Corporate culture can be created in one of two ways: by intention or by default. The corollary is that if you don’t create a positive corporate culture by intention, you may end up with a negative corporate culture by default.
We were once called into a company to help a brand new leader because he had walked into a mess. His predecessor had, through poor behaviors and low expectations, fomented a culture of finger-pointing, siloes, and disengagement. The new leader wanted to change all that.
We shared with him a key insight made by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done: “The culture of a company is the behavior of its leaders. Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate. You change the culture of the company by changing the behavior of its leaders.”
Accordingly, we gathered all the members of the leadership team together and spent a few days understanding what their corporate culture was, pinpointing why it was that way, and envisioning what they wanted it to be. This visioning process was critical: unless you know where you are going, it is impossible to get there.
When the visioning process was complete, we had a set of values that the leaders agreed would characterize their ideal corporate culture. The leaders were then tasked with identifying leadership behaviors that would demonstrate, support, and encourage each of those values. These became the “rules of engagement” for the leadership team, and they committed to holding each other accountable to living out those behaviors on a daily basis.
The result? That company’s culture was turned around completely and today the company continues to exhibit the values that they agreed upon. The leadership team approached the question of corporate culture with intention and they got exactly what they wanted!