It’s the behavior of the leaders that shapes the culture of an organization. Do you agree?
As leaders, we make a conscious decision to lead well. But how successful are we if we don’t understand the impact of our own behavior on the culture of the organization. As leaders, we are always under the microscope of our employees; they mimic our behavior, adopt our values, and quote us. As for our customers, if what they see are inappropriate values that may determine whether or not to do business with. How can we ensure we are giving out the right message and that how we’re represented to our customers is good for the organization? Our behavior, and how it’s mirrored by others, impacts our organization’s bottom line. So it’s up to us whether our personal impact is positive or negative.
Just this week I have seen examples of both positive and negative behavior which highlights the need for leadership to understand that setting a cultural standard can showcase the business well.
It’s interesting that the two most emotionally charged environments for customers are flying and finances and yet much needs to be done to improve the cultures of these two industries regarding the behaviors they demonstrate when serving their customers.
Having just completed a 14-hour flight and needing to change currency in a bank I feel able to make some comment on the service I personally received.
Leg one of my flight had me more involved in watching the personal conversations/gossiping going on between the cabin crew when I was trying to get their attention for some water. To the crew, passengers seemed to be a distraction, at best, and a nuisance, at worst, to their conversation. It would not be difficult to determine that this level of poor customer service comes from the top.
The second leg of my flight was entirely different, the passengers were king, and the staff was attentive. They were gracious and professional, able to accommodate different conversations amongst all age groups and cultures. Clearly, standards set by leadership.
Next came the bank, long queues, no explanations, shortage of staff, and teller didn’t even look at me. Interestingly, I saw other tellers behaving in the same way. Again, this kind of behavior is mirrored from leadership. Sadly, I’ve experienced this the world over.
However, the second bank welcomed me at the door, and based on my need, directed me to a teller. I was greeted with a smile and made to feel that my $500 money exchange was the largest financial transaction the bank would undertake that day. Clearly, an example of leadership that teaches appreciation for each and every customer interaction.
When leaders set the vision and cultural direction through the lens of the customer, and they examine why people behave the way they do, they can then set vision and culture that responds to the needs of the customer.
It isn’t enough to know that people are nervous about flying or that they are concerned about having enough money for their journey. Airline staff and Financial organizations need to understand not only how to build a trusting relationship with their customers, but also to examine themselves to understand how they will react to the anxious passenger or fearful investor.
Great leaders know the importance of understanding their own leadership personality. By using a validated profiling system such as the DNA Behavior Natural Discovery Process, they can see in great depth their inherent behavior. This insight is foundational to self-awareness from which setting values and culture stem. Successful leaders set a vibrant culture that engages and energizes employees. They clearly define what culture means to them and walks it out both personally and professionally.
A culture audit will quickly identify how set values are being interpreted. For example, lack of resources can trigger behavior that directly impacts culture. Lack of training is a further trigger. But if culture criteria and standards are not set and known throughout the business it cannot be audited.
Michael Hiltzik, writing for the LA Times, makes this observation: The airline and banking industries may seem to be about as different as chalk and cheese, but Airlines and Wells Fargo have been shown to share a common bond: toxic corporate cultures that can be blamed on the men at the top, their chief executives.
Investopedia suggests the following meaning of corporate culture: Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.
Prof. James L. Heskett wrote in his book The Culture Cycle, effective culture can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with culturally unremarkable competitors.
Culture is learned behavior, but its growth comes from a place of self-knowledge. If leadership and individuals know their own personality, they can quickly identify how well they can adapt to cultural standards.
So, what’s the lesson to be learned? Culture is set at the top of the organization. Leaders need to uncover their values as an important first step to establishing the culture of their organizations. This approach, using DNA Natural Discovery helps define the framework within which culture is set, decision making styles are formulated and goals achieved. It becomes especially important when leadership has different, even conflicting values. Admittedly defining your values is often hard to do, but when done truthfully and openly upfront at the leadership level, culture becomes much easier to set, communicate and carry out.