Raising the level of your leadership

Culture Trashes Mottos

MottosGarbageCanThree prominent examples of how “mottos mean nothing” and how “culture trashes mottos” are in the daily news cycle. An international auto manufacturer…well, you know the story—lied to regulators about emission controls. One of the US’s largest truck-stop companies cheated customers out of rebates owed. And in a top-ten basketball program, they used strippers and prostitutes to aid recruiting of 17-18 year old boys. All of these are violations of the organization’s stated standards of conduct—their mottos on the wall. Obviously, they are not violations of the organization’s actual standards of conduct—their culture.

A recent FORTUNE article said this about the automaker: “It’s a culture that mandated success at all costs.” Evidently, the truck stop company and basketball team have the same kind of culture.

Jack Welch says it this way: “An organization’s culture is not about words [mottos] at all. It’s about behavior.”

What do all three organizations have in common? The C-suite executives—CEO/Owners and Coach—claim innocence: “I’m not responsible; I had no idea….”

Whether their denials are true…or not…is not particularly relevant. Senior leaders in businesses, colleges, churches, or government are 100% responsible for their organization’s culture.

Culture is shaped by what is modeled, encouraged and permitted. And the leaders set the tone for what is modeled, encouraged and permitted. In all three examples, it wasn’t a single rogue employee acting alone; multiple people were involved. That makes it their culture and that makes it the leader’s responsibility.

Some people are going to jail; others will lose their jobs. Sadly, the senior leaders will probably live happily-ever-after in their golf-course and ocean-front homes, continuing to claim, “I had no idea….”

In your organization, who is responsible for the culture? If you are a leader—YOU ARE.

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© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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