CEOs Can Make or Break a Positive Workplace Culture. Avoid This Fate By Following These Tips.


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Do you remember when influencing the organizational culture was thought to be only an HR priority? As workplaces have evolved, CEOs realize that company culture directly correlates to business performance and growth.

In a study conducted by Deloitte, “94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.” A positive and productive culture has higher employee retention, attracts top talent and increases revenue. It’s everything that a great CEO is working towards.

If senior leadership is on board with the importance of workplace culture, why is employee engagement and culture the number one challenge for companies worldwide?

CEOs are getting drunk on “purpose.” Establishing the company’s core values, purpose, vision statement and value proposition is just the first step in building a positive workplace culture. It’s exciting to talk about the ideal culture and start believing the statement that is on your website. Some of the best CEOs fall short of creating a positive workplace. Well-meaning leaders are failing to connect fluffy core values with the everyday work environment.

As a CEO mentor, I share with my clients that when a business isn’t people-focused, it’s always playing catch-up.

Leadership influences the everyday work environment with their actions, interactions and decisions. Employees demand CEOs go beyond powerful social media statements and represent culture in business decision-making.

Related: What Makes a Great Company Culture (and Why It Matters)

1. Deeply understand what your culture is today

Recent studies indicated that CEOs have a vastly different understanding of the current state of culture than the actual reports from employees. Conduct employee surveys and use the data as a starting point. Then, hold Transparency Point Meetings (TMP) with all levels of employees to hone in on patterns and ask questions like, “what is really getting in your way?” By collecting data and maintaining an objective view, the leadership team can accurately assess where the cultural strengths and opportunities are. Don’t let your vision for the company or what the company is tactically doing for employees cloud your view of the truth.

2. Institute core values that hurt

If there was another term for core values, it should be non-negotiables. The company’s core values should be your guide in all business decision-making. If one of your company’s core values is “Kind Candor,” and a client walks through the door that is rude to your team, but they are willing to write a $100,000 check, what would you do? The decision you make at this moment will create a monumental impact on the culture. It will be hard to repair the trust broken when straying from core values. Saying no, explaining why to your team, and reinforcing core values will demonstrate a sense of pride and consistency that employees need to see.

3. Determine your crisis leadership style before the crisis

Did you ever have a leader that you would follow into battle? It’s because you trusted their leadership. If you want to know someone’s true character, watch them endure a high-stress situation. The reputation of the CEO will be judged when an employee makes a mistake, when the team loses a big client when a service isn’t selling, etc. Forward-thinking CEOs prepare themselves for crises by developing a worst-case-scenario mindset. Their reactions and decisions should connect directly back to the core values of the organization. The result? Employees will have trust, respect, and commitment to the CEO and the organization.

4. Be a role model in communication

According to research by Zippia, 86% of people blame poor communication for company failures. Over-communicating is the most effective strategy, as employees want to feel a part of the bigger picture and also want to access opportunities for growth. The best company cultures have open, honest, and ongoing communication as one of the most essential traits. The CEO doesn’t have to shoulder the bad news, share openly with the team and be available to receive feedback or suggestions.

Related: 10 Excellent Company Culture Examples For Inspiration

5. Reinforce the power of community

Employees are far more successful when they feel they are a part of something bigger. When a CEO can cultivate a sense of community that includes teamwork, accountability, and clear roles that connect to the bigger picture, the performance of the organization will be unstoppable. A positive workplace culture isn’t fluffy. It’s filled with responsibility, accountability, and ownership.

CEOs influence positive workplace cultures by being people-focused, living out core values, fostering open communication, and building a sense of community within the organization. Every leader at the top of any organization must realize that their actions and behaviors have the greatest impact on workplace culture. Build an authentic culture that reflects the people who work there, the clients served, and the impact you want to make. With the right company culture, the organization’s best work is possible.

A positive culture is achievable with real effort and an intentional focus from the top down.



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