7 Tips on How to Develop a Strong Corporate Culture

Developing or destroying a corporate culture starts from the top. I have seen and experienced many different corporate cultures in providing executive search and leadership consulting to 100’s of clients for nearly 20 years. If the corporate culture is happy, energetic, and cutting edge, it is obvious. If it is depressing, low energy, with nothing exciting going on that is also obvious.

One of my automotive industry clients has an awesome corporate culture outside of Korea. The client is a USA based company with offices around the globe. Working with the VP of Human Resources was critical to our success. She was decisive, committed to the mission and communicated very well.

Her company’s entry into Korea was by acquisition. They needed our help initially hiring some key leaders and consulting on adapting their corporate culture to Korea. The culture in America is considered to be an individualistic society while Korea is considered a collectivist society. Understanding these and other differences in cultures are important to establishing a strategy to shape the corporate culture.

Good corporate cultures just don’t happen randomly; they are systematically designed and developed. Here are a few ideas to consider.

1) Focus on the Individual Employees don’t work for the company; they work for an individual. The number one reason why people leave their jobs, is they are unhappy with their boss. Build rapport with your team as they cover different jobs, responsibilities, with varying personality and leadership types. Pay attention to the growth of each individual.

2) Listen. The best leaders are effective listeners. Praise openly, and correct privately. In Asia, it is customary to not “make them lose face.”

3) Avoid CEO Disease Avoid the “CEO disease” of reigning from your pedestal and wanting to be seen as perfect. No one is. Lee Iacocca (former CEO of Chrysler) was accused of having this disease. He kept bringing out the same car models year after year. While this was going on the Japanese were rethinking about how cars should look and operate they swept onto the scene. CEO’s infected by this disease often look for short term gains versus long-term growth. This type of leader is described as having a fixed mindset.

4) Growth Mindset. Developing a growth mindset is critical to facilitate the change required to shape the corporate culture. Change is a process, not an event. Leaders and managers with the growth mindset don’t just seek challenges, they actively search them out and feast on them.

5) Learning Agenda. Implement a learning agenda to educate and achieve your mission and goals. Building long-term capabilities with your culture are necessary for your workforce to stay competitive and successful in a world where technology is constantly changing.

6) Think Strategically. Think strategically in order to build a strong corporate culture that will be hard to destroy. Benchmark and identify the main goals for the business, prioritize and simplify.

7) Toxic behavior. Some employees don’t embrace the corporate culture. This can be corrected with some education and proper communication. If left unchecked these employees could be become toxic and destructive to the organization.

What is the number one thing that you can do that would have the greatest impact on shaping the corporate culture you desire?

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Steven B. McKinney is the founder & President of McKinney Consulting Inc.(IRC Korea) a partner firm of IRC Global Executive Search Partners (Top 3 Globally) with over 17 years of experience as a consultant in executive search and leadership consulting placing 100’s of executives of multinational companies in Korea and Asia-wide. Mr. McKinney is also the co-founder of the Korea Business Leaders Association (KBLA). He earned the distinction of Certified Master Coach from Behavioral Coaching Institute and a certificate in Leadership Coaching Strategies from Harvard University. Previously he managed global footwear R&D efforts for Adidas International and oversaw manufacturing production and R&D duties for Reebok International in Korea.