4 Rules to Follow to Cultivate a Compelling Corporate Culture
Astute leaders realize that one of the most critical ingredients of successful organizations is a compelling corporate culture. But corporate cultures don’t develop just because the leader declares it. It takes clear intent and careful cultivation. I talked with Les Trachtman, CEO of The Trachtman Group, who shared with me his observations of successful corporate cultures.
Where does a company leader start when trying to create a compelling corporate culture?
It starts with the leader. Many company founders and CEOs have a healthy dose of confidence or they wouldn’t be where they are. But all too often successful business people cross the line when confidence begins to look a lot like an oversized ego.
Legendary Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy, once said: “Ego it is the anesthetic that deadens the pain of stupidity.” When leaders start to believe they know more than they actually do or think they have become infallible, they risk leading their organizations into quicksand. Here’s a great example: Blockbuster leadership laughed Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, out of the room when Hastings offered Blockbuster a partnership. Who is laughing now?
Ok, so what you are saying is a humble leader is a start. What else is required?
The people you choose to have on your team are critical. One of the issues we see often, especially in Silicon Valley, is sameness. Too many corporate teams are male-dominated and lack any appreciable diversity.
Astute leaders know that that diverse teams are the most creative and innovative. We find most of our creativity occurs at the edges, when people of different backgrounds, expertise, education, and even geographies collaborate. While most of our attention is focused on the political correctness of diversity, the benefits of diverse teams go well beyond that.
Putting together a diverse team lead by the right leader. Will that do it?
Not quite yet. With the right leader and a diverse team you still have to enable that team to do important things. Too often companies, especially the successful ones, stop taking risks. You’ve probably heard someone say the biggest obstacle to great is good.
Unfortunately, when things are going well, we stop trying to improve and all too often we coast. But if you have the right ingredients of an effective leader, a team with a broad set of skills, and you encourage them to push the envelope to take calculated risks and try new things, then great things can result.
Is there anything else unique about effective cultures?
Yes, they value the truth. Often the truth is difficult to express. When your boss has mustard on her chin, do you tell her? The best teams tell truth. They know that if it’s difficult to hear the truth, it is even harder to deliver it. Great cultures know that although the truth hurts, white lies and sugar-coated half-truths will kill you.