Organizations that focus on aligning culture with their respective values, objectives and missions are the ones that consistently perform in ways that exceed expectations. Those companies that do not recognize the importance of culture tend to get left behind.
In a recent survey of CEOs and HR leaders, a full 82 percent of respondents expressed that they believe culture is a competitive advantage. They understand that an organization’s environment drives behavior, innovation, their approach to customer service and much more.
And identifying the need for cultural change within an organization is rarely simple or easy. Even the most experienced and effective leaders may overlook the fact that their environments require a tune-up. The truth is that recognizing the need for change requires a highly tuned sense of awareness and an understanding that the signs can be very subtle.
So how can leaders get better at recognizing the need for organizational transformation?
Here are ten signs you can look for as you evaluate the culture within your company:
#1 — Financial Performance and Other Metrics Are Less Than Stellar
Sure, changes in the bottom line could arise from the normal ebb and flow of business. However, if your profits are falling along with other metrics like customer-service scores and quality standards, your organization’s culture could be an underlying cause.
#2 — People Feel Reluctant to Communicate, Even When Communication Is Critical
To me, communication is the lifeblood of any organization. It is crucial at all times, and especially critical at others. Are people within your organization unwilling or unable to communicate during times of crisis? Or are they simply tight-lipped, in general, when speaking up would be helpful? As we know from Emergenetics®, some differences in communication styles can be based on where individual fall on the spectrum of Expressiveness and Assertiveness. In these instances, it’s important to consider how your environment supports those who prefer to process internally and externally as well as those who have different preferences for pace. When communication stops flowing openly and smoothly within the organization at large, though, it might mean that the culture is due for an overhaul.
#3 — Employees Cannot Get on the Same Page With Leadership — or Each Other
Communication comes into play here, too. These days, organizations recognize the benefits of hiring diverse teams of individuals with widely varying backgrounds. Being inclusive results in more ideas, concepts and approaches are brought to the table, which usually translates into better solutions and outcomes. Emergenetics even provides tools that help organizations create cognitively diverse teams to realize these benefits. And, when people cannot seem to move beyond differences in opinion or approach — with each other or with their leaders — it may be an indication to evaluate your corporate environment.
#4 — Competitors Keep Pulling Ahead
As a leader, one of your jobs is to keep your eye on the competition, while preventing your organization from losing market share to others. When competitors seem to be dominating the market, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your organization’s culture is negative. Still, it should encourage you to examine areas where you can make improvements.
#5 — Employee Engagement Levels Are Low or Nonexistent
Let’s face it — employee engagement is one of the most important indicators of organizational health. If your team is engaged, they are likely productive, successful and operating in a manner that is conducive to a strong culture. If they are consistently disengaged, you need to re-evaluate the environment.
#6 — There Is a Great Resistance to Progress or Change
Organizations that recognize the nature of our modern world as constantly shifting and changing are better equipped for success than those that remain static. A healthy company in today’s business world sees change as an ally, not an enemy. If your employees seem to automatically resist progress or any kind of positive change, you need to consider leading a culture transformation.
#7 — Missed Opportunities Keep Piling Up
Opportunities come and go, and you will never be able to take advantage of every single one. If you notice that the list of missed chances continues to grow longer than the list of openings you have seized, it is probably time for a culture change. Why? If your employees do not feel empowered to act on the opportunities that come their way, they probably do not feel encouraged or supported, and that is an issue that should be addressed.
#8 — Good People Keep Going Away
Are you finding it increasingly difficult to retain your best people? Is hiring high-quality employees becoming harder and harder? Productive, high-performing people like to work within cultures that support them and make them feel satisfied with their roles. So if you find that keeping good people around is getting tougher, it is a strong indication that your organization is ready for a shift.
#9 — Everyone Is Focused on the Past
As a company, your focus should always be on the present moment or the future. While it can be nice to look at your organization’s past for purposes of stability or connecting with its values, concentrating too much on yesterday only prevents you and your people from doing what needs to be done now to ensure a strong future.
#10 — Leadership’s Values Are Overlooked
Culture is shaped by values, which are largely driven by executives. Therefore, if you have not taken time to consider your principles as a leader, your people may start to feel directionless. Your values should be aligned with the organization’s mission, and they should be easy for your team members to discern — from your words and actions.
What Happens Next?
Identifying the need for cultural change within your organization is one thing. Taking steps to actually promote the proper changes is another. Thankfully, identifying the need for transformation is a process that awakens your awareness, which is the essential quality needed for real, lasting and positive change.
As a leader, you have the power to adapt your culture in significant ways. Now that you have noticed the signs indicating your organization’s need to evolve, you should continue to develop your awareness and presence and begin impacting the culture by taking a look at yourself.
What are the areas of your leadership that are aligned or misaligned with your ideal culture? How are you, as a leader, contributing to your organizational environment? With the answers to these questions, you can begin to make the necessary changes that will transform your culture.
To get started on broader organizational change, I encourage you to read Sharon Taylor’s recent blog post on evolving your culture for more tips and tools.
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