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Colleen Callander: Create a culture for success

Former Sportsgirl and Sussan CEO Colleen Callander outlines her strategy for creating a dynamic work culture. Callander is co-creator of a new program designed for professional and personal development.

Culture can be such a difficult concept to define.

It relates to people, purpose, and the organization itself, and how they are all intertwined. However, I think one of the most useful ways to describe culture is this: what people do when no-one is watching!

When I talk about culture, I am referring to a ‘way of life’. It encompasses beliefs, values, practices, attitudes, and behaviors that people share – not only in the workplace, but in many areas of our lives, including family life, community, hobbies and even sporting clubs.

From an organizational perspective, culture is the environment that we create for our people. It plays a powerful role in their work satisfaction, retention, relationships, performance, and progression.

Creating a great workplace culture impacts everything from performance to how an organization is perceived, both internally and externally. Building a great culture in your organization will help you enhance and retain top talent and improve levels of employee engagement, productivity, and performance.

In my experience, creating a positive culture makes for happier people who are more committed, have greater job satisfaction, perform better and are more likely to stay and grow with the organization.

Positive culture is something so simple that we all recognize it as important, yet it’s difficult for many organizations and leaders to implement.

We have all heard senior leaders talk about their competitive advantage as being their strategy, their product, their processes, or even their HR policies. While this might be true to some extent, I believe an organization’s biggest competitive advantage is its people and the culture and environment they work in.

More and more senior-level executives are starting to see the immense value and benefit of cultivating a strong culture.

According to a study by BW Businessworld, 92 per cent of leaders from successful companies believe that workplace culture has a high impact on a company’s financial performance and is critical to achieving financial goals.

Creating a culture of openness, empowerment, collaboration, trust and investing in people I believe is the foundation of a thriving organizations of the future.

Creating a great culture is not easy – but it is worth it.

Whether you’re a CEO, entrepreneur, senior executive, board member or head of buying, a great culture starts with you. If you are responsible for people you are also responsible for culture.

There is no magic pill for a great culture, and I certainly can’t give you the perfect recipe in half an hour. Culture is not something you can buy off the shelf, nor will a few affirmations or posters around the office do the trick. Creating a great culture is not about free lunches, free parking, or a free pass to the gym, although all these things are nice to have.

These are more like perks – whereas creating a strong culture is something you must work at every single day. Culture must be taught and learned, and the kind of culture leaders create in an organization will determine how employees describe where they work, how connected they feel and how they see themselves as part of the organization and its future.

All of this might make it sound like culture is a lot of work – and I’m going to be honest, it is. But it’s also a very worth while investment because the dividends and pay-off of a positive, productive, and empowering workplace culture are immeasurable.

There is no easy road to creating a great culture. Each culture is unique to an organisation, just like each of us are unique as individuals. It takes commitment, and consistency, but with the right strategies in place you can encourage a more productive and positive culture to flourish within your workplace.


1. Giving everyone a voice and welcome new thinking

2. Invest and upskill your people

3. Encourage relationship-building

4. Push people beyond their comfort zone

5. Cultivate open, honest communication

6. Live and breathe your core values

7. Promote positivity and collaboration

8. Reward effort, results, and teamwork

9. Treat people equally and celebrate diversity

10. Share a clear vision and purpose

11. Focus on collaboration

12. Encourage ‘life in balance’

13. Offer a career path

14.Create healthy competition

15. Be clear about your expectations

Culture starts with you!

Colleen Callander and Shannah Kennedy have joined forces and have created a program called “The Masterplan” for optimal living personally and professionally.

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