Beyond the Financials:
What Leaders and Boards Should be Asking
Are many leaders and board members missing the opportunity to help make their company really successful? You have to think that their intentions are good, but they seem to stick with the same obvious questions:
Don't get us wrong, these are critical questions for the success of any organization, but it seems to us that one critical question rarely gets asked. The answer to that one question could be the breakthrough contribution.
"Do we have the culture we need to help us be successful?"
We know that many fear such a "touchy-feely" kind of topic - a little too fluffy! Others don't see how this has any quantifiable impact on the business numbers. The truth is, it may be touchy feely and it may be difficult to quantify, but you can bet that your organization's culture is making or breaking your company's success.
Consider the following issues:
These could possibly be symptoms of a problem with your culture. We know, you've overhauled the processes, updated the systems, and installed new software, but are still experiencing the same symptoms. Like others before you, you've addressed the most visible solutions. But have you neglected the less visible glue, which binds the organization together? Have you overlooked the issues which may be the actual root cause? A culture which doesn't support the new systems, processes, software or help drive the strategy may be the culprit.
What? You don't think your organization has a culture? Every organization has a culture. Whether or not you have spent time defining your organization's culture, rest assured you have one. Even a company of one will have a culture. An organizations' culture is merely "the way we do things around here". It's those general customs, patterns of behavior that are at work every day.
Think for a moment about the issues listed above and "the way we do things around here". Could the wrong behaviors and actions be why we are:
Everyone prefers to fix a system, a tool, or a process - anything but address the tougher issue head-on! However, sometimes WE are the reason we are not as successful as we like. And like any individual, changing a habit, or a behavior is not easy. But in order to heal the patient, you must address the root cause. You need to get to the bottom of what culturally is helping the company's success and what is hindering it.
However, working on culture separate from other important business imperatives won't get you far either. Alignment of all these critical factors is the key to success.
Most leaders and board members are very willing to spend time on setting the strategy and ensuring that the organization's capabilities are in line; however, working on culture takes a much more personal investment. It means that you, as the leader, have to help the leadership team define the supportive culture, demonstrate the culture needed, explain it to everyone else in the organization so they understand why it's critical and then hold yourself and others accountable for it. Hard work? You bet! But organizations like Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom didn't get where they are by having an accidental culture!
Stand apart from other leaders and board members. Help the organization focus on the winning culture needed and you'll help the organization build value!
MillerBedford offers this four-step process to install a Values-based culture
In applying these four steps, the absolute commitment of the leadership of the organization is vital. Stockholders, customers and employees will be watching to see if what the leadership does matches what it says, not just in the short term, but in the long haul. Decisions and actions will be analyzed as to how they measure up to the values, and exceptions will be seen as a lack of commitment to the process.
Julie Miller and Brian Bedford are co-founders of the consulting firm MillerBedford Executive Solutions, which specializes in a "no nonsense" approach with clients. They focus solutions around the following topics: Culture Development, Organization Development, Leadership Development and Human Resource Development. You can learn more about what they offer by viewing their website at www.millerbedford.com or by emailing them directly at Julie@millerbedford.com or Brian@millerbedford.com .
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