While there are many definitions of what makes great company culture, I tend to focus on it beingthe shared values, beliefs, or perceptions held by employees within an organisation.If you look at this from another angle it can be defined as ‘How things get done around here’ or maybe even better ‘How things get done around here when the leaders aren’t present’.
Every company has its own unique culture, it’s just that many don’t know what it is.
10 ways business leaders influence culture
Start the process
Define and live the values
Establish and champion the purpose
Walk the walk
Be the change that you want to see
Leadership vs. management
Hire the right people
Define clear roles and responsibilities
Set and monitor goals
How do leadership skills influence the values of an organisation?
Many leaders don’t realise (or accept) that culture is their main (only?) responsibility so they leave it to develop without input. Leaders need to acknowledge that - like it or not - they set the cultural agenda and are responsible for curating how it builds in a company.The definition of ‘How things get done around here when the leaders aren’t present’ makesthechallenge even greater since itneeds to exist independent of them.
If leadership is aboutculturethen how do leaders influence the direction it takes? So, without further ado, here are my top 10 ways leaders can shape culture.
When a company is in its infancy, the culture that develops will be that of the founders. It’s often one that values a ‘can-do’ attitude.Well funded, high-growthstartupsmay be able to spend time on culture building but for most it tends to happen naturally and doesn’t take too much effort. Take care though as thisis about the age of a company notitssize– as a company evolves, so does the roles of its established leaders.
2. Define and live the values
As a business becomes established the leaders need to be more deliberate about defining the values that a company operates under. It’s likely that the values will be those of theleadersbut they need to document and share them as new people join the company. Hopefully it goes without saying that they must live the values if they are to be taken seriously.
3. Establish and champion the purpose
Equally as important as the values is acompany'spurpose. People come together around a shared purpose to make a business. A purposedoesn'thave tobe grand like Google’s ‘Organise the world's information’.
When we founded Breathe our purpose was to ‘create a better way for small businesses to manage their people’. Theleaders'role is to help the company stay on track to achieve the purpose.
4. Walk the walk
#1-3 are all well and good if the business is a start up but when a leader is working in a more establishedbusinessthey need to accept that the way they walk into the office can influence the culture.
I think it was Lee Iacocca, former CEO of General Motors, who said he could influence thecompany'sshare price just by his day-to-day attitudes and mood. For example, he's quoted the effects of appearing worried in front of staff when riding the lift to his office in the morning. This doesn’t mean that we always need to be upbeat and forgo authenticity, but if we try to reassure staff that all iswell yet walk around under a big black cloud then people will assume the worst.
5. Be the change you want to see
Company cultures need attention, especially if they’ve been neglected. Leaders need to take a lesson from Gandhi and lead by example if they want to strengthen or change acompany'sculture.
Ifa leader takestheir people on a journey then it’s the job of a manager help them get there. Every business needs a balance of both and it’s the job of a leader toget the balance right.
7. Hire the right people
Leaders set the hiring agendaand need to ensure thatthe recruitment process deliversrecruitsthatare a good cultural fit. I do a second interview with everypotential recruit atBreatheand my one goal is to assess cultural fit– the hiring manager will only pass candidates onto secondinterview if they feel there is a good fit with the role.
8. Define clear roles and responsibilities
Once a person has started at an organisationit’s essential thatthey ‘get’ how theirrole will help theorganisationdeliveragainst itsmission andobjectives. It’s something that needs constant reinforcementas it’s easy forpeople toget lost in the day to day.
9. Set and monitor goals
This is a big pictureitem but might be the most important of all. If a leader doesn’t have a clear idea of where the business is heading,then how can they expect their people to head in the right direction?
Leaders need to connect with their peopleemotionally. Gone are the days when managers keep their distance andfocus on the metrics. People need to know that their leaders care about them and that they take rational decisionsbased on sound ethicalprinciples.