How can strong leadership influence company culture?

This opinion piece was contributed by Philip van der Wilt, SVP & GM EMEA at ServiceNow

Leaders, team managers and anyone who works in a team, for that matter, will have spent some time thinking about their company culture — what it is, if it’s good or bad and how to go about improving and building upon it. 

To put it simply, culture is the glue that brings everything together to form a unique company ethos. This impacts organisational performance, productivity and employee engagement, which in turn leads to happier customers. It also helps businesses to attract and retain talent rather than having to back fill roles that are hard to recruit for.

There is unfortunately no quick fix for developing a strong, cohesive culture — it takes a lot of time, effort and hard work. No one gets things right one hundred per cent of the time, but if you understand that people dynamics and culture is an ongoing journey that spans your entire career, you are in a better position to start building high performing teams.

Embrace team dynamics

There are now four very different generations in the workplace, including Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y workers — all of which need to be considered and embraced. Be prepared for conflicts and disagreements but don’t be afraid to let them happen. Differences should be invited in a respectful and controlled way. 

To grow both a strong company and culture, every opinion in the team matters. More often than not, each opinion shared will in fact make people wiser and stronger, as well as helping the group to feel equally accountable for any decisions that are made.

When people work together with clear goals and priorities, it gives them the best chance of achieving objectives. It’s important to remove yourself from the confines of the familiar management office and meeting cadence, and create an environment that encourages individual input from every member of the team. 

Lead with honesty, transparency and enthusiasm

To remain a ‘hot’ company, it’s imperative to evolve in order to attract and retain talent, with a focus on employee wellbeing and individuals’ autonomy at the core of how you operate.

A collective and agreed purpose coupled with behaviours that foster diversity of thought, inclusion of opinions and building a sense of belonging and acceptance help teams feel joint ownership. Creating this future where everyone can be their authentic selves and contribute wholeheartedly is essential to innovation and high performance, and key to building a great, enduring company. 

These may sound like intangible factors to results-driven sales people for example, but these elements of the employee experience are crucially important to create new, more fulfilling and productive work environments. 

For example, being assigned a task to complete is one thing, but truly understanding why it has been assigned and needs doing is another thing entirely. Show your team that their input and opinions are valued and highlight the part they play in achieving overall success. Show your team what ‘good’ looks like and give them a future vision to work towards. We live in an ever-shifting world that continues to speed up, but this gives them purpose.

No matter what industry your business operates in, good leadership is setting strict goals, being sincere and driving toward your mission. Employees will recognise the value in this. Good leadership improves culture and it’s this culture that feeds into the success of the business. Ultimately, if you support the people you work with, they will flourish and take care of the rest. This will then filter down to customers who will be able to very clearly recognise your position and outlook.

Stay inclusive, stay diverse, stay compassionately transparent and embrace belonging.