John Spence is recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America, one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, and one of the Top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In my interview with John, we explore his thoughts on company culture.

Mike Goldman: Company culture is so extremely important, as you know. What are a few ways managers can establish and develop strong office cultures to keep employees motivated and engaged?

John Spence: There are a number of ways to foster a strong and motivating company culture. The very first step is to make sure that you create a sharply focused and extremely well-communicated description of the desired culture. Something that is easy to understand and is reiterated often via every communication channel in the organization. Another key to a strong culture is modeling of the desired attitudes, behaviors and actions by the senior management team. The key leaders must be a living example of the culture they want to create. Another important step is to reward people who do a wonderful job living the culture and deal decisively with anyone who actively disrupts the desired culture. In the end though, culture cannot be dictated and in large part it is controlled by the employees, so constant focus on and support of the culture is essential.


MG: In your book, Awesomely Simple, you write that the best organizations clearly  communicate their Vision, Mission and Values. What tips can you give a new leader who doesn’t have experience communicating at this level?

JS: The key to clearly communicating the vision, mission and values is simply to over-communicate them. Using different, but very similar terms, these items should be communicated via email, at all-hands meetings, at one-on-one meetings, in the company newsletter or blog, on the website… consistently sharing a clear and easy to understand vision for where the company is going, why that mission is so important and what core values will guide that journey for the organization.

MG: You’ve said that “You become what you focus on, and like the people you spend time with.” That seems like a true and powerful principle in life and business. How do you see that idea play out in high-performing business cultures?

JS: What you spend your time thinking about…what you fill your brain with – and who you choose to spend your time with will in large part determine what your future looks like a decade from now. This idea is just as true in an organization as it is for an individual. From a business standpoint this means getting the absolute best people you can get on your team and then focusing them on the vision, mission, values and core strategies of the organization. Great people focused on the core elements of the business and living the values of the organization is a fundamental factor for long-term success.

MG: You’re an author, and you also read and analyze a staggering number of business books every year. Are there any business ideas that you see repeated that you think everyone should take to heart? Do you see any books repeating ideas that you think should go extinct?

JS: Your question actually gets to the heart of one of the most important things I’ve learned in studying so many different business books, one of the key elements of expertise and strategic thinking is: pattern recognition. People who know a subject at a deep level have the ability to see patterns and understand trends before others recognize them, which gives them a distinct competitive advantage.

One idea that I have seen lately is the idea of simplicity. Obviously this is a topic that is important to me, since I built my career on making complex things very simple, but I now see many other authors and lots of organizations embracing the idea of simplification.

An idea I read about often which I would like to see go extinct is the idea of a leader being some sort of unique, visionary, charismatic Superman (and yes, most business books still infer that the vast majority of leaders are men). I have met many quiet and humble leaders who were exceptional. I’ve met incredible leaders who were female, gay, from other countries, with different skin colors… that were each superb in leading their organization successfully. Leadership is not about a certain type of person or personality, it’s about being a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.

To learn more about John Spence, visit