Company culture embodies an organization's shared values, beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes. This cultural fabric is woven through every interaction, decision, and operation within the company. This foundation is built on leadership, as leaders play a foundational role in shaping this culture, setting the tone for the entire organization.

According to a survey by Deloitte, "82% of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage." It's evident that a strong, positive company culture directly impacts employee performance, collaboration, and innovation.

82% of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage.

In the words of Peter Drucker, a renowned management consultant, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." This encapsulates the idea that even the most well-crafted strategies can only succeed if aligned with a healthy company culture. So, how can leadership shape culture?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Step 1: Setting the Company's Values

Effective leaders establish the values guiding decision-making and fostering trust and respect. It’s crucial that they must align their vision with the company's core values.

When leaders consistently exemplify these values, it creates a sense of purpose that resonates with employees. This alignment is crucial in promoting a strong company culture. Discover how to start designing your company culture and establish its values with the expert advice of Avanti’s co-owners, Amin Lalani and David Owen Cord.

Step 2: Cascading Influence

Leadership behaviours trickle down throughout the organization. A study by Harvard Business Review states that "leaders' behaviours make up 70% of employees' experiences of a company's culture." Thus, leadership actions significantly shape the culture employees experience daily.

5 Key Factors to Ensure an Excellent Employee Experience

Step 3: Open Communication

Transparent communication from leadership fosters a culture of openness and honesty. Same as payroll and accounting professionals understand the importance of accurate data; precise information shared by leaders, it's paramount to contribute to a healthy culture.

In addition to communicating effectively, leaders must ensure that they encourage more interactions than interactions, advises leadership expert Kevin Eikenberry.

One critical thing that all leaders should do to be more effective is to have more interactions than transactions. We must interact with others and not just talk about work.

Discover his leadership philosophy and how to help your managers become leaders here.

Step 4: Leading by Example

"Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge," Simon Sinek emphasizes. Leaders must to showcase the values they wish to instill through their own actions.

A leader's actions resonate far louder than their words. Leading by example ignites a spark of motivation within employees. When they witness leaders striving for excellence, they are encouraged to pursue their potential.

The 17th Floor’s Resources Library has a great guide with lessons on leadership. The How to Be a Leader guide contains lessons on leadership from HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah.

Step 5: Empowering and Delegating

In order to foster a positive culture, it’s key that leaders empower employees to make decisions within their roles. This enables a culture of ownership and accountability, which are essential in driving a positive workplace culture.

A necessary factor in achieving this is to provide them with all possible tools to help them make the best decisions. Influential leaders prioritize continuous learning and development. Investing in the employees' growth shows them that their managers value their potential and contributions.

A study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found that "organizations with a strong learning culture have 37% greater employee productivity." Evidently, leaders cannot overlook this strategy if they want a positive and productive outcome.

Step 6: Recognizing and Rewarding

Leaders need to acknowledge and reward behaviours aligned with the desired culture. This could be as simple as recognizing an employee who goes above and beyond to collaborate with cross-functional teams.

Some simple and inexpensive ideas to try are:

  • Employee of the month awards

  • Peer-to-peer shoutouts

  • "Innovation champion" acknowledgments

  • Professional growth sponsorships

  • Customized "bucket list" experiences

  • Impactful "thank you" notes

  • Flex days for achieving milestones

  • Nomination-based awards (Nominated by co-workers)

  • Lunch with leadership

  • Wellness and self-care packages

Step 7: Measuring and Evolving

Leaders must continuously monitor and measure the pulse of their company culture. Companies usually use employee surveys, feedback sessions, and key performance indicators to assess alignment with the desired cultural traits. This will help fix what is not working and foster the strategies that bring good results.

The 17th Floor offers a comprehensive guide by Peninsula for employers on employee engagement surveys, including what they are, why they are essential, how to design and implement an effective survey, and how to analyze and act on the survey results.

What strategies do you carry out as a leader to foster a positive company culture? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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