Culture: The Leadership Mirror

For leaders, workplace culture is a mirror that reveals who you are. Here is a quick primer on how to change the reflection.


Next, determine what needs to change. Make a list of the behavioral outcomes you are looking for, like collaboration, openness, transparency, a fun work culture and so forth. These outcomes collectively represent your Tone at the Top, which will be communicated and reinforced. But remember, how you behave is what facilitates the transformation. Your communication must align with what you want your organization to become, but it is your behavior that models, or signals, the changes. Words just describe your behavior to help remove any ambiguity. Also, whatever you do, don’t go it alone. As an executive, you must engage your senior leadership team in the process, and then the broader leadership team in the final definition—or your efforts will not be embraced.   

After you have defined, acted out and communicated the leadership tone, what that means in terms of how your staff collaborates with one another is next. These are the group behaviors, or the Culture in the Core. Here, once again, words provide clarity, but it is the shared behavior that defines the actual culture.

Assemble a team of volunteers to define guidelines for productive interaction and collaboration. These guidelines must align with the tone you desire. If one of your cultural goals is complete transparency, then this team must define the behaviors that result in open and transparent interaction. In general, the overarching goal is to increase productivity, so the organization can deliver better results for the enterprise.

Since IT creates value through teams of individuals that span both the business and IT, it is ultimately the degree and intensity of collaboration within and across organizational boundaries that drives outcomes. That means you must improve the strength of relationships and the mood (i.e., the social climate), since both are strong drivers of workforce productivity. The specifics will vary based on how healthy your culture is, and how you need to reshape it.

If you are truly motivated to build a high-performing culture, you can. (For a detailed recipe, I recommend you read my book, Transforming IT Culture, to gain an in-depth understanding of how to do it.) The key takeaway is this: cultural change begins with you, the leaders. If you have an unproductive culture, or you have been unable to change the culture, it is time for some deep introspection. 

About the Author

Frank Wander, a former CIO, is founder and CEO of the IT Excellence Institute, and author of Transforming IT Culture, How to Use Social Intelligence, Human Factors and Collaboration to Create an IT Department That Outperforms (Wily, 2013). For his previous CIO Insight article, "Unlocking Your Organization's Innovation Potential," click here

This article was originally published on 01-08-2014
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