How to establish and develop a good corporate culture

The concept of culture and the importance of corporate culture are difficult to put into words. At the same time, it has never been as important as it is today. Not only does it influence the mental state of employees but it has also become an economic success factor and, perhaps, the decisive business variable. At least for long-term success. The reason should be quite clear: No matter how good a strategy you have developed. In the end, every strategy depends on its implementation. And, therefore, with the team. So what constitutes a good corporate culture and how do you establish and develop it?


Corporate Values are developed top-down

The corporate values are determined by the founders and managing directors and are, therefore, set from the top. This is a classic top-down process. Values must not be developed collectively, because then the founder runs the risk of not establishing the culture he actually wants to have because he wants to please everybody. For the subsequent development of corporate values, it is best to imagine two or three people who are admired and respected. Then, think about what exactly you appreciate about these people. Based on this, you now identify the values beyond them and, thus, your own corporate culture. You should also consider whether these values are really those that you live by or that you consider desirable or even those that have crept into the company undesirably. To get a clear understanding of this, the categorization of values by Patrick M. Lencioni in his Harvard Business Review article helps.

Monetary incentives only work in the short term

Once you have defined your own values, it is now important to hire employees according to exactly these criteria. You must not be „blinded“ by the candidates‘ CVs, nor must you try to bait a dream candidate with money. Clearly, appropriate and fair remuneration is a matter of course and important for employee satisfaction. Sometimes, it is also possible to surpass „industry standards“, as the saying goes. But something else is decisive: motivation. Following the motto: Why does the candidate actually want to work for this company? If applicants cannot provide a reasonable and convincing answer to this question, they should be declined in a friendly but firm manner. In mutual interest. If you don’t even ask this question during the application process, you have an even bigger problem.

Communication is critical to success

Once the team is in place, the real work begins. Communication is critical for success. Not only the external but especially internal communication. As companies become more complex and technologically advanced, and their businesses grow increasingly large, communication is becoming more complex and, therefore, sometimes even less likely: We see each other less and less often, communicate preferably digitally, not analogously. The problem is that the identity of the company is sometimes lost. Every person works for himself. But often the big picture is missing. A healthy corporate culture, therefore, includes coffee breaks and small talk. The personal conversation must not be replaced. Especially concerning the topic of „new work“ and „decentralized working“, companies are consequently facing great challenges. Sometimes those little things make the difference.

Leading by example

.. is not only a cliché but, unfortunately, is often still ridiculed. Or simply not understood. Indeed, good leadership is an essential factor for a good corporate culture. The assertive top manager who successfully asserts himself based on his professional knowledge is no longer needed. Differentiation today is no longer based on hard skills, but on soft skills – in particular openness and sensitivity. Because soft skills cannot be learned – you either have them or you don’t have them. You can possibly develop them. But where there is no foundation, nothing can grow. A good leader must know his employees properly. He needs empathy. Only if he can understand the actions of other people and to put himself in their place, he can (re)act accordingly. This also includes waiving bonuses in times of crisis and letting employees participate in successes. This is not so much about the monetary aspect as it is about identity with the company – in good and bad times. Good leaders also work without a parachute to rescue them in case of bankruptcy. Good leaders must not be rescued. They are the company. And a good captain goes down with his ship.

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Von Lorenz Hartung | 11.03.2020 | Leadership

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