Company culture can be an ambiguous idea until it’s put into action. So how does that happen? Leadership. When your employees regularly witness a strong connection between leadership and culture, they’ll believe and buy into your organizational values.
Leaders must champion culture, yet our leadership and culture both evolve over time. How can you ensure that this progress happens in unison – that over the years your leadership team continues to mirror your culture and speak its language to the employees they manage?
6 strategies to champion leadership and culture
Like nearly every aspect of running your organization, maintaining this important dynamic between leadership and culture requires strategic planning and execution. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated. To help, we’ve assembled a list of six intentional ways you can reenergize your leadership team and reinforce your company culture at the same time.
1. Offer a refresher course
Up front, during new manager onboarding, most companies do an excellent job of training leaders on their culture, core business values, mission and vision. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story, and too often it is.
Ideally, you would offer your leaders an in-person refresher course on these topics at least every three to four years. If you’ve modified the way you want your values interpreted, or have extended parts of your mission, hosting a leadership refresher course would give you an opportunity to discuss these updates at-length.
This would also provide you with time to explore:
- How your top managers can reflect your culture within their leadership
- How they can support their teams’ efforts to live out your values
- How they can communicate changes to the rest of the company
At all times, especially in the years between these meetings, make aspects of culture, mission, vision and core values a regular part of all your communications. Then, when you come together to go deeper, the conversation about your culture feels familiar and is easy to connect to your day-to-day operations.
2. Plan a day of service
Do your leaders regularly have the opportunity to get out and serve together? If servant leadership or community engagement are an important part of your workplace culture, planning a day of service can be a great way to keep your leaders refreshed and connected to your mission. It can be a day to ensure that your leaders show up in a way that exemplifies your values, modeling for employees what you expect from them.
3. Tie leadership performance to exemplifying values
When leaders are around other leaders, they naturally emulate one another and thus, your values. But how can you be sure they take those values back to their individual teams? Incorporating culture-modeling questions into management performance reviews can get your leaders’ attention and help facilitate this values transfer.
- If your organizational culture prizes innovation, your leaders’ performance reviews could ask, “How have you empowered your team to innovate? How have you helped take them to the next level?”
- For cultures emphasizing teamwork, ask, “How have you helped another leader’s team here? How do you show respect for the worth of the individual?”
Bringing culture and values into your performance management process will help keep them top of mind for your leaders.
4. Encourage leaders to self-evaluate
There’s a tendency in leadership to point to the people as a problem when workplace culture seems off, but oftentimes the problem stems from the leader.
But if you can create an environment where your leaders feel comfortable taking inventory of themselves, it can help them assume full responsibility for their role as a face of your company culture. When your upper managers model self-awareness and lead with emotional intelligence, it will work its way down into your organization and create a profound effect on your culture.
Discuss this with your leaders. Walk through the questions you ask yourself as a leader, especially regarding your influence over company culture. For example:
- If my team isn’t living up to the values, what’s missing in my communications to them?
- Am I sharing and modeling our values? Where is there room for growth?
- Do I showcase our culture?
5. Spend time with leaders of other organizations
When your leaders are able to step outside of their everyday work environment and spend time with leaders from other companies, it helps them remember what’s unique about your organization and refine the skill of showcasing your culture and values. Networking with other leaders through professional associations or conferences can be a powerful source of inspiration, too.
In busy seasons or after years of being involved, it’s easy to pull back from engaging outside our organizations, but we should continue prioritizing these opportunities because they can reinvigorate us and make us better leaders.
6. Provide thought leadership opportunities
In the same regard, helping your management talent see themselves as thought leaders can keep them focused on your values and culture.
You can create these opportunities by:
- Providing resources that help them build their public leadership brand
- Allowing them to share their ideas on your company’s website or social media channels
- Connecting them with speaking engagements in your community
When we put ourselves in the position of needing to articulate our thoughts publicly, it encourages reflection and reaffirms vision.
Summing it all up
Your organizational culture and leadership both have tremendous influence over the other. Without leaders who model the company culture you wish to establish, it can be very difficult to move from words to actions. That’s why keeping your leadership team aligned with, and energized about, your culture is so important.
For more ways to help you and your leaders reach full potential, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.