The Company Culture Maze

The coronavirus has created a moment of truth for every company. Work-life has been utterly transformed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Bustling workplaces have been emptied out, replaced by home offices, dining-room tables or even bedrooms, and it is increasingly clear many of these changes will be lasting. The ‘new normal’ poses major challenges for trust, corporate culture and conduct… but also some opportunities.

Leaders are rightly asking themselves: Are our choices and actions right now reflecting our culture, purpose and the values that define us?

It is a key time for leaders to step up to the changes. However, a research report that my company commissioned, provided by DataPad, of 2,100 employees in the UK has revealed that a huge 69% of people don’t fully trust their CEO’s or line manager.

The study was unveiled to mark the launch of my last best-selling business book, Purposeful Discussions.

I believe executives in the great challenges of today’s new business world now have renewed responsibility to their leadership teams, employees, customers and stakeholders for what business does best; innovate, invest and grow.

Many people wait until circumstances force change and transformation, that can be radical and painful to all concerned.

I have always maintained, ‘we need Purpose and a positive culture to help us reconnect, going beyond our egos and our fears to build trust, strong relationships, communities, networks and organisations, so that through collaboration we can begin to co-create a more sustainable future’.

An organisation’s culture is its behaviour at scale, words, actions and defined outcomes. Culture is guided by purpose and values. And it will be put to the test by any crisis, as is happening right now with Covid-19.

Research by Bain and Company Inc tell us that among the values exhibited by strong cultures are collaboration, agility, integrity, people-centricity, innovation, accountability and ambition.

Companies that demonstrate a strong purpose and culture, have a strong internal compass and inspire their employees on a clear vision, which is found, 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders.

Culture is your company’s internal compass, informing actions to take in a time of crisis.

Positive thinking is one of the fundamental attributes which can have an effect on both our mental and physical well-being. With it, we can overcome serious obstacles in life, learn to live with chronic conditions or improve our work and personal lives. Without it, we run the risk of failing at every turn and never realizing our full potential.

Many entrepreneurs try to maintain their initial organisational structure despite stark growth or industry or a crisis event shift within the company.

Your structure is only as good as the people operating within it and how well they’re matched to their roles and responsibilities

As your business grows, it’s important to monitor the wellbeing of your people, by providing purposeful leadership that encourages growth, encouraging checks and balances between departments, maintaining strategic adaptations to changing business structures, and matching the ideal person for the ideal job, you are primed and ready to succeed in your business.

Business leaders can improve both their performance and that of their employees in reviewing the wellbeing and fitness of the business and emotional state of mind:

1. Anticipate the barriers
Confidence is vital – and the key to true confidence lies in rigorous planning that considers every likely obstacle to achieving a given goal.

2. Address your stress
Preparation, adaptation and recovery are vital parts of psychological resilience to stress. The first step is to understand your own capacity. Ask yourself: what triggers send me into a state of stress and what can I do that will truly minimise these and/or their impact on my performance?

3. Adopt a team mentality
Teams are built on mutual respect and the absolute conviction that you are a part of an outstanding group that perform their assigned roles effectively. Ensure that everyone understands both their own and others’ roles in achieving the clear business goals that have been agreed. Openly declaring a commitment to your own role will boost accountability and build trust.

4. Optimise your regime
Building in crisis recovery is vital for maximising performance in business. Ask yourself: when is the next critical moment approaching and how can I ensure that I’m physically and mentally ready for it? Planning to finish a difficult meeting before a lunch break, for instance, will give you scope to recover and gather your thoughts before you need to do any further important work.
All leaders should audit how they are spending their time. This will help you to determine whether you are devoting too much to reactive work rather than more strategic, value-adding tasks.

5. Encapsulate your values in a mantra
Ask yourself: why do we do what we do as an organisation? Articulating the meaning behind your enterprise unites employees in a common cause, boosting engagement and performance.
Business leaders have to demonstrate the stated values through their own behaviour if they expect others to adopt them. While most firms have developed collective values at some point, many fail to live by them, so authentic role models at the top of the organisation are crucial.

6. Adopt winning routines
Positive habit formation is a method that successful athletes have tried and tested. It entails identifying what behaviour is required to achieve a win and establishing a routine to reinforce this.

To apply it in business, ask yourself: what consistent actions do I need to start taking that would improve my overall performance? For instance, if meetings with a certain colleague often overrun, it’s worth considering how that time is being used, adopting a more efficient format and then embedding this through repetition.

Great performance is as much about the purpose and culture of the organisation. These beliefs are found in the vision, ethos and values, leadership, the strategy and plans, in people, and importantly that people are trusted to make things happen.

Reconnecting with your purpose and values will make it possible, when this crisis has passed, to look back with pride at how your company responded. Culture always matters, but it matters now more than ever.

If these core attributes are applied to the business then high-performance leaders must have an overwhelming desire to lead and that the desire to lead must be for the right reasons. It is only through having this overwhelming desire that they will have the emotional energy, enthusiasm, stamina and drive to undertake the unremitting pressure and sustained hard work required to turn an average organisation into a high performing one.

Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world and the way that we work in an extraordinarily short time. It is becoming increasingly evident that we will have to live with and adapt to these changes for a long time and it is far from certain that we will ever return to life exactly as it was before the pandemic.

These changes bring with them great challenges and risks. These are uncharted and difficult waters to navigate. However, in our view there are also great opportunities, and these challenges can be met where leaders are able to move from a crisis management mindset to thinking about how to run their businesses differently, with a strong focus on culture.

Firms that get this wrong run the risk of poor conduct, low staff morale and ultimately, weak future performance.

However, those that find ways to nudge behaviours in the right direction have the chance to build business models and resilient cultures that adapt to the new circumstances with positive outcomes for customers, employees and investors.

It was Stephen R. Covey who once stated:

“Trust is central to an economy that works.”

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