In my opinion, the leadership team of a company does not own the culture in a business. And, if they think they do, they are wrong. Also, if they think they aren’t a part of it, or accountable to it, then they are also wrong.
As a leadership team, you are accountable for setting the gold standard for behaviour and conduct. You need to demonstrate what good looks like when living the values of the company and, in general, show the rest of the team how to be a good citizen.
No-one is excluded from this, not the founder, not the CEO, not the head of R&D, not the butcher the baker, or the candlestick maker. There cannot be a “…but that’s just the way I am” get-out-of-jail-free card.
The only other role the leadership team plays in culture is ensuring that people are recognised, rewarded, or removed. I have written about the importance of each of these three functions in the past, I will link you back to those below.
Here is the thing, for the culture to be healthy in your business you need to focus on three key things. I say “key” because there are more, but if you nail these three then you are definitely headed for brighter days.
They are – Invest, empower, and engage.
1. Invest. You should invest in your culture in good times and in bad. You cannot say “well things are getting a bit sideways, let’s spend some money on culture”. Good times and in bad times, please. If you don’t have a budget item relating to your culture, then you should. Stop reading here and add it to your next leadership meeting, then come back and finish the article. Make the investment an ongoing thing, it doesn’t need to be a slush fund, it needs to be a reminder to you, and the leadership team that if we don’t invest in culture then we’re starving the thing that is the key to our long term success.
2. Empower. There should be a deliberate and regular focus on how we maintain our culture, as they say “culture trumps strategy”. If we are going to keep this thing alive then I recommend a committee of some kind, they should meet regularly to look at what we should be doing next and keeping the finger on the pulse. One key point to note here: there should be no leadership team members on that committee. You need to empower others. Sure, you set the budget and sign off on major expenses, but you cannot drive it or set the agenda.
3. Engage. If you don’t engage your clients they may forget about you, they may just move on. I know I have lost clients in a services business in the past and the feedback was that they didn’t feel engaged, they only heard from us when there was a problem. You must look at your team the same way, you must engage with them regularly. They are your culture’s barometer, if you don’t engage you are just guessing. If you don’t ask how you are going, you may never know, or even worse you will know when it is too late. There are simple tools you can use to solicit anonymous feedback, they are great and I recommend you have a weekly pulse. But, you will never beat the power of a phone call to ask “how are you going?” or “is there anything I can do for you?”.
If, by this point, you are thinking “that won’t work for us” then I suggest you go back to the beginning of this article and read it again, maybe three times even.
It will work for you, but only if you want it to. If it is easier for you to sit back and say “we do everything for these people and our culture sucks” then it will never change. Like anything, it is difficult at first, but it will become easier the more you practice.
About the author
Dan Williams is a Certified EOS® Implementer and has more than 20 years’ experience in the IT industry. He is the former CEO of Australian MSP and certified Great Place to Work, Powernet.
He has facilitated hundreds of sessions globally on leadership, growth, and culture. Dan is driven by his passion for helping others and lifting the tide across the IT industry. Dan is a facilitator in the IT Nation Evolve program and collaborates and advises to Microsoft on their Partner Elevate program.
Dan spends most of his time pursuing his purpose of connecting people with possibilities to unlock potential. As a lifelong entrepreneur himself, Dan now works with over 25 technology service providers across the APAC region as their EOS Implementer and Coach on their journey to implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System.
To know more visit https://www.eosworldwide.com/dan-williams#