Leadership: Changing Corporate Culture
To us the overarching necessity for change is clarity of purpose – a plan – plus the ability to communicate: clear, concise, consistent, constant. So this is part vision, part skills. It takes some time getting these ducks in a row.
Once that’s in place, here are the four essential ingredients we use to change a culture:
1. Clearly Communicate the Plan. Start at the top: the Plan is one thing; the leadership (Board and CEO) have to be able to articulate where the company is now headed with this ‘change’ and what is required from employees.
This is the strongest argument for people with marketing/communication expertise at the leadership table. Designing the plan is one thing, communicating the message in unison is another. Sometimes the people at the top need to be shown the mechanics of good communiction – even if the Board only communicates with staff through the CEO. Without unity of voice in the Board, it’s hard to expect the same within the exec.
There are a number of exercises to test and strengthen this, such as designing the ‘elevator pitch’. It is surprising how this simple exercise, and the discussion around it, unites a Board. And how the message trickles down when the leadership uses it.
Once you have united leadership that communicates, the next step follows easily.
2. Ensure Easy-to-Remember Values. Culture change may also be reflected in changing values. Three or four are enough – I think three is best (it’s better to have a small number that are remembered than a few that are forgotten). ‘Ethical Behaviour’ is a good one, as is ‘Trustworthiness’. ‘Sustainability’ is a soft way of saying Profitability.
Then communicate these values often – a strong united leadership can do this easily. Mean what you say – it turns followers into ambassadors.
Repetition = penetration = impact.
Once the values have been infused into the corporate culture, the next step seems to come naturally.
3. Work on Culture or ‘Feelings’. With strong leadership and clearly annunciated messages and values comes higher staff morale. Small but important steps. This may need some extra communication from the CEO or other team leaders, and some team building exercises – there are many. People begin to feel better about ‘the way we do things around here’.
The good thing about ‘feelings’ is they can be measured, benchmarked and measured again.
4. Productivity. This step is more an outcome that an ingredient. If people ‘feel’ good about the company, they deliver more. And remember the critical productivity trio: retention, new business, reputation.