The Power of a Constructive Culture

Recently, I read Three Impossible Promises, the story behind Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy (CGA). CGA was started by Lynne Ruhl and Mary Lee Tracy to provide a space for girls to learn competitive gymnastics. What made the story captivating and awe inspiring was the role that the Spirit played in its formation, the boldness of these women’s faith, and, against incredible odds, its ultimate success on the world stage.

Three Impossible Promises is also a story about love and how the power of love can be inculcated into an organization through its culture. Lynne’s heart told her that faith, kindness, and competition could co-exist, so she built a constructive culture through bible study, an unwavering commitment to human dignity, and perseverance. She built the culture on respect that comes from listening, trust that comes from integrity over time, removing distortions (false assumptions), and healthy confrontation (constructive conflict).

She found that constructive cultures are powerful. CGA not only created Olympic champions but it also drew people who needed healing. The need for more constructive culture was not lost on Lynne. She also started Perfect 10 Corporate Cultures, which continues to serve clients today.

The power of a constructive culture has also been replicated by research. The Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI), an instrument that is highly respected by industrial-organizational psychologists, was developed by Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. and J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D. of Human Synergistics. They found that organizations with Constructive cultures (i.e, those that manifest genuine concern for others, constructive conflict, and accepting and sharing responsibility) outperform organizations whose cultures are characterized by Passive/Defensive or Aggressive/Defensive styles.

I’m telling you the story of CGA, describing Perfect 10, and highlighting the research of Human Synergistics to make the point that organizations that seek true greatness will be more likely to achieve it if their operations rest on a constructive culture. Ultimately, organizations are formulated to manifest love in the world, so leaders who are concerned with divine purposes must work to develop and maintain a constructive culture in their organizations. Great companies are the result of people being committed to loving God and each other in the midst of task accomplishment.

What evidence do you have that your organization has a constructive culture? What do you do to maintain a constructive culture? How has the power of a constructive culture made a difference in the lives of staff members, customers, and other stakeholders?

Make a comment to share your stories about the power needed to build a constructive culture or the payoff you’ve seen from a constructive culture.

The cultural styles discussed here are adapted from R. A. Cooke and J. Clayton Lafferty, Organizational Culture Inventory® (Copyright © 1987 by Human Synergistics International) and are used by the author with permission.

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