August 20, 2015
Here is another exclusive employment column by Glen Esnard, the executive vice president and principal of 20-20 Foresight Executive Search. He contributes to Connect Media regularly.
After a recent Talent Talk post which touched on organizational culture, a good friend asked whether an organization’s culture is driven by words or actions.
Restating his question, is culture defined by the how an organization’s leaders frame it or is it defined by how the organization behaves?
The correct answer is “actions”. But when words and actions are the same, something very powerful happens.
Consider the words that profess or assert the culture… the “Creed” or “Business Principles” posted in the lobby or on the firm’s website or the way leaders describe their firm’s culture when recruiting. We all know firms with two cultures, they profess one, and they live another. A firm professes sharing while file drawers are locked at night. A firm professes respect for the individual while that really only pertains to the top performers.
Using an organization’s brand as a metaphor, Suzanne Hogan, COO of Lippincott, a global brand consultancy, once explained to me,
A powerful brand is the result of communication multiplied by customer experience.
I use a brand metaphor because a brand reflects an organization much as culture does. A brand is generally external, culture internal.
So, a powerful brand has strong alignment and consistency between what the customer is promised and what the customer experiences regarding a product or service; professed value AND delivered value.
If we apply the brand formula to culture, we find:
A powerful culture is the result of professed values multiplied by demonstrated behavior.
Powerful cultures retain talent and attract better talent, naturally trim those who don’t fit, build passion, attract the right customers, reinforce organizational effectiveness and, as PwC noted last year, can be the key to meaningful competitive advantage.
In a powerful culture, the description of the culture and the actual behaviors are consistent at every level of the organization.
So as leaders, how confident are you that your organization’s professed culture and the behaviors existing in your organization are the same?