The 6 Most Common Questions Regarding the Challenges of Building Culture @ Work (Part I)


“What is culture?” People would likely have a range of responses to that question. How would you respond? Like many things, you know it when you experience it, but it’s hard to describe. Further, what does culture mean in a work context? How is it measured and how is it understood? 

One definition, from William Vanderbloemen in his book Culture Wins, is as follows: “Culture is about how a team uniquely functions when it’s at its best. It’s about how you function as a team when you’re working well. It’s about knowing the habits, customs, and mannerisms that are common to your team but uncommon in other teams. And ultimately, building an effective culture means knowing, memorializing and embedding them as cultural values the team is expected to live by” [12].

One issue that regularly arises for business leaders is how a company’s people interact with and shape corporate culture. The benefits of a cohesive and positive corporate culture are significant. Based on working with Christian business leaders across Canada, here are the six most common questions regarding the culture of their organization. Perhaps you have asked these same questions.


  1. How do I safeguard my company’s culture when it is increasingly divergent from mainstream culture?

The “mainstream” culture and a Christian perspective—indeed, any faith-based culture—continue to diverge. This makes things difficult for Christian leaders who want their company to reflect their values (not that people need to share their faith).

People are shaped, of course, by the society in which they grow up. In our present environment, there is a wide array of views and perspectives among the populace from human identity, ethical codes, and environmental concerns. These issues are difficult to address in an environment that highlights vitriol, stridency, and polarization. This is a challenge for companies run by Christian business leaders. There are increasingly greater expectations for companies to adopt mainstream causes. In addition, a common approach is that faith and religion are not welcomed in the public square.

Further, there is no consensus on “truth,” but rather personal experiences become individualized truth. There seems to be less common ground and leaders can make fewer assumptions as to consistency among people’s values and expectations. There are also greater expectations of companies as an avenue to fulfill a person’s quest for meaning.

How does an organization led by Christians get the right people on board? This is a big challenge. A typical search firm may not quite understand the mentality and motivations of a Christian business leader. I have had situations where a secular search firm hires a non-Christian to be a key leader in an organization run by a Christian business leader—all the subtleties of a Christian “sub-culture” are lost upon them. In one situation, a new hire, even after an exhaustive search, lasted only one day.

So, companies can still, of course, build a team and find the right people, but it seems to take more effort to accommodate differences and build a unified team.


  1. How do I source values-aligned people?

Christian leaders report that hiring people whose values align with their own and are a fit with corporate culture is a big challenge. Especially from a Christian perspective, how do you find people, especially those in senior leadership, whose values are aligned?

A company grows and the leadership team needs to keep expanding. The pool of personal contacts inevitably runs dry. It’s the same with the transition and growth of a family business—the skillset of the family members is outgrown.

The process of finding the right people may be within the purview of the in-house HR team, but it also may not be, depending on the size of the organization. Especially when it comes to finding people, knowledge and contacts in a specific industry are critical. LinkedIn may start the process with an initial source of leads—but it doesn’t finish it.

One challenge is that business leaders are skilled at running their businesses but likely do not have expertise in the hiring process. It is uncommon to expect that the leader also has the skill in the distinct discipline of sourcing people. A common problem is that a leader tires of the process, wants to jump to action, maybe go with their first instinct, or falls victim to common traps like glomming onto people who interview well but perform poorly.


  1. How do I use personality tools & other assessments?

One adage is to “hire for personality and train for skills.” This reflects the fact that you are not going to change someone’s personality—it is what it is. But skills are always able to be learned and mastered. Another adage is, “People can grow, but they can’t change.” As a result, with the right personality, it is then worth investing in that person. But the wrong person—well, that falls into the “life is too short” category.

One way to winnow the pool is through personality assessments. There are as many assessment tools as flavours of ice cream, and many are generally helpful.  They can be a good tool to help in the hiring process to uncover certain traits. However, the evaluations made by others tend to be the most reliable predictor of future behavior, overshadowing all other factors.