Rarely bottom up

Culture starts at the top

I hear myself repeating this a lot lately so I’ll make my life easier to write it up in a post. If you are unhappy about the culture in a company, change can only come from the top. A team lead can (somewhat) influence the culture inside their team, a general manager can influence the culture at a location, but company culture as a whole starts at the top.

This one of the major reasons, you see major changes in executive teams when a new CEO comes on board. You cannot conclude that the existing executive team members are failing at their job. It is often because of a new culture the new CEO wants to instill in the company. It is his job drive down that culture and often this requires new people. New people are not encumbered with the old ways of doing. This is also the reason CEOs get replaced. It is often they are not incompetent at their job, but the board feels they have a hard time seeing other opportunities. Sometimes you need a reset.

People mimic the behavior of other people in the organization. The most effective way to change people’s behavior is to look at your own. One of my favorite books is on this topic is Louis Gerstner‘s “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?“. He became CEO of IBM in 1993 when the company was near bankrupt and stuck in their old ways. In the book, he chronicles about what he found and the choices he had to make. It is a fascinating read.

If you are a leader and you are unhappy about your company’s culture, take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can change yourself to improve. Next step is to instill in your executive team and ask them to take a hard look at their own and team behavior. It is only the way.

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