The Advancing Leadership Blog

Leading a Winning Organization

by Catherine Osler, CEO of TEC Canada

Catherine Osler knows how to lead organizations that win. She started as a young entrepreneur in Calgary, building a corporate communications firm that served the oil and gas industry. Her company was a runaway success and Osler quickly discovered she needed expert guidance and enlightened encouragement from the right people – which is when she joined TEC Canada. Her years as a member greatly contributed to the growth and expansion of her organization until it reached its pinnacle as Western Canada’s largest corporate and marketing communications firm. The value of the TEC model drove her next career choices and Catherine took on the role of group Chair. Today in her current position as CEO she once more is at the helm of a rapidly growing company with one of the most unique corporate cultures in the country.


After spending only 30 minutes in an organization and dialoguing with employees, you can describe the culture. Companies that create positive organizational cultures consistently outperform those where the work environment is not a leadership consideration.

Organizational culture is a direct reflection of leadership. Whether that culture is a conscious projection strategically cultivated in their organization or simply an unconscious reflection of the leader’s personality, the head of a company sets the tone for the workplace. From the subtle way a CEO or president goes about their routine to how they react to a crisis, they are determining the behavioural norms of their organization.

“CEOs need to understand that the people around them interpret their behaviour through what they do and do not stand for,” says TEC Canada speaker Don Schmincke. “The leader’s actions profoundly shape the culture of the organization.”

How does your leadership influence your organization? Choosing a leadership style can be a balancing act between empowering and dominating your management team and employees. In other cases, leadership must reflect what the company needs.

Reflecting on the type of leader you are and contrasting that with the type of leader your organization needs you to be can provide valuable insight into where your journey of professional growth will lead. Absorb the best qualities from each of the leadership styles and employ them where they are most advantageous.

“A true leader is always learning,” adds Don Schmincke. “They seek out new information through formal and informal settings. They do not discourage constructive feedback and disagreement.” Adapting your leadership style and changing it to face organizational challenges is part of being a successful leader.

So how do you design a winning culture? Identifying your leadership style and how that can mould your organization is a significant step. Begin intentionally managing your organizational culture with four steps.

  1. Core values and shared vision – If your employees do not know where they are going, how can they take you there? Develop your brand and vision and share that with your staff. An understanding of core values will facilitate your management team’s decision making process more than a procedures manual ever could.
  2. Proactive communication – Sharing is vital. Utilize both internal and external communication channels to open up the exchange of information within your company. Increase the frequency, urgency and the importance of the messages you are using with employees and stakeholders. Open a communication channel for your employees to raise concerns. Potentially problematic issues can be dealt with in their infancy.
  3. Recognition – Develop an ongoing program to recognize employees who have made important contributions for the organization. Regular appreciation fosters positivity. Recognition can be financial compensation, company-wide acknowledgement or even a personal note of gratitude.
  4. Effective hiring – Spend time on recruiting talent for your organization. The right staff will demonstrate the drive, energy and focus on results that your organizational culture needs and your company requires for success.

Infuse each of the steps towards creating a winning organizational culture with your own management style. Your company has its own brand but so does your leadership.

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