Skin In The Game: Every CEO is the Chief Culture Officer

nStratagem Skin In The Game

 Every CEO is the Chief Culture Officer

One of the things I often hear from employees about culture change is “I thought it was just something HR did around diversity or something”.  They know their company announced, “culture change” and they read all the ensuing announcements on the intranet but thought it was just an HR related tweak here and there and decided it was not directly relevant for them. 

The top leader must have “skin-in-the-game” for culture change to be successful. And they must involve everyone in the organisation to achieve meaningful change.

If the top leader of the organisation cannot imagine a new culture for their organisation, then the culture change project will fail.  Ownership precedes imagination. A clear and well-articulated vision backed up with direct involvement by the top leader is the social, moral and psychological glue that binds the process together as it sets an example for all.

Top driven change

Culture change should be delivered from the CEO’s office directly. If culture change is something delegated to a single department to deliver, then this change will lack the critical executive authority required.

I have seen more damage done to employee engagement and loyalty, including business performance, by hollow culture change programmes delivered by well-intentioned yet untrained and inexperienced in-house professionals through no fault of their own.

If culture change is not delivered from the top leader’s office (with all the concomitant and influential authority that that brings) then such a programme should not be initiated as it will be lacklustre, pretence and fool hardy in the long run resulting in a wastage of time, energy, money and employee goodwill. 

When delivered by the top leaders office, culture change, enhances energy, creates enthusiasm and maximises the use of time and resources benefitting all aspects of the company. This results in improved productivity, revenue, loyalty and fully engaged employees. It is both effective and efficient.

Culture is not only about people

Modern organisations demand acute and measurable balance of both caring for employees and delivering on business KPI’s simultaneously. Neither should be compromised for the sake of the other.

Culture is not just about workplace benefits, bonuses, diversity or the office working environment. It encompasses everything about the organisation its behaviours, personality, character and values. The very essence that drives its uniqueness including its diversity of people, productivity, success and value.

This is what people want to belong to – a unique vibrant and inspiring organisation that matches their values and where they see a direct link between their work efforts and organisation success leading to self-pride and belonging. The top leader should inspire people who want to follow their vision for the organisation.  They are the key to unlocking all that potential.

If culture change is performed as a box-ticking exercise it can damage employee attraction and retention, diminish your reputation and brand which, in turn, will erode your performance and profits.

“Now, thanks to the radical transparency made possible by a connected world, your business is a glass box. People can see all the way inside. And that means that now the brand is everything they see. Every person. Every process. Every value. Everything that happens, ever. There’s a single word that sums up what a person sees when they look deep inside your business: they see your culture.” David Mattin, Head of Trends & Insights, TrendWatching

Imagination precedes creation

To all top leaders, own your future and only then embark on your culture change programme. Anything less and all you will achieve is the raising of expectations that will end in disappointment for many.  A recent study by Deloitte discovered that 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. That is certainly a lot of people to disappoint.

In another sobering and substantive study by McKinsey & Company of employees in Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States, 34% of employees said they quit their previous jobs due to “Uninspiring and Uncaring Leaders”. If 34% of your current employees are feeling the same today as those in this study then what impact is that having on your productivity, revenue and profits let alone culture change?

If you are a top leader and you feel the need to do things differently but don’t yet see a clear path to that future, then reach out to us (for a confidential discussion) and we can help you through the ownership and imagining processes as we have done countless times before around the world.

Norm Murray

Related News: KPMG partners in Dubai seek suspension of local leadership

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Diana Mather
1 year ago

This is an insightful and informative article. Well researched and highly relevant to all business leaders.

Norm Murray
Norm Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Diana Mather

Thank you for your feedback Diana. I am glad you found the article helpful.


[…] You cannot delegate culture change and walk away. I discuss the efficacy of this in more detail in a previous article: Skin in the Game: Every CEO is the Chief Culture Officer. […]

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