Starting 2019 out on the right ‘culture’ foot

Four people in business meetingThe start of a new year comes with a host of promises, pledges and resolutions that inevitably seem to be renewed the following year as we, as individuals, struggle to meet our own personal objectives and goals. Sometimes, it is a matter of being overly ambitious. Other times, we are just not able to live up to our own expectations.

This annual phenomenon does not always seem to escape the organizations and businesses of the world, which seem to vacillate from one new corporate culture concept to the next even more frequently than people do. Go down the list: Companies aim to be agile, entrepreneurial, innovative, creative, collaborative, diverse, mission-driven, impactful, fun, competitive, focused, committed, client-centric, employee friendly, supportive, right-sized, advanced, inclusive, profitable, growing, expanding, successful -- and so much more. Whew. Yet how many actually achieve these cultural aspirations?

As business leaders approach the new year with an opportunity to update their vision for the future, let’s collectively agree to do so on a new foot and with a new approach that begins with the simplest of commitments … be intentional and be sincere. To do so, keep in mind these four guidelines:

  • Let’s think before we speak.
  • Let’s choose to avoid clichés and actually define objectives.
  • Let’s commit to being a part of the effort and not just delegate it.
  • Let’s not just tell people what we want to be for the sake of satisfying a scorecard or ranking system, but instead commit to being new.

The rapid pace at which our businesses are evolving is as historical as the low unemployment rates in the U.S. According to a Forbes article describing a survey of more than 400 global C-suite executives, “Old ways may no longer work. While change isn’t easy, executives who continually reframe their mindset and innovate are best set up to thrive and grow.”

Yet, how many actually know how to do that and can do it well?

Commit to your culture: Both sincerity and intentionality require thought and they require a commitment to be personally invested in the experience. It is not possible to be either one from the 10,000-foot level. Leaders need to focus the new year on ways to clearly and transparently state objectives and to hold themselves (not just others) accountable. If you are seeking to set a tone of inclusivity, then be inclusive. But that requires that you take some time to define what you mean by being inclusive. Do you mean just “looking” inclusive, or do you provide equal opportunities on an inclusive basis across your entire community of colleagues?

Broaden your view of leaders: Leaders need to know who they are and every leader needs to be sincere and intentional. How about starting the new year with a discussion around the culture of your organization with your board? Don’t just ask them what they think about your company’s culture? See how they can participate in making the vision for the culture as stakeholders. Taking a wider lens on what it means to be a leader gets more people invested in the culture and it also recognizes the need for more people helping you along the way.

Empower your people: The employees, colleagues and people of your organization are the cornerstones upon which you culture is built, so consider empowering your people to implement your company’s culture by listening to their ideas, letting them seek ways to sincerely participate in the new culture and leading the message in the marketplace alongside you and not behind or beneath you. It is amazing how many leaders believe that only they can solve the problem of an eroding culture or reversing the course of an entire organization and give no credit to the people for whom the culture has been created to support.

Operationalize your culture: Make this the year where you say what you want to do and you actually do it by intentionally deploying your culture through your operational mechanisms. Does your on-boarding experience for new hires reflect your vision for diversity? Does the third-party administrator of your 401(k) have a program to support your colleagues at retirement decision-making time that is thoughtful and sincere? Are your company’s leave policies promoting your desire to be inclusive? Do you conduct interviews that are intended to mitigate risk or explore an individual’s history, value and true self? The operationalization of your desired culture comes with the sincere and intentional reflection of your existing programs through the lens of your desired culture.

As we enter the new year and embrace its future opportunities, let’s commit to being sincere and intentional about the culture we wish to create, the people we wish to support and the success we can all enjoy!

Michael J. Monahan
Principal-in-charge, Human Capital Services – Northeast
T +1 212 542 9860

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