Building a competitive corporate culture that scales as a business expands and grows, is difficult work for most leaders. A great culture is similar to a rare and precious diamond that few are able to lay their hands on. Just as with a diamond, culture is often formed or catalyzed under periods of significant pressure over extended intervals of time, and usually when goals are not met or performance/progress falters. The problem is that carbon under pressure doesn’t always yield diamonds. In the vast majority of times it yields only coal. Same is true for differing types of culture.
Aspirations of having a culture that can contribute to a business’s competitive advantage are exciting and energizing during the formulation of a strategic vision and while defining values and traits/attributes.
However, when the going gets tough after the easy decisions and big hairy audacious goals are set, this becomes the defining time for predicting future success. This is where leaders become GREAT or stay mediocre or worse. Great leaders ‘UP THEIR GAME’, during times of pressure and uncertainty. It is at this time that their true heartfelt beliefs get put to the test while the whole organization watches to take their cue.
Employees incessantly gather all sorts of data (factual, anecdotal, real and imaginary) and their own beliefs and commitment gets influenced. As these beliefs get impacted, it has a knock on effect of their behaviors and on the judgments and decisions they make. They observe and deduce which of the published or stated values pass the test under pressure and which do not and they take their cue from that.
What emerges with ‘Great Leaders’ is that the aspirational culture, becomes the real culture and is highly valuable just like a diamond.
However what happens in over 80% of the cases is that a ‘PRETEND’ culture emerges. This is the equivalent to getting coal. In these situations, leaders go into defend, justify and denial mode when the organization challenges them. Then the organization often begins to live a lie with the majority of the population acting in collusion, with a “Go Along to Get Along’ mindset.
In this regard company values are similar to teeth. You have to be true to them, or they will be false to you, delivering lots of pain and discomfort in the process.