There is a story circulating on Facebook where a father tells his young son the secret of life: “Cows don’t give milk.” He goes on to explain that: “The cow does not give milk, you have to milk it. You have to get up at 4 in the morning, walk through the corral full of manure, tie the tail, hobble the legs of the cow, sit on the stool, place the bucket and do the work yourself. You milk her or you don’t get milk.”

I could tell a parallel story to the young supervisors about the secret of organizational culture. It doesn’t happen automatically either. You need to slog through uncomfortable conversations when you call out someone who violates group norms. You need to make time to show appreciation even if you do it late at night or at your own expense. You need to make tough choices to say no to tantalizing opportunities because they don’t fit within your vision. You need to fire strong producers whose behavior goes against the culture you are trying to create. And, yes, political manure is often involved.

Cows don’t give milk and effective cultures don’t just happen. Those who have been at the work for decades may make it look easy, or you may have the benefit of hiring into a well-established culture but, just as with milking, there is someone who needs to tend to it every day. Nothing worth having comes automatically.

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