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How do you unleash the power of a positive corporate culture?

15 min read

Covid lockdowns provided a lesson in the importance of corporate culture, but what exactly did we learn?

The importance of culture to business success is no secret. The constant refrain of ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is no less potent despite its repetition.

In fact, the appreciation of culture and its importance has perhaps never been higher after the challenges of the global Covid-19 lockdowns.

The ties that bind

If one definition of culture is ‘the things that hold us together’, then a situation like the pandemic when we were held apart, but still had to continue to work together, exposed just what held us together in a common cause. Or, in some unfortunate instances, what a toxic culture can do to an organization’s reputation.

Now, we need to focus on what can be learned as we step into a future that despite moving on from the pandemic still remains fraught with disruption and uncertainty.

Culture equals action

One important aspect of culture is our shared values. Companies are fond of stating that they believe in values like trust, integrity, agility, and so forth. But these are not just values for values’ sake. They are what a company facing rapid changes in competition, demand, consumer and employee expectations, and technology, will need to survive.

Then, moving on from the value, how will organizations need to act if they are to make competitive sense of those values? A value without action is just a word on a page.

Adapting to change as normal

Let’s take agility, a hugely desirable corporate value if you are to adapt to change. So, what kind of action should flow to achieve it?

Ask a few simple questions. Does your organization really believe in a learning environment? Because individuals are going to have to learn and grow to become more adaptable. Some suggest linking performance rewards with training and development goals. Also, are there enough traineeships, workshops, coaching and stretch assignments?

Are you playing your role as a leader to foster agility? Are you constantly looking to drive that learning environment with enough delegation of tasks so your team is truly empowered to learn and develop their leadership skills?

Diversity of approach

Further, when problems come thick and fast, and varied, you can not reply with stock off-the-shelf solutions.

You need diverse minds who can deliver diversity of thought.

And you can’t reap the profits of that diversity if your culture fails to make people feel comfortable to speak up and voice opinions that may well be at odds to those of the management. This might be uncomfortable for some leaders who might be more used to hearing their own solo voice setting the tone and the direction.

Trusted and trusting

Another value that really is the backbone of working together successfully is trust. Hard won, and easily lost, trust is precious. Trust is why some leaders succeed and some never will.

Building trust, either face-to-face or remotely, takes deliberate and mindful actions.

You must show you care by looking after your team members. Not simply in pay and conditions, but as one human being caring about another. Only meaningful one-on-one conversations will enable you to understand what your team members really need to ensure their well-being.

“Communication is another trust-building tool. When things are volatile, people want to hear often from their leaders”, says Veronika Ulbort, a Partner at Odgers Berndtson’s Frankfurt office.

Clear and consistent messaging helps people understand where they fit in a changing situation. How will changes affect them, what is the organization doing?

Empowering your employees puts trust into action. This takes efficient communication, setting clear goals and expectations, and providing team members with the flexibility to achieve their goals.

No more silos, far more creativity

A culture of collaboration is the next piece in the jigsaw. An organization that encourages and enables cross departmental and functional working is one that makes the very best of the talent available and is more likely to come up with sustainable solutions to intractable problems. This requires a clear and singular focus and rationale, so that individuals see the value of involving others in their work.

It is important to create opportunities for cross-functional collaboration. This means assembling teams from across the organization and bringing them together to brainstorm on issues that use all their diverse perspectives to produce new ideas to benefit the business.

Remote working emphasized the importance of having the right digital platforms and tools for collaboration. Whilst no substitute for ‘in the room’ collaboration, these can help reach and engage a wider group.

It is worth reiterating that any culture takes its signals from the top.

No organization can pretend to exhibit agility, for example, if its leaders in the composition of their board and senior leadership teams do not exemplify that value, in their deeds and attitudes.

This helps to establish the right tone for the organization in the way they treat each other, and the organization they lead.

Agile? Really?

As we have said, people drive culture, and cultural change. The right people will drive it faster and further.

You can identify those with, for example, the requisite leadership agility to operate with resilience in demanding environments.

In fact, agility is one of the three essential dimensions of leadership we assess via our LeaderFit assessment model. This unique leadership assessment methodology combines personality data, behavioral patterns and leadership experts’ judgement to predict individual performance in targeted senior roles.

You get a total picture of an individual’s leadership performance and potential for growth. And, amongst other things, you get a clear answer to the question, “are they a cultural fit?”

If you want to discuss these issues and how they affect your organisational culture, or perhaps want advice on your own career trajectory, please get in touch.


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