Are you building a strong culture?
Some companies prosper and draw the business world’s attention. They continuously grow, innovate and impress. In contrast, others struggle, never breaking through to reach their desired success. The latter must deal with downsizing, financial shortfalls, market-share losses and tarnished reputations.
The disparities are glaring. While leaders of prosperous companies garner industry admiration, those who head besieged organizations wonder where they went wrong. They search for explanations as to why their operations haven’t fulfilled their potential.
Research in social science and organizational behavior points to a critical quality, one that most directs every company’s future: culture. A strong culture consistently leads to robust performance, while a weak culture suffers ongoing failures.
Too often, I see leaders discount the importance of culture, with predictable consequences. They must define, assess and strengthen their organizational culture to thrive.
Culture is to an organization as personality is to a person. Personality describes how we think, act and respond to the circumstances we face.
Similarly, an organization’s culture determines how people act or work, what they believe or stand for and how they respond to pressures and challenges. Every company, without exception, has a culture.
- How well (or how poorly) teams function
- Whether customers’ needs are being met
- Whether employees’ needs are fulfilled
- Company health and well-being
- Future outlook
Leadership expert John Coleman describes Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture (Harvard Business Review, May 6, 2013):
- A unifying vision or mission that fashions one’s purpose and plans
- A code of values that influences behavior and mindsets
- Practices that support and enhance people
- A recruiting process that matches people to the desired culture
- A celebrated heritage that tells the company’s story and what it stands for
- A beneficial working environment to optimize synergy
A trained observer, like an executive coach, can quickly assess whether one’s culture embodies these characteristics.
A strong culture can increase net income by more than 700% in an 11-year span, according to a 2012 study published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business. Other research confirms culture as a significant factor in determining success or failure.