By Michael Flowers
Creating a strong organizational culture is one of the primary levers that leaders can utilize in their pursuit of developing high-performing teams. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell used to say, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” While strategy provides a structure of formality and direction for the organization, it is the company’s culture that defines its values and beliefs and ultimately facilitates the achievement of its goals. Organizational culture creates a common foundation for every one of its members and creates teamwork, synergy, and esprit de corps. It is very hard to define, and even harder to get it right. Many leaders believe that culture is, above all else, the most important factor in driving innovation and organizational performance.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CORPORATE CULTURE
Many leaders have created that perfect balance between the development of a strong corporate culture and the seamless execution of the strategy leading to goal achievement. For example, a leader’s ability to be open and accessible, treat people fairly, and actively listen can facilitate the creation of a culture of engagement and high performance. “Management by walking around” and field rides are also examples of activities that can create a strong culture. Organizations that develop leaders at all levels within the company, establish a trusting environment, and where mutual respect is the norm are examples of a strong and productive corporate culture. These are places where teamwork and productivity happen naturally.
DEVELOPING A GREAT CULTURE
Leaders must take responsibility to fully understand the organizational culture and to put into place the necessary changes to move things in the desired direction. Top leaders will view the organization’s culture as a distinct differentiator, creating a “durable competitive advantage” to stay ahead of the competition. Many military leaders are adept at creating a dedicated focus on culture, making sure that it continues to evolve and strengthen the broader organization. The ambiguous nature of cultures can make this work a daunting and arduous task without the buy-in of leadership and the entire team.
“Leaders must take responsibility to fully understand the organizational culture and to put into place the necessary changes to move things in the desired direction.”
LEADING A CULTURE BY EXAMPLE
Take, for example, the sales organization that developed a culture based on achieving sales objectives regardless of the approach, accepting nothing short of hitting and exceeding the sales numbers by every one of its employees. Companies with this type of culture lose sight of the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, developing an environment of hyper-aggressive sales activities that push employees to the point of alienating customers and sometimes even straying beyond the legal limits of promotional activities. Leaders must take ownership of the organizational direction to ensure these scenarios are avoided. When developing a strong corporate culture, it is the leader’s responsibility to lead by example, inspire a shared vision, and challenge the status quo while continuing the focus on culture development. It is the leader who can model what “good looks like” who will keep the organization headed in the right direction.
CULTURE AND SUCCESS
Positive cultures can be developed through the use of a mission statement, core values, the work of engagement teams, and leadership principles. A positive and optimistic corporate culture will improve employee retention and provide the team with a definitive brand leading to synergies and high performance.
Michael Flowers is SVP Sales at Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy. He is a sales leader who also served 24 years in the active and reserve components of the U.S. Marine Corps retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.