Leaders Need These 3 Qualities to Develop a Great Corporate Culture

how to improve corporate culture

Building or changing your organization’s culture isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes a clear path to change and a firm commitment. Three things that make that path clearer are vision, trust, and self-reflection, according to Kip Hollister. At Bullhorn’s Engage 2015 conference, the founder and CEO of Hollister Staffing talked about these three qualities and the role they play in influencing your organization’s culture. Here’s how to build all three.


Organizations that want to move their culture in a new direction need to have a vision to guide them, Hollister says. To build that vision, she recommends these steps:

  • Believe. The first step is a small, but important nonetheless. Believing in yourself and the work you want to do to improve your company’s culture will be key to influencing other people in the organization.
  • Share your belief. It will take a team to make change, so you must convince others that change is possible and that they can make a difference.
  • Give examples. Storytelling is a powerful medium, and telling stories about how culture can change will inspire others to help. Hollister says that when she founded Hollister Staffing, she always made sure to have company parties no matter what the finances looked like. Doing so helped keep motivation and morale high, even in tough times.


Once you start sharing your vision, it’s time to build trust among your team. After all, change is always hard, and your push for change may make some people defensive. To build trust, work on using:

  • Transparent communication. Whether with direct reports, colleagues, your board, or mentors, you must communicate clearly. Expect others on your team to communicate openly and honestly with themselves and clients. At Engage, Hollister talked about one of her company’s clients that was planning on filing for bankruptcy when it owed Hollister Staffing about $900,000. The client’s CFO asked Hollister to trust the company’s efforts, and the client ended up paying what it owed, going through a reorganization, and actually remaining a client of Hollister Staffing. Without open communication, this relationship would have faltered.
  • Humility. Hollister also talked about how in the early days of her company, she was a self-described “battle axe” who demanded long hours from employees. In doing so, she lost her connection with her staff, and regained it only through a direct, honest meeting that helped her to understand her staff’s frustration. Don’t pretend you know everything – people will see through it.
  • Listening. Ask questions and listen to the answers you get. Meet with employees frequently to check in on how they’re feeling about their work and the direction of the company.


Hollister admits that this quality is a tough one for her. A trusted friend and executive coach talked to her about being somewhat uncoachable and some of the ways she could work through it:

  • Self-awareness. Pay attention to what others do, but understand yourself as well. Don’t blame others for their performance – look for ways you may have influenced (or failed to influence) their decisions.
  • Accountability. After her friend talked to her about her lack of coachability, Hollister signed up for a 9-month leadership training program to clarify her purpose and values. She ended up changing her own personal culture to live more authentically and honestly.

Understanding these factors can help leaders make a change, whether it’s on a personal level, a departmental level, or across the organization.

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