November 06, 2014
How Leadership Behavior Influences Corporate Culture
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Today’s competitive business landscape mandates that all companies be high performing. To succeed, a business leader must both identify a product and/or service niche and find talented people to deliver the desired results. This requires attention to both the external and internal business environment. As Jim Collins references in his book “Good to Great,” a leader must first get the right people on the bus. Additionally, it is imperative that leaders get those people in the right seats on the bus.
Today’s business leaders too often use a recruiting and placement strategy centered around identifying the requisite skills and personalities needed to serve the company’s needs. This is a good start, but only a start! A truly successful company must focus on building a culture with consistent behaviors that mirror the strategy determined by the board of directors. This requires leadership. A focused and consistent personnel development plan for all levels within the company is a necessary component to a high-performing organization.
Many companies use a simple business plan with the following elements:
Notably, the only component of this framework that is subjective is people. This means everybody is a bit different from one another. For people to succeed, they require direction, motivation/encouragement, reward and recognition. Each of these efforts must be tailored to the individual for best results. It sounds simple, and it is. However, IT IS NOT EASY. Many companies profess to have “the best people,” but I have seen many peers fail even with “the best people.”
As mentioned above, most companies understand how to identify the important technical/industry skills that workers need to be successful in their jobs. Drawing out each employee’s full potential so that they can deliver superior results, however, is a much greater challenge. The approach that I have found to have the most success is to build a belief system that can be taught to everyone in the company. True leaders understand that the management team and staff are also their clients. To be a successful company, all employees must serve and be served.
Successful leaders know that employees model their behavior based on the attitudes of those at the top. Therefore, building a high-performing culture begins with the CEO demonstrating these values and behaviors. The CEO must impart this expectation on the Executive Management team, and each team, department, or otherwise must follow accordingly. Importantly, leadership requires consistency. It is normal to have a bad day, but it is unacceptable to let a client or employee feel or know that.
Choose to be here today…Arrive at work with a positive attitude and a willingness to give the effort necessary to succeed.
Choose to be “present” today…When interacting with people, be engaged and focused on the conversation and task at hand. This sounds simple, but all too often, people are physically present for a conversation while mentally elsewhere.
Choose to add value…Play an active role in every task with an emphasis on improvement.
Choose to accept help when you fail…Be willing to ask for help. Be receptive to constructive criticism. Do not be afraid to admit that you do not have all the answers.
Choose to leave each day differently than it started…Aspire to grow in your job each day.
Choose to be a lifter; not a leaner….When participating in a group, make a conscious effort to contribute (help lift the group) instead of remaining silent while others do all the work (leaning on the group and making the task harder).
Moreover, a CEO will provide consistent feedback to direct reports and require the same throughout the organization. This is often considered unnecessary at the executive level, but I would submit that it is vital at every level within a high- performing organization. This process eliminates ambiguity from stated goals and ensures a focused team that clearly understands company objectives. There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Profitability is increased when unproductive behaviors are eliminated. As CEO, spend some time each week just walking around and observing your organization. Sure, time is precious, but this will pay dividends as people actually see you as engaged and present. Spend some time each week in thought. Every CEO should reserve specific time on the calendar to be uninterrupted and alone in thought. This time will allow for creative strategic thinking
A motivated and engaged team will always provide superior results. While a manager can outline a strategy with tactical processes to drive results, it requires strong leadership to build trust with a team. Consistent and predictable leaders build confidence and trust in those around them. Trust is critical to high performing organizations. Thus, a strong corporate culture is vital to the overall success of the organization.
John Lewis is the former Founder and Organizing President of Verity Capital Group, a holding company for Verity Bank, where he also acted as CEO and Director of the bank, itself. He offers over 30 years of experience in the banking and financial industries. He has received degrees from Clemson University, the North Carolina School of Banking Advanced Management program, and the LSU School of Banking, where he obtained his Professional Masters of Banking. In addition to his experience in the private sector, he has also taught as a member of the faculty for The Graduate School of Banking at LSU.
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