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How To Design and Implement The Optimal Workplace Culture

This article was based on episode 90 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get a free e-book version of Culture Is Everything Book when you become a member at

When a team exudes optimism, passion and dedication to their organization’s values and mission, their momentum becomes contagious. A vibrant work culture lifts morale and improves both productivity and the overall quality of an organization’s products or services. This type of high-quality culture does not happen randomly. It is created and sustained when people share a common purpose and support each other in bringing that purpose to life. All of this takes time, discipline and a robust system.

Tristan White provides an insightful and clear formula for infusing a workplace with focus, tenacity and unwavering passion. He is the founder & CEO of The Physio Co, a unique healthcare business that has received multiple accolades as a best employer in Australia. It earned the number one ranking on BRW’s list of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work in 2014, and ranked as one of Australia’s 50 Best Places to Work for ten consecutive years from 2009-2018. The Physio Co has also been named one of the Best Workplaces in Asia from 2015-2018. Tristan’s practical, easy-to-follow approach is helping leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners understand how to build a world-class culture as a foundation for having a great place to work.


According to Tristan, there are four “secrets”, or critical parts, for building a unified team and a meaningful culture in which people feel empowered and valued.

#1: Discover the Core.

To start, the organization must have a short, sharp and compelling statement describing why the organization or team exists. This is the purpose statement the team rallies around. In addition to the purpose, the organization needs a set of three to five core values or guidelines that describes how the team performs. These guidelines should be action statements such as, “Find a better way,” rather than “innovation,” in order to better describe what the value encompasses. A minimum number of three guidelines is necessary for adequately describing team behaviors, while keeping to a maximum of five makes the guidelines easy to remember.

#2: Document the Future.

A vision inspires people to make meaningful contributions. A powerful vision consists of two parts: a long-term, ten-year projection and a short-term, three-year milestone. The “ten-year obsession” vision serves as a North Star that guides the organization toward big, common goals. The three-year “painted picture” vision, serves as a stepping stone toward the ten-year objective, making it easier to see how the organization will get from current reality to aspired success. It also creates valuable opportunities for celebrating milestones and recognizing accomplishments along the way.

#3: Execute Relentlessly.

Continuously check to ensure that you and your team are living by your system of purpose, values and vision. Safeguard your culture from dilution by creating a robust recruiting system for attracting and recruiting people who will be a good cultural fit.

#4: Show More Love.

Encourage your team to act kindly towards clients, teammates and themselves. Leaders and managers must model these behaviors while also actively looking for and recognizing team member actions that are praiseworthy.


Most team meetings are met with groans and reluctant participation. Yet team meetings can be a wonderful way to build connections amongst team members while improving productivity.Here are some strategies for running a team meeting that is so purposeful and empowering that your meeting will take on an energy of its own.

  • Meet for a “daily huddle” to help keep team members connected to what other teammates are working on and inform them about what the manager may be planning. A daily meeting encourages each team member to feel valuable and essential.

  • Keep the meetings short and sharp. Each meeting should last no more than 15 minutes.

  • Choose an unusual and memorable time to start, such as 9:27, or 11:02.

  • Encourage people to contribute according to this agenda:

  1. All: What are you working on today? Share three main priorities;

  2. All: Where are you stuck, and how can we help you? (Do NOT try to resolve or address problems during this meeting. Instead, have a follow up with only those who need to be involved.);

  3. One person: Share a story or nominate a team member for living a core value. Sharing stories like these will reinforce the team’s core values as they stay top of mind and earn people praise.

  • At the beginning of each week include an additional question such as “how was your weekend” to encourage people to share what happened outside of work. Create a higher level of trust by leaving space for news that might be less positive.

The team huddle format works best in groups of between six and ten people. If your team is larger, Tristan encourages dividing into smaller groups to keep the meetings short. Over time, you may notice the team taking ownership of these huddles and even holding them when the team leader is out of the office!


Expressing love to employees is energizing and inspirational, both to those giving and receiving it. Simple acts of kindness and thoughtful gestures of caring help build a connected culture. It requires deliberate effort to build relationships, but this solid foundation is critical in moments of personal challenge.

A good leader does not assume that a negative change in performance or lowered energy level is a work-related problem. Often, employee performance is a reflection of issues occurring in life outside of work. Stay alert to these changes and reach out when someone is acting unusually. Let them know you’re here to support them should they decide to ask for help.

Tristan encourages teams to keep a discretionary budget for small gestures that express concern and offer congratulations. For example, sending a gift of flowers to a team member’s home during a difficult time can lift spirits, create comfort and sustain company loyalty. In the same vein, recognize the milestones that occur in people’s personal lives. A handwritten card that says, “Happy Anniversary. I can’t believe we’ve been working together for a year. I really appreciate your work,” may create a moving and memorable effect.

Sharing pictures is an exceptionally potent way for people to connect and create a sense of camaraderie. It’s especially important for virtual teams because images create a deep connection that transcends words. Include photos of vacations, family, and weekend activities in your chat or messaging tool as a way to bring people closer together.

Apply the four secrets to your team and build a culture in which people thrive.


Instagram: @tristanjwhite

Get a free e-book version of Culture Is Everything when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at Purchase episode guides at to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.

This article was based on episode 90 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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