The impression many of us have is that successful Olympic athletes are the most competitive human beings on the planet. Yet, the small country of Norway has demonstrated why, paradoxically, competition is not the key to Olympic success. In fact, a competitive focus can be a barrier to Olympic gold, and we’ll discover how this and other ingredients are at work with the Norwegian Olympic team.

When it comes to shaping a thriving workplace culture, the influence of leaders on their organizations’ overall performance cannot be overemphasized. They serve as role models whose conduct and behavior are expected to align with their organizations’ values. While recent months have provided a deluge of executives and leaders who have lost their way, it’s a compelling time for change agents to help organizations shape their culture for a constructive future.

We are experiencing a historic shift in how people view the importance of culture and culture change. As a result, most CEOs and other top leaders will be expected to understand and deal with culture challenges proactively, or they will be considered both financially and morally negligent. Yes, financially and morally negligent. We are seeing top leaders held accountable for their own behavior and for unacceptable behavior deep in their organizations at a level we have never witnessed before. This is driven by a much greater culture shift in society—and it is long overdue.

At the recent Ultimate Culture Conference hosted by Human Synergistics, Trent Sunde of The Clorox Company gave a great presentation entitled, Going Beyond High Performance to Enable a Growth Culture. For me, the final takeaway from this case study is that for organizations to achieve exponential growth, they need to have leaders who coach. Yes, we still need managers to manage, but to move an organization forward and to achieve rapid momentum toward phenomenal growth, we need the entire workforce engaged. One leader cannot achieve this kind of success alone. It takes leadership at all levels and throughout the organization.

‘Tis the season for reflecting on the year that’s ended and planning for the year we’ve entered. A ritual that often results in…NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS! It’s known that New Year’s resolutions come with an abysmally low success rate—only 8% of people achieve them. Probably as low, if not lower, than the success rate of major organizational changes; such as mergers, reorganizations, and—near-and-dear to the readers of this blog’s hearts—culture change initiatives, which fail at a dismal rate of 70% -- a statistic that has not changed in over 30 years.

We received our best audience feedback ever after the 3rd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference. For the first time, one specific speaker insight stood out and was highlighted by numerous attendees. What was this insight about leadership and culture? Why did it resonate so much? I think it’s a sign of the times as culture transitions from a subject of interest for many to the sustainable driver of effectiveness that many feel compelled to nurture, develop or change.

How many of us like feedback? And how often does it help us versus make us feel disappointed or inadequate? Marshall Goldsmith has turned this technique on its head, providing a fun and helpful way to get answers to a problem or concern you are working on. Feedforward is a fun (yes, fun) and effective way to quickly get a lot of ideas around a challenge you're facing.

“I don’t know everyone’s name. I’m embarrassed because I think I should know their names.”

When I interviewed the president of a big insurance firm, I didn’t realize that I’d strike a nerve so soon after our conversation began. This was years ago, but my recollection is powerful.

I recently attended the Ultimate Culture Conference, produced by Human Synergistics. I was blown away by the amount of “real talk” by the expert speakers and panelists. From enabling growth culture, to creating positive change and humble leadership, there was one consistent theme throughout the conference: transformation. At one point, I heard someone ask: “What if changing 30 percent of one thing could improve 100 percent of everything?”

To my fellow entrepreneurs, take a look around. At the way things run. At the revenue stream. At the systems in place. From how you conduct business to the end result, is what you're doing really working?

I often ask the leaders for whom I consult two simple questions:

First, “Do you need positive feedback to do your best at work—like you need air and water?” Typically, a small percentage will say yes.

Second, I ask the question with a twist: “When you get an ‘atta-boy’ or ‘atta-girl,’ does it make a difference?” Almost everyone, every time, says yes!

Leaders leave gold on the table by not showing appreciation for their people. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s hugely impactful.