Importance of Culture: Empowering & Aligning Leaders Blog Feature

By: GreatAmerica on January 16th, 2020

Importance of Culture: Empowering & Aligning Leaders

We all know workplace culture is important to today’s workforce. As Generation Z enters the workplace it will continue to grow in importance, and dealers within the office imaging space have become more tuned in to this need.

In fact, our dealers consistently express culture as a challenge they face year after year. But, culture means more than having a cool first floor living space outfitted with a putting green and a pool table (though we do enjoy that aspect of our very own culture here at GreatAmerica!). Dealers are realizing that a positive culture doesn’t only make attracting and retaining top talent easier, but it can actually empower and develop leadership in the individuals that work for your organization.

Culture Defined

We're going to tell you a story about how we witnessed the massive impact an intentional culture can have on cultivating and aligning leaders and decision makers within your organization. But first, let’s establish a base-level understanding of what culture is. It can be a little difficult to define, and depending on who you ask, you’ll likely get different answers. Let’s look at a few frequently used definitions.

First, the tried and true from Webster’s Dictionary:

Culture is “a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”

And a more casual description:

“The behaviors required to fit in and thrive around here.”

Finally, a more holistic description from Jon Gordon’s book, “The Power of Positive Leadership”:

“Your most important job as a leader is to drive the culture and not just any culture. You must create a positive culture that energizes and encourages people, fosters connected relationships and great teamwork, empowers and enables people to learn and grow, and provides an opportunity for people to do their best work. Culture is not just one thing; it’s everything. Culture drives expectation and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits. And habits create the future. It all starts with the culture you create and drive throughout the organization. That’s where all success and great results begin.”

Each company has their own unique culture – their own fingerprint, if you will. That begs the questions: Is your culture one of default? Or is it one you created by design? Do you champion it every day? If you are intentional about the culture you create, you’ll find it can align and empower leaders and decision makers within your organization.

Cultivating Leaders and Empowering Decision Making

Sally Brause of PathShare HR Services had been facilitating a series of Cultivating Culture workshops with one of our dealers who we’ve worked with for the past 7 years. Over that time, we’ve had the ability to work with all levels of their organization, and from the outside looking in, it seemed this dealership already had a strong positive culture. It was refreshing to observe their willingness to evolve during this workshop.

In their first session with Sally they worked to identify the ‘Why’ behind what they were doing. They invested a full day of discussions to identify the values and behaviors they wanted driving their culture. During the second session the team spent a few hours dissecting their core value statement drafts, and looking to the thesaurus to select the perfect wording. We voted on the meaning of the core value statements and what was interesting to me was how there could be varying opinions initially, but through the resulting discussions around those differing opinions, trust, respect, and alignment would start to occur – until they finally reached a consensus.

After reaching an agreement about what their core values would be, the focus now moved to how they would roll this vision out to the company in a way that would keep their newly defined values top of mind. They spent the afternoon talking about how they would make these values a part of their everyday instead of an afterthought. Sally presented a thorough game plan of how this vision would be communicated out to the company. The plan was extremely detailed – for instance, their core values and mission would be printed on their mousepads, painted onto the walls of their building, and displayed on their digital monitors – all to serve as a constant reminder to everyone within the organization to live out their values out each and every day. They even incorporated plans to include a tie to their core values in every meeting they held. Since they had defined 4 primary core values, each including 3 descriptive behaviors, this meant they could focus on one month to make sure they placed sufficient focus on each value in the year ahead.

A month or so later we saw the impact these exercises could truly have. In a check in with them, we saw just how deeply a well-defined culture can influence behaviors and decision making within an organization.

They shared with us that the most challenging part of revamping their culture was truly making it a priority, but by being so heavily invested in laying out the groundwork for their core values, it had become critically important to them to keep them top of mind.

They then told us a story of how they had recently uncovered a billing issue for one of their larger customers. It wasn’t an ideal situation by any means – in fact, it was a pretty costly mistake. They had actually been incorrectly billing their customer $12,000 extra over a 12 month period – unbeknownst to the customer. This is a tough spot to be in, and there could have been a lot of debate about how to approach the situation, yet, when the issue was presented to leadership, it was met with a confident and immediate response:

“Cut them a check –we’ll sign it and get it to the customer today.”

The answer was cut and dry because it was written in their core values:

We know that doing the right thing is often harder, more costly, and quite humbling…but we do it anyway.

Because they made a commitment to live out their values through their culture, a decision that could have been more difficult was instead very clear.

We see this as just one testament to how culture can guide and empower your organizations to make these critical, business-defining decisions. There are many levers that drive a positive culture; rewards and recognition, an inviting workplace, etc., but arguably, the single most important lever is leadership. While it’s critical the expectation is set from the top down, an intentional culture can awaken the leader and decision maker at every level of your organization. The benefits of culture run deeper than attracting and retaining top talent. An investment in culture has the power to enable and align everyone so they can take charge and make the right decisions for your organization – even in the most difficult of times.

To learn more about PathShare and the organizational development services they offer, visit their webpage:

To learn more about cultivating a positive culutre within your organization, check out these resources:

Moving Culture From Theory to Practical Implementation

7 Signs Your Culture Needs a Little TLC


GreatAmerica is the largest independent, family-owned national commercial equipment finance company in the U.S. and is dedicated to helping manufacturers, vendors, and dealers be more successful and keep their customers for a lifetime. GreatAmerica was established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1992 and now has offices in Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, and Illinois. In addition to financing, GreatAmerica offers innovative non-financial services to help our customers grow.