Why your culture might stink & what to do about it right now

Why your culture might stink & what to do about it right now

In my last post we talked about how to build a culture like Google’s and the role that measurement, surveys and focus groups play in creating an attractive employment brand and engaged corporate culture like Google’s. Now I will share some examples of the role your leadership plays in the process.

Pick up any book or article about corporate culture and you will read about a number of factors that affect culture – in almost all cases the Rows of blue chairsones listed do indeed have an impact. However, what they will not usually tell you is which factors are the most critical, the ones that will render the rest useless unless successfully attended to first. Are you ready to find out what the all-important factor is?

The CEO’s commitment and ability to:

– Articulate and communicate a compelling vision and set of values for the company that will support the cultural “brand”.

– Ensure that the employees of the company (particularly the managers) are the right people who embody the company vision and support the brand.

– Communicate company-wide the important organizational developments, accomplishments and challenges on a regular and effective basis.

It is that simple. Having worked with dozens of CEO over the course of my consulting career, these factors have emerged as being, by far, the 3 most important responsibilities of a CEO with respect to company culture. They should be the first thing that a CEO thinks about when they wake up in the morning and where CEOs should continually improve their own abilities and those of their managers. Unless the CEO lives, eats, and breathes these 3 functions and sets an example as to how every manager or supervisor should embody these functions, any other initiative designed to improve corporate culture (e.g. compensation, coaching, training, etc.) will be seriously compromised and will lack the authenticity and support required to get off the ground.

For some organizational leaders this can require a significant behavioral change and some “heavy lifting”. If you are a CEO or organizational leader and these factors are not already part of your focus, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would my profitability or share-holder value change if my people were more engaged?
  • How would my job change if my culture was more attractive for top talent and if our pipeline was consistently full of qualified candidates?
  • How would my performance and my organization change if all of my managers were the right people, in the right roles?
  • How many challenges would get solved before they became customer problems if key initiatives and accomplishments were effectively shared across our organization?


For those of you with a young company, you will not face as daunting a challenges  if you start now. To be clear, there are other areas that should be addressed (which we will describe in future posts) but there is no point building the “house” unless you start with a strong foundation. It’s important to no move on to other factors until you’ve made significant progress in the priority ones and are confident in the management team has thoroughly ingrained these critical factors into their day-to-day activities.

By Jason Kipps and Terry Thompson


About the author

JayHeadshotJason Kipps

Jason is Head of Universum Canada

Follow Jason on LinkedIn