perception reality gap in leadershipHow big is your organization’s aspire/live gap? Does your rhetoric match reality? Is your audio synced with your video?

Research and advisory company, Gartner, recently surveyed 7,500 employees and nearly 200 HR leaders of global companies and had in-depth interviews with 100 HR leaders. They found “on average, 69% of employees don’t believe in the cultural goals set by their leaders, 87% don’t understand them, and 90% don’t behave in ways that align with them .”

That’s a canyon-sized gap between the values and culture leaders aspire toward and what’s actually lived each day. Here are a few other key findings:

  • Buzzwords often don’t match how the company operates.
  • Many employees see their leaders’ cultural aspirations as hypocritical.
  • Resources often don’t match rhetoric.
  • Engagement surveys and turnover data can be easily sanitized and made too generic to measure culture.
  • The best leaders create an open, feedback-rich environment that encourages — even pushes — people to tell their leaders what’s really going on.
  • Processes, budgets, structures, incentives, and policies must align with aspired values and culture.

Walk the talk is a worn-out, useless cliché. Do you put your money and time where your mouth is? In one of the leadership forums I facilitated, preparation included a homework assignment; participants must review their past month calendar to allocate how much time they spend across a list of activities and the agenda topics of all meetings they’d run.

At the forum, we asked leaders for the biggest culture shift they were trying to make in their team, division, or organization. We then asked them to review how much time they invested last month in activities directly and visibly connected to those culture development goals. Many spent less than 10% of their daily activities and meetings directly connected to the culture shift they were trying to make.

Tomorrow we publish my June blogs in the July issue of The Leader Letter. This issue deals with subtle and obvious manifestations of team and organizational culture. Building an agile and change adaptive culture is vital today. Many leaders blindsided by change because of their expertise.

A leader’s language is often a subtle indicator of his or her true values. Human capital — assets with skin — have a different value than human beings. The opposing cultures created by those values lead away from or toward higher engagement, teamwork, and customer service. Poor customer service is a direct reflection of poor leadership.

Meetings drive many people crazy. With good reason. Most waste time and energy. Many are a disaster. Meetings are a symptom and a cause of culture effectiveness.

Many leaders are frustrated that people in their organization aren’t getting the message about the innovation, safety, customer service, teamwork, change, or accountability culture they’re trying to build. Not true. Everyone’s getting the message. They’re seeing it loud and clear.