Culture impacts the growth of every organization. But unfortunately, many leaders today are still unaware of how culture is intricately tied to what they do, who they are, and the results they produce. Or in some cases, they may have an idea of the culture that their organization needs, but they fail (0r don’t know how) to translate it into concrete terms for those they lead.
Building a formidable culture is not a walk in the park. It requires effort, time, and consistency. Culture, or at least a part of it, is also not static but prone to improvement over time. As a leader, the culture you build should never be rigid; instead, it should be one that can be improved upon and helps you stay competitive in the evolving times.
Sadly again, many organizations soon find themselves weighed down when competing cultures gain the upper hand in their day-to-day activities. In this situation, it soon becomes apparent to everyone, employees, and clients, that the leaders do not epitomize the espoused values. Soon productivity takes plummeted, and employees began to develop a different mindset from that of the company. And with those frustrated because of a flawed culture compared to what they perceived when they joined the organization, the inevitable sets in the organization start to tear apart.
When there is a lack of definition of your organizational culture and a strong adherence to it, you end up having people creating and exhibiting different behaviours that are diametrically opposite to what your organization truly stands for. Don’t fall into this trap. At other times, leaders try to copy other organizations’ cultures without considering their own corporate DNA.
Transferring cultural values without due diligence will always create confusion or what is known as a culture clash. When building a culture, you must be clear on what fits into the kind of organization you want to develop and what doesn’t. When that is done, it behooves you to enforce the needed culture through and through within your organization. Without proper enforcement, you send the wrong message to your people that culture is not essential.
Just like I stated earlier, juxtaposing opposing cultures will always lead to tussle. But as a leader, you also need to be aware that people who join your organization bring various cultures wherever they come from as individuals.
There is also the culture of the society that often rubs off on people (Ellinas et al., 2017). Therefore, it is your job to ensure that your organization’s culture is not at the mercy of whatever culture they are coming with. You are simply the lead culture engineer in your organization. At best, let your culture become the filtering mechanism positioned right at the door, even before anyone joins your organization.
Culture clash can also happen in the case of corporate mergers and acquisitions of two or more companies. If there is no severe alignment between these cultures, it will eventually affect corporate performance, impact employee morale, and derail focus. Forward-thinking organizations spend enough time and resources discussing and agreeing on cultural differences before forming partnerships. Because ultimately, what defines the way people work and the results they produce is their culture.
This philosophy has been backed up by studies like Berberoglu (2018) which found that the organizational climate of any organization is significantly tied to the organization’s commitment and perceived performance.
Understanding culture is paramount for those in leadership positions throughout any organization. Culture guides every employee, giving them a sense of direction on how things are or should be done. Culture doesn’t only dictate the way employees interact with one another; it also governs how they interact with clients, investors, suppliers, and other stakeholders. A healthy culture promotes innovation, shared commitment, fulfilment, accountability, integrity, and performance among team members.
Read also: Understanding the role of leadership and management in your organisation
As a leader, if you realize that your culture is not supporting your organizational growth, it is time to change course. Make a list of what is not working and be flexible enough to improve or try something else. Changing cultural direction can be expensive, and some might even stand against it, but if it is the right thing to do, it is worth every penny and resilience. Don’t be tempted to stick with the status quo when the situation demands change.
The truth is that changing your culture might require you to make tough decisions like letting go of certain people, shutting down certain branches or departments, or pivoting entirely to another business. While this is not as easy as it sounds, it might be the solution you need to turn things around. We have seen organizations that went out of business, not because they had terrible products or poor marketing strategies.
It was just that they failed in managing their entire culture architecture, leading to people operating at crossroads within the organization. Culture engenders focus while giving direction and meaning to every action people take. Without culture, boundaries cease to exist, an occurrence capable of bringing any organization to its knees.
At the core of every organizational growth is the human element. People play a critical role in how far or big your organization will end up. Without the right people, every other plan comes crashing down.
They can also be a massive drag to your progress if the culture that they operate by is contrary to what the organization needs to get to the next level. Therefore, effective leadership means staying proactive. It is not only about installing the culture that your people need to win but also enforcing it daily, both in words and by actions.
As a leader, you must mirror the culture you want to build within your organization. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.” We have seen many organizations with nice-sounding vision and value statements, only for the leaders to turn around and sabotage them with their actions. It is tough to install the right culture if you don’t lead from the front. As a leader, you must learn to walk the talk; any culture you do not subject yourself to will never work.