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Culture Catalysts: Empowering Teams to Transform the Workplace

By Todd Kuckkahn | July 2, 2024
Culture Catalysts: Empowering Teams to Transform the Workplace

According to Gallup’s 2023 report on the state of the global workplace, a significant majority of employees—79%—are either not engaged or actively disengaged. This alarming figure underscores the paramount importance of an organization’s culture.

A positive and engaging organizational culture can significantly influence employee engagement levels. When employees feel valued, supported, and aligned with the company’s mission and values, they are more likely to be motivated, productive, and committed to their work. Conversely, a toxic or indifferent culture can lead to disengagement, resulting in lower productivity, higher turnover rates, and increased absenteeism.

But what exactly is culture? It isn’t ping pong tables, pets in the workplace, workout space, or doughnuts in the breakroom. Those are things that are limited in their ability to impact employees. Culture goes deeper than that. In his book The Culture Solution, business consultant Matthew Kelly shares that “culture is everything an organization does that helps it become the very best version of itself.” 

I’ve had a multitude of jobs. And in those years in the workplace, I saw disengagement firsthand. I saw burnout, communication challenges, lack of trust, conflict, lack of respect, and countless other issues. A few of the environments I worked in were outright toxic. And the one thing all of these issues had in common was a cause rooted in the company culture.

Today, as a solopreneur, I am on a mission to revolutionize company culture and leadership – to turn those years of exposure to culture mistakes into learning opportunities.

What I’ve experienced as both a leader and consultant to businesses is how being intentional about culture can move the engagement needle, and creating a culture team can help. These are teams dedicated to developing the organization’s culture.

These teams have gone over so well, in fact, I have seen organizations end up with twice as many applicants as they’d hoped, and a waiting list to boot. Two years later, the team is still going strong and has developed an intimate relationship with the leadership team.

Culture teams are as diverse as possible, cutting across titles, ages, gender, departments, seniority, and ethnic culture and diversity, as well. Participants apply as part of a selection process. The team must be built and typically go through Tuckman’s Model for change (a framework that helps teams perform effectively more quickly).

In my time as a solopreneur, I have had the opportunity to implement culture teams in workplaces. It certainly took some time to convince the leadership to move in that direction. Some leaders were anxious over the change. Others saw it as yet another initiative that would inevitably fall through the cracks.

And these leaders were right about one thing: implementing a culture team does have its challenges. These are among the most common:

Hurdles of Culture Development


The rhythm for culture teams is best at 90 minutes every other week. This is paid time. There is also a staff liaison that I supported with team-building training. Often, the organization provides refreshments for these meetings as a gesture, so there may be a need for additional budget allocation, which leaders can be hesitant to provide.


Change is a necessary, but often intimidating part of everyday life, and it is no different when establishing a culture team. Employees who typically jump on the team are the ambitious, optimistic ones Simon Sinek refers to as “early adopters,” but there will be skeptics. Be sure to start your culture team with those who want change the most.


Conflict is unavoidable. In fact, it’s an anticipated stage of Tuckman’s model for change. But the culture team must be centered on trust so that conflict can become productive. The team itself must be supportive of each other, but fully engaged with all employees.


Impact can take time to develop and be difficult to measure. Different teams have different viewpoints, but it is best to develop or adapt a survey so impact can be measured to some degree.


The culture team and executive leadership must make sure the group doesn’t become elitist. This initiative is for the entire organization, and that needs to be front and center. Exclusivity will tear it apart.

The risks posed by these challenges can’t be overlooked. In one instance, it took me four months to convince the leadership team a culture team was the way to go. I could sense their fear of “letting go” of control. But once we were able to get the group into a routine, they saw the team transform their company culture. As a matter of fact, one of the organization’s vice presidents created a song about the culture team sung to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island.” They saw that the risks were easily outweighed by the advantages:

Benefits of Culture Development


With the culture team leading the effort and the leadership team at their side, they can move the needle on engagement. Through the work of the culture team, the general employee population can be a part of shaping culture.


While it is an overused expression, “the more the merrier” has relevance here. The better the diversity of thought, the more opportunity for quality solutions. And because of silos, different departments and teams often don’t understand the role each other plays so it is difficult to respect their work. Because of the diversity on the team, the members come to better understand what other employees in other parts of the organization must deal with on a regular basis. The culture team members learn about themselves, but more importantly, learn about their peers, and that helps them have a greater impact on culture at large.


Every company experiences communication challenges. One survey by Salesforce found that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. When creating a culture team, leadership and team members agree on a communication plan. The collaboration on the team also exposes specific areas of weakness in communication and makes treating them part of the culture team’s mission.


As small shifts are made organizationally at the beginning of the process and larger ones along the way, there will be an uplifting impact on morale. When the culture team’s work is pursued with persistence and intentionality, employees will watch them sustain, despite difficulties along the way.


An engaging culture will shift retention numbers. With your best staying, they will be your best messengers for attracting new talent. The culture team focuses on organizational value alignment, leading to a stronger workforce.

Culture teams force attention to critical challenges that most, if not all, businesses face. It also goes beyond the typical boundaries. Inclusivity is often thought of in terms of race and culture, and culture teams take that further in their goal of getting many voices and opinions at the table. That’s how bridges, rather than more silos, are built.

Patience is also a key element. Companies must be persistent so the employees see that this is a priority and not just another fad or shiny object. Role modeling by both the culture and leadership teams is vital.

I have heard John say more than once, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is what culture teams can do. Culture teams prove to the best resource you have – your people –  that you care, and that’s when engagement kicks in.

Are you and your teams ready to cultivate an empowering corporate culture and revolutionize your organization’s results?

As a leader, you set the standard for your team and others you influence. Change starts with you. Show your people you value growth by taking your best next step toward it. Join Maxwell Leadership for Day to Grow, a full-day conference in Orlando, Florida, featuring some of today’s most sought-after experts and thought leaders, including author Malcolm Gladwell, Olympian Chaunté Lowe, and of course, John C. Maxwell. Get your tickets here today!

Todd Kuckkahn is on a mission to revolutionize company culture and leadership. Throughout his career, Todd has done countless presentations, workshops, and seminars at local, state, national and international conferences. Todd annually hosts Live2Lead featuring John Maxwell and other internationally known leadership speakers.

Todd is passionate about sharing his experience and knowledge in communication, leadership, generations, personal growth, and company culture. He writes for numerous publications, including an international publication.

His passion for leadership and culture earned him an independent speaker, coach, teacher, and trainer certification with the (John C.) Maxwell Leadership Certified Team. He is both DISC and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) certified.

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