Get a couple of books under your belt, and people ask you a lot of questions (and expect answers). Lately we have been asked about the skills needed for organizations to grow. I struggle to answer it, because the answer isn’t that simple. It’s easy to throw around buzzwords like, “ideation,” and everyone’s favorite, “synergistic growth.” The problem is with the question being asked. Organizations don’t have skills. The people in that organization do.

Organizations have culture, not skills

Let me repeat that. Organizations don’t have skills. They have a culture, which can be defined as “this is how we do it here.” The culture can be one where it’s all about being the biggest, or the best, or growing by beating the competition. But the company itself does nothing but exist. Every decision (good or bad) and every action is determined by the culture of the organization.

But how decisions get made, what the people in the organization decide to do or not do, that’s up to human beings.  People have skills that can be selected for, honed, and learned with the aim of creating the culture that helps that organization grow.

If an organization did have a skill, then it would be recognizing the skills and desired behaviors their people need to create the culture that moves everything in the desired direction, and then acting on those needs. Culture determines desired behavior, which requires certain skills.

What skills give us the behaviors we want?

IN general, there are three areas people need to execute effectively. The exact balance of those skills depend on the culture you want your organization to have, but basically they involve these three:

  • Business skills. These include big-picture skills that the business’ leaders need to focus on such as business planning, decision making, as well as recruiting effectively and managing the expenses and investments. How the leadership views risk management, for example, will have a huge impact on the culture of the company. Some focus on being safe, others accept failure as part of learning. All of that will support the amount and kind of growth you are aiming for.
  • Leadership and communication skills. How will you train, inspire, motivate and manage the performance of the people who make up the organization? Communication skills, coaching, delegation and being a proactive decision maker are all necessary, whether someone has the title of “leader” or not. While some of these behaviors are innate to particular people, they can all be taught. Teaching those skills and making them core behaviors then determine the culture.
  • Technical skills. At the end of the day, what people know they should do is only part of the problem. They must execute the thousand and one tasks necessary to be successful. Whether the skill is handling a return at a sales counter or using a million-dollar piece of equipment, the more people understand how to do something in a way that supports the culture, how they will be supported, coached or led, then exactly how to do a task will be relatively easy to define. Teaching them what to do, and how, is a logical extension of why the task needs to be done.

Changing how we think about something often is half the job of determining how to do it. Start by asking the first question: what kind of company do we want to be? 

The next step is to then define what are the mindsets, actions, and daily behaviors that will support that goal. Giving people the guidance, and then the skill development to excel will come next. Then they need to execute that plan.

Et voila, you have a culture focused on the growth needed.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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