IS YOUR LEADERSHIP CULTURE HEALTHY?
We read and hear so much about company culture yet many organizations don’t either understand what culture is or struggle to know how to create a healthy culture. However, culture is the single most important factor in driving your business success… it becomes your brand both internally and to external stakeholders. Many organizations fail at cultural transformation because the don’t address the one key variable that drives culture change…and that is – Leadership values.
So, let’s begin with what culture actually is: quite simply, it’s how the business is conducted on a day to day basis. It reflects the collective thoughts, values and behaviours of the CEO down to the entry levels of the organization. Culture is your brand because it is who you are and reflects what and “how” you do things and to a certain extent even is how your customers see you. We also know from research that strong, dynamic and innovative cultures out perform those that are less focused without a purpose.
So- if it’s that simple, why don’t organizations get it right and transform their culture to the desired outcome…. well- it’s not that simple. It’s actually quite a complex and sometimes a lengthy journey with many stakeholders and inputs. We can however, make this journey easier and certainly more successful by leveraging one critical area that will have the most impact on your culture- that is: your leaders. There are cultures off intimidation, protectionism, lack of accountability, poor performance and insecurity.… But at the heart of all these organizational culture descriptors lies the behaviours of your leaders. If your leaders don’t display the right values, motivations and behaviours you will likely create an environment of reprisal, intimidation and outright fear. Fear is the single most damaging factor in your culture and difficult to eradicate. Leaders are the driving force of culture and as we know, “people don’t leave organizations, they leave their leaders.” An example of how leaders can damage a culture is how they rate their employees. Leaders who rate employee’s performance solely on achieving business outcomes but neglect to rate employees on “how” they achieved their goals will undermine core values. By avoiding the “how” conversation, we actually do a disservice to the employee and equally send a negative message to all fellow employees, ultimately- damaging the culture. So, if you focus on your leadership values and behaviours and align those to the desired values of the organization, you will have made significant strides in transforming the organizational culture.
“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell.
John C. Maxwell, an American author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership, tells us that, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John outlines that there are five levels of leadership and only where leaders aspire to higher levels known as respect and reproduction- “where employees follow you because of what you have done for them,” will you have any chance of transforming the culture. We should all aspire to John’s 5 levels of leadership(1). See his leadership levels chart.
So… do you know how much your leadership is having an impact on your company culture? Often seen as too intangible, ambiguous and very difficult to measure many organizations shy away from measuring their leadership cultural health. However, an easy first step is to ask your employees to describe what values the organization currently exhibits and then ask what they would like them to be. Inherent in these value-based questions is, “how the leadership are actually behaving!” If there is greater alignment between current and desired values, the company will likely have higher employee engagement and have far less fear inherent in the culture, ultimately – being far more efficient and profitable.
So, in summary, companies that practice that “Culture is King” know that the more alignment between corporate values and leadership values/behaviour will drive winning cultures. These organizations understand that culture is the collective behaviour of all employees from the C-suite down…and they know that harnessing the collective personalities of their leaders can drive stronger business results. These companies know workplace culture can be measured and they take great strides in doing so, either through formal surveys and assessments or delving deep into employee data. Organizations that focus on those leadership behavioural/value gaps by default have better cultures!
Roy works with organizations to shape a higher performing culture and utilizes best practices to develop a differentiated employee value proposition. He specializes in cultural transformation and building organizational capability. Roy is committed to developing high performing leaders and as coach and mentor, is best known for energizing, engaging and enabling people to realize their full potential. With over 32 years of Human Resources experience, CEO’s and Senior Executives have sought his advice and counsel.
Maxwell, J. C. (2013). The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential. Center Street; Reprint edition.