The best business accelerator? Cultivating culture to breed successA leading consultant on corporate culture at Booz and Company, Jon Katzenbach, once commented in the Harvard Business Review that “almost every enterprise that has attained peak performance sees culture as a competitive advantage – a business accelerator of change, not an impediment.’ Sources of true competitive differentiation are rare, and getting ever scarcer, but culture is certainly one of them. If a firm’s culture is distinctive, and it puts a great deal of effort into nurturing and communicating it across the organisation, it can be a powerful business accelerator. Leadership teams must also concentrate on how to attract the most talented people and, once on-board, assist them to build their experience and actively manage their careers. Helping employees to learn and develop, as well as exposing them to testing business challenges, while providing feedback, support and rewards for their achievements is also a powerful tool in retaining talent.
Creating not just a good culture, but the right cultureWhile developing a “strong” culture is important – meaning one that is cohesive, clearly defined and consistent – a culture is only effective if it fits the context of the business. In other words, a company’s culture has to align with its core business strategy, helping the workforce to meet and exceed the expectations of its customers.
What’s good for people is good for shareholdersAnother key element is to adopt best practices in HR. While this is not quite the same as culture, it is a critical part of how a successful business channels the power of its workforce. Numerous studies have proven the correlation between HR best practice and output and performance, which should not be underestimated by organisations.
Leading with authenticityManaging culture can be notoriously difficult. Yet one thing that all commentators appear to agree on is that it starts from the top. Leading by example is critical, and the best way to do that is to be yourself. There are many different leadership styles and no one right or wrong way to lead, but leaders who are true to themselves and who are seen to be thinking in a way that’s natural to them are more authentic, which instils trust and confidence in people.
Prominent leaders who’ve succeeded by putting people firstThere are many successful business leaders, but the real stand-out ones have always had a focus on people. One notable example is Louis V. Gerstner, former CEO of IBM. Gerstner turned IBM around completely at a time when morale was low, with the company going on to enjoy its best run for more than a decade based on what Gerstner put in place. Another prime example is Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Just consider the number of industries he’s transformed, from music, to airlines to mobile phones. Branson’s phenomenal achievements have undoubtedly been greatly supported by a culture of putting people first, customers second and shareholders third.
As these prominent leaders have shown, concentrating on cultivating the right culture for a business, which prioritises people first and foremost, can accelerate business success in any sector. It’s a simple but highly effective growth strategy. Jason Goodall is CEO of Dimension Data Image: Shutterstock
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