The Power of Corporate Culture

Posted by Tom Squeri on Mar 18, 2015


Having just celebrated fifteen years with Graniterock, fourteen in my prior role as Vice President and General Counsel and the past year in my new role as CEO, I started thinking about my first day of work with the Company.  I arrived very early that day and found Bruce Woolpert already busy at his desk (I would eventually learn that trying to arrive earlier or leave later than Bruce was an exercise in futility).  

After a brief welcome, Bruce showed me to my office and asked if I had any questions.  As General Counsel  I was responsible  to ensure the Company was in full compliance with the law, so I asked Bruce, “When someone here refuses to follow my legal advice—refuses to do the right thing required by the law—how would you like me to handle that? Should I contact you first or deal with it directly?”

Bruce turned to look at me and said, “No Graniterock person will ever do that.”  Then he smiled and headed out the door.

I wondered to myself how any CEO could be so naïve. In my career as a construction lawyer I had dealt with a wide range of clients and knew very well that not all employees of a company are keen to follow legal advice.  Some people view the law as an option to follow or ignore, depending on the circumstances and the chances of getting caught.  It concerned me to discover that my new CEO had such an optimistic and unrealistic view of human behavior.

Well, that was my first day at the Company and I had much to learn about Graniterock.  I didn’t yet understand the power of a corporate culture to drive away those who don’t hold the group’s core values.  During the fourteen years I served as Graniterock General Counsel, never once did any Graniterock person ever resist my advice to do what was right.

I have sometimes since wondered how Bruce could have made such an unequivocal (and absolutely accurate) prediction about the behavior of Graniterock People.  Part of his confidence was surely rooted in his unwavering optimism.  But more than that, I think Bruce knew the strength of the Graniterock culture he helped create.  He knew how the right culture is a leadership tool that works without rest, continually encouraging desired behaviors and resisting the undesirable. Building and nurturing the right culture in an organization is a primary leadership responsibility, because the right culture aligns and motivates people to achieve the organization’s goals.  Bruce led the building of that culture at Graniterock, and had absolute confidence that it would result in people consistently doing the right thing.

Bruce’s brief answer on my first day on the job fifteen years ago is just one of the many lessons in leadership he left for me and for the Graniterock Team. They are lessons we use each day to build a great Company.

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