Creating an Intentional Culture - Part 4: Culture Consumers

Our competitors can get all the hardware...But it’s the software, so to speak—the people—that’s hard to imitate.
— Herb Kelleher - Founder, Southwest Airlines

Arguably one of the most influencial Culture Creators in modern history, Herb Kelleher understood the fact that competitive advantage and successful results are due, in large part, to intentional cultures and the people who bring them to life.

Those people are your Culture Consumers. They are the ones who choose each day to invest their talents, treasure, tools, and trust into your organization. And it’s only through these investments that your organization can grow and achieve the purpose it was originally created for in the first place.

Today we’ll take a quick look the four Culture Consumers every organization has and the currency they use when they choose to engage with your organization.


For any organization, your first and most important Culture Consumer is your Employee and the currency they give is their Talent. Your employees, especially your front-line contributors, are the people who transition your organization’s internal culture into its external brand. The customer experience you provide lives and dies with your employees. So it is critical that you attract and retain employees who resonate with, and exemplify your internal culture.

There are two steps to getting this right. First, you need to attract the right talent. Notice I said the right talent, not the best talent. You’re not just looking for the most skilled or qualified people for your organization. You must find the most skilled and qualified people who also align with your Culture Print™, remember…your Purpose, Principles, and Pay-Off. If your talent recruitment tactics focus solely on skills and qualifications, you will struggle to have an intentional culture that fuels your success.

If your talent recruitment tactics focus solely on skills and qualifications, you will struggle to have an intentional culture that fuels your success.

Second, you need to retain the right talent. Talent retention requires that your employee experience matches the picture you painted throughout the employee’s recruitment process. This comes down to five key elements of employee experience: clarity of expectations, availability of the tools required to succeed, frequency of coaching and performance feedback, consistency of appreciation and recognition, and opportunity for development and advancement. All of these elements must align and reinforce your Culture Print.


Your next Culture Consumer is your Customer, or end-user, and the currency they give is their Treasure. You might wonder why I include your external customer as a culture consumer. What do they know about your organization’s internal culture anyway? The truth is, dysfunctional cultures lead to weak and confusing brands. And if you have a weak or confusing brand, you will struggle to convince customers to choose you when they need your product or service.

I love what brand and culture expert, Denise Lee Yohn says about this. She says “Great brands are built from the inside out.”

Great brands are built from the inside out.
— Denise Lee Yohn

Her experience with some of the greatest brands in the world show that in order to have an exceptional customer experience, you first must have an exceptional employee experience. So, if your brand is an extension of your culture, then your customer is a key Culture Consumer that you must understand.

Today’s customer desires to do business with people and organizations who are authentic and committed to delivering on the promises they make. They want a quality product for a fair price and, if the need arises, someone they can trust to resolve any problems they might have with the product or service provided. Shep Hyken speaks to these desires in his Forbes article “How To Turn Satisfied Customers Into Loyal Customers”.

Organizations who create intentional cultures are best equipped to deliver authentic brands that will create loyal customers and strong performance.


Probably the least recognized Culture Consumers for an organization are the Partners required to help produce or deliver the products and services of the organization. The currency partner give are the Tools they provide the organization. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to understand that the vendors your organization use are not required to work with you. Just because you are their “customer” doesn’t mean you hold all the cards.

While you pay your vendors for the right to use their tools or services, it’s important you build a strong relationship with your vendors and seek to find ways to serve them so they can be as successful as possible. They experience your culture by how you negotiate with them, how you communicate with them when you have a problem, and how you pay them for the services and products they provide.

The goal with your vendors is to convert them to partners. Vendors simply provide services or products for a price and could easily walk away tomorrow for a higher bidder. Partners are invested in your success and will go above and beyond to see their products ensure your success today and tomorrow.

What type of relationships do you have with the organizations you need to be successful? Do you simply have vendors? Or do you work with partners who you trust and can rely on to help you grow?


The final Culture Consumer for your organization is the Community you live and work in and the currency they give is Trust. The communities you live and operate in are key to your success. They have the potential to be your greatest advocates and supporters. If you take them for granted, however, especially in today’s social media world, they can ensure your failure.

Connecting with, and adding value to your community is an effective and efficient growth strategy for your organization. Benefits to serving your community are far reaching and include improving your public image, increasing employee engagement, and creating opportunities for new partnerships and innovation.

The key here is staying true to your unique Culture Print. There are limitless opportunities to engage with your community. But to make the most impact, both for the community and your organization, you need to serve in the areas where you are uniquely gifted to make a difference.

For example, if you are a technology company who’s purpose is “Connecting Ideas to Opportunity”, you might look to serve the underserved population of your community with technology grants and education. Or perhaps you’re a financial institution who’s purpose is “Bringing Inspiration to Life” so you support a local non-profit who is helping artists feature their talents and work in monthly art displays across the community.

The stronger the relationship you build with your community, the more they will trust you. That trust will result in committed employees to your organization, customer loyalty from your local customers, and brand advocates who will take pride in and celebrate your growth as it represents the best of their community.


So, there they are. Four different Culture Consumers that will either fuel or stifle your success: your Employees who commit their Talents to further your cause; your Customers who invest their Treasure for your product or service; your Partners who provide the Tools you need to succeed; and your Community who gives it’s Trust so you can operate and grow.

Authentically connecting with all four Culture Consumers in the right way will help you maximize your organization’s potential and deliver the impact and results you seek. And the key to making that connection is creating and living an intentional culture inside your organization.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about the concept of culture influencers and why intentional culture matters. Leave your comments below and join the conversation.

Till next time…

By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print

Creating an Intentional Culture - Part 3: Culture Keepers

Definition: A person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable.

What is more valuable to an organization than its identity. And how does an organization demonstrate its identity? Through it’s culture.

As I said in Part 2 of this blog series, the Culture Keepers are the most important culture influencer in any organization. While the Culture Creators are responsible for identifying and articulating the desired culture, it’s the Culture Keepers who turn vision into reality. Without Keepers who are committed to the purpose, focused on the principles, and consistently delivering on the pay-off, your organization will never achieve it’s full potential.

So, let’s take some time to better understand who Culture Keepers are, what their responsibility is, and how you can ensure they achieve success.


Culture Keepers are the people who make it possible to have an intentional culture. They are the leaders, managers, and supervisors who bring to life the Culture Print™ of the organization through systems and processes, tools and communication, and personal relationship and impact with your Culture Consumers.

Depending on the size of your organization, Culture Keepers can be everyone from a front-line supervisor or manager to a market/regional manager or team leader. In some cases, leaders could be both a Culture Creator and a Culture Keeper. For example, a Market General Manager is a Culture Creator of the sub-culture for her market and also a Culture Keeper of the overall culture for the entire organization.


Culture Keepers are the conduit between Culture Creators and Culture Consumers, providing a two-way flow of information and impact. From one end, expectations and direction. From the other, feedback and results. Anything that gets in the way of the free-flow of information and impact, one way or the other, will negatively impact the culture and stifle the performance of the organization.

Keepers must be fully bought-in to the overall Culture Print™ of your organization. That said, you don’t want an organization full of lemmings when it comes to your Culture Keepers. You want Keepers who bring diversity of perspective, leadership styles, and strengths and talents that will make your organization well-rounded and healthy. But be careful when seeking diversity within your organization. Diversity of perspective is vital. Diversity of belief is fatal.

Diversity of perspective is vital. Diversity of belief is fatal.

I’ve experienced the destructive impact of diverse belief. When an organization says it believes in and delivers one thing, but a Culture Keeper believes in and delivers something different, the result is dissonance and tension. This tension creates friction that reduces productivity, destroys morale, and ultimately diminishes performance and profitability.

On the flip side, when you have a fully aligned Culture Keeper who is engaged, empowered, and equipped, the impact for an organization is exponential. The bottom line is this: the #1 responsibility of the Culture Keeper is to ensure the culture of an organization can live, grow, and flourish to the benefit of all impacted by that culture.


The first step for success for a Culture Keeper is ensuring they are the right fit in the first place. It’s nearly impossible to inspire and motivate others to support purpose and principles that aren’t aligned with your own. So, organizations must be very careful to only bring in Culture Keepers who will magnify their Culture Print and avoid those who will undermine it.

And individuals seeking a “Keeper” position with a company need to be equally careful that they are joining an organization and culture that they can support and grow. If not, they will ultimately be miserable in their job and their team and company will be miserable, too.

The next step for success for a Culture Keeper is consistent development and effective equipping. While hiring the right people is essential, the work of the organization does not end there. There must be a dedicated effort to develop the strengths of the Keepers as well as help them fully understand the desired culture you want them to keep. And with that comes ensuring your Keepers have the tools and processes they need to effectively deliver the desired culture.

Examples include: interview and hiring guides to ensure they attract and hire the right talent on their team; feedback and coaching templates and expectations to ensure they build performance based relationships and drive exceptional performance with their teams; recognition programs to honor and celebrate when their team displays key aspects of the culture or delivers outstanding results.

Again, the Culture Keeper is the conduit between the Creator and Consumer, and it’s vital that conduit is free of any friction that slows down or diminishes the desired impact, or customer experience, for the organization. Diminished impact equals diminished performance.


In the end, this all comes down to driving maximum performance and results for your organization. Great results come from employees delivering an exceptional customer experience. And that only happens when the Culture Keepers of the organization deliver an exceptional employee experience. You see…your employees learn how to care for your customers by experiencing the manner in which they are cared for.

Your employees learn how to care for your customers by experiencing the manner in which they are cared for.

If you want your organization to achieve its full potential, then hire the right Culture Keepers and effectively engage, empower, and equip them to deliver your unique Culture Print™ to their teams. Your Culture Consumers will thank you for it and will display that gratitude with their loyalty and their business, over and over again.

In Part 4 of Creating an Intentional Culture, I’ll take a look at those Culture Consumers, who they are (there are more than you probably realize) and how your organization can grow by delivering an exceptional employee and customer experience.

Again, I would love to hear your thoughts about the concept of culture influencers and why intentional culture matters. Leave your comments below and join the conversation.

Till next time…

By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print

Creating an Intentional Culture - Part 2: Culture Creators

Many can do what you do, but no one can be who you are.

"Who you are" is the only thing that truly distinguishes your organization from others. It doesn't matter what product or service you provide, nor does it matter the industry you're in. What you do and how you do it can be replicated. But who you are is truly unique and your ability to leverage that difference will determine the level of success you achieve.

Culture is the way in which organizations demonstrate who they are. And those who are intentional about their culture are the organizations people most want to work for and with. As we continue to look at how to create an intentional culture, we are going to dig in to each type of culture influencer, starting with the Culture Creators.

Culture Creators - Who Are They?

The Culture Creators for any organization are the people at the very top of the organizational hierarchy. They are the Founders, Owners, CEOs and Executive Teams in charge of casting vision and determining the direction the organization will go. In the case of larger organizations, where sub-cultures often exist, i.e. regional offices, independent locations, etc., the General Managers, Vice Presidents and Market Leaders and their direct report team will typically comprise your Culture Creators as well. That said, the sub-culture of a region or location must align with and support the culture of the entire organization.

All organizations are a reflection of the person or people leading the way.

All organizations are a reflection of the person or people leading the way. The same is true with culture. A creative and bold Creator will attract and inspire a culture of pushing the limits and celebrating new and different ideas to achieve success. A people-focused, service-minded Creator will attract and inspire a culture of empathy and relationship building.

Understanding and embracing this fact is significant for all Culture Creators in an organization. Be mindful of your interactions within the organization. Make sure they align with the culture you desire and expect for your organization. It’s a great responsibility for all Creators and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Culture Creators - What Is Their Responsibility?

This is not about one culture being better than another. It’s about recognizing what culture is most authentic to your organization and creating systems and processes to ensure that culture is experienced across the entirety of the organization.

This is the most important responsibility for the Culture Creator. If you are a Creator, you must first identify and articulate the authentic culture of your organization. Then, you must develop the tools required to deliver the culture consistently. The key word here is authentic. Be the best you rather than an average copy of someone else.

Be the best you rather than an average copy of someone else.

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, is a great example of this. Mr. Chapman believes in what he calls “Truly Human Leadership” and leverages this leadership philosophy through everything his company does. Whether it be talent acquisition and development or Barry-Wehmiller’s approach to company growth through acquisition, Bob’s philosophy has become his company’s culture and it flows through the entire organization.

Culture Creators - How Do They Achieve Success?

Success for Culture Creators comes down to relentless communication and purposeful execution. Once you have identified your purpose, principles, and pay-off (Your Culture Print™), you must be committed and consistent in your communication and demonstration of your Culture Print.

Relentless communication is the first step. A clear purpose statement and core principles effectively communicated become the rallying cry for your organization. In every situation, your people will lean into your purpose and principles to find the best solution. And when they do, you will find they will solve problems, develop new ideas, and work together as a team in ways that will look and feel very much like your ways but better because they add their flavor and perspective to your purpose and principles that inspire them to be their best.

The next step is purposeful execution. Culture can be a very ambiguous thing. But the best organizations in the world have created tools and processes to develop and reproduce their culture over and over again. In order to have an intentional culture, this step is non-negotiable.

There are many different ways you can make your culture tangible for your organization. Symbols and language are excellent tools. Recognition programs and performance evaluations can be effective tools as well. You can even leverage feedback processes and surveys to develop and track your culture’s effectiveness. The options are practically limitless. So what you decide to do is up to you. But the fact remains, you must decide to do something.

One Last Note…

While Culture Creators are the people setting the course and tone for your organization’s culture, they can’t do it alone. In fact, they aren’t even the most important culture influencer in the organization. That honor belongs to the Culture Keepers. These are the mid-level managers and supervisors who have direct influence of your front-line employees. It’s critical that Culture Creators effectively engage, empower, and equip their Culture Keepers to ensure the desired and expected culture is experienced by all people in your organization.

In Part 3 of Creating an Intentional Culture, I’ll take a look at those Culture Keepers, shining a light on who they are, why they’re so important, and how their role as culture influencers determines whether or not your culture and organization will reach it’s fullest potential.

Again, I would love to hear your thoughts about the concept of culture influencers and why intentional culture matters. Leave your comments below and join the conversation.

Till next time…

By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print

Creating an Intentional Culture - Part 1

The impact of intentional culture is powerful. From exceptional business growth and performance, see Southwest Airlines or Costco; to extraordinary innovation and impact, see Apple or Google; organizations with intentional culture bring out the best in their people so that their people can achieve the best for their organization.

Intentional culture exists when there is clarity of purpose, principles, and payoff (what I call the Culture Print™ Markers) for a team, organization, or community. Then, that clarity is activated through tools and processes to help make these markers tangible to the organization.

The question I get asked the most when speaking with leaders about culture is "How?"

It's a simple question with a simple answer...simple, but not easy. The answer is focus. The more focused you are on your culture, the more effective you will be in delivering the experience and results your organization was created for.

"The more focused you are on your culture, the more effective you will be in delivering the experience and results your organization was created for."

That's the simple answer. Here's where it gets difficult. 

To achieve this focus, you need to do two things. First, you need to understand the role your people play in creating, keeping, and consuming your culture. Then, you need to equip your people with the necessary resources to fulfill their role in your culture. 

Over the course of the next few blog posts, we will break down each culture influencer role: who they are and how they are best suited to influence and deliver your desired culture experience. Also, we'll dig into some of the tools and processes that successful organizations use to make their culture tangible, leveraging culture as a driving force in meeting and exceeding the expectations their organization was created to achieve.

To start, let's identify the Culture Influencers that exist in any organization. There are three key influencers and I've identified them as the following:

  • Culture Creators

  • Culture Keepers

  • Culture Consumers

Culture Creators are the people at the top of the organization, the founders and owners, and/or the executive team responsible for creating and casting vision, setting the course for the organization, and providing the resources required to accomplish the vision.

Next, you have the Culture Keepers. These are the people leaders; the managers and supervisors who have direct influence over the individual contributors. Culture Keepers are the conduit that allows the culture to flow up and down throughout the organization. They are, by far, the most critical culture influencer in any organization.

"Culture Keepers are the most critical culture influencer in any organization."

Finally, there are the Culture Consumers. This group consists of frontline employees, vendors and partners, and the external customers of the organization. These are the people whose experience with culture will determine the success or failure of the organization.

Your organization's ability to activate your culture influencers to identify, articulate, develop, and reproduce your Culture Print ultimately determines how successful your organization will be.

Our next post will look at Culture Creators. What are the responsibilities this group of influencers has in creating and cultivating an intentional culture? And how can this group engage, empower, and equip the organization's Culture Keepers and Consumers?

I would love to hear your thoughts about the concept of culture influencers and why intentional culture matters. Leave your comments below and join the conversation.

Till next time...

By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print

6 Lessons I've Learned About Culture

Over the first 20 years of my career, I've been a part of some amazing cultures and some, let's just say, not-so-much. During this time, I've learned how important culture is and how it can make or break the success of an organization. Below are six of the most important lessons I've learned about culture.

Lesson #1: Culture Matters More Than Results

My first "real" job taught me that how you achieve results is more important than the results you achieve. Shortly after leaving my company, I realized my mistake and reached out to the owners asking if they would take me back. I was confident they would say yes as I was a successful seller for their company.

I'll never forget the lunch meeting we had to discuss my possible return. It was a good conversation and I felt everything was moving towards an offer when I was thrown a curve ball. I was told that since I left, the team dynamics improved and the culture inside the company was much better.

Ouch...didn't see that coming.

I was viewed as an instigator of conflict inside our company and culture, specifically around a relationship I had on the team. Once I left, that influence diminished or disappeared. If I was to return to the company, I had to promise that I would be a positive culture influencer rather than a negative one.

My results were good...but the owners of the company understood what I didn't at the time: a healthy culture breeds a healthy bottom line. If I poisoned the culture, regardless of how much revenue I generated, the health of the company was at risk.

"A healthy culture breeds a healthy bottom line."

I will always be grateful for the direct feedback I was given as well as the opportunity to apply that feedback as a part of the team when they welcomed me back.

Lesson #2: Culture Lives or Dies With Leadership

I have experienced strong, authentic leadership bringing culture to life and inspiring people to deliver exceptional results. I've also experienced the void of leadership, where the culture was diminished or ignored and the bottom line suffered.

Here's what I know: Talented, successful people and teams typically don't lose their ability to be successful. They can, however, lose their way when the conditions that made success possible are no longer in play.

If you have a great team that has "lost its way", take stock of the current conditions the team is operating in and determine what has changed. If your core culture hasn't changed, then you have a leadership problem, not a team problem. If your core culture has changed, then you have some heavy lifting to do, either moving your team to align with the new culture, or building a new team that does.

Lesson #3: Every Culture is Unique

I used to believe there was only one right way to do business. And of course, I thought the right way was the way I liked to do business. After a few significant experiences in my career, and with the help of some great mentors, I learned that there are a lot of ways to be successful. I also learned I am not a fit for all of them.

One very powerful example in my career was my time in broadcast television. I had been a highly-valued member of the team for a number of years. I was an "up and coming" talent that was groomed for, and ultimately placed in, management and senior leadership. While my path had its challenges, the companies and I were great culture matches and together we saw much success.

Then our station was purchased and we welcomed a new owner. And this time, I wasn't a culture match. The new company had a different belief in what success looked like, especially when it came to how to achieve results. Almost overnight, I went from being viewed as a whiz-kid who was on his way to the corner office to being the class dunce who couldn't do anything right and office was moved into a storage closet.

In the end, I learned that culture has a very real impact on how people perform. When I was a culture match, my performance shined. When I was a culture clash, my effort and performance suffered. I fought the good fight for a couple of years, but in the end, I made a move and it was the best thing for all parties.

"Understand what makes your culture unique and then fill your organization with people who are great culture matches."

Understand what makes your culture unique and then fill your organization with people who are great culture matches. Do this well and you'll have the best chance to maximize your potential and achieve success.

Lesson #4: You Can't Fake Culture

Culture is quite the buzzword these days. Today's workforce demands great culture and organizations are working hard to show their culture is second to none. But the truth is, you don't tell your employees you have a great culture. Your employees tell you.

"You don't tell your employees you have a great culture. Your employees tell you."

A bunch of words on a wall or a pithy saying at the bottom of an email signature doesn't create great cultures. If the actions of the organization don't match the words it speaks, then your culture, and your bottom will suffer.

Bottom line is authentic when it comes to culture. Don't say what you think employees and customers want to hear. Say who you really are. It's much easier for your actions to match your words when the words you speak are true.

Lesson #5: Culture Clarity and Accountability is Hard

Culture is the secret sauce that differentiates one organization from another. And success is determined in large part by the health of that culture. The importance of clearly communicating and consistently delivering your culture increases as your company grows. So does the difficulty in achieving clarity and accountability.

The solution is simple, but not easy. You have to slow down so you can go fast.

"You have to slow down so you can go fast."

Slowing down means taking the time to discover and declare what I call your Culture Print. Your Culture Print is made up of three key 'markers': Purpose, Principles, and Pay-off. This is hard, yet critical work to ensure the success of your organization.

Once you're able to clearly communicate your culture, next is developing the practices that will ensure your organization, especially your Culture Keepers (those who lead and influence employees), consistently deliver the culture every day.

Spend your time today getting this right so you can spend your time tomorrow growing your organization rather than fixing your organization.

Lesson #6: Clear and Consistent Culture is Unstoppable

Lightning in a bottle. That's what we call it when we look at at a time where everything clicked, the best of everyone rose to the top, and tremendous success was achieved. But that phrase, "lightning in a bottle", makes it sound like those moments happened due to extremely good fortune and a case of being in the right place at the right time.

But if you look closer...take the time to really see what was happening in those moments, I bet you'll find that what you were actually experiencing was the result of a clear and consistent culture. Clarity and consistency of culture engages, empowers, and equips your organization in a way that makes success practically inevitable. The key is finding a way to create this experience on purpose and sustain for an extended period of time.

The best organizations do this well; ZapposBarry-Wehmiller, and Lululemon just to name a few. How do they do it? They understand their unique Culture Print, they articulate it clearly, and they put practices in place to ensure it's lived at all levels of the organization every day.

Don't leave success to chance, hoping you catch "lightning in a bottle". Instead, do what the best do and make success inevitable by unlocking the full potential of your organization through a clear and consistent culture.

By Dan Shurtz, Founder of The Culture Print