Company Culture. This concept is discussed over and over. Companies spend massive amounts of brainpower and time debating and crafting their ideal culture.

Much of the discussion centers around defining the right culture. But, there is another question that must be addressed. Once the culture is defined, who is responsible for protecting and reinforcing that culture. Who is the guardian of the culture?

You may be surprised by the answer. Many believe the executive team is responsible for maintaining the culture. But this alone isn’t sufficient. The cultural tone may be set by the management team, but culture isn’t and can’t be only top-down. Culture is top-down, bottoms-up, and sideways.

If culture emanates from all sides, then who is the guardian of the culture? The answer is simple. YOU are the guardian of the culture.

Regardless of position, each person in a company helps shape and mold the culture. Companies and employees should be intentional about protecting their culture. Each of us are responsible for guarding the culture.

Now that you know you are a key guardian of the culture, how do you guard it?

1) Hire cultural fits.

Fill your team with people who share the same values as you and your company. Interview for the personal attributes desired. When assessing candidates, focus on more than just experience, resume, and skills. Assess cultural fit. If cultural fit is questionable, the candidate should be a clear no-hire.

2) Praise those who uphold the culture. Come down quick on those who don’t.

Publicly compliment and praise those who positively contribute to the culture. Find ways to hold everyone responsible and accountable for the culture. You may even include adherence to cultural values in performance reviews. People who are negative influences on the culture need to go immediately. The long-term destructive impact on keeping a bad cultural fit will cost much more than any short-term pain resulting from making a change.

3) Uphold your cultural values.

Work at a company whose cultural values align with your own personal values. If you live your life in a way that is consistent with how the company operates, you have a good match. On the other hand, if company values are divergent from your own personal values, you will find it difficult to be a guardian of the culture.

4) Be a walking, talking example of your culture. Practice what you preach.

Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to talk about the culture or to ask others to abide by it. It’s another for you to live and breathe it. Operate in accordance to company values all the time. Practice and reinforce the culture every day.

Being a guardian of the culture presents you with a big opportunity. It is also a big responsibility. You personally help craft and mold the culture for yourself and your co-workers. A company’s culture takes shape and evolves based on the people on the team. This includes you.

There you have it. You indeed are the guardian
of the culture. Guard well.


  • Kelly Breslin Wright

    Board Director at Fastly, Lucid, Amperity, and Even. Instructor, UW Foster. Former EVP Sales, Tableau.

    Kelly is a Board Director at Fastly (NYSE : FSLY), Lucid, Amperity, and Even. She teaches Go-To-Market Strategy at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business. She also advises companies and is active in multiple organizations focused on promoting women on corporate boards. Kelly recently retired from her operational role at Tableau Software after 12 years. She joined Tableau as the company's tenth employee and first salesperson and helped grow Tableau into a multi-billion dollar public company as a key member of the executive team. She grew Tableau's worldwide sales and field operations from zero to $850m in revenue and managed over half of the global team as the company grew to 3400 employees. Kelly speaks and writes regularly on topics including sales, culture, high performance teams, operational excellence, diversity, scaling, and women in leadership.