How healthy is your organization or team culture now? It’s time for an end-of-year check.
Commit to nurturing a resilient, healthy and sustainable culture as you look forward to a fresh start in the new year. why? Because a healthy and strong culture underpins everything else that can lead to your personal, team and organizational success.
Wise leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the company culture is strong and meets the needs of the business and stakeholders.
To succeed in 2022, make organizational culture a top priority. Align everything you do with a vision of the culture you need and want.
Take responsibility for setting the direction of culture
Sometimes leaders who support building healthy cultures misunderstand their role in the process.
You may talk about the importance of culture but often ignore it. Perhaps you think that culture development belongs to a particular department in your organization. Delegation is your game.
However, caring for the culture is the responsibility of the leadership.
Your mission is to become the sponsor, model, and visible promoter of a strong, healthy and sustainable culture. Like it or not, people throughout the organization will always look to leaders for guidance on what matters in the culture.
Leaders create the vision
Leaders are responsible for creating a vision for culture.
You can build enthusiasm for the vision by communicating frequently, invoking consistent and inconsistent behaviors, and acting as culture promoters at every opportunity.
Ask for support but don’t delegate ownership
You can call on other departments, such as Human Resources, to help out with nuts and bolts tasks such as measuring the current situation and addressing challenges. You will not achieve great results if you delegate all responsibility for culture to others.
You own it. Accept responsibility for culture.
Make culture a top priority
Where does promoting a healthy culture fit with your priorities?
Anti-shake culture is low on your priority list
You may genuinely want to strengthen your culture. However, you get stuck by repeatedly pushing it down your list of responsibilities.
You justify that long-term cultural reform and other issues are more pressing. Somehow you can’t get around the tasks that ensure your company culture is positive and strong.
Negligence can lead to trouble.
See how you manage your time and priorities
Consider how you manage your time and priorities when balancing culture with other tasks and responsibilities.
You may view culture as essential but not urgent. You would be right in assuming that creating and maintaining a positive, healthy culture is a long-term endeavour.
However, leaders often push culture-related tasks to the bottom of their priority lists. They have the best of intentions, but they constantly let the responsibilities related to culture slip away.
Don’t repeatedly postpone culture-related tasks
Nick, the CEO of a mid-sized PR firm, has committed his employees to addressing some of the cultural vulnerabilities that have surfaced during the pandemic.
Together with others on the senior leadership team, he assessed the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. He pledged to communicate evaluation findings and work with staff to develop and implement a plan to build on the positives and address the negatives.
However, although Nick held a meeting to share the results with employees, he left the appointment several times until employees became skeptical about the leaders’ commitments.
The problems worsened and the culture suffered setbacks as leaders put off their actions. Culture’s health deteriorated as he continued to stall.
When you commit to a cultural assessment, you must also make a commitment and keep it to follow up on results.
Make sure your actions match your words
Your actions should align with what you say you want in the culture.
Look for disconnect
When your behaviors lag behind your verbal commitments, employees are more likely to become skeptical.
Examine what you say you want for the culture and how your behavior supports or contradicts this vision. Hold yourself and others accountable for consistent behavior.
Suppose you declare that everyone’s contribution is vital to your culture. However, you continue to reward and recognize only the efforts and results of the same so-called stars every year.
Or imagine that you have declared that each person’s job is related to the purpose of the company. However, you and other leaders throughout the company only discuss these communications with those employees whose responsibilities directly affect the goals. You fail to recognize how others contribute to the company’s success.
Unless you address this disconnect, your vision of an inclusive and attractive culture will have no teeth.
Abandon the strict thinking that prevents words and actions from aligning
Closed minds sometimes prevent leaders from finding creative ways to support cultural commitments.
Consider an explanation of this issue.
John, the CEO of a mid-sized accounting firm, hired a corporate culture consulting firm to conduct a culture assessment last year. One of the critical issues that led to lower scores for inclusion and engagement was the perception that the company only recognized and rewarded efforts year after year for the few people who interacted directly with customers.
However, John could not give up the belief that the rewards should go to the company’s obvious stars. His hard-line thinking prevented him from aligning strategies with his desires for culture.
Why not envision new forms of recognition for significant accomplishments that may be less visible from the client’s work?
Creating the culture you want requires new thinking. Don’t give up too quickly as you look for new actions that align with your vision.
Right now, you’re probably thinking that this cultural stuff takes a lot of work. And you’re right. However, one of the important responsibilities of leadership is to create the conditions that provide long-term business success.
As you consider whether the effort is worth it, consider the evidence for how culture can make or break an organization.
Over the past two years, the news has reported numerous incidents of how toxic cultures have damaged a company’s reputation or incited employee unrest, strike action, and turnover.
Similarly, the research shows how companies with healthy cultures are better able to change and reap the rewards of greater financial success.
Preparing your company to implement strategies and achieve goals is job number one as you plan for the new year. A healthy culture creates a strong foundation. Thus culture should top your priority list for 2022. If you ignore it, you underestimate your ability to successfully lead your company into an uncertain future.