Your intentional culture

How to ingrain it throughout the company


You may have heard lots of talk about intentional culture lately.

That’s the list of 15 to 25 behaviors that drive success for an organization. It’s in addition to the five to eight behaviors that we refer to as core values. Most importantly, intentional culture also includes three or four things you do that set you apart from your competitors in the marketplace.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t remember that many,” don’t worry. You don’t have to. They’re habits. They’re natural. And you’ll notice them mostly when you aren’t practicing them like you should.

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Most of my more than 35 TEC members have their lists of intentional culture behaviors in place now. But once the list of behaviors is set, the question members immediately ask is, “Now what?”

Employees must participate

Ingraining continual improvement means employees know they’re expected to participate in the success of the company. Include the behaviors in each person’s performance review. Discuss the topic with each employee at least twice a year.

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Develop your own rating technique.

At some companies, the boss rates the employee. Other companies embed it every year into 360-degree feedback. That’s the process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from managers, peers and direct reports.

Obviously, when an employee falls short in one or more areas, you must deal with the problem immediately.

How to keep it top of mind

Here’s how the process of intentional culture works and how to keep it top of mind among your employees.

Each employee concentrates on one behavior for one week. The employee writes one or two paragraphs about why and how the behavior is meaningful. After those 15 to 25 weeks are completed, the sequence begins again with a senior member of management taking a week to write a paragraph, and then continuing until every employee has had a turn.

Then it’s the CEO’s turn, and the sequence continues. The company publicizes the contributions to the entire workforce via emails, bulletin board postings, TV screens or other means.

More visibility techniques

TEC members are using many other techniques to stress the importance of these behaviors:

Require a new hire to sign a form listing the behaviors. That commits the employee to understanding and adhering to them. This becomes especially important in a discipline conversation.

Post an enlarged version of the list in the employee lunch area, and ask each employee to sign it.

Post a more permanent signboard in key areas where employees gather. This does not include the lobby, where customers and other outsiders can see it.

Create a “folded strip,” with each panel listing a behavior and its explanation, or simply a running list panel-by-panel.

Give employees a “flip deck” for desks, with a card for each behavior and its explanation, that can be flipped over from one day to the next. Each card serves as a reminder.

Post a list of behaviors, and their explanation, on the TV screens used for communicating messages to employees. One TEC member has even placed banners in the production areas.

At the beginning of major meetings or shifts, have a quick discussion of the week’s behavior. Ask one or two employees to explain how they’ve seen it in action.

Does all of this work? 

Yes. Within two months, if not sooner, members are telling me that they get such feedback as “It’s great to really have a fix on what we do that’s most important,” and, “I feel more connected to the company now, more secure in what I’m doing.” If a company has remote offices, it’s become a major connector that strengthens commitment and focus. Even spouses have said they appreciate the reminders.

Where are you at in this process?

Phil Hauck chairs three TEC CEO groups in northeastern Wisconsin. He can be reached at

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