Leadership legacy Featured

6:31am EDT April 29, 2004
Building a strong culture that goes beyond the CEO should be the legacy of every great leader. Many companies have a mission statement, core values, goals and objectives, yet something is missing to bring it all together: Corporate culture. Building a strong culture will build a much greater company.

Many of the great Fortune 500 companies, such as Wal-Mart, have been extremely successful at building a strong culture. Consider two rules Wal-Mart uses in its culture.

* The Sundown Rule. Wal-Mart has set a standard to get things done today -- before the sun goes down. Whether it's a request from a store across the country or a call from down the hall, every request gets same-day service.

The Sundown Rule was implemented by founder Sam Walton. It is still an important part of the Wal-Mart culture and is one of the main reasons it is known for its excellent customer service.

* The Ten Foot Rule. One of Wal-Mart's secrets to customer service is the "10-foot attitude," also Walton's idea. During his store visits, he encouraged associates to take a pledge with him that whenever they came within 10 feet of a customer, they would look him or her in the eye, greet the person and ask if they can help.

Regardless of the size of a company, it is important to create an atmosphere that lets everyone know what they are working toward. By creating the right culture, you allow people to see the bigger picture.

A company's culture shapes the attitudes of individual workers. For example, consider a ticket agent working for an airline.

One person goes to work and feels like he is doing his job if he puts eight hours in each day. This could be the culture the airline has created.

Another person in the same role feels she has a responsibility to go out of her way to accommodate each individual who is traveling to help make the flight arrangements as enjoyable as possible.

Same job, two different outlooks. The difference is in the kind of culture the airline has created.

A company's culture sets the attitude of its employees. Culture is difficult to create. It requires the right mix of leadership-by-example, empowerment of employees, internal support and hiring the right people with attitudes that match your corporate goals.

When successful, a corporate culture will carry a company long after the founder is gone. Just ask Sam Walton.