Who is responsible for company culture?

We often hear that culture comes from the top of an organization, and we agree for the most part. Where we want to add Pomello perspective is in the process that leadership teams often take to cultivate culture.

If you’ve worked at a large company, you’ve probably had the experience of being told what your company culture is, and my guess is that it rubbed you the wrong way. Often times it begins as a brand realignment where leadership teams get together and brainstorm the mission and vision of the company. This gets translated into values, which are thrown into a presentation and presented to employees. There’s just one problem with this approach. Those values don’t actually represent the culture of the company.

We define culture as the behaviors and norms that define how employees go about achieving their goals and interacting with one another. Any leadership brainstorm that occurs in isolation from numerous conversations with employees and active data gathering is likely to miss the mark.

Now you could argue that the leadership teams identified their aspirational culture, and this may be the case. But values and culture don’t work like light switches. You cannot expect employees to turn off some values and turn on others after one presentation or strategic initiative.

Instead, you must conduct a multi-faceted long-term campaign to communicate and reward the values you are striving to cultivate. The role of leadership is to listen to employees in order to understand where the culture is currently focused, and help guide the core values of the organization by utilizing communication, recognition, and rewards to support those values. Leading by example is certainly part of any strong company culture, but you must have the buy-in of your employees before they will follow your example.

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