Changing corporate culture: 1 person at a time

imageI met with an old colleague this morning who was very involved with changing the leadership and management culture at Microsoft. It’s great to catch up with colleagues from the past and I always try to keep in touch with as many folks as possible when I’m over in Seattle.

This leader has transformed the lives of many team members, and managers at Microsoft through his Management Excellence programme.  This program, in addition to growing and developing managers, also highlighted poor managers, brought up their behavioural and cultural issues that needed to be remedied by people further up the leadership chain.  In short, the programme produced some truly great managers.

He saw my post on 10 career limiting moves from yesterday and he pointed me towards this great article on the journey to values based cultures written recently by David Greenberg.

David has some really great points about culture and change.  Here’s the last paragraph from his post

Culture as a strategy, fuelled by values that are translated into tangible behaviours and embedded in the gears of a business, can create a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ethical cultures are not created overnight. But ultimately, tomorrow’s winners will be those who invest in systems inspired by values-based culture.

In order to embrace the culture of the business, you need to embed the culture right across the organisation.  That means:

No senior leaders creating cliques and exclusivity amongst their “gang”

No ‘alpha females’ behaving like aggressive, domineering men in order to get promotion or get into the clique

No side meetings, politics and behaviour designed to exclude a subsection of the group

Great leaders should be willing to step off their podium and let others step up to take the challenge, grow and develop themselves.  Great leaders should take responsibility and ownership if their chosen person fails.

Great leaders shouldn’t have to ‘re-invent’ the company culture – it should be embedded at all levels throughout the company

Culture should be allowed to organically grow – not embedded into a training program.  The culture should define the company, the company shouldn’t define the culture.

With a programmatic approach, diversity will fail.  Embracing the culture and rewarding cultural diversity not homogeny will change the way that organisations behave. 

Our challenge is to drive this across our organisations by the people who can really make it happen.  My buddy in Redmond was the man who started to change Microsoft’s culture one person at a time.

What a shame he was moved to another role before he could complete his task…

image credit: Flickr

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.