Culture Nervousness in the Boardroom

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


The Challenge: Boards of directors are responsible for the long term success of organizations. They are legally accountable to act reasonably and prudently to ensure the strategy is effective for the greater good of all stakeholders. Of course, this includes the performance of the CEO. Now, more than ever, they are asking CEOs to outline their culture strategy. There is much angst about the ability to address competitive adaptability and protect brand reputation. Most board meetings dip into serious culture questions. For example: How are we managing advancements in technology? Why did our engagement and/or Glassdoor score go down? Why did so and so leave? What is our ability to learn and unlearn fast? What’s all this hullabaloo about psychological safety? Do we need to refresh our purpose/values?

Management is no longer just being asked to report on the expected financial and customer metrics. Directors are asking a lot of questions about how to measure culture, too. Frankly it’s a squishy, messy word for many. How do you define it? How do you measure it? And most importantly, what kind of gameplan can you execute to improve it?

Story: I’m co-writing a book about culture. The following is the first draft of a McKinsey & Co. inspired paragraph, we might use on the jacket of the book: 

“Three books sit on more executives’ bookshelves than any others: ‘In Search of Excellence’ (1982), ‘Built to Last’ (1994), and ‘Good to Great’ (2001). They turned their authors into management gurus, especially Tom Peters (‘In Search of Excellence’) and Jim Collins (the other two titles). After all the hoopla, McKinsey found that over the long run, most companies touted in these books struggled to outperform the S&P 500. Many have disappeared altogether. The conclusion: respect the trend, do everything you can to get ahead of it. Do not be arrogant or numb to the fact that even the greatest companies of their time couldn’t hold back the tide. Many were victims of their belief in being invincible.” So here’s the deal: No company can wait, rest on its laurels and be satisfied with its culture. Improve and transform or get left in the dust.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Many of our readers are executives, C-suite members and board members. If you are in this group, you need a culture framework and gameplan. 
  2. Your culture strategy should embrace adaptation, innovation, disruption and transformation. If it doesn’t, it is incomplete at best. 
  3. Wherever you are in the company, your everyday behavior and thinking combines with every other employee to define the true culture. What’s your company culture?

Think Big, Start Small, Act Now.


One Millennial View: Furthermore, if Millennials find themselves in an organization that lacks a company culture that they can be proud of, they should constantly be on the lookout for a position in an organization with purpose and values that fit their expectations. What better incentive for c-suite members to improve culture if all their employees decide to work elsewhere?  

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis