Business leaders marvel at the distinctive, customer-focused cultures associated with legendary firms like Southwest Airlines, Apple and Disney. As executives of these companies readily acknowledge, their organizations’ outstanding performance is due, in large part, to the corporate culture they have created.

Executive Summary

Time-starved, multitasking executives engaged in drive-by conversations with employees are poor models for employees to emulate when they interact with customers. Instead, executives who give their undivided attention to internal team members embody the customer-focused cultures they seek to create, writes Watermark Consulting's Jon Picoult, also describing other subtle gestures of responsiveness that set the right tone for their organizations.

But how does such a customer-focused culture arise?

Despite all the talk about culture from leadership gurus and management tomes, it still remains a decidedly abstract concept for most business people.

As a result, the task of culture building often gets delegated to human resources or some employee-staffed culture committee. Or executives might invest in the development of grandiose mission and value statements, thinking that mere words on a page will shape workplace behaviors.

While these approaches aren’t without value, they often overlook one essential truth: Culture isn’t something you promote. Rather, it’s something you embody.

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