A department, division, or organization’s culture ripples out from its leadership team. A team that wants to change “them” needs to start with a deep look in the mirror to change “us.” Organizational behavior reflects leadership team behavior. This is much like an old parenting adage, “children are natural mimics; they act like their parents despite attempts to teach them good manners.”
In their 10-year global study of leadership and culture development (published in their book Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage), Scott Keller and Colin Price report, “programs in which leaders model the desired changes are four times more likely to be successful. In an organizational context, the key elements of role modeling are transformation among senior leaders, symbolic acts, and developing a cadre of ‘influence leaders.’”
Here are just a few ways leadership teams can model the behavior they want to see rippling throughout their culture:
- Bring customers, customer advocates (salespeople are excellent ones) and front line service deliverers to key planning and operational sessions.
- Put on an apron or pick up the phone and serve customers without being introduced as top leaders. You’ll be sending important signals. And might even learn something.
- Serve your producers and servers. Continually ask them what the leadership team can do to help them provide higher levels of service/quality. Hold managers accountable for serving their teams.
- Overlook weaknesses unless they’re clearly causing problems and must be addressed. Develop and nurture strengths that align with the individual’s passions and what the organization needs from him or her.
- Celebrate, honor, cheer, applaud, reinforce, laud, praise, extol, and otherwise reinforce all behaviors that exemplify your core values and desired culture.
- Ensure leaders are first in line for leadership and key skill development. Model those skills in meetings, coaching activities, and team decision making and planning. And having senior leaders deliver those sessions to the next level of managers infuses the training with a whole new sense of priority.
- Search out and destroy all executive status symbols, perks, or privileges that contribute to the “we/they” gap.
- Agree on three or four Strategic Imperatives that will strengthen your culture. Establish cross-functional teams to lead those changes and set a rigorous follow through process with regular updates to the leadership team.
- Get unfiltered and anonymous feedback on your leadership effectiveness with 360 assessments. Build personal and team development plans around that feedback that leverages strengths and addresses any “fatal flaws.” Involve others in your personal and team development process.
- Hold regular meetings with team members in groups and individually to discuss your leadership and culture development progress.
The most effective communication is face to face. The most believable communication is behavior.
You can watch our recent Executive Team Building and Culture Development webinar for a deeper look.