Over our nearly 20 years of experience helping Founders and Leaders achieve thriving cultures, we have seen almost everything. From those who doubt the importance of culture to those who are 100% on board with cultural design, are aware of its proven impact, and even experience the outstanding results of having a thriving culture. However, the Founders and CEOs we usually work with are those who sense something’s not great in the organization, and they have a feeling that culture might be the answer but don’t really know where to start. If you can relate to this, we’re here to help.
One piece of advice you might have heard or received is that, when facing cultural issues, a way of repairing them is by bringing in new team members. In this article, we will explain why that approach can do more harm than good, and what is the right way to address company and cultural challenges to truly achieve a brilliant culture.
Why Starting With New People Leads You Down the Wrong Path
A company with a toxic or even a mediocre culture is like a building that’s falling apart. Sometimes it’s a crack on the paint or a bit of dust falling from the ceiling that first catches your attention. A creaking sound every once in a while or a weird sensation on the floor might give you a general feeling that something’s going on, and you should take a look at it. But in the rush of the exciting projects and opportunities that show up every day, those signs are easy to overlook. In more advanced and severe cases, we would see walls that are crumbling, pieces of the ceiling dropping, and columns and beams giving in. Staying in the house would not be safe anymore, and there would not be a lot of time left before it’s all history.
Let’s say you bring more people in to help fix the building and prevent it from falling apart. But you don’t really know what the problem with the building is. You don’t have a blueprint for what a well-constructed building would look like for your company, either. So, how are you choosing who you’re going to bring in? How do you recruit without being able to rely on a cultural foundation that guides the way? How can you make sure that you’re bringing in the right people and avoiding those who will only amplify the issues?
But let’s assume that you bring new people in and that you did a great job at choosing high-performing top talent. However, the culture you’re welcoming them into is a mixed one. That means that, while some people are engaged and striving for excellence, many others are trying to get away with delivering the bare minimum or even actively working against everything you believe in. Lacking a strong foundation, Leaders at all levels are also misaligned and going in different directions. So, what purpose are the new team members supposed to contribute to? How can they thrive in an organization that lacks a clear direction and is suffering from major alignment issues on every level?
With all the risks that it poses, bringing more people into a building that’s falling apart is nothing more than a catalyst for disaster. So, what is a better way of doing this?
A Foundation to Count On
The first step to fix a building that’s falling apart is assessing whether something or someone is actively hijacking its structural integrity. Do you have a termite infestation or a water leakage that is wearing down the walls? Is there anyone poking holes through the roof or sledgehammering the columns? Anything that’s actively damaging the structure needs to be dealt with and removed immediately.
Once the operating threats are neutralized, the next step is identifying where the weakness resides. In the workplace, that means conducting a thorough Cultural Audit. This is a process that helps you assess the state of the culture in its full complexity, identifying everything from its amazingness, the areas that need more attention and development, and any leftover toxicity that needs to be removed.
After an in-depth analysis of your culture, you might realize you need to go all the way down to the foundation and work on strengthening it. While working on the foundation when there is already an entire building relying on it is not ideal, it is not unusual for companies to go through this process. In our experience, brilliant results are still possible with the right guidance.
But once the foundation is well-designed and strongly built, you might realize that the whole construction looks completely different from what it used to be. Your former mixed culture with toxic elements has evolved into a high-achieving, thriving culture centered around empowering your high-performing team members. You used to have an average building that was falling apart, and now you have developed it into a structurally sound, astounding modern castle that embodies everything that matters to you and sets the ground for the direction in which you want to grow.
What’s important to assess now is how the people in the organization feel about this change. How are they welcoming and adapting to the transformation? Are any of them still operating as if it was an average, broken building, and why? Is everyone aligned with your brilliant high-achieving culture? It’s essential to ensure that everyone in the building is on board with your values and priorities and that systems are in place to optimize performance within the new structure.
The Outsized Impact of Getting Culture Right
A 2019 study by SHRM reported that toxic workplace cultures cost companies more than $223 billion in the five years previous to it. Now, imagine everything you could achieve if all of your people were excited about being a part of your company and deeply engaged in your culture. Imagine welcoming new top talent into a buzzing, thriving environment where projects are flourishing and everyone is committed to developing your vision into reality. All of this and so much more are possible with cultural design.
Are the walls of your culture lightly creaking? Does the floor feel not-so-stable sometimes? Is there an odd feeling, and you can’t exactly put your finger on where it’s coming from? If so, we are here to help.
Ready to Thrive?
High Achievers thrive alongside fellow High Achievers, and they attract each other.
We have worked with 1000+ founders and CEOs, and we have experienced first-hand how culture has an impact on everything, from interactions between team members to talent attraction and retention; from customer relationships and profitability to the speed of innovation and your ability to propel revolutionary initiatives that will wow your Dream Persona and leave a print in the history of your industry.
We have built proprietary frameworks proven to deliver transformative change in fast-growing companies. Below is a selection of our custom-designed projects on culture, leadership, and growth that can span from two weeks to a year depending on goals and needs:
Codifying Culture is designed to create a strong cultural foundation to be used for effective leadership initiatives, recruitment, and accountability.
Recruiting on Cultural Fit is a scalable and methodical recruitment model focused on mindset, cultural and value alignment.
Scaling a High Achiever Culture is designed to keep the best people, your High Achievers, performing and thriving.
Strategic Direction and Growth is often delivered as an off-site, followed by an executive coaching program for your management team.
Bespoke Programs are fully customized initiatives that span extensive cultural transformations as well as targeted projects covering culture, leadership, commercialization, recruitment, training, and growth.