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The Best Culture Wins (Conclusion)

Creating core values that provide strength, example and direction

ATLANTA — Owners of both large and small businesses are always looking for ways to create a positive culture for their employees, but are they asking the right questions and looking at their companies through the right lenses?

During his “Best Culture Wins” presentation at this summer’s Clean Show, Sean Abbas, president of Threads Inc., a software company he co-founded to help organizations review employees on culture, offered his views on the subject, including ways to build a team-oriented atmosphere and identifying mistakes many owners make along the way.

In Part 1 of this series, we examined some of the benefits of having a positive culture — and some of the pitfalls that come with “quick-fix” solutions. In Part 2, Abbas detailed the solution he found to getting better evaluations. Today, we’ll wrap our series by looking at the worth of core values and the role of leaders in creating positive culture.


As an example, Abbas offered one of his own core values—“Learn and Apply”—for his company.

“It is our responsibility to participate in the processes of continuous learning and personal growth,” this core value states. “Our ability to learn and apply new things in the workplace will provide us with an ongoing competitive advantage.”

What do these core values look like in action? Abbas’ team members are expected to:

  • Actively look for ways to improve processes and communicate ideas openly without being asked to do so (which is known as “Continuous Improvement”). Team members are expected to make at least three CI suggestions annually.
  • Proactively seek opportunities for continued career-based education and cross-training.
  • Proactively help, support and share job knowledge with co-workers and new team members.


One of the biggest mistakes Abbas sees is when a company’s leadership tells the team what it should be doing to foster a winning culture, but seems to feel like it is above taking action.

“I go into companies all the time, and when I look at what they review their manager team on, there’s not one single comment on leadership,” he says. “This is a person you call a ‘manager’ and a ‘leader’ in your business, and there’s not one single measurement on leadership. Do they do their reviews on time? Do they give timely feedback? Are they making sure they accomplish the things that they are accountable for? These are the things that they’re supposed to be doing.”

When leadership doesn’t walk the walk they’ve been talking about, Abbas says, a winning culture will not come into being.

“The last 10 years, leadership in your organization has been slowly migrating its way to the HR department,” he says. “Leadership is not the responsibility of HR. Leadership is the responsibility of people that have those titles of leadership.”

Core values and vision, Abbas says, are handed down and exemplified by a company’s leaders.

“I understand that it is difficult to train team members,” he says. “I understand that it’s difficult to engage. But you absolutely have to start foundationally, downloading the things that are in your head as owners and as leaders in your business. You have to download those things to the people underneath you. How do you think your organization is going to carry on if the people underneath you don’t know those things?”

It can be easy to overthink creating a positive culture, but it comes down to communication and making sure actions are taken on purpose.

“Defining clear expectations is such a critical part of what core values are,” Abbas says. “If you say communication is important, tell them what about communication is important, and how much communication is important. Be very specific about those things. Again, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Just make sure that everybody and every department understands what they need to be doing in a specific area to help feed and contribute to the entire organization.”

Missed an earlier part of this article? You can read it here: Part 1 - Part 2

The Best Culture Wins

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].