Corporate culture is perhaps the most powerful way businesses can unite their people behind common goals and behaviors. It’s not an exaggeration to say that great culture can be a powerful competitive advantage.

Don’t think great culture is a competitive advantage? Watch what happens to companies where culture isn’t given attention.

While it can be easy to see how a rotting corporate culture can destroy a business, it’s not always as easy to see how a great corporate culture helps with long-term success. But help with success it does!

Building a strong corporate culture is one of the hardest things a CEO will ever do, and yet it’s essential. Culture is related to productivity, change management, handling growth, increasing profits, and hiring and maintaining the best team.

It’s amazing how much emphasis companies place on mapping out business strategies, often while letting the surrounding culture fend for itself. But fixing a broken corporate culture is much more than a cosmetic fix: it can be what saves a business and positions it for long-term success.

The Effect of Leadership Coaching

Leadership coaching at the highest levels of the company hierarchy can have a positive effect on corporate culture, as long as both client and coach identify corporate culture as a strong priority (which they should). Building self-awareness is often a key goal of leadership coaching relationships, and when a leader does this, it’s much harder to avoid seeing culture problems or to write them off as isolated problems.

Any leadership coaching specialist will tell you that leadership means nothing if people don’t respect it. And they simply won’t respect “leadership” from someone who is blind to systemic problems in corporate culture.

Culture from the Top Down and from the Bottom Up

As important as it is for top leaders to commit to strong corporate culture, it’s equally as important for the rank and file workforce to commit to strong corporate culture from their own point of view. But they won’t do this if they believe that leadership doesn’t care about them or value them as essential members of the team propelling the organization to success.

Culture must be addressed from the top, but it can’t be dictated.

It’s also important for top leaders to understand what “culture” means to the administrative assistant, the building manager, the drafter, and even the summer intern. Because what someone at the top thinks of as “good corporate culture” may be completely divorced from what “good corporate culture” means to the people actually operating the company day to day.

Communication, Transparency, and Honesty 

Corporate culture consulting requires a uniquely tailored set of services, but it always depends on an environment of strong communication, transparency of motives, and plain honesty. A company can spend huge sums of money trying to improve corporate culture, but if the top brass doesn’t communicate what that means, and doesn’t listen to the concerns of non-leaders, it won’t work.

Worse still are cases where efforts toward better corporate culture hide fundamental dishonesty on the part of company leadership or fail completely to take into account the needs of the everyday employee. Putting a pool table in the breakroom won’t make much of an impact on a workforce that has repeatedly asked for flexible scheduling to accommodate family obligations. Ultimately, empty gestures end up alienating employees – often really good employees who are worth keeping around.

Any business will tell you that providing outstanding products and services is the key to long-term success. But how many of them forget that there needs to be an environment that is conducive to providing outstanding services to customers? Corporate culture consulting services can work wonders, as can leadership coaching, provided they are undertaken by company leadership that is genuinely committed to making positive changes, and not just slapping a quick paint job over serious structural issues.

My many years of experience as a leadership coach have taught me that great leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum or in a perfect, predictable world. It depends heavily on the people who are led, and how they view the organization and the pursuit of its goals. Don’t let culture fend for itself, because it won’t work over the long term. If you want to learn in more depth about corporate culture, leadership, and cultural transformation, I encourage you to learn more about my executive coaching programs and check out my books for more insights.

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