WHAT CEOs CAN DO TO LEAD CULTURE CHANGE

WHO WANTS TO KNOW?

At the last meeting of our Vistage CEO peer advisory board, one CEO asked for ideas for both becoming more informed about the culture in his organization and action he can take to cause positive change. It is the same question I have been asked by several private client CEOs. This note is based on both sources.

DEFINITIONS

Organizational culture is defined in as many ways as there are people who think they understand it. Here is my view:

-       Culture is what associates tell people at weekend gatherings about what it’s like to work at the organization

-       Culture is the set of unwritten rules about behaviors for success (promotion, compensation, recognition) at the organization

-       Culture is how we treat under-performers and those who once were contributors, what misbehavior we tolerate and why

-       Culture is openness, sharing, engagement, collaboration, commitment, sacrifice for the common good, risk-taking, ethical behavior, protection of the firm’s reputation or lack (or opposite) of any or all of these in people’s daily choices

POINT OF VIEW OF THE COACH A FORMER MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT WHO FACILITATED SEVERAL CORPORATE TRANSFORMATIONS

Culture forms over time from both “signal acts” by the leadership and interpretations and self-protection by the grass roots.

Leaders are rarely in touch with how pervasive are the positive or negative behaviors in middle management and often at the front line.

Many leaders do less than the maximum to lead the culture.

ILLUSTRATIVE IDEAS FROM PRIVATE CLIENT WORK AND PEER ADVISORY WORK

-       Make culture a priority of the CEO and the leadership team; set accountability for assessing change needed and leading it; speak about it often

-       Recruit a talent manager whose job is every aspect of developing and retaining a bench of star players

-       Conduct monthly CEO lunch ‘n learn with people at all levels selected randomly

-       Have Town hall meetings about mission, values and culture

-       Address culture first in strategy retreats

-       Institute an employee opinion tool that probes attitude about cross-silo collaboration, beliefs about ethics, unwritten rules for success et al

LONGER LIST OF IDEAS

For a longer list of ideas, look for the attachment to my blog tomorrow. For even more, join the Vistage community at:

Vistage International — CEO Membership Organization

That’s just my view What’s yours?

If you find this helpful, please let me know and tell your friends. If you disagree, please tell me and leave a comment.

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