How Corporate Culture is Formed . . .

The behaviour you ignore is the behaviour you condone!

head in sand

There is much talk about the concept of “corporate culture” in today’s business and academic press.

A recent Google search for the phrase “corporate culture” turned up 621 million hits in 0.21 seconds. (a search for “leadership” turned up 456 million, while “productivity” only 264 million hits).

And it’s not just newspapers and human resource journals that publish articles on corporate culture, but academic and professional journals such as the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, The Economist, Forbes and Fortune magazine.  The list of books and articles are endless, as are the definitions of corporate culture.

Culture Comes From . . .

A company culture is a collection of habitual behaviours that govern how people solve business problems and how they interact with one another.  Some cultures are rich with open, honest communication, very little complaining or blaming, and intense feelings of pride and accountability for getting work done.  Another company culture, even in the same industry, can be filled with blaming, bad-mouthing other groups, “not my job” attitudes, habitually taking short cuts to get things done.

If you travel for business, then you are familiar with the vastly different cultures of Virginairplane steward Airlines and Southwest Airlines from those of British Airways or American Airlines.  One is upbeat, open, welcoming, the other gives passengers the feeling that the staff hate their jobs (or hate the customer).

So where do these vastly different collections of habitual and ingrained behaviours come from?

One of the most subtle, and yet powerful, culture building mechanisms is the behaviour of leaders and managers when they see any employee (hourly or executive) behaving in a manner that is not in line with the stated ethos of the company (if they have one) or that is detrimental to good customer service, product quality or team cohesion.

“Coachable Moments”

Most leaders and managers tend to walk on by the individual displaying the bad behaviour.  Oh, they will grumble about such poor behaviour, usually to their co-workers, but rarely will they take a stand, talk to the person, explain that such behaviour or attitudes are not tolerated in this company and ask if there is a reason they are behaving that way?  More often than not such a supportive and direct dialogue uncovers some level of frustration, either personal or about the company, that is bother that employee.  This now becomes a “coachable moment” where real employee development and learning can take place.

How many “coachable moments” have you walked right by?

You get the culture you tolerate!  You build the culture you want through “coachable moments”. And building and sustaining a culture is everyone’s job!

Note:  this concept of “coachable moments” is taken from my forthcoming book – ADVANTAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, due out at the end of the year.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to How Corporate Culture is Formed . . .

  1. Pingback: How to Make Culture Work for You | csrtransblog

  2. Pingback: Comprendre la culture de l’organisation et agir résolument | Le secret des PCD ! | Gouvernance | Jacques Grisé

  3. Pingback: How to Make Culture Work for You

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