By: Terry Thompson & Jason Kipps
Pick up any book or article about corporate culture and you will read about a number of factors that affect culture and in almost all cases the ones listed do indeed have an impact. However, what they will not usually tell you is which factor is by far the most critical, the one that will render the rest useless unless successfully attended to first. Are you ready to find out what it is? The all-important factor is simply:
The CEO’s commitment and ability to:
– Articulate and communicate a compelling vision and set of values for the company,
– Ensure that the employees of the company (particularly the managers) are the right people, and
– Communicate company-wide the important organizational developments/accomplishments/challenges on a regular and effective basis.
It is that simple. These are, by far, the 3 most important responsibilities of a CEO with respect to culture. They should be the first thing that a CEO thinks about when he/she wakes up in the morning and where CEOs should continually improve their own abilities and those of their managers. Unless the CEO lives, eats, and breathes these 3 functions and sets an example as to how every manager/supervisor should behave with respect to these key areas, any other initiative designed to improve corporate culture (e.g. compensation, coaching, training, etc.) will be seriously compromised.
These were precisely the areas that we focused on almost entirely for the first 2 years of our quest to improve the corporate culture at Terry’s company. It took that long because:
– We had to significantly increase the time Terry devoted to these activities
– We had to improve skills considerably in these areas
– We had hundreds of employees to deal with; a number of which were not the right ones
For those of you with a young company, you will not face as daunting a challenge if you start now. To make one thing clear, there are other areas that should be addressed (which we will describe in future articles) but we did not spend much time on them during the first 2 years until we had made significant progress in the priority ones and were confident that our management team had thoroughly ingrained them in their day-to-day activities.
The next several articles will provide more instructional description to each of the 3 priority areas and the one absolute truth that a CEO must acknowledge in order to succeed in building great culture.