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One of the biggest mistakes I often see companies make as they try to define the culture they want to create is the tendency to have too much collaboration. Why do I call that a mistake? Let's take a closer look.

At its most basic level, too much collaboration can paralyze a group and make it difficult to accomplish anything. "Too many cooks spoil the broth," as they say. A group can spend so much time trying to satisfy everyone that the final product can get diluted beyond recognition. While all of this is true, there's a far more important reason I counsel CEOs to avoid the over-collaboration trap.

A Leadership Responsibility

Fundamentally, defining and promoting the organization's culture is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader. As a CEO, it's your job to articulate the extraordinary company you're trying to create. I often say that defining the culture is mostly a "design function." You're not trying to design the company around what everyone else wants or around the whims of the group of people who happen to be in your company at a particular date and time. It's what you want it to be. In fact, it's not just your right to author the culture; it's your responsibility.

To be clear, if your company is large enough that you have a senior leadership team, I'm in favor of including this team in the process, but in a very specific way. The team should be included for "their contribution to your thinking." As your trusted counsel, they have important ideas to contribute to the discussion, and you likely value their opinions; but this isn't a consensus-building activity or an attempt to let everyone have something they want. Rather, they're contributing ideas that may influence your thinking. At the end of the day, however, it's what you want that matters most.

What About Employee Engagement?

"Won't more collaboration help us to get greater engagement from our workforce?" I'm often asked. There's no doubt that employee engagement is vital to the success of your efforts to build culture. However, we can create tremendous engagement in how we roll out what you're building and in how employees participate in it. They don't need to be the authors of it in order to be engaged in it.

Contributed by David Friedman, author of Fundamentally Different


Larry Hart

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