Is Your Culture Boosting or Blocking PerformanceWells Fargo is now America’s largest bank by market capitalization. One of Zenger Folkman’s early and largest Clients, the company has been working extensively on leadership and culture development for the past decade. CEO John Stumpf observed, “We always say we could leave our strategic plan on an airplane, somebody could pick it up, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s all about execution. It’s how you hire, how you inspire, your culture, how you reward, how you celebrate victories, how you deal with disappointments. This is easy to talk about, but it is all in the execution.”

One of the largest corporate transformations of the past few decades was the massive and highly successful turnaround of IBM led by Lou Gerstner. In his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Leading a Great Organization Through Dramatic Change he writes, “until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like … I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game — it is the game.”

Research consistently shows that 70% of organization change and improvement efforts fail. Decades of research also shows that leadership and organization culture are the critical X factors. “Soft” leadership and culture boosts or blocks strategy, structure, and change initiatives such as attempts to:

  • Improve internal/external customer service
  • Boost health and safety
  • Execute organizational changes
  • Enhance productivity/efficiency
  • Lift morale/engagement levels
  • Strengthen teamwork/team building
  • Reduce turnover and absenteeism
  • Increase quality
  • Implement Lean/Six Sigma

High performing organizations pull together the intangible leadership and culture issues that define their unique character and rally people around a deeper sense of purpose. These powerful feelings are made tangible through behaviors and attitudes that are accepted/overlooked or expected and rewarded. These are supported by and aligned with the strong implementation of management processes and systems that translate ideals into action.

Tomorrow May’s blogs are published in the June issue of The Leader Letter. This issue highlights key leadership and culture development issues. An IBM study shines a light on why most change efforts fail. You’ll also learn more about my June 17 complimentary webcast. Finding your leadership sweet spot, 8 tips for personal development, learning what disengages employees, traditional versus strengths-based 360s, and feedback assumptions provide significant pieces of the leadership and culture development puzzle.