The power of company culture
Company culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, according to Daniel Coyle, author of the bestselling book ‘The Culture Code’. Its presence is tangible in successful companies, just as its absence or toxicity is equally clear. He maintains that its impact can be measured on the bottom line, citing a recent Harvard study of more than 200 companies, which showed that a strong culture increases net income 765 per cent over ten years.
A life of its own
When company founders develop their vision and purpose, they envisage the type of organisational culture that will help them to achieve their goals. Too often, the sense of that culture can get lost as commercial imperatives kick in. Some years and many employees down the line, they realise that culture has a life of its own and may not serve the business well.
As coaches, we talk to progressive business owners about how to step up and realise the value in their organisations. Leaders often start by discussing the things that concern them. They may be worried about a specific problem, resource issues or overall performance and their instinct is to focus on that, rather than examine the behaviours of their employees.
A sense of community
People at work today have a number of needs, over and above pay and conditions. They want a sense of community and leaders to whom they can relate as real people rather than the remote commanders of yesteryear. They want to understand the value of their own contribution to the company and they want to feel inspired enough to return day after day and give of their best. Companies which meet these needs have the foundations for a solid culture.
In Company Coaching we explore the direction, design and delivery of the company, working closely with the senior leaders. We also carry out a management 360 discovery process. This highlights how closely culture is aligned with the purpose and the values of the organisation and often shows how well or badly it is communicated.
Business purpose is derived from personal purpose, in that it comes from the founder’s desire to achieve a particular goal. This is the source of the original business idea, which is then researched to establish that there is a need in the marketplace. When we explore this, we look at aspects of the direction of the company from that original vision through to the alignment of shareholders and how all of that links to the design of the business and the resources it deploys.
For example, when talking about company culture, it can help to go back to the vision and purpose and to explore shareholder alignment as well, to determine how clear the purpose is and whether it is shared or perceived differently among key people. Unless the senior team is on the same page, strategic direction will not be sufficiently clear, and the message received by people across the organisation will be ill defined.
Employees are always very attuned to whatever the management focus is on and what is rewarded. If the focus is entirely financial and performance is rewarded above all else, there will be a bonus culture. If the focus is on environmentally sustainable operations and innovation in that area is rewarded, that is what people will pay attention to. So in exploring what the company culture is, it is necessary to delve into how the people in the business are behaving at the various levels.
It is important to discover whether people know and can articulate the stated culture of the business. It needs to be to be talked about to embed it in reality. Policies on paper are no use to anyone – they have to be a live part of the business.
Attitude and behaviour
A key factor is what resources are deployed to enable people in the business to behave in line with the stated culture. Are they given training? Does management walk the talk? What is the attitude of the management team - where are they in the cycles that make up the life of a business? Are they motivated, frustrated, energised? Whichever stage of the business they are in, their attitude and behaviour will affect the attitude and behaviour of their people and that in turn will impact the culture.
In Company Coaching, we work with our clients to determine what the culture is today, how it needs to be, to realise the goals of the future and what needs to be done to make changes tomorrow. We enable our clients to harness the powerful force that is culture.