Four CEOs Who Have Created the 'Coolest' Work Culture


We all want to enjoy our work.  When we realize that we will end up spending more of our time at work than with our families, we have high expectations for our job, our office, and our colleagues.

Some companies, like Google, will lure employees with the "cool factor":  come and work for us and you meet cool people, eat great food, can play video games, and you can even scooter around the campus.  They make work look like play, blurring the lines between being on the clock and off the clock. One office architect noted that "When your office resembles all the places that you go to escape work, maybe there is no escape from work itself.”

But instead of focusing on all of the shiny gadgets to make us forget that we are actually at work, should a company focus on creating a culture where people feel appreciated, valued, and supported in what they do? One study of leading CEOs found that employees value CEOs who invest in corporate culture. One executive consultant noted, "Employees want to work at places where they can grow their skills and flourish in ways other than picking up a pay check."

The leaders we have studied have done just that: they have focused on helping employees grow their skills and flourish in their careers by participating in the mission of the firm.

1. Bob Lintz:

Lintz built a cool culture at General Motors Parma where management and union employees work together for the good of the plant. His positive culture still endures after his retirement. Now, he serves on the board of trustees for the Cleveland Clinic and shares his passion for developing employees and empowering them to make a difference for patients. When you watch this video for the Cleveland Clinic, we guarantee it will make you want to work there.

2. Ted Castle:


This CEO had a vision for Rhino Foods that would not only make the most excellent cookie dough for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream possible, but would transform employees from going through the motions to making important contributions to the bottom line through his Game Plan. Ted has gone from educating and empowering employees to creating an innovative Working Bridges program to help his employees beyond work in their own personal finances.

3. Brig and Jon Sorber:

The family founders of Two Men and a Truck (TMT) are focused on making the moving experience a positive one for both its customers and its movers.  Through their training at Stick Men University, their movers are well-prepared to make a potentially emotional day as smooth as possible.  Other ways that TMT cultivates a great culture are giving back to the community through moves to worthy causes and money from each move, along with its Movers for Moms program each Mother’s Day.

4. Sheldon Yellen:

We all learned more about Belfor Restoration when Sheldon Yellen revealed himself as the Undercover Boss who cared deeply about his employees. His appearance on the Undercover Boss episode increased Belfor's recognition as a high quality employer and greatly increased the number of job applicants. One of the ways Sheldon positively influences the corporate culture of Belfor is by hand-writing birthday cards to every single employee. Knowing that your CEO personally remembers your birthday goes a long way towards building a strong yet intimate corporate culture.

These are just a few of the examples from leaders we have studied over the years who have built a culture of trust that makes employees themselves feel cool. When you are asking yourself what makes for a cool corporate culture, ask yourself what is most important to you: Cool gadgets and snacks? Or feeling like you are valued for the contribution you make?

Karen and Aneil Mishra are business school professors and authors of Trust is Everything (2008) and Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012)