Eileen McDargh, CEO, The Resiliency Group

Eileen McDarghEileen McDargh is the CEO of The Resiliency Group. She is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, master facilitator, and award-winning author with expertise in resiliency and leadership.  Her articles have appeared in countless publications and two of her six books have been awarded national recognition, including the Ben Franklin Gold Award. http://www.eileenmcdargh.com. The British research firm of Global Gurus International ranks her 3rd in the top 30 Communication masters worldwide.

What does organizational culture mean to you?

Organizational culture is, in a  few words, “the way we behave around here.”  It is not the company motto or the words on a plaque— which often are just that: “words”. Culture can be life-sustaining or draining. It can be “every one for herself” or “ we work as one unit”.  The real question should be “What makes great organizational culture?”. So, for the sake of the rest of the questions, I am going to look at what makes a great, resilient organizational culture as opposed to a toxic culture.

What are the major determinants of organizational culture?

A great organizational culture is highlighted by cohesion, collaboration, and compassion. I chose the last word because it means that individually and collectively, employees feel heard, understood and served to bring their best work to bear. It also means that the organization KNOWS that every employee has a life outside of the business.  There are times when a life challenge needs the compassion of the organization— whether in the form of EAP to deal with family issues or support with health concerns. Also, a culture might vary from department to department.

What is the role of employees in organizational culture?

In a great culture, each employee embodies what the culture values. Consider “attitude”. If the culture values optimism and looking at a glass 1/2 full versus 1/2 empty, that behavior should be demonstrated on an ongoing basis.   Likewise, pessimism, backstabbing, gossiping would not be tolerated.

What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?

The first problem is that too many organizations only GUESS at what is their culture. It often takes someone from the outside to do a candid, no-holds-barred cultural assessment. The second challenge is that in some cases, senior leaders actually do not want to know what the assessment shows or, once known, dismiss it. Consider Enron- a toxic culture at the senior level that refused to look at duplicity and wrong-doing.

What are the ways to innovate company culture? Any best practices to share.

First— ask employees to tell a story that demonstrates “what is  it like to work around here.“  Stories are great ways to get at behaviors because they can be so specific and emotional.  Second- create a culture committee that is made up of folks from different levels of the organization. That committee is tasked with keeping the stated values alive and real… much like what Southwest Airlines has done for years.

Third: hire for culture fit. The smartest mind will not do well if the personal behavior doesn’t match the culture.


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