Being a Valued Member of a Winning Team on an Inspiring Mission

A Culture Exercise for Startups or Teams

Great culture in an organization isn’t created or maintained through luck or accident. With it, everyone is happy and productive (a.k.a. engaged), and without it, you have high turnover, bad customer outcomes and bad investor outcomes. I’ll share one exercise I’ve used to help understand and surface the real culture in organizations based on the work of Graham Weston and Fred Reichheld.

Video of Graham Weston at TEDx San Antonio: Creating Workplace Cultures, Energy of Inspired Employees


When folks see the quote, almost everyone universally nods in agreement. If we all want it, then why is it so hard? Just as you need to find lead measures to achieve big goals, simply “wanting to be” doesn’t create anything actionable.

To create understanding, which can lead to action, the exercise goes through and turns the statement into questions. With this process, you’ll learn how this applies to everyone’s journey at work and the team they’re on.

The way the questions are worded is specific and thoughtful, so that there are no wrong answers. This is important to have true open sharing. Everyone has and is entitled to their own beliefs. Each perspective is important to the group. Understanding will make stronger teams, and as a collection of teams a stronger company.


If your individual contributors are not having regular one-on-ones with their direct manager, you’ll have to address that issue first. This Gallup study finds that half of employees leave because of bad bosses, and based on my experience without regular communication, it is impossible to have a strong and positive relationship.

Culture Exercise

This exercise centers around the three questions listed below that will allow your organization to understand its real culture in a profound way. It is then broken down into three activities and an open-ended fourth step. Overall it will take a few weeks to complete as a company or business unit.

1. What mission is [company name] on that inspires you?

2. How do you know when your team is winning and what does winning look like to you?

3. What value do you deliver to your team in order to help it win?

Step 1: Email from leader to everyone (CEO, department VP, etc.)

To kick off the exercise the leader will send out a message about the background on why this is important and what the expectations are regarding process and timeline. You must make it clear there are no wrong answers, as everyone is entitled to their own perspectives and beliefs.

Step 2: One-on-one conversations with individual and manager

Every employee talks through the three questions with their manager in an one-on-one. Ideally the one-on-one conversations are a week after the leader sends out the message about this, giving everyone some time to think about the questions prior to sitting down. They don’t need to have answers figured out before that conversation. The dialogue often helps crystalize thoughts and the one-on-one setting also helps, as group discussion is often scary. Even broken down into three questions, each one is still a complex topic. Each individual needs to distill their thoughts down into one to two sentence answers for each question and write them down.

Step 3: Company or department sharing

The next step is to setup a town hall forum to share answers, roughly one minute per person. This isn’t a time for Q&A or discussion. It is only a session of sharing to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Even with answers written down ahead of time the folks in your organization who are less comfortable with public speaking will find this difficult. If you allow for Q&A and discussion during it, strong personalities will overwhelm and the time allotted for the sharing session, and things may spiral out of control.

Step 4: Ongoing understanding and analysis

Over the coming days, weeks and months, the conversation will continue as everyone starts to process the discoveries made. Subscribe to our blog or check in the future for a post on how I’ve acted on the learnings from these sessions in my organizations.

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