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Perspective

Culture: Understood Yet Often Ignored by Leadership

There have been a plethora of studies and surveys confirming the impact of culture on organizational performance. CEO after CEO has attested to the importance of culture on the organization’s ability to consistently perform at a high level. However, much less is said about the inextricable connection between culture and an organization’s ability to develop and execute its strategy. How can you reasonably develop a plan—especially a bold one that involves transforming an organization’s business model, processes, and organizational structure to be more competitive and achieve growth goals—without an understanding of the norms, behaviors, attitudes, and other potential influences that impact personnel engagement, commitment, and trust?

While the executive suite understands the impact of culture, they continually set it aside or attempt to shape it through superficial tactics that usually include corporate marketing and promotional campaigns that have little to no lasting impacts on changing the culture. Why is this?

CEOs Are Afraid to Look in the Mirror

Organizational culture is a direct reflection of leadership, whether we like it or not. Ironically, I have had discussions with several leaders over the years who criticized their culture and drew no correlation between themselves and the culture. Recently, I met with an executive who shared his concern about the negative impacts that a fully remote option was having on personnel engagement and performance. When I asked how often he was in the office, he responded (after hesitating) about 20% of the time. I would bet a thousand dollars against a dime that the real percentage is significantly lower.

While cultural aspirations are founded on communicated core values that drive expected behaviors and peripheral characteristics that determine the required attributes to achieve business objectives, executive behaviors and decisions determine the “influential values,” these most often result in the unintended cultural consequences or, in other words, a culture by default.

Invest in Gaining Trust

Preserving an enabling, positive, and motivating culture requires consistent leadership investment, attention, and nurturing. Changing a negative or counter-productive culture requires all these plus a lot of time—in many cases, years. Most of this time must be devoted to establishing leadership trust and confidence. Unfortunately, unless there is a sincere desire and effort that extends well beyond internal marketing and promotional campaigns and a paradigm shift in what is expected of leaders, efforts will fall short or have an unsustainable cultural impact.

March 6, 2024

Author

  • C. Richard Panico
    President and CEO
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    C. Richard Panico founded Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. in 1988 and has served as president and CEO ever since. An active advocate of values-based culture and meticulous quality, Rich has been recognized by DePaul University’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics and the University of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, among others.

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Author

  • C. Richard Panico
    President and CEO
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    C. Richard Panico founded Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. in 1988 and has served as president and CEO ever since. An active advocate of values-based culture and meticulous quality, Rich has been recognized by DePaul University’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics and the University of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, among others.

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