Beyond Profits: A CEO’s Guide to Building a Human-Centric Organizational Culture

A CEO’s influence in shaping company culture, values, and behavior cannot be overstated. This article explores how CEOs can authentically model these aspects, creating a cohesive and values-driven environment while addressing the common pitfall of inadvertently prioritizing performance over people.

The CEO as the Cultural Beacon

The actions and decisions of a CEO set a powerful example for the entire organization. It’s essential to align these actions with the company’s stated values and desired culture. This alignment reinforces trust and integrity throughout the workforce.

Challenges in Modeling Values and Behavior

One significant challenge many CEOs face is the perception of caring more about profits than people. This perception is often fueled when high-performing employees are allowed to operate outside the bounds of company values or when employee well-being seems secondary to financial success.

Case Example: Marc Benioff at Salesforce

Consider Marc Benioff of Salesforce, who consistently models the company’s values of trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. Benioff’s approach to addressing social issues and prioritizing employee well-being, especially during the pandemic, reinforced Salesforce’s commitment to its values and the importance of everyone in the company.

Avoiding the ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ Trap

CEOS must avoid a disconnect between what they say and how they behave. This means talking about values and living them, even when challenging or less profitable in the short term.

Making People Feel Valued

Beyond modeling values, CEOs need to make their employees feel valued as human beings. This includes acknowledging their contributions, understanding their challenges, and creating an inclusive environment where every voice matters.

Recognizing the Red Flags

When CEOs do not lead by example in fostering a values-driven culture, several telltale symptoms can emerge within the organization. Recognizing these signs is the first step in addressing underlying cultural issues.

(1) Employee Disengagement: One of the most immediate symptoms is a decline in employee engagement. When leaders do not embody the company’s values, employees may feel disconnected from the organization’s vision, leading to a lack of motivation and commitment.

(2) High Turnover Rates: If employees perceive a mismatch between the company’s stated values and the actions of its leaders, they are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. High turnover not only disrupts operations but also incurs significant costs in recruiting and training new staff.

(3) Difficulty in Attracting Talent: In today’s market, where many job seekers prioritize company culture, a lack of genuine leadership can make it challenging to attract top talent. Prospective employees are often deterred by a perceived lack of authenticity in a company’s culture.

(4) Lack of Extra Effort: When employees are not inspired or feel undervalued, they are less likely to go above and beyond in their roles. This lack of discretionary effort can significantly impact innovation and productivity.

(5) Team Dysfunction: A leadership that fails to model positive behavior and values can lead to increased conflicts, poor communication, and an overall breakdown in team cohesion. This dysfunction can ripple across the organization, affecting performance and morale.

(6) Ethical Lapses and Reduced Integrity: In the absence of a strong ethical framework demonstrated by leadership, employees might deprioritize ethical considerations in their decision-making, potentially leading to integrity issues and reputational damage.

The Ripple Effect of Leadership Misalignment

The effects of a CEO’s failure to model company culture and values extend beyond the organization’s internal workings. They can impact customer relationships, brand reputation, and, ultimately, the bottom line. It underscores the importance of a CEO’s role in consistently demonstrating the behaviors and values they expect to see in their organization.

As a CEO, your behavior and decisions are a mirror of the company’s culture. You can create a thriving, resilient, and aligned organization by consistently modeling the values you champion and showing genuine regard for your employees.

Consider reaching out for a specialized coaching session for guidance on effectively modeling your company’s culture and values.

 

About the Author – Howard M. Shore is an accomplished CEO coach, author of Your Business is a Leaky Bucket and The Leader Launchpad, and the founder of Activate Group Inc. He specializes in helping leaders build strong, values-driven organizations by aligning their actions and decisions with the company’s core values.