Leaders have a powerful influence on an organization’s culture.
They set the tone for how employees perceive their work experience, so leadership and culture go hand in hand.
There are some specific things you can do to improve your impact on company culture. Here are the top four:
First, be intentional about your leadership style.
Like it or not, you’re a role model. Employees are watching how you speak and act. How you handle tough situations. What you believe in. And how you motivate others.
Your purpose as a leader isn’t simply to get your direct reports to work together toward reaching a common goal. Your attitudes and behaviors also form the backdrop for how that work gets done.
When you are strategic and intentional about your leadership style, you can help to create an environment that produces highly enthusiastic employees that produce at peak levels.
Second, maximize employee engagement.
That’s the formal way of saying create a “team of believers” who genuinely buy in to the corporate vision and feel invested in achieving it.
Your job as a leader is all about SALES. Doesn’t matter what business or industry you’re in. Your job as a manager and a culture cultivator is to sell your team on caring about the big picture.
And don’t forget about having fun in the process. The best corporate cultures in the world are known for keeping employees engaged with a lively spirit and a sense of humor. Yes, the team had to work all night to solve a customer problem, but you can bet they’ll remember the hot donut delivery at 2 a.m. and the five-minute dance party.
Third, make culture part of your operating and decision processes.
Your standard operating procedures should reflect the vision and values of the company. If leaders want to create a culture that is customer-focused, they need to make sure their behaviors reflect that. The way they operate sends a message about what’s really important to the rest of the employees.
The impact on culture should also be considered in major decision-making. Think about how your employees will feel about certain decisions and how will those change the way they view their jobs or even do them. Sometimes trimming a program from the budget looks like a smart option to save money at first glance. However, the negative impact on culture could be much more expensive if it means higher turnover, followed by increased costs for hiring and training.
Successful leaders know how to expand their view from the financial ledgers to make decisions that build great cultures – and deliver superior results.
Finally, work to build trust.
Trust infiltrates every part of the work environment. It’s the centerpiece of a great culture. And the responsibility for creating that sense of trust lands on the shoulders of every leader.
Among all the attributes of the greatest leaders of our time, one stands above the rest: they are all highly trusted. You can have a compelling vision, rock-solid strategy, excellent communication skills, innovative insight, and a skilled team. But if people don’t trust you, you will never get the results you want.
Ask yourself some pointed questions about the level of trust in your organization. Are employees trusted to make decisions? Do they feel like their opinions are valued? Do they trust that their leaders will be consistent in evaluating their performance? Do they trust their leaders to be honest, authentic, and transparent?
You CAN build trust and transform your culture, but it takes time. Work to create genuine relationships with those you lead. Be transparent by sharing your rationale and being open for feedback. Be consistent in your approach and what you support. And, above all else, keep your commitments to those you serve.
With a home base in Michigan, we provide leadership team development and team building programs, and organizational culture and consulting services worldwide.
Jim Jensen, MA LPC is the Principal and Founder of Dynamic Teams LLC, specializing in helping leaders of companies build healthy culture through dynamic leadership teams.