Move Over, Wheaties™! Culture is the New “Breakfast of Champions”!

Dr Dale Henry Culture

If you watch people long enough, you will either be inspired or confused or both. Let’s face it, sometimes what makes us tick defies explanation. I have three grandsons, and I wanted to recreate for them memories that made me smile when I was a boy. So, I decided to build them a tree house. First problem: no tree! So, I did the next best thing which was to build a non-tree house. Basically, an elevated club house on stilts–a place to hang out while being disconnected from technology. Now, I will be the first to admit I have never been guilty of thinking small or simple, so I went over several plans before settling on my design (translation: I built the one my daughter told me to build).

Every good structure begins with a good foundation.

So the platform was to be 8′ X 12′ and five feet high. I want to stop right here to allow all the cautious naysayers and over thinkers who will ask, “Isn’t that a little high for three, four, and seven-year-olds?” I’ll be more than glad to give you my reasoning: 12 foot 4 X 4’s were on sale and my daughter wouldn’t let me build it higher, so I had to cut them in half). If you want to check out a theory, sometimes it’s best to stop at the foundation and see where it takes you. I built the 8 X 12 platform 5 foot high. No ladder, no slide, no accoutrements, no nothing! I stood back and just watched. It took my grandsons a while to figure out how to get up on top. It was trial and error, a little of this and a little of that, but they figured it out; no strategy, no plan, just, you know, experimenting. Here is what I observed:

Now, if you look on the surface, it looks a great deal like chaos. Ok, it is chaos. But outside of the 175 OSHA violations, they are having a blast. They are building culture (although I’m not quite sure what Perry is doing with the plastic bat)! I am building an understanding of what my next steps are in the construction phase. Wheaties™ has been known as “the Breakfast that champions eat” since the brand gained popularity. Do as champions do and you will be a champion, too! Well, move over Wheaties™! Culture, not strategy, is what champions do. There is no doubt that when it comes to identifying excellence—whether it is athletics or performance—having your image put on a box of Wheaties™ is one way of standing out. So if winning, standing out, excellence, and promoting teaming is your goal and strategy, then you are going to discover it nearly impossible without first building culture—that 8 X 12 structure that is five feet off the ground. Then, stop and ask yourself, what is excellence and what do we do next to develop it? (P. S.–Don’t give anyone a plastic bat). So, let’s explore winning and culture to see what really drives being a champion.

Loyalty, resilience, and inspiration are created by culture.

In East Tennessee, there is a small restaurant chain called Pals. Not very impressive. It’s a drive-through that looks like a hamburger and a hot dog and it’s 1100 square ft. (See 8 X 12 platform, five feet high). But, this little chain averages a little over two million in revenue in 1100 square ft. Extremely low employee turn over, certification of excellence (not training), and brand loyalty beyond belief. Can you say… culture?

Strategy requires processing. Culture is automatic.

Great companies don’t have to drive policies that restrict behaviors and boost performance. Great companies let people become entrepreneurs and drive growth through a culture of wanting to excel.

The best things in life are free, but culture is the gift that keeps on giving with employee engagement and talent retention.

Anyone who has ever flown Southwest will tell you that they have a culture which emphasizes having a good time while taking care of business.

When companies with great strategies compete with companies with great culture… Well, it isn’t pretty. Build the foundation. Watch and observe. Don’t let strategy drive growth. Let company culture drive excellence.  Unplug and discover. Culture is the genie in the bottle.  It turns wishes into realities. And, who knows? Maybe Wheaties™ will be waiting to put you on the cover.

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