It Starts at the Top: 5 Ways Leaders Shape Company Culture
Leaders set the tone for the entire organization. These five strategies will help you understand how to shape a positive company culture
Company culture starts with leaders. It’s not enough to simply state company values. You have to do your part to uphold them. Otherwise, the company culture you want won’t materialize. And your own values must align with those of your company.
Leaders shape company culture by:
- Listening to employees
- Admitting mistakes
- Communicating values clearly
- Holding themselves and others accountable
- Promoting mindfulness
Let’s first examine the type of leader we’re referring to, and then go into each of these strategies in more detail.
Who is considered a leader?
Company leadership can look at lot different from company to company. In general, the C-suite and boards need to set strong examples to have impacts on company culture. This influence trickles from the top to each department’s leadership, comprised of managers and supervisors, and so on.
Anyone who manages other employees should be considered a leader that upholds company values and shapes culture. However, those lower-level managers won’t be able to properly set an example for their team if they don’t have proper guidance from the top.
That’s why it’s critical for executives to understand the impact they truly have, not only on the general employee population but on other managers’ ability to lead their individual groups effectively as well.
This is how culture is shaped by leadership – values work their way from the top down. Here are five ways to positively shape your company culture as a leader in your organization.
1. Listen to your employees
You may have heard that you shouldn’t view your employees simply by their job titles. This means if you’re striving to treat all employees and opinions equally, everyone’s opinion matters, even the lowest person in the office hierarchy.
As such, leaders need to listen to all employees and treat them equally. This creates a company culture in which each worker feels valued and feels like they have an important place in the office. Send out surveys and ask for feedback. Let newer employees speak up in meetings. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing.
2. Admit your mistakes
Another way to shape a positive company culture is to know when you made a mistake and admit it. Talk about challenges that you face or have faced, and what you could have done differently after a failure. It serves no one to look the other way when something goes wrong, even if you weren’t directly involved in the problem.
As a leader, you are always responsible. Be the first to admit that you made a mistake. This creates a workplace where people aren’t afraid to take risks, knowing that they won’t be chastised or punished for failing. Admitting when you’re wrong shows that you have integrity, and thus the entire company will operate from that mindset.
3. Communicating values clearly
It’s not enough to know your values; you have to make sure everyone knows them. Nail down what drives you and your company, the key benefits that your customers or clients receive from working with you. How are you different from your competitors?
Then think about the environment you want your employees to work in. What is your leadership style? What kind of individuals do you look for? What should motivate the team?
Once you create a set of values that are based on mutual understanding, respect, and the actual value of your services or products, you can better communicate what drives the company. These values should be listed on your website and promoted in company meetings and communications.
Everyone has to be on the same page, and that requires you to effectively communicate your own values and how they translate into company values.
4. Hold yourself and others accountable
Alongside admitting your mistakes and valuing employee feedback is fostering accountability. When everyone is aware of their role within the hierarchy, and how their job matters to the big picture, they can be held accountable if they’re not working with company values in mind. And the same applies to you and other leaders.
Accountability can be enforced with clearly set goals, for the company, and for each individual team. Benchmarks need to be set, and processes continually evaluated. When a goal isn’t reached, you should hold yourself accountable, as well as those involved in that particular project or process.
Make sure you’re part of the solution and not just the rule enforcer. When one person is struggling or falling behind, leadership and the entire company are also impacted.
5. Promoting mindfulness
Mindfulness is a major buzzword as more people are practicing meditation and self-awareness strategies to center themselves. But it’s also an important concept for leaders.
Being mindful means that you’re not judgmental, only aware of the present. You’re leading with compassion and empathy. You’re creating space in your mind to evaluate what’s happening instead of worrying about the past or the future. This practice can eliminate stress and help you avoid overreacting in the moment.
Mindful leaders set the tone for greater understanding, acceptance, and empathy. And these are important values to spread throughout your workplace.
The most important thing you can do as a leader is to understand how your words and actions impact company culture. These five strategies will help you foster a positive work environment where all employees can uphold company values, and you can lead by an honest, reliable example.