Research from Duke University states, “An effective culture is like an invisible hand at work inside of each of the employees that helps to guide their decisions and judgments in a way that the overall corporation would desire it to be.”

That invisible hand is at work when every employee believes in the company’s story and strategy. Your story clearly defines your company’s purpose, positioning, value proposition and promise to customers. Your strategy clearly defines your vision, mission, values and the associated actions, investments and initiatives that are required to make that story a reality. When your story and strategy are clearly defined and documented, and your employees are fully immersed in your company’s culture, magic happens.

Winning cultures are formed when consistent words and actions, aligned with the corporate story and strategy, are constantly on display. When what is expected and what is acceptable becomes second nature to every employee. Everyone operates from the same sheet of music. Which is why one executive who participated in Duke University’s research said, “Culture is your sheet music to success. It is no different than an orchestra. You can hire the best trumpet players, oboist, violinist, and unless they are all playing from the same sheet of music at the right tempo, you will fail. If you have the trumpets playing too loud, the song won’t sound right. It is that delicate balance of getting people on the same page.”

The problem is most companies do a poor job of providing employees with the same sheet of music (a fully aligned story and strategy). As a result, employees lack clarity — clarity around what the company stands for, how it differs from the competition, and what its greater purpose is. They also lack clarity around what the story is that the company wants to tell in the market, and the promise it is making to customers.

Without clarity around the company’s story and strategy, there is nothing for the employee to connect with. There is nothing shared from department to department, or division to division. So, if you want to build a winning culture, start by ensuring your story and strategy are fully aligned and documented. Then infuse the story and strategy into the fabric of your company. Because remember — well-appointed offices and break rooms will fade with time. But, an emotional and cognitive connection with your company’s purpose and promise will last forever.