Can Workplace Culture Evolve Through Leadership?

I've interviewed over 80 CEOs in the past 12 months, and often we get on the topic of company culture. I get excited each time. When we ask CEOs to define culture, the range of responses varies with every company, AND many leaders are not aware of what culture means to them specifically.


Some responses include:

  • Teams create culture as a company grows.

  • Culture changes based on values, beliefs and assumptions of the organization's values, ideas, and assumptions.

  • Culture is built around the goals and objectives of the organization.

The odd time, we get a candid answer - "I don't know- but we need to figure it out!"


Culture Defined


So what is culture, and why does it matter in the workplace?


Workplace culture is not tangible. The term is thrown around all the time, but it's not something that you can point to and say, "That's culture." Yet, it holds immense value because it is essential to tie together every aspect of your business.


Workplace culture is the beliefs, behaviors, and values shared by employees within an organization. Whether good or bad, working in an organizational culture can significantly affect how people grow professionally and personally.


Based on my experience, I have learned three essential things that contribute to culture shaping which companies can apply to get desired results.

  1. Self-awareness allows you to see others more clearly by understanding how beliefs, behaviors, and values shape performance.

  2. Curiosity - what drives and motivates the human side of teams

  3. Judgment - Ensuring there is enough information to see people without bias.


Here's what we know about culture:

  • We go after what's easy - changing company artifacts, behaviors, and metrics is more straightforward.

  • Company Artifacts, behaviors, and metrics can be changed easily in writing.

  • Influencing changes in behaviors and metrics can be easily agreed upon by teams.

  • Beliefs, values (our real ones, not those on an internal billboard), and assumptions are much harder to change.


Blind Spots


Organizations can write down and discuss their intentions, but here's where the realism comes into play. If our beliefs, values, and assumptions aren't aligned, we do not have an effective organizational culture - despite the matched RRSP and monthly gift cards.


Culture touches on everything - mountains of data tell us that organizational culture hits on performance, decision-making, atmosphere, team approach, structures and even how we communicate.


Regardless of the debate, culture is from the top-down and the bottom up. The profound thing that screams out to me is that culture isn't as intentional as it should be. I haven't done the research, but it certainly leans into self-awareness and EI-Q.


It's something that is moving and growing daily. That demands our attention, especially now in this hybrid working world with new and undiscovered pressures.


We are human first - To answer the questions around “Can culture change with leadership?”. In short, YES! By becoming self-aware and tapping into the human side of organizations, leaders can capitalize on the human (soft) skills that drive performance, decision-making, atmosphere, team approach, and communication in order to drive performance and foster an intentional and effective workplace culture.