Why Cultivating Culture First Is Essential for Success

Lessons from Culture Amp’s Founder and CEO, Didier Elzinga.

by Kaleena Murray

Hello out there, welcome! 

I can’t tell you how genuinely excited I am to write about my recent experience at Culture Amp’s Second Annual Culture First conference.  I’ve compiled a collection of quotes I heard over the course of my 2 days in San Fran that left me personally inspired, humbled, and energized to get back to our people here at Telamon and Amplified.  I’ll be sharing these quotes with some of my thoughts and hope for any of you reading, you find something that makes you stop and think about how you work, how you live, and who you’re striving to be.   

What you might not know is that I had the special opportunity to attend Culture Amp’s first annual Culture First conference last year, leaving me inspired to return.  Culture Amp’s Founder and CEO Didier Elzinga said something in his keynote last year that has stayed with me since, framing my own work identity and thinking about what it means to cultivate a culture first organization here at Telamon and Amplified. 

“We borrow our time at work from people much more important than the work is…it better be something meaningful, something you’re willing to hurt for.” 

Didier Elzinga

Wow, how does that not put things in perspective?  Creating a culture first organization is intentional with values at the core and a mission to build a better workplace that not only takes great care, but also amplifies their people to be their best selves.         

This year he did not disappoint.  His keynote flowed between the challenges of being a CEO, the power of storytelling, and the foundation that values lay in our organizations.  So often culture gets mislabeled with free coffee, beer, and beanbag chairs (yes, we have all of these, ha), but evaluating a culture requires a look beneath the surface. 

Culture is about the manifestation of your values: how they show themselves daily through actions, observable behaviors, and the stories we tell. 

“First we shape our values, then our values shape us.” 

Didier Elzinga

Ya, read that again.  You’ve uncovered values and wrote them down, check, but the next evolution of living your values is how they shape you; they should make you want to be a better version of you.  Model them and let them drive your experience.

Ok, one last thought I’ll pass along.  Didier said,

“Take 100% responsibility.”

 It sounds so simple on its own, and probably very familiar when you think back to your childhood.  It’s what he said after that really stuck to me. 

He challenged us to step to the line, but “don’t take 110% because you diminish someone else’s ability to step to the line, leaving them only with 90%.”  We are an organization with accountability at our core, which makes me think about how I hold myself and our organization accountable, but how we must leave space for others…