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Leading Ideas: Culture Drives Success

“I came to see in my time at IBM that ‘culture’ isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game.” — Lou Gerstner (1942- ) Former IBM CEO, credited with its turnaround Last week, a colleague was venting some frustrations about a project at her company. She’d been working on a culture change initiative for 6 months and didn’t feel like she was getting much traction. When I asked her how much input she’d been getting from the executive team, she said very little. Then she started to defend them by saying they were too busy – until she caught herself.

“I came to see in my time at IBM that ‘culture’ isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game.”
— Lou Gerstner (1942- ) Former IBM CEO, credited with its turnaround

Last week, a colleague was venting some frustrations about a project at her company. She’d been working on a culture change initiative for 6 months and didn’t feel like she was getting much traction. When I asked her how much input she’d been getting from the executive team, she said very little. Then she started to defend them by saying they were too busy – until she caught herself. “I guess that’s the problem,” she smiled. “The executives being ‘too busy’ to focus on people issues is how we ended up in this situation in the first place.” – Bingo.

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Something to consider:

Culture is your organization’s DNA – the blueprint for everything you do. To be better at innovating – your culture must expect and foster innovation. To improve customer satisfaction – your culture must expect and foster great service. Great leaders realize this. They know that “culture” isn’t a single item on a task list. And it can’t be delegated to a committee. It’s all encompassing. It’s the real work – and legacy – of leaders.

Something to try:

Consider the team/group/organization you’re leading
1. Look at your vision/mission statement and jot down the behaviors that everyone supposedly follows.
2. On a second list jot down the behaviors that everyone actually follows.
3. Pick the one discrepancy that annoys you the most.
4. Make it a top priority to change it.
5. Have a conversation with colleagues on why each of you think the discrepancy exists.
6. Agree on some structures to put in place to ensure that change happens (communication, processes, rewards etc).

Question: How do you foster a culture of success at your organization?