The Culture Club: Appreciating it and Making it Work for You

by Tony Baisley

Culture. Now there’s a loaded word. Culture exists all around us, defining us as a country; a state; even when we say “I live in South Minneapolis.” It permeates our social circles and most definitely informs our work environments – for better or worse. Defined as a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business), culture is developed, over time, through shared experiences that slowly, but surely, contribute to a shared identity.

TBFor someone whose first inclination is to say he does NOT like change, I certainly have experienced my fair share over the years. Maybe it’s the Public Relations/Marketing/Events career path I’ve chosen but I’ve had the good fortune to experience some tremendous cultures over the last 18 years. From my first PR agency on the 27th floor of Foshay Tower, to being on Fallon Worldwide’s team during its heyday (circa early 2000’s), my experiences with each organization’s distinct culture – interacting with managers and being inspired by colleagues – have helped inform my own growth and understanding of how to be an effective communicator.

From my time as an Account Executive at the Maccabee Group, I developed the realization that bold ideas need to be translated into thoughtful planning and strategic follow-through to achieve meaningful results. Moving on to the University of Minnesota Foundation, I was inspired by Linda Keillor Berg, who taught me the value of mapping out creative communications strategies to better articulate what it is my organization stands for (i.e., the “voice”) to become even more relevant and impactful to our audiences.

In my role as Communications Director for both the U of M’s Center for Spirituality & Healing and the School of Nursing, I learned the necessity of diplomacy and relationship-building skills necessary to reach across business units to create successful collaborations. Last year, working on Target Corporation’s first-ever international expansion into Canada, I joined a well-oiled team that was daily troubleshooting issues that inevitably arise when expanding one’s brand into another culture (and language!).

Today, As Director of Communications for Hammer Residences, I’m still learning about our 90-yearTJ history of serving people with developmental disabilities. I’ve already experienced Hammer’s strong culture, underscored by the commitment of colleagues who’ve been loyal to Hammer for most of their careers, in large part because of the relationships they’ve developed with the men and women we support. Such loyalty is impressive and demonstrates a strong appreciation for the culture that is uniquely Hammer’s.

There’s a great TED Talk that I find inspiring. Author Simon Sinek tells us: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Utilizing some well-known brands, Sinek points out how certain individuals and companies communicate more effectively than the rest – and it has to do with embracing their strong cultures. Check it out, it’s sure to make you think about your own work culture.

TJAECan you change your culture? While it is possible, over time, so much can be learned from appreciating – and thoughtfully supporting – the culture you already have. Thankfully, it’s a beautiful challenge (i.e., privilege) each of us has!


  1. Tom Russeth

    Great article Tony! Enjoyed reading it!

  2. Julane Rose


    Thanks for giving us a peek into your professional history. Love your comments on culture – powerful stuff… looking forward to viewing that TED talk. Hammer is so lucky to have you on board! 🙂


  3. rosemary fish

    A beautifully written article, Tony.


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