In today’s business world, leadership and culture are very often mentioned in the same breath. In most organizations, leadership is seen as the most important factor when it comes to building a company’s culture. In fact, there are many who believe that leadership is what makes or breaks a company’s culture. This is because a company’s culture is the sum of its leadership practices. Which, in turn influence the way employees behave and think about their work.
The concept of culture is not uncommon in the business world. Most leaders and organizations acknowledge the importance of culture in the workplace. However, many leaders tend to think that culture is a passive thing that just happens and then affects results, which leads them to believe it is out of their control. The reality, however, is that culture is a very active force in an organization, especially if we’re talking about high-performance.
While there are many factors that contribute to the development of organizational culture, here are three ways leaders can foster a high-performance culture in their organizations:
Model The Culture You Want in The Organization:
The most important thing you can do to influence your culture is to model it. It’s not enough to tell others what they should do — they should also see you doing it. Walk your talk! This means that your actions align with the values, beliefs, and behaviors that will help your organization reach its goals. It also means being authentic — don’t just say the right thing; do it. The best way to influence organizational culture is by being an example of what it looks like in action.
- If you want your employees to be transparent, then don’t play politics or withhold information — be open and honest when communicating with them.
- If you want your employees to have a growth mindset, then don’t berate them when they make mistakes — instead, help them learn from the experience.
- If you’re a leader who talks about servant leadership but doesn’t lead by serving others, your team will see right through you and lose faith in your ability to lead them effectively.
- If you want employees to innovate and collaborate, don’t just say they should — show them how by being an active participant in the process yourself.
- If you want them to be innovative and collaborative, don’t just ask them for ideas or let them know that innovation is encouraged — actually encourage them by giving them the tools, encouragement, and space needed for true innovation.
It’s not enough for you to talk about what your company values. If employees don’t see those values reflected in everything from your communication style to your hiring practices and performance review processes, they’ll be skeptical about whether those values are truly valued at all. They’ll feel like lip service is all they’re getting from management. And if any part of your organization feels like that’s all they’re getting from management? That will undermine trust in leadership across the board.
Hire for Culture Fit
In today’s business world, it is more important than ever that companies hire employees who will find a home and a sense of belonging within the company’s culture. The reason for this is twofold:
- keeping employees happy and in tune with the company’s culture means that they will be more productive and less likely to leave
- as an organization grows and expands over time, it is important to ensure that new employees are on board with the company’s culture so they don’t disrupt the existing structure.
This helps the company’s culture remains intact, enabling all employees to feel they are part of a cohesive whole.
Hiring for culture fit also allows companies to be agile and adaptable as they grow. If a company hires employees who are already aligned with their core values and beliefs, then they are what we call in EOS a “Right Person.” A Right Person is one who lives the values most of the time. This is why your values are so important. They aren’t just words on a page, they are who you are at the core, who you can’t help but be, who you are.
One way to ensure your company hires employees who fit into your corporate culture is by setting up interviews that are structured in a way that brings in the company’s culture. I like behavioral-based questions, so you get a truer answer from the applicants than a question that simply enables them to say, “YES, I have integrity!”
Behavioral-based questions are those that ask about something in the past and how they handled it. We find if you ask about the past, it is an understanding of how they acted and a better indicator of how they’ll act in the future.
Some examples of values are Good Human, Growth-Minded, Collaboration, and Do the Right Thing. Here are some examples of behavioral-based questions for them:
- Tell me about a time when you saw discrimination happen and what you did about it? (Value = Good Human)
- Tell me about a time when you had to develop a new skill. How do you approach the learning process? (Value = Growth-Minded)
- Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict at work. How did you overcome it? (Value = Collaboration)
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you handle this experience? (Value = Do the Right Thing)
Conversations around these questions allow for better screening of applicants and ensures that they are not only qualified but also a good fit for your culture.
Create a Sense of Purpose
Organizational culture is created by the people in the organization and depends on their willingness to act consistently with shared values. As a leader, you have an important role in shaping your organization’s culture. You can do this by providing a clear sense of purpose that serves as a guide for decision-making and behavior.
A sense of purpose helps employees understand how they fit into the vision of the organization and how their work contributes to achieving it. When employees feel like they have an important role to play, they’re more likely to take initiative and be engaged in their work.
The greater the alignment between an organization’s purpose and its employees’ personal values, the more likely they are to be committed to their roles and high performance is more likely. Leaders can help employees understand and align with the organization’s purpose by communicating it clearly and consistently.
A sense of purpose is one of the most important things an organization can create. In fact, it’s often the first thing that people mention when you ask them what makes them excited about their work. The mission, vision and values of your organization guide every decision you make. They set the tone for your culture—and they need to be clearly defined and communicated. If people don’t understand why they are there or what they’re working toward, they can easily get lost in the daily fires/problems rather than looking at how they are moving themselves and the company closer to achieving the vision.
Some leaders intentionally create their organizations’ culture with careful consideration to what it should be and how it should be managed. Other leaders may allow their organizations’ cultures to evolve organically over time without any conscious effort toward creating that culture. By being more purposeful in their culture creation efforts, leaders can establish positive work environments which can lead to greater employee satisfaction and organizational success.
If your company culture is declining, consider how you can restore it (or prevent it from further declining). Modeling the culture you want, hiring for culture fit, and instilling a sense of purpose are great places to start.
So, yes, leaders are the culture keepers!