What comes first, winning or culture?

2008 Boston Marathon

You know that great feeling when you attend an event and walk away inspired? It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a pretty awesome feeling. Well, it happened to me last week after listening to Robert DeMartini (@shoedude), President and CEO of New Balance talk about how their team set out to “Reinvigorate a Great Brand,” at the Boston Chamber of Commerce Executive Forum.

I’ve long been fascinated with New Balance’s momentum over the last 5+ years (product innovation and technology, branding and growth in global markets), but what really stood out to me in this presentation was the emphasis on “Reinvigorating the Culture.” He talked about arriving in 2007 and finding a culture that didn’t know what it meant to win – the foundation of a culture was there and there was a “feeling” of what the culture was, but it needed a boost.

Having gone through our own exercise to define our culture a few years ago, the challenge and opportunity he described really stood out to me – in particular, the tie between “winning” and culture. There are numerous articles, NY Times bestsellers and studies around building a culture of winning. What resonated with me was that “bottom line results” seemingly wasn’t the driver for the vision, mission, values exercise they went through. It was a natural byproduct, not the sole focus. Rather, by tapping into the passions of the team, providing structured training and professional development opportunities and celebrating growth from within, New Balance now has a reinvigorated culture that is, in fact, winning. Simplified, they didn’t put the cart before the horse.

So, how can we all make that work in our organizations? Well, maybe instead of building a growth plan based on revenue numbers and projections (shocking, I know), it means building one focused on your employees and having goals that reflect that investment. For New Balance, it’s a commitment to having 50% of promotions occur from within and delivering 24 hours of training to every employee, every year. Think about the message that sends to employees – that’s a real commitment to growth and the “winning” has followed.

So what do you think – where does the concept of “winning” fit into culture?

Amy Lyons


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