Building a Winning Workplace Culture
Be the M.O.R.T.A.R. that Holds It All Together

By: Magi GrazianoChief Evangelist for KeenAlignment

The number one driver of employee engagement and workplace performance is culture, so why do so many companies fail at establishing one that wins?

When your workplace culture is working, it is something that the senior leadership propagates and leverages as a competitive advantage. However, when your company culture is not functioning properly—or not working at all—it becomes a deterrent to productivity, innovation and employee morale.

Being that the culture you construct at work is one of the most pivotal cogs driving the success of your business, why, then, do so many companies fail at building one that wins? It’s because, frankly, many business owners, managers and CEOs are unaware as to how big of an impact culture really makes. So how do you build a culture that wins? It begins with you, as a leader—you must become the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds it all together.


Leading begins with clearly envisioning the overall mission to accomplish and then communicating that vision and purpose in a way that moves, touches and inspires followers to align with and support that vision.

The mark of a great leader is someone who shapes his or her work culture around a compelling and stimulating mission. A leader, who creates a compelling vision, and articulates that vision in a way that moves people into alignment and action, is a leader that gets high quality, mission-fulfilling work done, through others.

There are two keys to creating a culture of people who are intrinsically motivated and operate in service of delivering on the purpose of the enterprise. The first is the leader’s capability and commitment to communicating the vision to his people in a way that generates enthusiasm, inspiration and alignment.  The second is the leader’s ability to link each individual in the organization to the purpose of their specific role, and that role purpose to the overall purpose of the organization. When this happens, people accomplish great feats, and enjoy themselves while they are doing it.

On Boarding

When a new hire comes on board, the most powerful way to connect them to the bigger purpose and vision is to make it a priority for the business leader to share the purpose of the business and the reason it exists, as well as the core operating values that each and every employee is expected to demonstrate in their day to day implementation of their role. When a new hire begins with the end in the mind and formulates an early connection to their role as it pertains to the fulfillment of the mission of the business, they are set up for success because they are taught from the get go that it is about much more than the task at hand.

Rein in negativity

Every business deals with set backs, challenges, breakdowns and disappointments. The real difference between leaders who carry their people through those tough times and leaders who have carnage to clean up along the way, is the leader who takes the time to check in with how people are feeling and the leader who intervenes in the negativity and works to reverse it.

When it comes right down to it, all negativity or upsets step from one of three incidents: an unfulfilled expectation, a thwarted intention or an undelivered communication. When managers are present and aware of their employees’ feelings and work style, it is very apparent when someone is off kilter or upset. The astute leader is right on top of those upsets and provides support for their people to overcome and get through these motivational killers.

Inspiring people is a core competency of great leaders; great leaders who foster alignment and engagement in employees do this by inspiring people to bring their best self to work. Therefore, leading others for the long term requires that you are able to recognize and bring this energy. People become inspired when they start believing they have more ability than they thought they did.


Every person, at every level in an organization needs some level of training and development. The rate of innovation is accelerating at a mind-numbing pace, and no matter what role a person holds, the skills of today will become insufficient for the work of tomorrow. Whether it is in the area of people readiness, a deeper technical expertise, management training or an ability to take feedback as constructive guidance; the development of the workforce must be a core tenet to any winning workforce strategy. The greatest gift a leader can give their people is the gift of developing them professionally.


A key component to fostering alignment with employees and creating buy-in for the business vision, mission and values, is to find a way to connect the bigger picture into each and every employee’s heart and head. When the leader has an emotional commitment to the business mission and understands how his vision satisfies his peoples’ needs, that leader has direct access to igniting engagement within them. Without followers, you can’t be a leader—followers will only voluntarily engage in something they think satisfies their needs as well as your goals.

When people can connect their personal mission and purpose with the greater good of the company, they naturally feel compelled to do better and give more of themselves at work.

Rewards and consequences

In taking action and moving toward completion of your mission and vision, there will inevitably be surprises and unexpected results. A person skilled in leading will continually assess the plan for achieving the stated goals and make course corrections along the way. Leading requires a focus on the milestones along the way, as well as an eye on the long-term mission.

While accountability is not black and white, it is a fundamental building block of any highly effective organization. Great leaders inform their people of what their role is expected to accomplish, and how their role and work connects to the bigger company mission and plan. People do best when they have a full picture of the intended outcomes and the systemic impacts of their contribution.

In order to create a culture that drives your business initiatives forward and fulfills the intention of your mission, you’ll need to invest time and energy towards developing yourself as a leader of that culture. How well you communicate your intentions and how often, will be critical to the success of your cultural alignment initiative. To be the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds your workforce together, you must make developing yourself a top priority.



By: Magi GrazianoChief Evangelist for KeenAlignment

In today’s disjointed world, most people say they feel disconnected and apathetic in regards to their jobs.  With all the negative noise streaming in from multiple modalities, people are often overwhelmed with demotivating and disturbing messages. These negative messages get in the way and distract people from thinking straight and staying focused at work.

Feeling a strong connection with the mission and vision of a company is one of the top global drivers of employee engagement. CEOs who are committed to strengthening employee engagement work hard to advance their skill of inspiring others and creating buy in.

Why do some leaders easily catalyze their teams towards new goals and achievements while others seem to struggle just to maintain the status quo?

One of the primary traits of a successful leader is the ability to inspire people around a purpose, a mission and a vision. Leaders who are most effective at motivating and organizing people towards a common vision do 5 key things very well. They work diligently at sharing their vision and persistently at articulating the direction & mission of the organization. They outline the strategy & plan and openly communicate the company core values, their expectations and the definition of done.

These 5 keys are the cornerstones to creating company wide alignment that boosts engagement, morale and overall success.

1.  Share & Inspire a Compelling Mission


Great leaders regularly bring people closer to their purpose and the purpose of their work. If the vision for the organization is not inspiring—or is only to make a profit—it is pretty challenging to inspire others and get them to rally around it.

Employee engagement research states that for people to feel a connection with their work, they need to be able to envision themselves achieving purpose at work. An astute leader nurtures alignment among their workforce by linking the key performance indicators of each role in the organization to the overall key performance indicators and objectives of the business.  When people are able to “connect the dots” from what they do each day to how it impacts the customer—and maybe even the world at large—they are much more engaged and concerned for what they do and how well they deliver it.

2. Institutionalize & Perpetuate Guiding Principles and Values


Building guiding principles and core values into the culture is a very powerful way to institutionalize and perpetuate the right behaviors throughout the organization.  Leaders who are serious about their core values and guiding principles discipline themselves and their organization to only hire people who are aligned and have the ability to demonstrate those values and principles through the right on the job behavior.  Behavioral and values-based interviewing is a key component of a values driven organization’s hiring process.  In these same types of companies, leadership development and succession planning programs are created and built on the foundation of the core values and guiding principles.

3. Clearly Articulate Expectations and Intended Outcomes


Organizational objectives and desired outcomes are best achieved when clearly articulated and repeated often. Business leaders often voice frustration because their message in its true intent is not reaching all the ranks. The reality is, most people need to hear things 7 times before committing it to memory. Therefore role requirements, goals and objectives also need to be repeated frequently enough to ensure everyone involved is present to and aware of the game plan and what it looks like to win.

Some leaders of larger organizations cascade their message to the workforce through their trusted and capable management team. Others design a communication strategy and deliver their message through a series of channels; like individualized emails, the company intranet, daily from the desk of “CEO” thoughts, weekly CEO talks, or monthly town hall meetings and newsletters.

4. Foster Excitement & Celebrate Forward Momentum


Alignment happens intrinsically when people are gathered together in service of a mission bigger than themselves.  They are called forth by the purpose and the mission and then measure their success by milestones and accomplishments along the way.  A leader that celebrates forward movement, learning from failures, taking risks and working collaboratively to remove barriers and advance is a leader who teaches his troops to keep their eye on the prize.

5. Build Trust Through Open Communication & Clarity


One of the most important components necessary to nurture and grow workforce alignment is for the leader and management to have a strong relationship with their word. Trusting senior leaders and management is a critical driver of employee engagement.  Integrity and open communication is one of the most crucial behaviors of highly effective leaders. People do not trust a leader of an organization who does not follow through on promises or has a reputation as someone who re-negotiates agreements after the fact.  Creating boundaries and agreements as well as honoring those agreements and boundaries is where the rubber meets the road with honoring one’s word.

Trust is not about being perfect and certainly not about keeping things static and steady. It is about clearly communicating when and why things need to change, and giving people advance notice of those changes and how they can best adapt.

In today’s shifting & highly competitive global talent market place companies and business leaders are searching for ways to reduce unwanted employee turnover, raise employee engagement and maximize returns on human capital investments.  Building and fostering an Aligned and Purposeful workforce is a sure way to optimize, energize and retain your best people.