Four Ways That Your Executive Team Shapes Your Culture

Culture Change

10th September, 2018

There is no doubt that an Executive Team influences the culture of their organisation. It is their consistent actions that model the way for the rest of the business. If you are a member of an Executive Team it is crucial for you and your colleagues to recognise that it's not your 'on stage' moments that are the greatest influence, but instead it is the regular moments of truth that your people see, hear and feel. Here are four ways that you most powerfully cast a light or shadow over your people.

The relationships you have

In one organisation I used to spend time in, the CEO used to find it hard to understand why his people didn’t feel a connection with him. It seemed to be lost on him that people noticed that his Executive Assistant would come down in his private elevator to collect his lunch each day. It wasn’t that his relationship with his people was bad, he just didn’t have one. By nature this meant that he wasn’t their leader.

“Leading isn’t about a role, it’s about a relationship” Dr Mark McKergow

Who do you have a relationship with outside of your immediate peer group? Do you know your people? If you’re at the top of a large organisation, you can’t have a personal relationship with everyone in your business, however I do notice a pattern that senior people in companies with positive cultures seem to know – and genuinely care about – more people than in those organisations with a negative or neutral culture.

The relationships you hold, nurture, develop and value, help to share your organisation’s culture.

The behaviours you allow or ignore

Of course you would never condone behaviours that don’t model your organisation’s values, right? But what about that long-standing company stalwart who has a wealth of knowledge or experience that no-one else has? Are they allowed to speak to people however they want?

How you react to the behaviours of challenging or influential colleagues shapes the culture. Ignoring culturally inappropriate behaviour will negate your previous good work and damage your reputation.

How you operate as a team

How much time do you spend developing or reviewing your performance as a team? In most Executive Teams the answer to this is zero. Yet how you operate as a team sets the tone for how all the other teams operate in your organisation. How you work together, communicate, influence, make decisions, trust and take accountability, models the way for every other team.

To add a double jeopardy, if you are part of a team that isn’t high-performing, and you demand that the teams you manage are high-performing, you are eroding your credibility.

What you measure or make important

At the heart of this factor is the fundamental principle of congruence. Saying culture is important but only focusing on it once a year just doesn’t stack up. Communicating that values are important but not having them as part of your performance measurement systems at all levels communicates a loud message through the business.

One client we worked with some years ago spent a significant amount on training, restructuring and communication to build a new sales approach – moving from selling hard and fast to a more relationship-based approach. The one thing the senior leadership refused to change was how the sales teams were measured and rewarded. The key measures continued to be calls-per-hour, conversation rate, and call handling time. All were totally at odds with the new approach. Not only did the new approach stall spectacularly but people at the front line lost faith in their leaders and the organisation.

Make Leading Your Personal Commitment

Regardless of your position or strength of influence over your executive colleagues, you can have a more positive influence over the culture of your business by making leadership and leading your key personal commitment. Your role as a member of the most senior team in the organisation is not to be the expert in all areas of your charge. Your role is to inspire, engage and influence those in your charge to do what they need to in order to deliver the strategy. Make that your personal crusade. Take the lead and others will follow.

Why not share this article with your colleagues too? Put an appointment in your diary for four weeks’ time to review it and see which areas you have taken action on. If you would like more insight into leading the culture of your business then email me to set up a call.


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