8 Attributes of an Effective Culture Champion

Culture Champion Attributes

What Is a Culture Champion?
We define a culture champion as someone of influence who believes that organizational culture has a significant impact on business and people results and acts accordingly.

How Culture Relates to Business Results
Our organizational alignment research found that corporate culture (how work gets done) accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing teams and organizations.  Savvy leaders now accept that culture can profoundly affect a company’s success.  They understand that a strong workplace culture can improve productivity, enhance performance, increase employee engagement and raise retention levels.

And the opposite is also true.  A weak or toxic culture drags down all measures of success.  Employees don’t have the necessary guidelines around what is standard or appropriate behavior.  The result is often confusion, redundancy, and impaired or abnormal functioning.

The Need to Build a Strong Culture
Even with a winning strategy, companies and teams are not firing on all cylinders.  To help teams to perform at their peak, leaders need to create the circumstances that will support and align with their strategic ambitions.  We know that how leaders define and shape their company culture will critically define and shape the success of their corporate strategies.

Workplace Culture Gaps Exist
The good news is that there is a lot opportunity for performance improvement when it comes to cultural clarity and alignment.  A survey of over 750 corporate leaders with titles of Vice President or above reported that four-fifths of these leaders felt that a high-performing culture was critical to success; but only one-fifth of them felt they had achieved their goal.

Eight Attributes of the Best Culture Champions
To be a culture champion and lead your work force toward higher performance levels is not easy.  The best culture champions are trusted influencers, natural leaders and skilled in coaching and developing others.  They can come from all levels and functions.  Our data tells us the the most effective culture champions consistently:

  1. Instill confidence in others
  2. Make changes
  3. Act with integrity
  4. Inspire others
  5. Remove obstacles
  6. Build trusted relationships
  7. Follow through on commitments
  8. Have the required skills and knowledge for the task at hand

The Four Big C’s of Culture Champions
Once you identify people with the above eight attributes, your next step is to ensure your culture champions have conviction, courage, clarity and consistency:

As a culture champion you need to be convinced yourself that culture can make a difference and that it has a significant impact on employee engagement and on financial performance.  It is your commitment that will persuade others to follow.

Corporate culture is how things get done in an organization on a day-to-day basis.  Changing entrenched routines, values and behavioral guidelines can be difficult.  Anyone who has tried to change their own behavior or habits, much less those of anyone else, knows this.  But it can be done.  Culture champions must have the courage to make important, but difficult decisions.

Culture champions must be able to clearly and persuasively articulate why you think cultural change is necessary – not just for the company’s sake but for the wellbeing of all your employees.  Culture champions should help everyone be able to visualize the goal, commit to it and make the daily decisions that lead toward it.

Attaining and then sustaining a high performance work culture will take a long-term focus.  Leaders need to push and pull in the same direction.  Culture champions must help choose the critical few behaviors that matter most to create a high performance culture and consistently align rewards and consequences to help keep employees on track.

The Bottom Line
Culture champions are committed change leaders who understand what an aligned and high performing culture can do for their companies to help shift people in the right direction.  Be sure you are on the winning side – that 20% who can really move the needle toward the positive.

To learn more about how culture champions can shape and align culture, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture

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