and creatively mitigate these business woes in a self-directed system. When that occurs, your biggest issues begin to fade away naturally.  


Our model is: intentionally invest in your employees through a culture of accountability.


​            Die-hard strategists might say the very idea of “business culture” is somewhat farsighted and ambiguous, in general. In that school of thought, the very notion that one can create an entirely new culture with an established group of individuals of varying ages with inherently different opinions, beliefs, expectations, and goals is unrealistic. People who have a culture of true accountability will disagree for one main reason: when you focus on empowering people, those same people begin to drum up positive results for themselves. Being the creator of your own success is a powerful thing, and they will begin striving for that in the future. However, your ultimate success with this idea all depends on the willingness of the business and its people to “embrace full accountability for the results they seek.”


Implementing a 24/7 cultural accountability environment helps to:

• Build trust amongst the employees and management teams

• Foster independent and productive conflict resolution

• Team inspiration and personal empowerment

  • Valuable leadership- sometimes from those you don't expect
  • Substantial success with goal setting


        Every business is different, so your precise method of implementation may need to vary slightly in terms of basic functionality. Yet, below are the beginning steps that you can use and modify specifically to your business TODAY to begin transforming your culture:


Step 1: Encourage Problem Solving

Teach your employees how to move out what is known as the 'victim cycle' by addressing every project, problem, and uncertainty via this mindset:


See ItOwn ItSolve ItDo It


Step 2: Remove Negativity


Establish boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We have all experienced that one person who always complains and points the finger at everyone but themselves, and the subsequent parade of negativity that follows them around everywhere they go. People who constantly behave that way eventually become toxic to the people around them, all while eroding your team's chances for success. So lay out your expectations for your staff via behavioral boundaries. These rules will apply to everyone in the business, including you, of course.


Below is an outline of the boundaries you should consider for your team:


Acceptable= Above the Line Accountability    Unacceptable= Below the Line Victimization

Sense of Reality (not phantom reality)   ​​               Excuse Making

Ownership                                                             Phantom Reality (Story Telling)

Commitment                                                          Blaming Others

Problem Solving                                                    Confusion

Determined Action                                                 Attitudes of Helplessness


Example: When a team member observes another engaging in 'below the line' activity, they are fully authorized to respectfully tell that person, "Hey, let's work together to bring it back up above the line please". That is all one needs to say to get the message across. No anger, no attitude- just business. This conversational accountability mechanism breeds natural responsibility and leadership in ways you never dreamed would happen.


Step 3: Curate a Home for Collaboration


Set aside a comfortable space for you and your employees to meet regularly for office meetings and get-togethers. Investing in an in-office environment dedicated to solving problems is important because it relays a sense of group equality and comradery. Here, they can recoup, brainstorm, and implement game plans without constant interruption. Then, wait for it… wait for it….allow them to decorate their new space! This extremely simple gesture is HUGE for your employees. Why? It fosters ownership and creativity.


Once that is complete, try the following:


• Set aside time for weekly meetings, 1 hour is optimal, then block 2 hours for a larger quarterly check-in meeting. Never sacrifice this time; it is essential to your new culture.

• Create a ‘Parking Lot’ where staff can write down anything they want to talk about, issues they have, obstacles they want addressed, etc. at every meeting. Put it somewhere everyone can access it. Centralizing information is very important to the accountability culture.


Step 4: Create an Ongoing Action Plan


Nominate someone to be in charge of the weekly agenda. This person is NOT YOU. Idealistically, this will be your head manager or director. This person is in charge of creating an agenda that addresses everyone’s “parking lot” issues and overall business issues that need work. This continued dedication to problem-solving and constructiveness is necessary for sustainable growth and improving responsibility as a team.  


Then try:

  • Appointing someone else (can be anyone) to take meeting minutes. This gives them stake in the meeting flow and progress, so this may be a good confidence/responsibility builder for someone new or for someone who might need extra (but not significant) responsibility.


As a business owner, you have a great opportunity to tap into individual and group creativity, thus empowering your people to make great changes in themselves and improve your business model. Utilize this guide as a framework for maximizing this potential, and remember: 



Your people need you to lead them.... But sometimes they also need you to step out of their way so they can begin to lead themselves.



Brianna L. Shara, MBA is the Administrative Director for Precision Vision of Edmond, a family-owned optometry office in the heart of Edmond. Learn more about them at