What's More Important Than Culture?

A high-angle view of people forming an arrow on the street.

Your cause is more important than your culture.
The members of the tightest teams in the world don’t always like each other. But they work together and succeed because their mission is more important than anything else.
Church ladies squabble. SEAL teams argue. Both groups get the job done and consider their work to be a critical piece of their lives. Neither would quit.
They believe in their cause.

A Cause That Unites and Inspires

In “Playing The Infinite Game,” I listed Simon Sinek’s five keys to success. They are:
A just cause.
A worthy adversary.
An open playbook.
A vulnerable team.
Courageous leadership.
In this series, I’ve been writing about culture. I told you how to measure and improve your culture, how to design your culture through your own actions, and how to clear the path for the right people to show up. (See below for links to all articles.)
But without a cause, your culture doesn’t produce anything. You just sit there holding hands, uninspired. Eventually, people will leave a great culture in pursuit of noble purpose.
But if you have a noble purpose—or a just cause—people will follow even if they’re unhappy. Their belief in the purpose will override temporary unhappiness.
In “Happiness by Design,” Dr. Paul Dolan tells a story of his friend who “hates her job but loves the work.” She thinks she’s underpaid, often argues with her coworkers and dislikes her boss. But she’d never quit because she believes in the mission (she works at a not-for-profit).

What Is Your Mission?

You must feel compelled to serve your mission, whether you’re going through good times or fighting for your life. If you started a gym, I know you’ve got this one covered. You didn’t do it to get rich; you did it to help people become healthy. Your “just cause” is so inspiring that helping you achieve it is my “just cause.” No exaggeration.
When you lead with a just cause, your culture will follow. Then you apply the rest: getting the wrong people off the bus, teaching people how to treat you (and one another), improving retention among your staff and clients.
This is precisely why we start The Incubator by getting really clear on your mission.
When people know your cause, they’ll find it easier to talk about you. Forget your “elevator pitch”: When people are inspired by what you’re trying to do, they’ll talk about it. They don’t need to memorize “constantly varied functional movement something something something” because they can say “Chris is trying to save our city.”
Why are you in this?
Does your staff know?
Do your clients know?
Tell them.
And tell me, too. I love hearing about people’s great dreams.

Other Articles in This Series

How to Measure (and Improve) Your Culture
Culture by Design
Culture Starts at the Top
Staff Culture and Who Luck


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.