Even if you’ve never noticed because the guidance was so slight in your institution, every company has a corporate culture. Whether you’ve experienced it to a greater or lesser degree during your career, it was always there.
I had a few summer jobs during my high school and early college years and their corporate cultures seemed mild at best. But by the time I was at a large corporation, the values of that corporate entity were obvious and well communicated. During orientation, we were indoctrinated into our new tribe. Those of us in the “new” class were given fairly strict and stringent guidelines of performance and behavior. These were expected of us as representatives of the corporation. I was young and excited to be part of the team — I was proud to be part of the “family unit” they promoted.
The more mature I became in my career, which involved some corporate shifting — from company to company to position to position — the more I became aware of the importance of living the values of the corporate culture I was involved with.
As my experience grew, it became easier and easier to discern the slight differences in the stated corporate philosophy and the actual behavior of the main players. Make no mistake — leadership is consistently from the top down; especially emotional/inspirational leadership.
With hindsight, I’m able to acknowledge the difference between the good companies I’ve worked for and the great companies I’ve worked for. Thanks to my experience, I now know how to assist the mediocre corporation to attain greatness. It’s not magic. It’s awareness.
You must lead by example. The leader of the organization is constantly being watched. Not only by his colleagues but also completely scrutinized by the everyday employees. If you are in the top chair, it’s your responsibility to always, always reinforce the company values.
It’s not only important for the leader to promote the company values. It can’t stop at that. The training department, the human resources department, the senior management, the junior management and the employees must all be pulling in the same direction for the corporate culture to be effective.
It is crucial to communicate the company vision and the core values at every turn. The culture and values must be communicated early on. New hires should have already been picked via a hiring process that includes an explanation of the values of the corporation. These persons should be deemed potential proponents of the values the company espouses.
In any successful company, there tend to be rituals and routines thst promote the company values. Most institutions have a similar code of conduct and behavior for their employees. Some of the universally agreed on behaviors for managers and workers in the corporate culture are:
• Commitment to customers and employees
• Integration of ideas and people
• Accountability and honesty from management and staff
• Inspiring others as a means to growing a profitable and successful company
Let’s be brutally honest: If you are in a leadership position and you simply mouth the words instead of living the values, everyone from the C-suite to the mailroom will know the difference. They will lose respect and the company will cease to have a visceral meaning to them.
As Oleg Konovalov describes in his book The Vision Code: How to Create and Execute a Compelling Vision for Your Business, “For visionaries, not being true to oneself is fatal. Vision helps people to connect to their true selves and become better leaders who make a positive difference for others. In other words, vision connects your inner universe with the external world.”
If you are senior management and you have an employee who consistently does not live the values of the corporation, the situation must be dealt with. If you keep people who, although they bring in the money, do not meet the behavioral ethics of your company, you are doing no favor to your organization.
In their book Corporate Culture: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Terrence E. Deal and Allan A. Kennedy explain, “Whether weak or strong, culture has a powerful influence throughout an organization; it affects practically everything — from who gets promoted and what decisions are made, to how employees dress and what sports they play.”
In difficult times, living the values of your corporate culture is more important than ever. They cannot be over-communicated. Find a way to weave these values into your conversations, meetings and various communications. As examples, hold up employees who champion those values and embody the corporate culture. Remember a good example is worth much more than a stack of memos and emails.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes.