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"To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace." - Doug Conant, Former CEO, Campbell Soup Company

Company culture matters when it comes to recruiting employees, keeping employees engaged in their work, and retaining them over the long-term. You can even take it one step further. Company culture actually impacts leadership style.

Think about it. If you came up in a massive corporation like GE, your leadership style would be informed by that culture. Someone else who came up through the ranks at, say, Netflix, which was merely a start-up just 10 years ago, would also have a style molded by their company culture.

Does Company Culture Actually Matter?

Right about now, you might be saying to yourself, "I get it, Larry. Culture is important. But does it really impact my business THAT much?" Culture affects leadership style and leadership style affects more than just your employees. According to research by Columbia Business School, companies with healthy cultures are more productive, they innovate more, they get products to market faster, they are worth more, and they grow at a faster rate than companies with less-than-healthy cultures.

A study by the Harvard Business Review also revealed that mergers and acquisitions are greatly impacted by leadership style. Divergent philosophies can tank a potentially lucrative deal. Conversely, complementary leadership styles and culture lead to successful, profitable deals. A healthy culture, it seems, is directly related to healthy profits.

Your Company Culture Health Check

So just how healthy is your culture? Assessing company culture isn't easy - but it's necessary to give it a check-up every once in a while to make sure you're setting yourself and your team up for success. Nobody is asking you to be Amazon or Google. Every culture is unique and it is formed by the values and goals of the organization.

To get a better picture of what's happening in your culture, use this checklist:

  • Honesty: Are coworkers candid with each other, or do they prefer to be less direct?
  • Decision-making: When it comes to major decisions, does leadership exhibit analysis bias or action bias?
  • Work ethic: Cutthroat or laid back? Does it depend on the manager/department?
  • Language: How do people talk to each other? What is the level of discourse on the floor? Would the language embarrass you if a customer walked in unannounced?
  • Organizational behaviors: Are they clearly stated and adhered to down the line? Or are they implied? Or even nonexistent?
  • Overall "vibe": Is the mood formal? Informal? Warm? Buttoned-up? Laid back? Something else?
  • Individual responsibility: Do you have a team of self-starters, or direction-takers?
  • Fun: Does it exist in your company? How much fun is acceptable?
  • Teams: Do your teams work together collaboratively or do they compete against each other?
  • Buy In: Do leaders demand it or do you work for consensus?
  • Encouragement: Is it doled out freely? Completely absent?
  • Your organization's "story": Is it influential? Inspiring? Boring? Nonexistent?

When assessing company culture, you cannot just ask yourself these questions and move on. You've got to get everyone to share their opinion, including employees. Often times, leaders' vision of what employees think is vastly different from reality.

To encourage honesty when surveying your employees, set up an anonymous survey, either online or on paper. People are much more likely to be candid if they think their answers cannot be traced back to them. By the way, that's culture also!

Corporate culture is vital to the success of any business. Conversations and attitudes about culture start at the top. Culture is an important value, and those at the top shape it. No matter the size of a company or the industry in which it operates, company culture impacts business value.


Larry Hart

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