Do You Have a Growth Culture?

4 Questions to Ask

Leadership in an organization is dynamic, both in terms of changing team members and the challenges. You never reach the finish line. And it is certainly not something you do once and then check off your list. Leaders never stop growing and developing, even for those in the top of the organization. In fact, an organization where the leaders are not growing will soon stall and eventually fail to compete. John C. Maxwell said it best.

Everything rises and falls with leadership. ~ John C. Maxwell

So if the leaders in your organization are not growing, they and your organization will eventually hit a ceiling. This is what John Maxwell refers to as “The Law of the Lid.”

So how do you raise your lid? What are the components of a growing organization? What does a growth culture look like?

To have a growing organization, the people have to have the desire to grow. While this seems obvious, can you see this desire played out day-to-day?

Question 1: Do you and the people in your organization have a desire to grow and do they have a forward focus?

I see a lot of people that simply want to survive the day. I also see a lot of people that believe that since they have attained a certain position or title, they act like they have “made it” and no longer need to push themselves to grow in the area of leadership. Even team members that have performed well in the past can reach that point where they are simply trying to make it through the day, or believe that they have all the tools and abilities that they need. I’ve been there! It can be very difficult to get out of that mode.

The desire to grow and look forward needs to exist at every level in the organization. If the core leadership is focused on their personal growth, and that is evident to the entire organization, that will go a long way to support this component of the culture.

Question 2: Are people constantly given opportunities outside their comfort zone and challenged to grow?

Growth does not happen when we are in our comfort zone, period. Think about any area of life and you will see that growth happens only when we are challenged. A word of caution here… If you are outside your comfort zone and also outside your strength zone, you are on very dangerous ground. This is where it is so important that the leaders in the organization understand, not only the strengths of their team members, but their weaknesses. To put a team member in a position where they are being challenged outside their area of strength is a setup for failure.

Question 3: Does your organization treat failure as the enemy, or is there an affirming environment when mistakes are made?

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. ~ John Wooden

Without mistakes, nothing is really learned. People are absolutely going to make mistakes. That is just a fact of life. When asked about all the “failures” he had experienced while inventing, Thomas Edison responded, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The way the organization handles mistakes will either create a culture where people learn from their mistake or they will hide there mistakes. People have to be able to take risks if they want to grow and learn. If the decision is so critical that a mistake is absolutely not OK, then the decision needs to have more experienced people to support. But don’t take it out of the hands of the “newbie.” Just make sure that there is some coaching and mentoring taking place. And when mistakes are made, the first question should never be, “Who’s fault was this?” The first question should always be, “What happened, and how can we learn prevent this in the future?”

Question 4: Are others growing, and is growth modeled and expected?

In one of the organizations I have been involved with, there was clearly an expectation for people to grow. And that expectation was communicated through the fact that the leadership in that organization was growing and developing. My immediate supervisor, the Director of Product Development was a big advocate of formal  and informal training. He also believed in application. We did this by practicing what we learned, and also teaching. Each week in the staff meeting, one of us would make a presentation to the group on something we had learned. We also shared experiences from the application. This activity was not reserved only for us, but the Director was included in the rotation. The entire team was learning and growing.

Answer these questions and model these behaviors, and you will see your teams and organization begin to grow and flourish!

What does your organization do to foster growth?

Simple Disciplines from John Wooden

Success Requires the Clear Communicate of Expectations

Communicating expectations is the first step to achieving team success.

In “Wooden on Leadership” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison, there is a list of expectations that John provided to all his recruits upon coming to UCLA. Here is the list that John provided to his student athletes.

  1. You are in UCLA for an education. I want every boy to earn and receive his degree. Keep that first in your thoughts, but place basketball second.
  2. Do not cut classes and do be on time.
  3. Do not fall behind and do get your work in on time.
  4. Have regular study hours and keep them.
  5. Arrange with your profs in advance when you must be absent.
  6. Do not expect favors. Do your part.
  7. Boys on grant-in-aid should arrange for tutoring through the Athletic Department at the first indication of need.
  8. Work for a high grade point average. Do not be satisfied by merely meeting the eligibility requirements.
  9. Those on campus jobs for grant-in-aid must arrange to get in the required hours. Do your assignment without comparing it with that of another boy.
  10. Earn the respect of everyone, especially of yourself.

There is a lot that you and I can learn from these 10 points; lessons that we can apply to business today.


The first point of John’s list focuses on purpose. It was important to Coach Wooden that each student athlete understood that they were there for an education. For today’s business, this is equivalent to knowing why your organization exists; it’s purpose. While that may seem like an easy question to answer, don’t be too quick to answer.


Points 2, 3, and 7 in John’s list focus on accountability. As leaders and team members, we must be accountable for our own performance. We should be on-time with our participation and when meeting our obligations. Being late for work, meetings, and other responsibilities builds inefficiencies in the organisation, not only for us, but also for all those around us. If we see trouble on the horizon, it is our responsibility to seek help.


Points 4 and 5 are about planning our time effectively. This is more than simple time management. This is about priority management. If you only show in your calendar when you have meetings, then you are not planning your time and priorities effectively. You have to also plan time to get YOUR responsibilities done. This means planning time to be alone for reflection, and developing new strategies for your team and organization. If you don’t plan time for these activities, they will get squeezed out by all the people knocking on your door.


Each of us should work at our highest ability. In points 6, 8, 9 and 10, John is talking about giving all we have to make the organization successful. When we need help, ask. When we can help, help. We should set our standards high and give our best every day. We should never be content with giving the least just to get by, or do enough to be better than others on the team. Give the best that you have every day. That is real success.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result o self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

~ John Wooden

What are your thoughts on applying John’s 10 points to your work environment? I would like to hear your comments.