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Why Workplace Culture Matters

Workplace Culture

If you plant a perfect palm (tree) seed in North Dakota, the seed will not grow.


Is it because the seed is bad?


It’s because palm (tree) seeds need to be in very warm places with high humidity in order to sprout and grow.

It’s not just the seed that matters.

But also putting it into the right soil.

Typically when we think of improving performance, we think of improving ourselves – and that’s a good thing.

But leaders can never forget that it’s a two part equation: “right seed right soil.”

As performers, we’re like the seeds. And our job is to always prepare ourselves to be the best.

But as a leader our job is to also prepare the right soil for our seedlings to sprout.

Too often leaders blame a person’s poor performance on their lack of commitment, their lack of skill, or their lack of discipline.

But the reality is that many times the seed is fine, they just aren’t in “the right soil.”

They haven’t been given the right tools.

They haven’t been given the proper training.

They haven’t been given ample attention.

And just like a seed won’t sprout if we don’t provide the proper care, neither will a good team member ever perform if they are in the wrong environment.

It’s always about the right seed and the right soil.

So if you’re a leader make sure you’re not only trying to find the best seeds, but that you’re also doing the work to prepare the proper soil.

You’re Gossiping and You Don’t Even Know It


People say all the time “I never gossip” but unfortunately many of them are mistaken. 

They do participate in gossip, they just don’t realize it. 

Because we think of gossiping as “telling” secrets we’ve heard; but there’s more to it than that. 

To listen to gossip is to participate in gossip. 


Because when you listen to gossip you create a clearing and an environment for an emotional person to propagate their story. 

In other words you give a gossiper an audience. And that invites and encourages them to continue talking about whatever it is that they are talking about. 

Listening to gossip will at minimum make the person feel more validated and at most fan their flame to share even more. 

Because it’s hard to listen to gossip and not be agreeable and supportive of the person you’re listening to. It’s human nature to want to empathize with another person- especially when they’re frustrated or complaining. 

But by doing that you become an active member of the gossip crowd. You are advancing what is being said. 

So how do you know if what you are listening to is gossip?

Simple: Gossip is anything even remotely negative being said about a person who isn’t there. 

The moment someone you are talking to starts talking negative about another person you have immediately crossed into the gossip zone. 

And remember if you’re listening to gossip then you are participating in gossip. 

So how should you respond?

Also simple: You interrupt the person as quickly and politely yet firmly as possible and say “Hey, hopefully you don’t mind but I actually made a resolution this year that I would not talk negatively about or listen to negative talk about someone who isn’t in the room with me. I do want to support you and be a good friend though and the biggest thing I’ve learned that helps is to go talk directly with ________. I think that would probably help.”

This of course is simple but not easy. 

And yes you may lose some friends over this. And the ones you lose will probably be vocal about you being on your high horse because misery loves company and misery often gets angry when their company moves on and leaves them alone. 

But it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, the person who isn’t there, and the person who is frustrated. 

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Creating a Workplace Culture that Rocks with Arnie Malham – Episode 172 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

workplace culture

Arnie Malham created a small side venture to help a few clients market beyond just the TV station. That venture ultimately got him fired and quickly became his best and only career option.Without a clue as to how to run a company, Arnie repeatedly “got it wrong” when it came to hiring, firing, and everything else related to building a business. Armed with his belief that different is better than good, outliers are fascinating, and mind-set is everything, Malham persevered.

Thanks to hundreds of business books, dozens of patient mentors, and a universe conspiring to help him, Malham stumbled upon a bold, culture-first approach that gave his fledgling company the momentum it needed. cj Advertising grew to become the largest full-service brand-building agency in the country… exclusively for law firms. Malham has since leveraged his cutting-edge culture to launch two other businesses, Legal Intake Professionals and

Malham lives in Nashville with his wife of more than 20 years, two stubborn but awesome teenagers, and his trusted dog Katy. When he’s not working to improve the cultures of his three companies, Arnie can be found on his side porch enjoying a decent cigar, an affordable scotch, and an inspiring book (usually all at the same time).

Show Highlights:

  • Culture follows leadership.  @amalham
  • Believe that everyone else is coming to work for you to be successful. @amalham
  • Unless you start building culture from day one, you will never be able to execute on the opportunity. @amalham
  • Culture has allowed our company to withstand the hard times. @amalham
  • You must be able to tell your employees what success looks like. @amalham
  • Your team come in every day and impress your clients. All they want is a workplace that gives them all the tools they need. @amalham
  • If you have happy team members, it’s impossible not to have happy clients. @amalham
  • If you don’t tell your team what success looks like, it’s almost impossible for them to achieve it. @rory_vaden
  • We believe if someone is going to be successful, they should be immediately taking action. @rory_vaden
  • We want employees that are here because they want to be not because they have to be. @rory_vaden
  • The moment you extend an invitation to join your team, it is a bond and commitment to each other. @rory_vaden
  • If you serve your team well, they will serve your clients well. @rory_vaden
  • As leaders, we want to be looking out for, supporting and caring for people. @rory_vaden

Visit for more on Arnie, workplace culture, and his book Worth Doing Wrong.

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

10 Breakdowns That Erode Team Trust

trustTrust is the secret sauce of great teams.

When you have trust in each other, you play together and win together.

When you don’t have trust in each other, you play independently and who knows what happens.

In our work with over 8000 teams at Southwestern Consulting, we’ve noticed that there are 10 basic beliefs that all the team members must have about one another for trust to be fully intact.

If any of these 10 beliefs are not in place, it results in a breakdown of team trust.

  1. We all work hard. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are working hard, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all smart. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are legitimately intelligent, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all positive. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are optimistic and hopeful about the future, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all have integrity. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team both genuinely believe in the importance of and personally practice doing what they say they will do, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all have a voice. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team have an opinion that is valued by the rest of the team when it is shared, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all committed. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are committed to the long term success of the team and to doing everything they can to stay on the team, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all grateful. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are genuinely thankful and appreciative for a chance to be on the team and for the value of what the team provides, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all service-minded. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are working for the benefit of the team rather than the primary benefit of themselves as an individual, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all do what’s right. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are committed to operating by what is right rather than who is right, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all valued. If any member of the team doesn’t feel valued then their insecurity will eventually manifest as an erosion of trust.

Show us a team that is having problems and we will show you at least one – and usually multiple – dynamic(s) that are on this list.

Before a team can truly do great work, it must first establish great trust.

So how is your team doing?

The Hidden Connection between Teamwork and Amazing Customer Service


Too often we treat our customers like gold but our colleagues like crap.

Too often we compete with the people on our own team instead of collaborate with them.

Too often we subvert those we work with instead of support them.

And I’m not sure why.

But I know it happens at some point in every team in every organization everywhere.

Although that type of behavior isn’t characteristic of a team at all.

That type of behavior is exactly characteristic of a group of people who are not a team.

They are simply a collection of individuals pursuing their own independent interests.

A real team is one that is joined.

A real team is one that operates in unison.

A real team is one where people are lifted up and pulled together instead of pushed down and ripped apart.

A real team is one where the members of that team decide and commit to treating the other members of their own team as if they were their own customers.

They look out for them.

They care for them.

They believe in them.

They serve them.

They give them the benefit of the doubt.

Because they know that you can’t best serve your customers until you first serve your team members.

When you operate as a team, everyone serves each other and everyone feels looked out for.

As a result, the entire team looks after all the customers.

However, when you don’t operate as a team, then no one feels looked out for. The dangerous thing is that when people don’t feel looked out for by their team, they start to look out only for themselves.

So if you want to provide amazing service to your customers, start by first providing amazing service to your colleagues.

How to Turn Around Underperformance


Measuring results cannot be the only way you measure success.

Because by the time results show up, you’ve already missed your chance to influence the outcome.

Results are important but when it comes to using them as a tool to manage our business they are late.

They are lagging indicators.

They are looking in the review mirror.

Ultra Performers know that results are a byproduct of activity.

And while you can influence results, you often don’t have control over results. You don’t have control over who buys from you, changes in the market, or what your competition does.

What you do have control over though is yourself. You have control over your own activities.

And you have control over them each day.

If you want to start changing a corporate culture, turning around an underperforming team, or saving an organization in steep decline, don’t look at the results.

Instead look at and measure the daily activities.

Activity is a leading indicator.

It’s a predictor of success.

Activity is the cause of the results.

And you can monitor activities instantly.

Buts most companies don’t. Most companies look at results at some interval (which you should do) but they miss out on looking daily at the activity.

Changing the daily activities is how you turn a person, an organization, or a mission around.

Change today’s activities and you will change tomorrow’s results.