Yesterday the Care Quality Commission published a report on the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and the ambulances queuing up outside A&E. The report said the hospital had a culture of ‘learned helplessness’.
The Chief Exec has already fallen on her sword, resigning in May.
And earlier this week Mike Ashley, founder and CEO of Sports Direct gave evidence to the Select Committee. It made for good viewing!
Amongst other things he said the business might have ‘outgrown’ him and he was ‘shocked’ by what he was told was going on in the business. He was essentially disclaiming responsibility for the culture of Sports Direct.
To me that’s disingenuous to say the least.
The culture of a business comes from the top. The leadership may be active or passive but either way it sets the culture.
A passive leadership lets hidden rules and behaviours emerge unchallenged. The people who hold the power in the business, the ones with the subliminal influence, set the culture. If they, by some sheer accident, embody the behaviours you want, then you’re incredibly lucky.
But if they don’t, you might find yourself in real trouble.
I’ve first hand experience of this, from both perspectives. In one instance a manager had a destructively subversive effect on the culture, and ultimately performance, of a remote office and in the other an individual had a consistently positive effect on his colleagues, getting them to engage positively with the business.
Being passive, leaving it to chance, doesn’t make sense.
What does make sense is taking control of your culture.
It won’t happen overnight but if you take the time to define the culture you want and what that means for the people in your business, then live it yourself and consistently reinforce it, it will pay dividends.
You need to articulate your vision, define your values and settle on the behaviours that truly embody the values.
But that doesn’t mean hours of naval gazing and pontificating in meetings. It doesn’t mean drafting documents, policy statements and internal comms materials that never get read. And it doesn’t mean huge budgets.
I’ve done plenty of projects like this for businesses large and small. Give me a call if you want to take active control of your company’s culture.