A Two Legged Stool Doesn't Work

“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” – Vern Dosch, Author, Wired Differently

A Two-Legged Stool Doesn't Work

Leadership, culture and strategy are the trio that directs the organization toward excellence. It’s essential that they be in sync with one another.  Many leaders focus on strategy at the expense of leadership and culture.  A 3-legged stool will topple if only 2 legs are strong. 

Organizational culture is defined in many ways.  My definition is a system of shared assumptions, values, belief and behaviors that governs and shapes how employees get work done in an organization.  It’s the way it feels as you walk into different businesses.  At its worst, culture can be a drag on productivity.  At its best it is an emotional energizer.

So what’s the cost when a leader isn’t upholding the organization’s values?  It can certainly impact their ability to drive results.  Poor leadership can reinforce the wrong values, behaviors and attitudes. 

They can create toxic cultures and discord between how a company is viewed and how it actually operates.  It can create confusion with staff who sees something written on paper and something else being demonstrated.  Many studies have been done that show leadership can have a measurable impact on results.  Leadership and culture can give a competitive advantage to your business.

A leader needs to…
Fit within the culture and model desired behaviors.  A leader sets the example for the organization and shapes the culture with their words and actions daily. 

Be self-aware and intentional-As a leader you need to understand who you are and have a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.  Your behaviors have an impact, regardless of your intention.

Connect with employees on an emotional level.  Put the cell phone down and give your team your undivided attention.  Reach out to others, engage them in discussion, and actively provide feedback.  If you lean more towards introversion, this is a skill you will need to develop.

Instead of trying to change the culture itself, which can be a job of herculean effort, try changing the behaviors within the culture. Behaviors are tangible and measurable.  Culture change does tend to follow behavior change.  What are the behaviors you want in the new culture?  Instill those in your leaders and measure them.

Focus on a select group or the opinion leaders in a certain area.  Pick individuals who are likely to model the behaviors and are likely to spread them.  Focus on specific behaviors that if put into action would have a great impact. 

Find a few things that positively effect business performance.  Maybe that’s how individuals speak with customers or how they are solving a client issue the first time.  Translate the new behaviors into critical steps that an employee can take.  Check in that they feel good about these new behaviors so you are tapping into their emotional commitment.

Companies can gain a competitive advantage when they focus on trying to change a few specific behaviors, tap into employees’ powerful emotions and enlist influential opinion leaders.

When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”   - Kenneth Blanchard