Friday, February 17, 2023

5 Roadblocks To An Excellent Culture In Your Business

excellent-cultureAs a business consultant, I see many different employee cultures, from exciting and motivational, to dysfunctional and non-productive. Company leaders, as well as front-line team members usually realize when they have a problem, but most have no idea what is possible or how to change the culture. They keep waiting for top management to somehow fix the situation.

In reality, I believe that building and sustaining a winning culture is everyone’s business, not just that of top management. It does require leadership at all levels of the organization to find shared values, set clear expectations, attract and develop talent, accelerate execution of a winning strategy, and generate a feeling of alignment, togetherness, and engagement every day.

I found all these elements outlined clearly, as well as a great discussion of the roadblocks to getting there, in a new book, “Culture is the Way,” by Matt Mayberry. As a result of his work with clients around the world, Matt is recognized as an expert in culture change and development. I was particularly impressed with his key recommendations for overcoming change roadblocks:

  1. Lukewarm leadership buy-in to a culture revamp. The first challenge in changing your organizational culture is usually convincing senior leaders that this change will have a major positive impact. Culture change is especially sensitive to a consistent message from leaders, who may be focused on day-to-day challenges, and a fixed operating style.

    Getting and maintaining leadership buy-in must be your relentless and continuous focus. I recommend you start with team building activities to strengthen trust and communicate the objectives to everyone on a regular basis. Use personal relationships to test buy-in.

  2. Culture is viewed as all slogans and no action. Words don’t build or change culture by themselves. True cultural change starts when behavioral change begins to take root. It must be a long-term process with repeated iterations that create a new cultural paradigm and become the new norm. It’s about turning personal values into repeatable behaviors.

    When your changed culture becomes a part of you, your hiring processes, company-wide messaging, and leadership development programs, you start to remove the “all slogans” and “no action” perception, and it becomes ingrained into the DNA of your business.

  3. Yielding to the temptation of instant gratification. Building a great culture takes time and a tremendous amount of energy, often far more than you can imagine. The results may not be immediate – increasing profit, enhancing performance, and building a top-notch workplace where everyone wants to work. Don’t let the adrenaline fade to the past.

    I recommend that you over-communicate from the moment you begin building the culture change and throughout the duration of the process, that nothing great is ever created overnight. Use anecdotes to illustrate the consistency and amount of patience required.

  4. Leaders derailed by overload and distraction. Trying to act on too many things at once does the opposite of what you want to accomplish. You will shut down, lose focus, or your team will procrastinate. Take the necessary time to identify the most promising activities that will have the greatest impact on where your organization is right now.

    Forestall loss of momentum by creating a long-term roadmap of activities and objectives, with metrics, to track implementation and measure results. Be sure to involve highly influential executives, as well as front-line team members, to keep everyone moving.

  5. Failure to cascade change success across all teams. You may find pockets of cultural excellence within an organization, but true cultural excellence requires more than one or two teams living and breathing your culture. You need regular cross-organization leadership meetings to discuss what is working, and which teams need higher priority.

    Never just tell people once what your goals or expectations are, but be proactive by sending reminders and creating training programs that are tied to specific functional and organizational elements. Celebrate and publicize even small successes across all teams.

As Peter Drucker once quipped, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In addition, in a recent Glassdoor survey, over fifty percent of employees said work culture is more important than pay. These insights, as well as my own experience, is why every business leader needs to focus on achieving their best employee culture as the key to agility, impact, and competitive advantage.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 2/3/2023 ***



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