Culture tells us what to do when the leader isn’t in the room

How does a leader build a sustainable company cultureCulture tells us what to do when the leader isn’t in the room. We’ve all heard this before, and being able to achieve this is one of the daunting challenges of leadership.

It is not unusual to be in a strategy session and come up with all kinds of great quotes and soundbites, that are quickly forgotten when everyone leaves the room. The key is to be able reduce those great quotes into “concrete behaviors” that happen on a daily basis.

For me, the challenge is ongoing. And to face this challenge, I use a code: FLUSH.

It stands for:

  • Fun
  • Lasting
  • Useful
  • Surprising
  • High Quality

FLUSH also means that we “flush” conventions down the toilet. Easy to remember right?

This is the criteria we use for HOW TO MAKE DECISIONS on what we’ll do, how we’ll do it and why we’ll do it. I came up with this code because I was looking for an easy way to make strategy understandable, as well as kill decision paralysis.

An entrepreneur I was incubating once asked me about how to get people to follow your lead, but also how to get people to take action without your consent. Basically: How does a leader build a sustainable company culture?

My response was simple: model the behavior you want to see. And, if you see someone doing something similar, thank them. But also add an “and”.

The “and” is important because it is the bridge to the real desired behavior you wish to see.

Example, “Great job! How about next time you do __repeat observed behavior_______, you also do ___real desired behavior____. Because this way we ____repeat the WHY________.

So, the question to ask is: on a daily basis, what does all of this look like?


  • Big Picture Goal: Evolutionary Advantage = always getting better
  • Challenge: want colleagues to take initiative on what they are thinking without having to come ask me to validate
  • Example: Thinking about ideas for marketing our workshops, but also putting it into an action plan

Recent example of an interaction I had with one colleague:

Hey Oscar, thanks for coming up with that idea to market our workshop. How about next time you think about how we could do this better, you also put it into an action plan as to how we should implement that. If you do this, we’ll always be making decisions faster. And the faster we move, the faster we learn. And the more we learn, the more innovative we’ll be.

This is a true story BTW. Oscar is a colleague, and I want him to start taking action on his ideas. By nature, he stays in the background. And he also knows that I always take charge. So, I want that to change to where he takes action before I do.

Anyway, as you know, this is a daunting challenge. But it can be done!

And as I always say, you must own it. So, the question is: If you don’t act the way, then why would anyone else?

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