Chris Cancialosi: Company Culture is Dependent on the Collective

Originally published at blog.weekdone.com

Weekdone did an interview with Chris Cancialosi, Ph.D. He is a managing partner and founder at gothamCulture.

We had an inspiring talk about culture of trust, financial transparency and how to make sure your stakeholders are happy.

As he said: “companies who do not work diligently to develop continuous feedback loops with all of their stakeholders (customers, employees and shareholders alike) are going to get steamrolled by the competition who are better able to actively engage these critical players on an ongoing basis.”

The team at gothamCulture focuses on identifying the underlying causes of organizational obstacles and assisting leaders in developing and executing breakthrough strategies to elevate performance. The team provides critical, thought-provoking insights to leaders who desire to use organizational culture and leadership as key drivers of performance.

Ask yourself, to you know who your shareholders are. Or how transparent are your finances. If you are not 100 % sure on those answers, in this interview you’ll:

  • find out, how to handle shareholders (and who they are);
  • why you shouldn’t be against financial transparency and
  • why competitors might steamroll over your company before 2020.

And even if you’re absolutely sure, you know everything about your own company, the points in this interview can’t be ignored.

What are the key factors for a well-managed organization?

The most important factor, in my opinion, is the ability to drive clarity and alignment across many stakeholders on a continuous basis. Businesses are moving at top speed and many of the key issues and challenges that arise along the way are directly attributed to a breakdown in alignment across stakeholder groups.

As a business leader, I see my role as keeping our people clear about where we’re headed, why, and helping to keep people aligned and pointed in the right direction. This continuous shepherding helps to ensure that stakeholders don’t get left behind along the way.

What is the leader’s role in a workplace and how has it changed during recent years?

To me, a leader’s role in the workplace is to serve as a facilitator to getting things done. By helping to create clarity and alignment, leaders are able to understand the needs of their stakeholders, remove obstacles, and create an environment where teams and individuals can focus their energies on the task at hand.

This is not a new view of leadership by any stretch, but it is a significant departure from the old school management behaviors and the command-and-control styles of getting things done. In today’s fast-paced, knowledge-based economy, command and control doesn’t typically yield the results it might in other types of work situations.

For you, what does “company culture” mean? What does it consist of and when shaping it, how much can a leader do and how much is it dependent on the employees?

Company culture is the way in which members of a group operate. It is a shared set of values and beliefs about what “right” looks like and it manifests itself in a variety of ways, from day-to-day interactions to compensation plans.

Culture is a collective concept, so it is dependent on the collective to create and evolve it. If a founder creates a culture that closely aligns with their own personal values — as happens in many startups — they end up hiring, rewarding and setting processes that align with their own beliefs. If the company succeeds, it only serves to reinforce that those ways of doing things are, in fact, the right way.

How well do you think have companies adapted to the concepts of improving their culture?

I think that culture has become a really hot topic as of late. Although most business leaders realize that culture has a significant impact on their organizations, I am not convinced that most understand how they can be intentional about shaping it to drive the behaviors they need to succeed.

You have written about financial transparency and why it’s important. Are there any good arguments left against transparency?

I think there are arguments against transparency but I’m not sure they’re necessarily good ones.

It depends who you ask. The business leader who wants to keep people in the dark to cover for their own ineptitude or who wants to keep secret the massive salaries they are paying themselves while cutting everywhere else’s may advocate against transparency in their own self-interest.

Some may argue that opening up that sort of information could become an issue if it’s shared with competitors. Again, I think this is just another form of resistance. If your company is performing well, who cares if some of that information leaks? What are they going to do with it to harm you?

You have also talked about the culture of trust. What exactly is it and are most leaders open to the idea?

A culture of trust can mean many things but, to me, it has to do with creating an environment where everyone feels free to contribute and speak their minds without fear of retribution.

These environments seem to get so much more accomplished because the different players can focus on the business rather than spending all of their time and energy dancing a dance just to stay safe. In my experience, most leaders are open to this in theory but their day-to-day behaviors and reactions to the behaviors of others undermines their intent. Actions speak louder than words.

What do you think the main challenges will be for running a company in 2020?

I think that the development and retention of institutional knowledge will be an ever-increasing challenge as younger generations of workers take a larger portion of the work share over time.

The overwhelming belief that one must move from job to job every few years or risk being viewed as stagnant is going to mean that the benefits of longevity will be lost over time.

Second, I think that companies who do not work diligently to develop continuous feedback loops with all of their stakeholders (customers, employees and shareholders alike) are going to get steamrolled by the competition who are better able to actively engage these critical players on an ongoing basis. And I don’t just mean one-way communication or social media. I mean really figuring out how to bring these stakeholders into an ongoing dialogue about meaningful business topics.

Finally, I think that the freelance revolution is already well underway and companies will need to learn how to adapt to thrive as this trend continues to build momentum. People want more and more control about how, when and where they do their work and companies that can’t make the leap to support this may find themselves in a tough spot in the next decade.

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