spotlight

Senn Delaney President and CEO Jim Hart discusses the importance of cultural agility in a HubCulture interview at World Economic Forum in Davos.

Enjoy our latest at your best newsletter. It features our new CEO view from the top video on leading culture with Belgacom CEO Dominique Leroy. Also in this issue, findings of our new study on organizational mindset, and a new CEO report from a year-long global research partnership between Saïd Business School, Oxford, and Heidrick & Struggles.

How do CEOs develop the skills they need to lead in an ever- changing world? To answer that question, Senn Delaney's parent company, Heidrick & Struggles, partnered with the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford to conduct in-depth interviews with more than 150 CEOs representing a wide range of sectors around the world. Findings are published in The CEO Report, one of the most comprehensive, in-depth studies of CEO leadership capabilities.

The longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Les Wexner, CEO of L Brands, was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by Chief Executive Group. Senn Delaney Chairman Dr. Larry Senn examines the leadership traits that Wexner demonstrates, including passion, growth mindset, a benevolent leadership shadow, humility and a higher purpose of doing good while doing well that have contributed to making him one of the best CEOs of the century. Senn also shares Les's insights on leading, winning together, and shaping the L Brands' culture.

To help you, your team and your organization thrive this year, we are pleased to share the best of our 2014 thought leadership and interviews by CEOs on leading culture transformation. Please do share them with your colleagues. Warmest wishes for 2015!

culture shaping

why a healthy, high-performance culture matters

Every company has its own unique culture, defined by a collective set of values and habits that condition actions of people within the organization. Culture is essentially the written and unwritten rules of how people work with each other, customers and other stakeholders.

Cultures become ingrained over time as a response to the style and actions of an influential leader. An organization's culture plays a significant role in its ability to successfully execute strategic plans. Successful leaders shape their cultures instead of allowing their cultures to shape the company.

Watch video with Senn Delaney President and CEO Jim Hart on why cultures need to be shaped



What is culture shaping?


Culture shaping is a methodical, comprehensive and integrated approach to shifting a company's culture from the top to the bottom. Building a healthy, high-performance culture involves changing the behaviors of the individuals and teams that make up the organization. Cultural transformation requires personal transformation as its foundation.

Why does a culture need to be shaped?

Leaders who have worked with us to systematically shape their cultures have a strong understanding that creating a thriving, high-performance culture aligned with their company's mission, vision and values is not the “soft stuff”, but is a vital strategy for success in and of itself. There are many demonstrated benefits that translate into measurable, sustainable improved performance.

Why does shaping a culture require a well coordinated, integrated approach?

Shaping a culture is a journey, not an event. The process requires an integrated approach that must begin at the top of the organization and be embedded throughout the entire company. Most leaders who try to shape the culture on their own don't succeed. However, if done correctly, shaping a culture can be very successful, positive, rewarding and stimulating process.

What are the key culture-shaping principles leaders should be aware of and focus on?

Cultures happen by default or design. Leading the culture of the organization is a critical factor in effective execution of your strategy. At best, the corporate culture can be a competitive advantage; at worst, it can be a significant drag on business results. Shifting a culture requires a complete and comprehensive system of change, with an awareness of and a focus on the following principles:

purposeful leadership

  • The CEO and senior leadership must own and lead the culture-shaping process.
  • Leaders need to have a clear, compelling purpose for themselves and their organization, coupled with a strong business rationale to inspire a Thriving organizational culture.
  • The process needs to be supported by resources and a systematic execution plan, like any other business strategy.
     
  •  Leaders cast a powerful shadow; therefore, the culture needs to be explicitly defined via values and behaviors and modeled by the senior team.
     
personal change

  •  People need to unfreeze existing habits and make personal behavior change. This occurs on an emotional (not intellectual) level, can only develop through insight-based learning, and is best accomplished in natural work teams to shift thinking and reinforce change.
     
  • People need to understand the purpose/reason for shaping their culture. They need to be clear on the “from and to” of the journey. They need to understand what's in it for them.
     
broad engagement with energy, momentum and mass

  • Cultures often resist what they need. Momentum, energy and critical mass are needed to engage all employees. The faster people are engaged in the process, the higher the probability the culture will shift.
     
  • A broad group of active, visible leaders need to engage all employees, top to bottom, in shaping the desired culture. (Leaders leading leaders.)

focused sustainability

  • Systematic reinforcement is needed at the individual, team and the organization level.
     
  •  Institutional practices, systems, performance drivers and capabilities need to drive toward the desired culture — including, but not limited to: communication, training, measurement, rewards and reinforcement, performance management and HR practices, and physical layout.
     
  • Visible application, measureable results with feedback and coaching, rewards and consequences are needed to make the culture real and create accountability.