How Corporate Culture Impacts Business Success: 4 Key Tactics

posted on September 23rd 2014 in Recommendations with 0 Comments /


I recently ran across a blog post by John Coleman on the Harvard Business Review blog that cited research conducted by James L. Heskett that culture “can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors.”

I’ve been involved with a number of organizations throughout my career, and I’ve been surprised to see that some organizations harness the power of corporate culture to achieve great things while others ignore the power of corporate culture and oftentimes end up in challenging situations.

Corporate culture is difficult to define and there are many theories about what makes a good corporate culture. In an INC. blog post earlier this year, Samuel B. Bacharach, Director of Cornell’s Institute for Workplace Studies, shared that with corporate culture “all academic work seems to boil down the idea that culture is about the norms that shape acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in an organization.” Bacharach continues stating that “as a leader, you have to keep in mind that culture is a tool that will help you take the organization to where you want it to go.”

I couldn’t agree with this more! Bacharach goes on to share four key challenges to leaders to ensure they are successful cultural leaders including…

1. Articulate a core cultural statement

This aligns with your mission statement and elaborates on the types of behaviors and relationships you expect your team to engage in as a part of their business interactions. An important first step is for leaders to spend time defining and aligning themselves to what the corporate culture is and how they want to support it.

2. Develop a cultural vocabulary

Think about how you describe and reinforce your cultural statement. At eClinical Solutions we have established cultural norms, which are “ECS” and stand for “excellence” we strive do it right the first time, “commitment” articulate what you will do and do what you say, and “simplicity” in stating succinctly the issue and what we need to do to fix it.

3. Model your behavior

As leaders we must “practice what we preach” and model the behavior we expect from our team members. At eClinical Solutions we support open and honest communications with our team members, and that it is acceptable to openly disagree. At the same time, we don’t accept our team members being cynical. If there is an issue, we encourage team members to address their concerns directly with the person or people involved, which leads to enhanced trust and understanding.

4. Avoid cultural drift

Over time we can can get focused on meeting day-to-day deadlines and we may forget to support our culture, or we support it with token gestures. We have to stay vigilant in supporting our culture by recognizing publically the behaviors we want to encourage and also pointing out privately the behaviors that are inconsistent with our culture.

As Heskett found, corporate culture is a driver in the success of an organization. As leaders we have a responsibility to support and model our corporate culture on a daily basis. We know we are successful when our team members display behaviors and norms that embody the culture effortlessly and as a part of daily business operations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on corporate culture. Is this something you and your organization think about and support in daily operations? If so, please share your experiences. If your organization doesn’t think about or support corporate culture, why is this and what’s holding you back?

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