How Do You Tell the CEO that His/Her Baby is Ugly?
by Mary Rau-Foster
Much has been written about corporate culture: how to evaluate it, how to influence it, and how to change it. There is danger in dismissing the idea of corporate culture as another one of those new-age concepts dreamt up by some annoying self-proclaimed business guru. The idea that the corporate culture can have a bottom line impact on the viability and profitability of an organization is one that merits serious consideration. Look at the companies that are successful in your industry. Do they have a strong, positive corporate culture? In most cases, I’m sure they do.
What is corporate culture?
It refers to the values, beliefs, and attitudes that permeate a business. Corporate culture reflects a company’s leadership and is often deeply rooted in its history. It influences the decisions that are made, the actions that are taken (or not taken), the managers’ approach to problems, and the implementation of new strategies.
How do you determine a company’s corporate culture?
First, review the mission statement, and the location of that statement. If it is hidden behind the restroom door, out of sight and therefore out of mind, it is unlikely that the mission statement reflects the true corporate culture. It may reflect an aborted or half-hearted attempt at creating the proper culture. A mission statement can be helpful in establishing a positive corporate culture, if the focus remains upon the mission and if the decisions that are made and actions taken, are in furtherance of that mission.
A company’s culture can also be demonstrated by the ethics reflected in business transactions, by how employees are treated, and by the actions (or in-actions) of the leaders in the organization. Does management talk the talk and walk the walk that is being espoused as the philosophy of our company? Employees, like children, will watch those in leadership positions and will take their cues from them. Many will model their behavior after their superiors.
The idea that a company’s corporate culture is poor or less than satisfactory will not be appealing to any CEO. How would the CEO know that there are problems and that the business environment is crying out for attention and change? As Richard Hagberg, Ph.D. of the Hagberg Consulting Group says, “How do you tell a CEO that his/her baby is ugly?” One method is that of a self-assessment.
There are several questions that the CEO, president, and other company leaders should ask and answer honestly:
- How would I describe my company to a close confidant?
- What is really important around here?
- How do we view our employees? How would our employees describe management’s view of them?
- What do we look for when we are recruiting and hiring employees? Are we selective enough in hiring and retaining employees?
- What employee behaviors will be rewarded and who gets promoted?
- What statements or questions would generate the following responses? “That is how we do things around here.” or “That is how we are.”
- What is our employee turnover rate? Are we training employees only to have them leave and let another company benefit from our efforts?
- What reasons do employees who quit give for seeking employment elsewhere?
- Do we have and enforce standards of conduct for all employees (including top management)?
- Am I proud of this organization, the manner in which we conduct business, and how we view our employees?
Another method of accessing the company’s culture is to ask others how they perceive the company. Follow the example of the young boy who worked in a hardware store, sweeping, dusting, and running errands. One day, he ran across the street to use the phone to call his boss. When his boss answered the phone, the young boy, in a disguised voice, asked if the boss needed an errand boy. The boss replied that he did not because he had a fine young man who was a hard-worker and was doing a good job. Satisfied with what he heard, the young boy returned to his job, happy and secure in knowing how his boss felt about him.
Employee surveys, conducted in the proper manner and using the proper instruments, can be a useful tool to determine how your employees see your company. The use of employee satisfaction surveys can slice two ways; the employee perceptions and views of the company and recommendations can be shared with management and also the employees may feel that management does care about their opinions.
So what are the rewards of an effective corporate culture?
- Employee loyalty and longevity
- Reduced expenses from lower employee turnover
- Increased employee productivity
- Enhanced employee moral
- Improved employee connection to the company’s mission
- Increased sense of employee “ownership” in the company
An effective corporate culture often results in employees taking initiatives and assuming responsibility for creating and maintaining a successful organization.
Many companies have built successful cultures around the simple concept of encouraging employees to develop a deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for the business. This strong connection to the organization and feeling that they are an important part of the company may prevent valuable employees from leaving when other corporate vultures come recruiting.
Corporate culture is important.
It is the basis for a shared understanding that employees have about the company, the way things are done, and the way members are supposed to behave. An effective corporate culture can bring satisfaction to the employees along with financial growth and stability to the company. Like seeds in a garden, the seeds of an effective corporate culture must be planted, fertilized, watered, weeded, and properly watched over. It takes work, but the satisfaction that you can experience when standing back and looking at what your effort has yielded will be very rewarding.
A corporate culture will be created, of that there is no doubt. If the management of the company does not actively and consciously create it, the culture most likely will be created by the employees.
As the old adage states, “The pack will always follow the dog who barks the loudest in your company.”
Be sure it’s you they hear.
Please Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not the intent of Mary Rau-Foster to render legal advice. If legal advice is required, you should seek the services of a competent lawyer.