How CEO executive development can affect your company's culture.

Much has been written about company culture (I recommend you read Rosen’s, The Culture of Collaboration or The New Corporate Cultures by Deal and Kennedy for an in-depth study on culture).

I think the “secret in the sauce” in culture change is the degree to which every person in your organization is focused on the change process. And, almost equally important, is maintaining that which is changed (which Goleman and his co-authors in
Primal Leadership call “sustainability”).

The first drivers of the culture change are the members of the senior management team. But, the main driver is the top leader (CEO, president or GM). This is the person who creates “true north,” making the company’s culture point in the right direction.
And, that person keeps it pointed there (or you get a “flavor of the month” initiative instead of a changing culture).

The starting point for the top leader to tackle culture change is to engage in an intensive executive development program. In my work with top executives, we work one-on-one for a year before we ever start working on the other individuals or teams
in the organization.

That year of individual executive development begins with a thorough executive assessment, the business version of soul searching. The executive assessment examines a leader’s vision for the culture and his/her mission for achieving it.

More basically, it determines how that person can best influence people, so the company can begin shifting toward a more positive culture—inclusive, participatory, communicative, etc. Which, by the way, will make the company more productive, profitable
and a nicer place to work.

Looking down the road, the senior management team is brought in for the team development process. The top leader and I use this as an opportunity to teach the team improved ways of working with the top leader, each other and the rest of the company.

Lastly, some version of the executive assessment and development process is cascaded down throughout the organization.

As each person in the company is seen as a critical point of influence, he/she must be supported in learning new ways of working with each other. And very importantly, sources of organizational resistance to the culture change need to be addressed
(not everybody on the “bus” is in the right “seat,” and a small number don’t belong on the “bus” at all).

The key elements to remember in changing your company’s culture are:

  • You and everybody in the company need to be in some form of continuous executive or leadership development—both individually and at a team level (some of this is self-directed, some done by the company having supervisors conduct leadership coaching
    with their people, and some with external resources).
  • Sources of resistance need to be brought into the fold (most people conceptually endorse a culture change, but are threatened by it because it means they’ll have to change the way they work with others—most people don’t like change).

My clients who have been successful with culture change make executive development and leadership coaching part of their strategic and annual planning, as well as part of the daily conversations throughout their companies.

Culture change, done right, becomes part of the company “DNA” and, it always begins with the person at the top.

About The Solutions Group

The Solutions Group provides professional consultation services, including pre-hire assessment, leadership assessment, succession assessment, executive coaching, executive development and leadership development coaching.