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8 Questions to Ask When You Want to Build a Healthy Leadership Culture


Do you want to see change next year? Would you like to improve the health of your organization and people? How about reducing turnover costs and improving efficiency?

The Research

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a Columbia University study holds great insight and hope for you. A healthy, rich company culture, the study shows, marks the key difference in employee retention and productivity. According to the research, organizations with rich company culture experience a mere 13.9 percent turnover rate, whereas the likelihood of job turnover for unhealthy company cultures reaches an astounding 48.4 percent.

The reason for such disparity lies in the simple chain reaction of a poor company environment: unhappy employees rarely do more than the minimum, productive workers who feel under-appreciated tend to quit, and poor managers adversely impact workers and their productivity.

Additionally, a study by Towers Perrin in 2007 further detailed the stark difference between actively engaged and disengaged employees. According to the study results, companies with low levels of employee engagement suffered a 33 percent decrease in operating income coupled with an 11 percent decrease in earnings growth. On the other hand, companies generating high-level engagement produced a 19 percent increase in operating income as well as a 28 percent increase in earnings growth.

The research is clear – healthy organizational culture matters. Not just for the heart of your company and its employees, but also for the bottom line.

The Answers

With that in mind, how do you go about creating and fostering healthy organizational culture? Fortunately, we have seen countless companies and a never-ending variety of cultures that have all tried to answer exactly that question. Upon working with many different approaches and witnessing the mixed bag of results, here are 8 questions people commonly ask. May they begin the process to change your organization and the way you develop your leaders!

1. How do you define a great company culture?

Great company culture exists when the DNA of the company is connected with the vision/values and, ultimately, the hiring process and roles of employees. Aligning organizational DNA with crucial processes creates a secure culture which produces a healthy atmosphere where people know who they are, what they need to do, and how to go about doing it.

2. What is the single biggest obstacle to creating a great company culture, and how do you overcome that obstacle?

Insecurity about one’s future and the organizational environment, as well as the future of company leaders is key. Build clear communication of a job description, follow up on the understanding of that early in, set fair and proper boundaries, provide tools, training and equipping, and reward faithfulness.

3. What are the most important actions every leader must practice to ensure a healthy company culture?

Know yourself and lead yourself first. Once your employees see you as self-aware and willing to grow and change, then they are more likely to do so themselves.

4. How do you promote healthy culture from within?

Cultures are seasonal. Some seasons are amazing while others are flat and challenging. The best thing you can do is understand the prevailing cultural winds and direct the sails to catch momentum.

5. If you subscribe to the notion that a company’s culture is constantly in a state of motion, improving or deteriorating from day to day, what can you do to get it back on track when you feel it faltering?

Actually, the first thing to make sure not to do – don’t force it. When there is no wind in the sails it’s better to spend time improving the ship rather than scrambling for wind. For example, if you are struggling with leadership ambiguity, focus on gaining structural clarity with your leadership team and board.

6. How does one find employees who are aligned with their company culture?

Some use the concept of DNA, Skeleton, and Skin. The DNA is the Mission performance, and attitude of a (potential) employee. Try to only hire people who align with the shared DNA of the organization. The Skeleton component involves understanding a person’s work history (what type of companies people have been working for, conduct record, etc.) and approach to business. This is crucial. For example, Skeleton evaluations revolve around things like the difficulty of someone transitioning from or built for the non-profit vs. for-profit business world. The Skin simply deals with the professionalism and overall affect, chemistry, and likability of a person. When all three align, you have a win.

7. How can one understand how a job candidate might impact the company culture?

Start by asking, “Who are you?” It’s quite direct and vague, but how someone interprets and responds to that question will tell you a lot about who they are and how they think, even beyond what they say, specifically. If they start by listing facts about what they have done that tells you something about how they perceive themselves and where they root their value.

8. What about employees who seem to have a negative impact on the company culture?

If someone brings down their colleagues or infects the company culture, you have to let them go. Cancer doesn’t get better when it remains in the body; it only gets worse and damages the other healthy parts of the body. Consequently, no matter how painful it may be, the best response is to eradicate anything that may kill the body.EndFragment

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