Last week, the Guernsey branches of ISCA and the IOD hosted a seminar titled 'Corporate Culture and the Board', highlighting the critical role that leaders (boards or otherwise) play in creating a healthy culture within their organisations.
There was one crucial word missing from the stimulating panel discussion and debate; authenticity.
Culture is the outworking of shared values, those things that we care about and honour in our organisations and lives. For example, we might care about professionalism (value) and expect that to be reflected in a particular dress code (culture). Teamwork (value) could be expressed by punctuality, taking part in social activities or desk sharing (culture). Corporate values - those qualities shared within any organisation - flow from the leadership. Qualities that the leadership care about will, to a large extent set the tone for what the organisation cares about, irrespective of what is written down on a piece of paper as a list of corporate values.
Integrity provides an excellent example. Most organisations would consider integrity as important, something to value. Integrity engenders trust and sounds 'good' to all stakeholders. But if the leadership are not genuinely motivated by high integrity, the organisation won't possess it, at least, not fully. If economic gain, academic prowess, caring for others, creating feel-good experiences or winning FAR exceed a desire to do the right thing, then integrity is of much lesser value to the organisation. It's not to say that the organisation is scandalous, but it is to say that it would be fake to include integrity on a list of core values.
Authenticity is what counts. Corporate values should genuinely reflect those of the leaders in order for an engaging culture to flourish in the workplace. People need to know where they stand and that requires authenticity.
How can a leadership team get to grips with what they truly care about? Spending time on culture and values is important. When was the last time that your board meetings included an agenda item for 'culture'? (This challenge was presented to us at the ICSA/IOD seminar last week). At LifeThrive and The Learning Company, we help leadership teams to quickly identify their shared values by using some excellent psychometric tools. Many teams focus only on behaviours, but this misses an absolutely crucial area - our values. It's what drives our behaviour that really counts. Our values and mindsets set the framework for culture to develop. We help our clients to categorise 6 core values that set the basis for organisational culture; the theoretical, utilitarian, aesthetic, social, individualistic and traditional mindsets. Employees - at all levels - with very different values to those of the leaders usually find the culture puzzling, possibly even repulsing - even if their particular role is stimulating.
Is employee turnover high? Perhaps there is an authenticity problem with your corporate values.
Spend time this year exploring your values and how these align with those of your business. Be authentic. A flourishing company culture will soon follow.