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Jo Geraghty

Director

Who is responsible for the culture of your organisation?

Date added: 29th Mar 2019
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question! You see, organisational culture is a living, growing and ever-changing thing.

It’s affected by every action and interaction, every decision and potentially every person who comes into contact with it either directly or indirectly.

Whilst everyone does have a part to play in building and maintaining a strong culture, unless there is a guiding hand then the chances are that the culture will be less than ideal. And that guiding hand, that direction, has to come from the leadership team.

In fact, the FRC have now formalised this in their new Governance Code Principles which come into effect on 1 Jan 2019. (To read more on this download my recent paper Reporting On Culture.)

The Leadership Effect

Within the organisation itself the attitude and expectations of leaders can have a profound effect on the direction of the culture. In our book, Building a Culture of Innovation, we comment on the fact that if it’s not on the top team’s agenda, it’s not going to be in the culture.

Within the organisation itself the attitude and expectations of leaders can have a profound effect on the direction of the culture. In our book, Building a Culture of Innovation, we comment on the fact that if it’s not on the top team’s agenda, it’s not going to be in the culture.

That remark doesn’t simply apply to cultures of innovation. Quite frankly, the leadership team can draw up all of the policy statements, strategies and values that they like but unless they are prepared to ‘walk the walk’ then all they have done is waste their time on rhetoric.

3 key ways the leadership team can shape culture

  1. You can promote collaboration if you are prepared to work with others and listen.
  2. You can promote innovation if at the same time you don’t censure people for trying new things.
  3. You can promote great customer service if you target satisfied customers rather than volume of calls.

Quite simply, leading by example has never been more important than when you are trying to build and maintain a strong culture. But that is one side of the story. Example can only go so far and if you haven’t created the conditions which will enable your people to engage with the culture then you have failed in your mission.

Why building engagement is a crucial piece of the culture puzzle

The first stage in building engagement is to recognise that you need to take your people on the cultural journey which you yourself have been on. You may put a lot of hard work into devising the strategy and working out how that will translate into values, beliefs and behaviours but if you simply stand up and announce that tomorrow things are going to be different, your people are understandably going to be more than a little resistant.

So you have to take them on the journey, working to engage them in the change and to understand at a deep level not only what change will bring but the positive outcomes which will arise as the result of change. One way to do this is through the 4Es methodology.

The 4Es: Educate, Engage, Empower, Enable

  • Educate. Start off by educating your people not only as to the changes but also by helping them to understand why the change is important to them, the business and its customers.
  • Engage. Culture change is no longer something is done to people. Rather that you need to work with your people and in collaboration with them; helping them to assimilate new ethos into their working lives.
  • Empower. Through empowerment your people cease to be near necessary expenses within the business and start to be proactive supporters of the business; using their judgement to make decisions in line with the desired culture.
  • Enable. Building on empowerment, when you give your people the right tools such as communication, decision making and taking responsibility then they will not only embrace change but actively become supporters of a strong and positive culture.

Everyone has a part to play but now it is the leadership team who are ultimately responsible

Once you take people on the initial change journey you can start to devolve responsibility to them, deploying a self managed engagement programme. This will turn engagement into a self managed motivational journey, making your people the guardians of the culture. But make no mistake, no matter how engaged your employees, no matter how proactive they are in driving innovation and customer excellence, leaderships are still responsible for ensuring that the culture not only stays on track but also remains future fit and now they need to report on it annually too.

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