Culture trumps strategy! For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.
I was working with one of my executive coaching clients recently who is a partner in a large San Francisco Bay Area law firm. My client heads up the firm’s strategy planning team and as a result of our coaching includes a cross section of members of the firm. We discussed how the right culture will need to be created to execute the new strategy. We also delved into the importance of creativity and innovation in building a growth focused culture, and how law firms can be more innovative.
We talked about the company Zappos and how their culture of fun and adventure, and core values that includes open and honest relationships with communication has been a key to their success. Change is embraced positively and with passion creating a path to profits and purpose. Zappos first defined their values from which the company developed their culture, brand and business strategies. Core values are essentially a formalized definition of a company’s culture.
In stark contrast, my client’s firm is led by a leadership team that doesn’t like marketing and sales, and accountability is for someone else. There is a lot of blaming when billable hour goals are not met. We talked quite a bit about the affect of billable hours on the culture, and how it needs to shift to contingency work and value based pricing where the firm and its’ clients will be happier. The culture that got them to where they are won’t get them to where they need to be.
Culture Drives Results
“The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of their organization is going to blow the competition away.” ~ Walter Wriston
If your people continue to think and act as they do now, can you expect to achieve the results you need?
If your answer is no, then changing your organizational culture is not an option—it’s an imperative.
NASA’s 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster is a tragic example of what happens when cultural norms fail. Six months after the shuttle disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members, NASA investigators found that “organizational culture and structure had as much to do with the accident as the [shuttle’s damaged] foam.”
Similarly, organizational culture had contributed to the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, which also killed seven crew members. As Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman wrote in an appendix to NASA’s official report: “It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management.”
The ultimate responsibility for both shuttles’ failures fell on NASA executives who ignored, dismissed or minimized engineering experts’ testimony.
How can organizational culture prevent future disasters? And conversely, how can we use culture to drive spectacular results?
Research shows that the right culture champions high levels of performance and ethical behavior. When organizations design and support a culture that encourages outstanding individual and team contribution, they achieve amazing bottom-line results.
As with NASA, leaders who ignore a disconnected culture risk failure and potentially tragic results.
Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to change their mindset and create a more successful culture? Peak performance leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to fully engage employees and customers.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do we need to shift our company culture to achieve a sustainable future?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their peak performance leadership development program.