Are you Intentionally Creating the Culture You Want?

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In Leadership and the Art of Struggle, Steven Snyder, the author, relates a story that demonstrates the importance of creating an intentional culture that supports the values of the senior leaders; in this case concerning ethics.  A new CEO is appointed in a $3M company. In his second year, he discovers that a manager he personally had hired, had engaged in unethical behavior.  He immediately and vigorously investigated the situation, determined the allegations were valid and fired the person. That was the easy part.

He then discovered that many of the people who worked for this individual were aware of the inappropriate behavior! Asked why they hadn’t reported their manager’s misconduct, some told him that they assumed he knew and approved, since he had personally hired the person. Others were terrified that they would be fired if they blew the whistle. “It upset me that they didn’t know what I valued enough that they would think that. “

Before I share what he did, ask yourself two question: (1) how well do you really know the culture of your company and (2) what would you do, now?

This CEO decided to confront it.  He scheduled meetings to address all employees. First he apologized, and then shared his values and feelings: he felt terrible that half wanted to tell him but couldn’t while the other half didn’t believe he cared.  Looking them in the eye, he made it clear that “I would rather lose right than win wrong.† That heartfelt speech was a breakthrough moment for the company. The phrase “winning right†soon became a company mantra and the foundation for realigning corporate values; indeed, he credit s it for laying the groundwork for long-term success.

Key here was the context. His predecessor communicated that he was building a “high performance company with a heart.†The CEO was following in his footsteps, but never articulated his values as a leader. And without doing so, all kinds of assumptions took place.  Once he articulated his own values, the strong system of ethics, did the company knew where he really stood. And “winning right†became the catch-phrase for organizing all the relevant values and behaviors that were expected of everyone.

I’m now introducing the powerful combination of Vistage Inside (to help the executive team improve alignment and collaboration) and ETW (ExecuteToWin) (to help senior leaders clarify cultural values and performance standards and cascade them through all levels of the company). Each helps companies achieve their desired culture and improve strategic performance.   Call me for additional information about them.  In the meanwhile, does everyone in your company use company resources, time, and interpersonal relations to achieve “winning right�