5 Tips to a Winning Company Culture

5 Tips

What’s the difference between being a good friend and a good employer? According the happiest companies in America last year, not much.

Happy companies all have one thing in common: They give without expecting reciprocity.

Google This

Google, for example, is famous for going the extra mile to treat its employees like friends. In addition to health and dental benefits, vacations, and a stimulating workplace, Google offers unique perks like “takeout benefits” for new mothers and fathers, which stipulate a $500 allowance for takeout meals in the first three months they’re home with their new baby.

Well, OK, they might expect a little loyalty and hard work somewhere down the line, but their gifts aren’t about provoking competition among employees; they’re about generating real happiness.

How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Gifts and Incentives

Striking a perfect balance between incentivizing and giving is crucial to your employees’ overall satisfaction. Some leaders tend to merge the two, but it’s important to understand the difference.

A Business Incentive

A business incentive is a reward used to motivate employees to reach professional goals. Achievements can be recognized with prizes like gift certificates or bonuses. This system creates an environment of healthy competition, which stimulates productivity and shows your company values results.

A Business Gift

On the other hand, a business gift is an item offered spontaneously without obligation to a valued employee as a token of appreciation. A business gift isn’t attached to a specific performance target, but it still motivates the recipient and encourages an appreciative, dynamic business relationship that boosts performance.

Incentives and gifts each serve a purpose. Incentives work well to keep employees continually motivated and reward them for putting in extra work. Gifts are perfect when you just want to say thank you, congratulate an employee on a major life event, or show him that he’s valued with a fun, heartfelt surprise.

5 Tips to a Winning Company Culture

Here are five tips for harmonizing incentives and gifts to nurture a winning company culture:

1. Think money.

It’s not particularly flashy or personal, but most employees will value cash above every other type of incentive. Awarding surprise bonuses or extra weekend funds can really boost morale. Offer these extra motivations in addition to the long-term incentive programs employees rely on, such as holiday bonuses or points that employees can trade for fun prizes.

2. Balance support and surprise.

Combining surprise gifts with long-term support will help your employees view their work in a positive light. Mixing security with fun is a recipe that most successful companies share. They increase the happiness of their team through a strong support structure while creating delight and joy through special surprises peppered throughout the year.

 3. Set up an internal currency.

Trackable point systems are a great incentive that allow employees to take pride in their job, make them feel like they belong, and help them wake up excited to go to work. Setting up an internal system also makes gifts more exciting when they’re given spontaneously.

For example, AMR Corporation leads an incentive program using an internal credit system to recognize its 100,000 employees. The company converts these credits into dollars, and employees receive a quarterly statement outlining their credit balance and redemption options, which include travel awards and gifts from retailers like Banana Republic and Gap.

4. Make it personal.

If you know your employees well, offer incentives that will personally inspire them and gifts that will make them happy. It’s the thought that counts, and the very best gifts suit the recipient perfectly. Take the time to pinpoint what motivates your team.

Ernst & Young, for example, offers stock options to its employees. This works because employees are interested in stocks, but for a different company, they might hold no sway at all. Understanding your team is key.

5. Spread the love.

Employees aren’t the only associates that respond positively to gifts and incentives. You can use your giving strategy for any business relationship — prospective and current clients, suppliers, advisors, and even employees’ families. Giving a business gift indicates that you care about a relationship and are genuinely interested in solidifying it.

Creating Top Performers

Gifts and incentives are both superb ways to delight your employees, show appreciation, and encourage top performance. When properly balanced, they can reinforce good behavior, instill loyalty, and make your employees feel great. And when your employees are happy, they’re more likely to stick around!


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Emily Egbert

Emily Egbert is the co-founder of HitUp, a newly launched business app
She is developing business relationships in the gift-giving market
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3 Ways Leaders Can Pioneer Effective Change Management

Effective Change

There are two types of leaders: Those who lead from the back, and those who lead from the front.

You can tell these two types of leaders apart when market changes happen and shake their business’s foundations to the core.

Different Types of Leaders

While the leaders who dictate from the back sit in their offices pulling their hair out and cursing under their breath, the leaders in front are those who are completely involved, confronting issues as they surface.

More than anything, front-end leaders have their whole team behind them, while the cowering leaders’ teams are abandoning ship.

In the fast-paced business world, it’s not a matter of if, but when, change will come to your business. If you can derive positive outcomes out of uncertain or volatile situations, you’ll come out on top. The key is staying laser-focused on industry trends.

Contextual Knowledge Is Key to a Sustainable Business

No matter what industry you’re in, reading the market is paramount to your success. Being unaware of your surroundings will severely jeopardize your leadership position and the health of your company.

Remember Pets.com? It was a great idea, but it failed because it tried to grow too fast. Rather than taking the market’s temperature and developing a product accordingly, the company created its product in a vacuum and tasked its marketers with finding a market.

Effective Change Management

Effective change management requires heavy listening, inclusiveness, emotional intelligence, and a common purpose. Understanding the context and being able to read the winds, the currents, and the tides are musts for piloting a sailboat.

Simply cleaning the sails is not enough. But the benefits are invaluable.

Not only will your business remain dynamic in a competitive marketplace, but it will also attract new customers and preserve current relationships.

Nike is a great example of a company that used market knowledge to develop a successful product. In 2006, the iPod was massively popular, and Nike wanted in. It teamed up with Apple to launch Nike+, a digital sports kit that included a shoe sensor and a wireless receiver for users’ iPods. Since then, Nike has sold more than 2.5 million kits.

3 Keys to Effective Change

Use Trends to Bring About the Change Your Business Needs

If you want to create effective change management, you have to harness business trends. Here are three ways smart, effective leaders can do that:

1. Get Involved in Your Industry and Spark Ideas

There’s a good chance your industry has a vocational organization behind it, whether you’re a union pipe fitter or an artisan cheesemonger. The people in these groups are the key to your success, and the networks and friendships you gain through them are priceless. Associations work hard to keep members aware of industry-wide changes, so take advantage of their expertise.

Make a point to engage with colleagues, partners, and clients about trends in their businesses.

These conversations are sure to spark ideas in the minds of prospective clients and employees. Human beings respond to calls to action that engage their hearts as well as their minds, making them feel as if they’re a part of something consequential.

2. Monitor Everything About Your Business

If you’re not keeping a close eye on your business with tools like financial projections and business dashboards, you’re missing out. Tracking trends helps you predict potential problems and opportunities.

Don’t just think about statistics in your own business, either. Government agencies compile mountains of statistics that can help you pinpoint trends among demographic groups, regions, industries, and more.

Your change — or lack thereof — is important to your employees, too. They need to know how crucial successful change is to your company. Ensuring that people’s daily behaviors reflect the imperative of change is vital to the success of any change initiative.

3. Get Outside — and Outside Yourself

When things get hectic at work, go for a walk. It might not help your business immediately, but it will help you clear your thoughts. And while you’re out and about, take a peek at your competitors down the street.

You can learn a lot about yourself by monitoring your competition. Ask yourself: What new products or services are they offering, and are they targeting new audiences and expanding?

You can learn even more about your business by getting outside your own industry. Read news from Japan and Germany. What are the latest developments in the bicycle industry? What about the fire safety industry? Learning about trends in other worlds will spark new ideas for your own.

When you think outside yourself, you get a better handle on how your team functions and what they can improve upon. Oftentimes, leaders are so eager to claim victory that they don’t take the time to figure out what’s working — and what’s not — and come up with next steps.

When you fail to follow through, you’re being inconsistent and withholding the information your employees need to grow and change.

Change Is Coming

Leaders need to be aware of upcoming change in their businesses, in their industries, and in their employees. There’s no way of doing this that doesn’t involve being aware of yourself, your company, your industry, and the world around you.

Smart change management leaders are tuned in to their employees and their industries. Don’t succumb to cowering in your office when the going gets tough. Be the effective, change-embracing leader your employees need and deserve.


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Luis Gallardo

Luis Gallardo is CEO of Thinking Heads Americas
He’s an award-winning author and holds an MBA from IMD in Switzerland
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On Leadership, Visionaries and Entrepreneurship: Henry Ford

Henry FordHenry Ford is considered one of America’s foremost industrialist who shaped and influenced the entire globe. His leadership forged so many aspects of everyday life, that it is hard to image a world without his impact.

Innovators and entrepreneurs like Henry Ford rarely come along in anyone’s lifetime!

On Vision, Grit, and Execution

The unique vision he had, combined with the ability and knowledge to make his dreams happen are what set him apart from other inventors.

Henry Ford had a vision of vehicles that could be made not only for the wealthiest people, but for everyone.

He envisioned new processes to create vehicles that would speed up the auto making process and make vehicles affordable for many. Ford had a dream that the automobile, once it was mass-produced and owned by many people, would become a useful tool to advance society.

He helped implement techniques like assembly lines that made automobile manufacturing a faster and more economical undertaking. This allowed automobile pricing to go down to the point where many people could afford to buy and drive cars.


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A Comprehensive Outlook

One of Henry Ford’s other visions was of gas stations, which would make it convenient for new automobile owners to get the fuel they needed quickly and cheaply.

He was also instrumental in seeing that roads were well made and that enough roads would be created to give people good, viable pathways to use their automobiles.

A Global Visionary Leader

He also had visions of selling automobiles that were made by Ford to other countries, helping other economies to advance as well.The Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903, soon became an international company.

In Henry Ford‘s most productive and visionary years, the company expanded to over 30 countries around the globe.

They included Europe, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia and China. Ford was not only competitive with many other auto makers, they often exceeded competitors in sales and innovation.

A Competitive Leader

As new innovations came along in assembly lines and the creation of auto parts within the factory became a common event, the prices of automobiles came down to the point where many people could afford them. Workers were not paid well in the beginning, but that soon changed when Ford saw a need to pay them more to keep workers and avoid high turnover.

The workers’ salaries were increased to five dollars a day, which was a generous salary for the times.

Workers stayed and became more productive than workers at other automobile factories who were not as well compensated. Other automobile manufacturers were forced to step up their game and do many of the things that Ford Motor Company was doing just to stay competitive within the industry.

Technology also changed and other automobile manufacturers had to change along with Ford. If changes were not made within competing companies, they would find that their automobiles would soon become obsolete.

New looks for automobiles began to emerge and cars had to change in order to attract customers. Customers wanted the newest and cutting edge technology and were willing to pay for it.

A Creative Leader

The ways that people used to pay for their new cars also had to become competitive to attract and keep customers loyal to a brand. Car loan programs began and over time, customers were given longer lengths of time to pay back their loans.

Once customers found they could also refinance car loans to a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment, they were hooked.

The easier it became to buy cars, the more cars could be sold to consumers. When customers had a taste of owning a vehicle, they kept coming back. Creative financing can be a key part of successful automobile sales.

A Charismatic Leader

Henry Ford’s influence went beyond automobile manufacturing and sales. He had many interests. For a time during the war, the company delved into aviation. They also explored creating and building technologically advanced military vehicles.

Henry Ford had a unique vision of his place in the world. He lived life with very few limits. This is something others have admired and emulated.

So, if you are not a naturally born visionary leader like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, what can you do to expand your creative vision right where you are to get better results with the people who you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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On Leadership, Thoughtfulness and Doing Unto Others

Becoming a Giver

When was the last time someone did something for you with no strings attached? Maybe she covered for you during a meeting that you forgot, or offered unsolicited praise to a supervisor on your behalf? I bet it felt pretty good, didn’t it?

Now ask yourself this: When was  the last time was that you did something for someone else, no strings attached.

So the question comes: Should you “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” If so, then at what price?

Showing Up as a Giver

In this last of three articles on the importance of relationship-building as the common denominator in successful organizations, the focus is on communal and exchange relationships. As suggested by the name, exchange relationships are marked by a give and take between the parties involved.

Communal relationships are characterized by both parties work for the interest of the other part, regardless of whether or not their actions are reciprocated.

Communal relationship put the focus on the other party by attempting to truly address their needs, even if it means that you or your organization might not benefit. Some companies do this quite well. Southwest Airlines, already recognized for high levels of customer service, again recently demonstrated their unique approach to addressing customer concerns when a pilot ordered pizza for multiple Southwest flights that experienced a several hour weather delay.

Pizza on a PlaneWhile some may attribute this action to the quick-thinking of the pilot (and rightly so!), his behavior reflects the customer centric culture created by Southwest that enables its employees to come up with responsive and creative solutions such as this.

It seems unlikely that the pilot weighed the cost of the pizza and his effort against the likelihood of passengers purchasing another ticket from the airline.

Rather, he recognized that people facing a multi-hour delay around the dinner hour were likely to be hungry and he came up with a solution to address that problem. Zappos is another customer-centric company that has received accolades for the quick, “blame-free” solutions they give their customers.

Organizations that adopt a customer-centric culture can see rewards not only in customer satisfaction, but through more engaged employees as well.

Forming Communal Relationships

Forming communal relationships can result in a variety of organizational benefits; and while certainly there is great value in achieving this standard for relationships, not all organizations are in a place to do so.

In our highly individualistic culture we are encouraged from young ages to distinguish ourselves from others. As such, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of giving or getting something for nothing; or their circumstances may prevent them from doing so.

  • Owners of a small coffee shop may not have the luxury of a national chain in providing a free donut with every cup of coffee when they must rely on the income from the sale of each and every menu item.
  • Or, companies that offer niche products or services, such as manufacturers of unique components for medical equipment, may not have many opportunities to provide extras for their customers.

Leading With Thoughtfulness

Still, “freebies” aren’t the only way to support clients and colleagues. Forwarding an article relevant to a topic a colleague mentioned over lunch one day could save her hours of research; or making a client aware of a service provider who offers a resource he hasn’t been able to find, even if might result in a reduction of in the services he orders from you, truly puts the client’s needs first.

Offering to step in for a co-worker so he can leave work to attend his daughter’s soccer game might not take a great deal of effort on your part, but could make a huge difference in his day and family life.

We are all in a position to provide help sometimes. Whether we do it simply to help someone when she needs it, or because we’re paying back a debt, we have the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with that colleague or client.

When was the last time you went out of your way to give someone something you knew he needed? Do you make it a point to help others freely or is there an (explicit or tacit) expectation of payback? Are you fostering a communal culture within your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D is AMP Consulting
She provides Organizational Communication Consulting & Research Focused on
Relationship-Building and Presentation of Image
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Laser Sharp Leadership – Leading with Focus

Leading With Focus

Does this describe you:

  • You are inherently goal seeking.
  • Everything you do has purpose because purposeful action is efficient.
  • Each step you take has been filtered and evaluated; you’ve determined that a step in this direction directly affects your journey toward achieving the end result.
  • While you might appreciate scenery and detours in theory, you understand that these are novelties, not necessities.
  • Like a missile honing in on a target, you advance toward your goals with precision and consistency.

If this sounds like you, then you have the strength of Focus.

The Elusiveness of Focus

It’s extremely easy these days to get side tracked. If you haven’t checked Facebook in 20 minutes, you might be missing something hilarious, there are always Tweets to be tweeted, and if you don’t consistently keep up with your favorite blogs you’ll just have way too much reading to do on the weekend.

Not to mention the consistent flood and consequent overflow both your professional and personal inboxes experience, the necessity of checking your texts and responding, and getting up to date on everyone’s day with their Snapchat story.

With all of that going on, how does anyone maintain focus?

If we are all being honest, some of us just don’t. We would need ten magnifying glasses glued to our heads at all times to keep us from getting distracted. And even then, there are a few folks who would miraculously find a way to lose focus anyway (including yours truly).

That being said, most of us can muster it up when it’s crunch time and get things done with minimal distraction. Chances are, after all that intentional focusing, we are exhausted. It’s a lot of effort to block out, filter and resist the temptation of all the rabbit holes along the way.

>>> That is unless you have the strength of Focus.

Hitting the Bullseye

Their recipe for success:

  • People with Focus are always guided by the question “Where am I going?” How can you create a plan to get “there” if there is no “there?”
  • They constantly create goals that help them track and measure success and stay the course.
  • They do not shoot unless it’s straight for the bullseye.

As a leader, this is extremely helpful, especially for the people described above. Having someone kindly turn you in the right direction and remind you where the target is can be extremely valuable, not just to you, but the team as a whole. Besides the day to day distraction, leaders with Focus help provide guidance in a larger, big picture sense.

Sometimes, as we move along getting this task done, and then another, followed by another, it’s hard to recall why it’s all relevant. Focus leaders instinctively evaluate the value of each action toward reaching the end goal, which they can then relay to their team.

By keeping everyone on the path and avoiding aimless wandering, they also set their team up for success as one that delivers on time and produces results.

Avoiding Tunnel Vision

Leading with a lack of sophistication around your Focus strength can have the exact opposite effect of keeping your team engaged. Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Focus is not having a clear target to aim at.

We have all experienced work environments where deliverables and expectations are ambiguous at best – this is especially trying for Focus.

A sophisticated Focus will be able to manage-up and help their leaders stay on track toward defining clear goals, not only for their team, but the department or organization as a whole.

As a close second on the frustrations list for Focus are obstacles. Anything that delays, sidetracks, or causes tangential discussions will be a hot button. For an unsophisticated Focus, that might translate into an intense micro-managing situation and an imposition of work-style onto your team.

There are very few people who work well under such intense pressure, and frankly, lack of respect. If life is full of lemons, work life is overflowing with them. It’s important for leaders with Focus to understand where flexibility is required, and to create strategies that allow them to act accordingly.

Whether that’s leaning on another of their strengths, like Adaptability, Arranger, or Strategic, or leveraging a teammate, it’s important for Focus leaders to avoid becoming so consumed with their tunnel vision, they become one with the tunnel.

Are you a leader with Focus? Do you find you have an easier go of completing tasks despite distraction? Do you set yourself goals daily, weekly, monthly, all of the above? As a leader, have you found challenges keeping your team on task? How do you make room for inefficiencies or flexibility? Have you ever been accused of micromanaging?


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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP

Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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L2L: How To Be The Best Boss

How To Be The Best Boss

How To Be The Best Boss [Infographic] by the team at Computers In Personnel Ltd.