Real culture change comes from the top of an organisation, but every decent CEO knows that engaging those below is just as important. Instilling cultural values requires inclusive and purposeful leadership, with a leadership team who live their mission and values, rather than simply announcing them.
Cultural values are so much more than token statements, like ‘everyone must show respect’. They should be things everyone from the top down and the bottom up genuinely understands and commits to.
Leaders can’t expect their workforce to cope with a change in cultural values if their own leadership team isn’t aligned; it’s essential to ensure every leader is working towards a clear set of goals and outcomes. The values of the organisation must be agreed and very clearly laid out, and the leadership team given one-to-one coaching or mentoring and have peer-to-peer discussions to ensure everyone is delivering the same message.
If a business doesn’t already have a strong culture, the whole workforce should be given the opportunity to have input into with the values that define it. It should be clear from the very beginning that these values should be observed by everyone and that people will be held accountable to them.
You can’t ask people’s opinions if you’re not prepared to act on them, and you can’t declare ‘these are our values’ if you’re only going to pick and choose who they apply to. Poor behaviour must be called out and dealt with, not just swept under the carpet because that person is driving sales or has an amazing technical ability. Without consistency, values are worthless.
Performance and engagement scores should be measured against these values, and appropriate action taken if they’re not achieved. If leaders aren’t consistently scoring highly against values, they’re not demonstrating the appropriate leadership or individual behaviours and this has to be addressed.
In terms of conveying the values, it’s not always possible for the CEO to have a frank conversation with the people on the frontline. Ambassadors from each level of the organisational structure are necessary to deliver the message, provide reassurance and help people to adapt.
The vision should be filtered down from the very top, with every leader, manager and supervisor sharing the agreed values and messages with their teams team, making it clear that their door is always open for feedback and concerns.
Consultation shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise in meeting regulations; strong leadership means making a compelling case for implementing values, but effective consultation means asking the right questions and being prepared to act on the answers.