Your company might have the most well-thought-out strategy around, but without a strong culture to back it up, your chances of failure rise.
There are plenty of cases where poor corporate culture has led to disasters. Recent glaring examples include United Airlines and its violent treatment of a passenger who was dragged off a flight.
The Wells Fargo scandal, where employees created fake bank accounts for customers in response to the bank’s high-pressure sales culture, is another.
United lists “ambition to win, a commitment to excellence, and a passion for staying a step ahead” among its strategies.
But the passenger-dragging incident, which saw the airline’s stock value drop to the tune of about $800 million, is a shocking example of what can go wrong when corporate culture isn’t cultivated, and a toxic one grows in place instead.
The difference between most average and good companies is culture.
Simply put, “culture” refers to the ways people think, act and how things get done in your company. You simply cannot implement strategy successfully without it.
In successful companies, culture goes beyond free coffee, yoga classes or massages at employees’ desks. It’s about creating a work environment based on shared values and principles which help steer an organisation, right down to every decision it makes.
Culture starts at the top.
As the CEO, COO or managing partner, you are responsible for helping to strengthen the culture of your organisation.
Key ways to build strong culture include:
Define and declare — If you can’t properly define or describe your corporate culture, you can’t live it. Get clear on what values your company stands for and declare them far and wide. Put them in company newsletters, bulletin boards and in every speech or talk you give.
Listen more to your employees — The Wells Fargo scandal might never have happened if its executives understood staff pressures to meet sales targets. Know what’s going on at all levels of your organisation and deal with issues before they become a major problem.
Live your values — Model your values throughout the organisation on a daily basis rather than just reciting them in the conference room. Staff will take their cues from you.
Train and reward your team — Train and empower your team to deliver on your service standards. Reward them for embodying the values which support your vision for how your clients are treated.
Cultivating your organisation’s culture is as important, if not more important, than the product or service you’re selling. While strategy still matters, it will only succeed if it is supported by the appropriate cultural attributes.
A strong and vibrant corporate culture creates happy employees, which leads to higher productivity, happier clients and better profits.
As we get closer to 2018, it’s time for the business world to leave the United Airlines-type scandals behind for good.