Libby Gill, CEO, Libby Gill & Company

Libby GillLibby Gill is the former head of communications and public relations for Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting. She is now CEO of LA-based Libby Gill & Company, an executive coaching and consulting firm. She guides emerging and established leaders at organizations including ADP, Capital One, CBRE, Disney, Honda, Intel, Medtronic, Microsoft, and many more to inspire purpose and ignite performance.

Author of five books including the award-winning You Unstuck and Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow. Libby has shared her success strategies on CNN, NPR, the Today Show, and in BusinessWeek, Time, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many more. Libby’s new book is The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness the Power of Positivity.

What does organizational culture mean to you?

Organizational culture is the combination of the vision, values, and attitudes – as well as the beliefs and behaviors – of a company’s workforce. Culture is essentially the people side of the business that informs what actions are taken and why. It includes human emotion, employee engagement, and performance expectations.

What are the major determinants of organizational culture?

Every organization that intentionally builds its culture does so in a way that is meaningful to them. Companies typically consider the mission and values of the organization, long-term success goals, company size, and workplace style. Companies with positive cultures that promote trust, respect, collaboration, and professional development for their employees are often able to recruit and retain the top talent. Interestingly, even data-driven companies like Google cite these soft skills as even more critical to success than hard skills. (source: Google’s Project Oxygen)

What is the role of employees in organizational culture?

Employees should either be made aware of the organization’s culture in their hiring and onboarding process, or, if that doesn’t occur, they may need to familiarize themselves with the company’s culture through observation and asking questions. Employees who are good “culture fits,” that is, they integrate successfully with the behavioral norms and attitudes of the team are more likely to succeed than those who buck the system.

That said, after 30 years as a corporate leader and an executive coach, I believe that those who go against the cultural grain, the “naysayers” if you will, are often instrumental in challenging the status quo and providing new insights that can be extremely valuable.

What are the common problems associated with managing organizational culture?

One of the common problems in managing organizational culture is the rapidity and complexity of change, including technological advancement, regulatory shifts, and consumer expectations. Even positive changes such as company growth, mergers, and acquisitions, or company restructuring, can wreak havoc with an established culture. Leaders should be very mindful of clarifying and communicating the nature of the changes that are taking place and how those changes will affect the individual team members.

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

Most of the leadership and culture information comes from the top, but it can be extremely helpful to see what leadership looks like from the other side of the desk.  In a study conducted by former Gallup executives Tom Rath and Barry Conchie where they analyzed data from Gallup polls of more than 10,000 people, they discovered four key themes that emerged most frequently as the attributes that followers desire in their leaders: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. By highlighting those attributes in your leadership and engagement practices, your employees and company will benefit.

(Source: Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, New York: Gallup Press, 2008)

Here are some tips to help you build a positive culture:

Share your purpose. The why behind your team, division, or organization may be obvious to you, but do not assume that everyone else understands it. Make sure everyone understands the company’s overall mission and how they fit into it.

Find the formal and informal change agents. Don’t assume that only the senior leadership team or HR can manage change and influence culture. Find the influential people at all levels of the organization who others listen to, respect, and follow and enlist them in creating a culture in which employees can thrive.

Embrace your frontline. Keep your ear to the frontline employees to hear common themes, uncover problems, and air complaints. Don’t forget that the folks who are out front doing hard duty with customers and clients need TLC from leadership.

Know your people. This may seem obvious, but it is not intuitive to everyone. Get to know your team not just as workers, although that is important but as human beings. When you spend time as much – or more – with your colleagues as your own family, it’s important, to create harmony and goodwill.

Feed hope. Inspire hopefulness by creating a powerful vision of the future that everyone can share. Employees need to understand where the organization is heading and what that means to them individually. Communicate the vision so fully and frequently – through town hall meetings, internal newsletters, and one-on-one conversations – that everyone is on board and ready to do their best work.

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