Corporate Culture – Who Owns It?

A book is entitled "Business Bible" and has a caption that maintains that corporate culture drives a company

If you believe, as we do at LSA Global, that corporate culture, along with talent and strategy, is what drives a company to succeed, it is critical to understand what culture is and who owns the responsibility for shaping it…the leadership or the workforce?

We define corporate culture as the way work truly gets done on a day-to-day basis…and smart leaders know it exists by either design or default. In other words, in every organization there is a combination of assumptions and behaviors that define the collective attitude of a company’s workforce. In some organizations this combination has been carefully crafted over time to best execute a coherent strategy; in others it has reactively evolved without purposeful alignment.

Our organizational alignment research found that corporate culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies.  If you are unhappy with the culture at your organization, what can you do to influence it? And, who will have the greatest impact on changing culture to create higher levels of performance?

We believe that both leaders and employees should own the culture of their organization.

Leaders and Corporate Culture

Perhaps leaders have the most power to design and shape a corporate culture that matters. Since they are responsible for hiring, developing, engaging and retaining talent that performs, they make the decisions about who to bring on board and what behaviors to promote and reward. Leaders are also the ones who define and cascade the strategy that the culture needs to support. Why?  Because strategy, one way or the other, must go through culture to get meaningful results.

But beyond setting up the cultural “way” to support and accelerate a particular business strategy, leaders need to understand their critical role as models of the desired behaviors. The way they act each and every day has a greater influence on their employees than they may realize. Whether they know it or not, leaders are in a fishbowl.  The workforce is always watching. If a leader’s behavior is out of line with the culture they espouse, you can be sure the leader’s behavior, rather than the desired culture, is the one that will win out. Leaders need to understand that the amount of energy they focus on culture will determine how important it appears to employees. Modifying culture is difficult. It takes a sustained and consistent effort over time.

Employees and Corporate Culture

So where do employees fit into organizational culture? They need to take culture one step beyond the example and commitment of leaders…employees need to own their culture, to live and breathe it in every choice they make.

If, for instance, leadership has determined that the company culture needs to support more decentralized decision-making to best execute their strategy, employees (and their bosses) need to make sure they have the knowledge, skills and beliefs to make effective decisions when it matters most.

The Bottom Line

Organizational culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing organizations.  Culture also occurs either by design or default.  Sustainable cultures are the responsibility of both leaders and employees and should be shaped by both in concert in a way that is aligned with your corporate strategy.

To learn more about creating a high performance and purposeful culture, download The 3 “C’s” that Create High Performance Culture Whitepaper

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