Empowering Leadership to Buy Into Company Culture

Leadership and Company Culture

What are ways to get leaders to live and breathe our core values?

How can we hold leaders accountable for upholding our company culture?

Only 12% of leaders believe their companies are driving the ‘right culture.’ But leaders themselves play a huge role in creating and upholding the right culture. In fact, 90% of employees at companies with winning cultures are confident in their leadership team. CultureIQ culture strategist Rea Abrahams dove into this topic during a recent ‘fireside chat’ with a panel of trusted culture experts. Read on for our recap of the conversation and their advice for empowering leadership to uphold your company’s culture.


But First, Some Context

We held this ‘fireside chat’ in a recent webinar, where our panel answered the culture questions our attendees had submitted — we had over 200 to sift through! You can watch the hour-long webinar here. We also discussed how to scale culture as you scale your company, how to motivate leaders to embody culture, and 2018 culture trends we’re looking out for.


Our panel of culture experts included:

Chris WilliamsManaging Director at Root, Inc, a creative consultancy helping organizations face strategic change, onboarding, and culture transformation. Brandon SmithA speaker, writer, executive coach, and professor focused on eliminating workplace dysfunction. Brandon writes about culture and workplace health on this blog, The Workplace Therapist. Tania LunaA partner at LifeLabs, which specializes in trainings for companies going through rapid growth. Tania is also the author of ‘Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable & Engineer the Unexpected.’Robin ZanderA consultant, event organizer, and cafe owner working with individuals and organizations to maximize their potential. Robin is also the author of ‘Responsive: What it Takes to Create a Thriving Organization.’


How to Empower Leaders to Uphold Company Culture

ChrisLeaders are the hardest group to engage in culture within an organization. There’s a reason behind it! A group of Australian forensic psychologists interviewed U.S. corporate leaders for a study. They found that 21% of leaders showed significant levels of psychopathic traits. Prisoners show 15%. The general public is 1%!Now, I’m using this example because it’s a little tongue in cheek. But the survey makes a very real point: A lot of leaders have very high IQs, and much lower EQs. As you move down an organization, this ratio flips. When it comes to culture, you can’t simply give leaders a new set of values and expect them to live it. They often don’t possess the empathy to understand why it’s important. Here are some tips:

  • Reframe culture. Engage leaders in why you’re investing in culture. What will culture help the business achieve?
  • Involve leaders in culture creation. Make your leadership team feel they’ve been involved in the creation of your values or your culture. No ‘tells’ here.
  • Set guidelines. Leaders need to spend time among themselves drawing up ground rules on how they’ll hold one another accountable, how they’ll interact with one another.
  • Have a champion within the leadership team. Enough said.

BrandonAlso, get the leaders to tell their personal stories around each value. Doing so brings the company values to life. It connects the leaders to the values. TanyaLeaders always say they want more feedback. Direct reports often say they wish they could give more feedback to leaders. So, give your leaders feedback! It’s scary, but your leaders will appreciate the insights. If you’re not in a position to give a leader feedback directly, ask the individuals that leader admires to give feedback instead. Leaders want two things: To achieve business goals and to keep their team around. Turn to the people leaders don’t want to lose. You’ll make the feedback that much more impactful. RobinI read a fantastic book that speaks to leadership’s ability to adapt and buy into culture. It’s called Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal. In the book, General McChrystal talks about how the U.S. special forces of small, tight-knit high-performers came up against a foe they were unfamiliar with during the Iraq war. These foes communicated more quickly, they made decisions faster, they used technology in different ways. So the U.S. special forces leaned into their culture in order to keep up. They rotated leaders across divisions — sending the Navy Seals leader to the Army Rangers, for instance. These leaders were able to see how the different groups functioned under one culture. They improved communication and performance as a result. We can all learn from this approach!


Ready to watch the full fireside chat? Check it out here.