Leadership is the number one critical success factor for any company looking to change, build or embed the type of culture it will need to be successful in the future.
One of the most common mistakes made in introducing a new culture or shifting focus onto an existing one is that communicating it should be all that is required to bring it to life. To grow an organisation, it needs to be truly believed in and acted on by everyone involved with the organisation. The responsibility for bringing about the changes needed to do this rests with a company’s leaders.
Here, we have defined three critical success factors that leaders must follow with their teams and other stakeholders in order to embed a culture within their organisation.
1. Communicate expectations
Your role first and foremost as a leader is to communicate your company values and cultural expectations to your team – otherwise how can you expect them to be fully aligned?
In order to do this effectively make sure you address the following three questions:
Why is there a focus on culture?
When it comes to communicating expectations, you’ve got to make sure that everybody knows what it is that you’re actually striving for and what’s expected of them. Start by communicating why you’re putting a focus on culture and why culture is so important right now.
How does the culture we are building link to the strategy? How does the culture help us drive the company forward?
If you want your team to get on board with the culture, you also need to address the ‘how’. This means talking about how the culture you’re trying to build links to your strategy and where you want to get to as a business.
What are the values and what behaviours underpin these?
Simply explaining why culture is important isn’t enough – your team need tangible guidance on how to actually align to the culture. Ensure that you communicate the values that underpin the culture as well as the behaviours that align to those values so your people know exactly what success looks like and have something clear to strive for on a day-to-day basis.
2. Role model the expectation
As leaders, we often underestimate the impact of small day-to-day interactions with our team. Often our teams are a reflection of ourselves, so if you are not living and breathing the culture, then you are essentially giving your team permission to do the same. If they see that you’re saying one thing and doing another, you’ll struggle to get them to respect the newfound cultural initiative.
In order to role model the cultural expectations you can try doing the following:
Demonstrating humility and vulnerability through seeking feedback
By seeking feedback as a leader, you’re essentially acknowledging that you’re not perfect. It’s important to understand what we can do differently as leaders in order to demonstrate those behaviors and live by those values.Role modeling this behaviour to your team will make it easier for others to recognise opportunities for them to change and grow, as well as demonstrating what’s required for the new culture.
Use the new language
For the cultural journey or change to happen, it’s important your team start to hear the words associated with your new or changing culture. Talking about your mission, values and the behaviours aligned to those values on a day-to-day basis will help your people really grasp the importance.
Culture of consistency
As companies go down this path of making changes to their culture, there’s inevitably going to be some positive and negative swings in momentum. What’s really critical is the leaders are consistent all the way through when implementing change. Even when there are some ups and downs in the climate of the organisation, as a leader you need to constantly exhibit the new behaviours as part of the culture.
3. Hold others accountable to the expectation
Develop a consistent feedback loop
A starting point for this is to make sure there’s a consistent feedback loop. You need be ready to make people aware of the things that they’re doing or not doing that are in line with the behaviours you expect as part of the culture.
Consequences for behaviour
Before going down the path of changing or creating a new culture, you’ll also need to think about how your company accountability frameworks line up with your new desire to focus on culture. Are you making sure people’s KPI’s and objectives include an element of culture and behaviour? When it comes to holding others accountable to these KPI’s and objectives, there needs be the same level of consequence, both positive and negative, for those who are doing the right thing and are embracing the culture that the companies are looking for.
As leaders we also need to make sure that we recognise progress. Part of holding others accountable means actually taking some time to celebrate success and sharing stories about how far you’ve come on the culture journey as a team. Remember, the change won’t happen overnight, but by celebrating small wins with your team you will find everyone is more compelled to contribute to the new culture you are creating.
Read more: 4 ways to create a culture of accountability
Ultimately, if you want to start to defining and creating a new culture for your organisation you need to be really clear on the integral role you as a leader will play in driving that change. Leaders are the people who are able to bring the culture to life and create an environment that sets both the business and its people up for success.
I dive further into this topic in the video below, so if you’re thinking about changing or creating a new culture within your organisation give this a watch first.