Company Culture: Use the Force

What’s your company’s culture?

The word culture is a hot term in business and for good reason.  Creating a company culture allows everyone to be on the same page and establishes a strong sense of community within your organization.

But a culture of a company isn’t a bunch of words placed in a strategic plan and laid to the side to review once every 12 – 18 months.  Think of it like “The Force” in Star Wars.

Obi_WanIn the words of Obi Wan:

The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us…it binds the galaxy together.”

Lay the Groundwork: Learn About the Force

In Star Wars, The Jedi answered to the Jedi Council.  The Council laid out the purpose of the Jedi and reinforced the values of using the Force for good, not evil.  As mentioned before, everyone has to be on the same page.  Similar to the Jedi Council, this starts with the top of your organization and must work its way throughout the company.  Three keys to laying a strong foundation are:

  • Vision Statement:  This must be a quick statement that visualizes what your company is and, more importantly, what your company wants to achieve long-term.
  • Values: Establish a set of values that complement and lead to your vision statement.
  • Standards: Create a list of standards that people follow and abide to on a day to day basis.

As your organization lays out this foundation, get input from you entire staff.  This establishes a strong foundation by allowing everyone to be a part of the culture.

Communication is Key: Remember Your Training

When Yoda was training Luke Skywalker, Yoda would always communicate why something was important.  He would push Luke’s limits while constantly dropping knowledge about The Force.

I once worked for a bank chairman who said it took 27 different ways to say something before someone understood it.  He would communicate the same message over and over until everyone in the company not only knew what he was talking about, but would also communicate the same message.

By no means was this chairman a Jedi master, but he did prove a valuable point: When it comes to creating and building a culture, the more communication, the better.


  • Company Group Meetings
  • Department Meetings/Huddles
  • Sales Training
  • One-on-One Coaching Sessions


  • Strategic Plan
  • Emails
  • Intranet Articles/Internal Company Blogs
  • Job Descriptions

It takes a combination of verbal and written options in order to effectively communicate your message.  Be creative and consistent with how you communicate the importance of your company’s culture.

Expect Friction: Beware of The Dark Side

Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.  – Yoda

darth-vaderWhatever your culture, it must be positive and encourage your staff to grow professionally.  This is not an easy job and a times people within the company will question and even fight the company culture.

As frustrating as it may be, you have to find out why people are against your company’s culture.  There are certain factors that can lead to anger, fear and aggression.  Here are a three comments you may hear and experience.

  • Change isn’t easy (Fear): The majority of people don’t like change.  That’s why it’s important to have constant communication and keep communication open by listening and responding.
  • Don’t like the direction the company is heading (Anger): If someone states this, then make sure they understand why the company’s focus on culture is necessary.  If they understand great.  If they still don’t like it, then you may want to suggest they work for another company that aligns with what they want.
  • I don’t care and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing (Aggression): This is a combination of point 1 and 2 but can come across more aggressive.  Start by communicating, as mentioned in point 1 and if that doesn’t work, follow up with a more serious conversation, as mentioned in point 2.

Let’s face it, your company already has a corporate culture. The real question is: are you leading your company’s culture or is your company’s culture untamed and hurting your company?


What’s Your Story?

DoinkLast week, a professional wrestler by the name of Matt Osborne passed away.  Better known as “Doink the Clown” Matt was able to stand out in a profession where people come and go and talent is a dime a dozen.  How did he do it and can Community Banks learn a lesson from him?

Stand Out: Doink the Clown

By viewing the photo above, you’ll notice that Matt Osborne didn’t have a bodybuilder physique, so how was he able to be a successful wrestler?

His Doink gimmick was different from what everyone else was doing.  A bad guy clown that was inspired by Stephen King’s “It” character, Doink would pull mischievous pranks on fan favorite wrestlers and have deranged segments that would make your stomach turn.  He was able to compensate for the lack of huge muscles by pulling audiences in with a not so average storyline.

Take away point: Like Doink, community banks aren’t as big as our mega bank competitors, but we can stand out by doing things differently.

  • Community Action: Unlike Bank of America or Regions, our Board Members and key decision makers are accessible and can participate in a grassroots level to show how committed they are to the community.
  • Quick: Local decision-making allows for faster decision-making.
  • Accommodating: Be creative when putting products together and work with customers to make a deal instead of finding ways to say no.

Reinvent and Grow: Borne Again

BorneMatt’s Doink character was created when he worked for the WWE (then WWF) and the company had rights to the character, not Matt.  So, when he parted ways with the company he had a dilemma: how could he continue as a wrestler while keep the name recognition of Doink.  The answer: Borne Again.

Matt went to a smaller competitor named ECW and quickly established himself as a former disgruntled employee of the WWF.  He named his new character “Borne Again” and kept the clown outfit but only wore messy, small amounts of face paint (i.e. Heath Ledger as Joker in The Dark Knight).  His attitude was even darker than the previous Doink character; which fit right in with the over the top antics ECW stood for.  By creating the Borne Again persona, Matt was able to keep the Doink brand, but made it his own and continued the story of a deranged man.

Take away point: Take ownership of you brand.

  • Tell your story: Your bank has a brand, a story, so explain it and communicate to your staff, customers and prospects.
  • Build your brand: Once you lay the foundation of your brand, build on it.  Internally create a vision statement and a set of values.  Externally tie your brand into your advertising, marketing and sales.

Downfall: Your own Worse Enemy

Matt’s departure from both the WWE and ECW stemmed from personal problems. It’s a shame, because this man seemed to be a talented entertainer whose career, and life, ended too soon.  If he would have won his battle against his demons, who knows what type of success he would have had.

Take away point: Don’t self destruct.

Often community banks lack success because they either have bad apples ruining the bank or they allow operations and compliance totally run their business.

  • Bad apples: A poor performing, negative thinking employee can ruin the moral of a team.  Find out what’s wrong and either coach up or coach out.
  • Operations and Compliance: Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for both operations and compliance.  They should have a say in how the bank is ran and deserve a seat at the leadership table.  That said, these departments do not need to control the bank.  Think about it; have you ever heard of company base it’s success on internal operations?

Hopefully Matt Osborne is in a better place.  As a teenager, I found his silly and disturbing antics in the wrestling ring entertaining.  He was a true performer who left his mark in his profession.

How do you plan on leaving your mark in your profession?

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