I recently facilitated a meeting of our non-profit board and my favorite quote of the retreat came from Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge. Jim said “If individuals do not feel they can actualize their values in an organization, they will not be fully committed to the organization’s goals.” As Maslow pointed out early in the twentieth century, if the environment is right, people will thrive. But the environment has to be right for them– and every organization’s culture is different.

For individuals, it means choosing organizations that align with their values (you can probably name the organizations that seem to “fit” you well, be it workplaces or stores or churches or schools). The message to leaders is simple: if you want your employees, volunteers, and stakeholders to be fully committed to your vision, you need to create a culture where they can be authentic- truly themselves. When people are authentic, they don’t hold back, and they give discretionary effort to the organization. Discretionary effort translates into higher engagement, increased productivity, and better outcomes. It also means seeking out people who will thrive in the culture you’ve created (and sometimes helping those who don’t fit find one that does).

In Good to Great, Collins described the importance of finding the right seat on the bus for employees- meaning the job that is going to fit their unique skills and talents. Yet it’s equally important to find the right bus. Think about your organization (and your stores, schools, and churches)… are you on the right bus?



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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