All organizations have a culture. Whether that culture isaligned with the values and goals espoused by
the organization is the question that all leaders must face. Often, the words that are published by the marketing department do not match how that organization treats its employees and their customers in practice. Laminated wall posters sound good but do not describe how people actually behave on a day-to-day basis.

Some companies are aligned. For example, Costco appears to be a company whose culture is aligned Costco_wholesale_214_64 with its values. In an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, titled “Costco CEO Craig Jelinek Leads the Cheapest, Happiest Company in the World”, journalist Brad Stone links the success of this big-box chain to its culture and leaders who practice what they preach. CEO Jelinek is quoted as saying, “We sell quality stuff at the best possible price. If you treat consumers with respect and treat employees with respect, good things are going to happen to you.”

And there are many examples of Costco treating employees with respect. The company pays employees well, the hourly rate was increased during the recent recession, and nearly 90% of Costco employees receive health insurance paid for mostly by the Company. And employees know that Jelinek cares about them. He speaks publicly about the need for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

This is in contrast to other companies that say they respect their employees and customers then don’t pay a living wage, or fail to recognize employee accomplishments, or don’t provide adequate training opportunities, or make it difficult for customers to access customer service, or misrepresent their products and services, or…I could go on and on. These kinds of actions contribute to creating a negative culture in which employees and customers have little trust and respect for the organization. This results in poor employee performance and low customer loyalty.

Whether bricks and mortar or virtual, to be a high performance organization for the long haul, companies must pay attention to the culture they are creating. They must ask themselves, “Is the culture of this organization aligned with our espoused values?” If the answer is "no", they need to take action to achieve alignment.

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