Be Mindful of the Workplace Culture You Create Does your culture promote the right behaviors? Your strategy must go through your culture to be successfully implemented. How leaders define and shape their corporate culture is a critical variable in defining the success and failure of their business strategies.
As a leader, your job is to (1) assess your corporate culture to know where you stand then (2) shape and align your corporate culture to help and not hinder your strategic progress.
Defining Organizational Culture
We define organizational culture as the way things truly get done. Culture at work can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave, and work. This includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors – especially in leaders and in who they hire, fire, and promote. In short, culture sets the tone of how you expect people to behave and how you do business.
Does your culture promote the right behaviors?
Culture’s Link to Performance
Successful organizations understand and leverage their workplace culture in order to outperform their competition.
Is Your Culture Helping or Hindering?
Some strong cultures, like Southwest Airlines, help companies outperform their peers. And some strong cultures, like the unhealthy culture that has undermined the effectiveness and reputation of The Department of Veterans Affairs, hurt performance. The question you must ask as a leader is whether your culture is helping or hindering your ability to:
A Win at All Costs Culture
A recent example of a toxic culture that negatively affected an organization is the culture at the Houston Astros that caused the recent cheating scandal in Major League Baseball. The Astros were caught stealing signs in order to gain an illegal competitive edge and win the World Series.
Now reports are coming out that the Astros’ leadership instilled a toxic culture in which pushing the boundaries to win at all costs was encouraged. Sources report that “Astros’ management is [capable] of bulldozing people and decency” and that, in Houston, “up was down.” Supposedly management is based upon fear, communication is weak, and “the bottom-line is all that matters.”
The Consequences of a Toxic Culture
While we would say that their strategy and culture were perfectly aligned to win at all costs, such a toxic culture is rarely sustainable or fulfilling. The general manager and manager were fired. Steep fines and draft pick penalties were handed out.
But many feel that the one responsible, Commissioner Manfred, skirted the problem of the team’s lack of integrity by finding a way to appease the thirty billionaire owners who are his bosses – including the Astros’ owner, Jim Crane.
“Crane won,” said one team president. “The entire thing was programmed to protect the future of the franchise. He got his championship. He keeps his team. His fine is nothing. The sport lost, but Crane won.”
Did the Punishments Get at the Heart of the Problem?
We think not. As long as the benefits of winning a championship are greater than the consequences for cheating, people will continue to try to win at all costs. We believe that the Commissioner sidestepped the bigger issue of the lack of integrity in the Astros’ organization — and in the sport as a whole. With the underlying culture basically unaffected, we believe that cheating behaviors to help win at all costs are likely to continue.
The Bottom Line
Organizational culture is often set in large part by its founder. Take a good, close look at the kinds of behaviors that support and align with your strategy for success. Does your current culture promote the “right” critical behaviors? If not, you have some important work to do.
To learn more about how to ensure that your culture promotes the right behaviors, download The 3 Levels of Culture that You Must Get Right for High Performance
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