Corporate culture

This summer, I had the opportunity to watch my 11-year old son play in six tournaments with the All Star team he was named to back in May. In addition to new friendships and great memories my son made through this experience, I am hopeful he also began to understand what it takes to be a strong leader who can motivate and inspire others to act in a way that earns the respect of their teammates (colleagues), spectators (clients) and opponents (competitors) – in good times and in bad.

Watching how the coaches handled various situations, I was reminded of the many articles I have recently read about company culture and, more specifically, who is responsible for what and how a company’s culture is established and maintained. There is a trend right now for businesses to take a closer look at the current culture within their organization to determine whether or not:

  1. The culture they have built is still relevant and will attract and retain the best and the brightest
  2. The culture they say they have is actually a reality
  3. If the answer to #1 or #2 is “No,” how do they fix it

Who are companies asking to find the answers to these questions? In many cases, HR. After sharing several “culture-focused” articles with our president and COO, we had a great discussion on what drives a company’s culture and both of us agreed it is – or rather, should be – a company’s leaders, not HR.

Yes, HR has a responsibility to communicate, promote and represent the culture, but a company’s culture begins – and ends – at the top . The culture of an organization formulates itself based upon the words, actions, behaviors, and overall philosophies of the CEO and his/her top executives.

The goal of an executive team is to determine what kind of company they want to operate on a day-to-day basis. They then have to build a culture to help achieve that vision, and embed that culture into the entire organization – not by saying “this is our culture” but through each and every action they take. From how they interact with employees, customers and vendors to how they make decisions, culture is a summation of the actions of a company’s executives and the managers and employees they hire. Culture is a living and evolving way of thinking, behaving and working that is made up of all the people within an organization, starting at the top.

My son has a long way to go before he becomes a CEO, but through his many athletic endeavors, I am sure he will encounter many different kinds of leaders and the ones he will remember most are those who establish the team’s “culture” at the very first practice and then demonstrate that culture through their not just their words but also their actions.