In today’s business world, company culture is often at the center of what drives success. Based on my experience working with companies, there are five commonalities in how a winning culture is defined.
1. The CEO
Although the individual personal characteristics of the CEO vary from company to company, there is a common focus by the CEO on defining what it takes to succeed at their company. A credible CEO lives by these beliefs.
As a company scales, it becomes important for the success requirements to be articulated and demonstrated to the whole company. These beliefs are usually described as corporate values or organizational values. A values-based culture describes the expected behaviors and traits embedded into executive decision-making and behaviors.
2. The Leadership Team
I‘ve found that all members of a company’s leadership team must have a “heart and mind” connection to the firm’s values. Business priorities change, but when it comes to the most difficult decisions, corporate values don’t get thrown out of the window.
Common Values do not equal homogenous thinking. Winning cultures engender diversity of thinking, backgrounds and problem-solving.
4. Dynamic and Relevant
Culture is a strategy, and as business strategy evolves so should the company’s values.
It is critical to check in to see how your company is performing against your values.
In certain business scenarios, it may be more important to emphasize a particular value or improve significantly in the execution of particular values. Building a values-based culture is a long-term endeavor that takes ongoing commitment.
5. Shared Accountability of Values
The development of the desired company culture is most likely to succeed when the company’s operating model is aligned and every employee is inspired and measured against the values, and appropriately recognized and rewarded.
In a startup scenario, there is a unique opportunity to engage all employees in the determination of values. New technologies are significantly influencing how work is performed, leading to a renewed focus on transformational strategies. This focus provides great opportunities to engage employees in defining the appropriate transformational values.
An ultimate sign that there is not a fully valued culture is when the CEO and the leadership team believe that the execution of values is someone else’s job — say, the firm’s human resources department.
Teresa Jacques is a partner at Major Executive Search in San Diego. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.