Tom was frustrated.  As the CEO, both he and his organization talked a lot about the importance of culture.  They knew that they had to provide a great place to work in order to be competitive in attracting and retaining their talent.  When he asked his leadership team about culture he was always told it was fine.

The problem was that he didn’t see the level of engagement that he wanted throughout the organization.  His other observation was that, while his leadership team said culture was a priority, working on it never seemed to make it to the top of the priority list.  As a leadership team, there were goals to be met, new products to implement, quality concerns; the list of higher priority items was never ending.  Culture as a goal never seemed to make the list.

Developing a culture may be one of the most challenging and least understood facets of managing an organization.  Culture means different things to different people, it’s incredibly hard to measure, and doing the right thing to improve it is hardly ever straightforward.

So what can Tom do to improve their culture?

  • Know what you want: The most effective leadership teams define a vision for what they want from their culture.  It you don’t know what you want your culture to look like, you won’t know how to get there.
  • Designate a culture champion: For things to stay visible, there needs to be a champion at the leadership table.   Admittedly we’re biased about this, but if HR isn’t represented at the executive level by someone who knows HR, it’s going to be difficult to keep this at the forefront. Having culture be one of the six diverse areas a leader is responsible for is probably going to keep it from ever being a true priority.
  • Start with your leadership team: Evaluate the culture within the microcosm of the leadership team.  Does the team represent the culture that you want for the whole organization?  If not, then you need to fix it before moving on to focus on the rest.
  • Be patient: Developing a culture takes time and patience.
  • Not everyone will always be happy: One of the most difficult things to understand about culture is that even the best cultures can’t make everyone happy every day.  What they can do is create work environments where people feel safe sharing their challenges and supporting each other as they face them.

Not certain where to start with developing or improving the culture at your organization?  Give us a call, we’d love to help.

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