Your organization has a culture, whether you know it or not. And if you’re not proactively building and shaping your company culture, it’s being created unintentionally. Without a unifying culture, people feel frustrated and disengaged. That will be detrimental to morale, productivity and, eventually, the success of your business.
What is Company Culture?
Your company culture is the natural, normal way that employees respond to emergent opportunities and challenges. In addition, company culture includes:
- Predictable employee behavior patterns
- Employee engagement, the atmosphere and the emotional and physical environment
- Ideas, values and unspoken assumptions that guide employee behavior
In a company with a strong, positive culture, everyone from the CEO to the entry-level intern is on the same page, focused on achieving the same goals and empowered by the same values and vision. Could you get there without leadership? No, because leadership and culture play off one another. Leadership influences company culture, and company culture influences your success as a leader. For example, companies with a culture that’s supportive of leadership development efforts will, of course, have more capable leaders. But these companies will also have higher employee engagement and a stronger bottom line.
Culture Comes From the Top
While every employee plays a role in supporting the company culture, leaders usually have the most potential to influence it. This isn’t always the best way to develop company culture, but the reality is that it often develops from the top down. For that reason, you must be highly conscious of your leadership style and how you practice it. Your employees observe what you say, how you act, and how you respond to different situations. You must act, speak and think in accordance with the culture you want to build, because others will follow your example.
Leaders also must consider how their decisions affect company culture. Do employees respond differently to some leaders than they do to others? As a leader, you will eventually have to make unpopular decisions. But, if you are a strong leader who has built a culture of trust with your employees, it’s much easier to weather any storm with your team intact.
Leadership Fosters Engagement
High employee engagement is essential for building a positive company culture. As a leader, there are many things you can do to improve employee engagement. First and foremost, as a leader, you must “sell” your team on the company’s vision and values. When the entire team shares the same perspective and when every employee understands how they fit into that vision, engagement will soar.
On the other hand, leadership can also wreak havoc on employee engagement. For example, if your leadership style is to rule by fear, employees will respond accordingly. You will create a culture of fear and distrust.
Leadership isn’t easy, but because of its impact on your company culture, it’s important that you get it right. Implementing a cohesive leadership strategy—and investing in leadership development—is the best way to ensure that your leadership impact is a positive one.
- Choose three words to describe your company culture. Ask other leaders and employees to do the same. Are you on the same page? What similarities and differences do you see?
- Think of some values on which your company culture is based. Once you’ve decided, review some of your business process and procedures to determine whether they support or detract from these values