#LeadershipTruth — A Fish Stinks From The Head

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret about how organizational culture gets created: it all starts at the top. Recently, I was chatting with one of our long-time clients and we were talking about company cultures. I was suggesting that too much time is spent by well-intentioned HR leaders on driving ‘core values’ through the organization when really everything came down to the behaviours of the CEO. She agreed replying, “A fish stinks from the head.” First, I didn’t know that interesting tidbit about fish, and second, I thought it was a great way to sum up the issue that leaders need to be hyper aware of as they think about building great teams and cultures.

It’s all going to start with you. The CEO will always set the ultimate tone around how people will behave in a company. That then trickles down through each division or department head that puts their own spin or emphasis on what’s important in a culture. At the Roundtable, we have four core values that essentially start with me.

The number one value in our firm is ‘Get Shit Done.’ It’s the one that overrides everything else for us followed closely by ‘Make an Impact.’ The value that gets paid the least attention to in our organization is ‘Have Fun.’ We certainly have fun as a team, but as team leader, I can honestly say that I’m not the person who organizes our team potlucks and parties. I’m too busy driving results (aka getting shit done). As such, I’ve purposely delegated ‘fun’ to others to make sure it happens. In order to create an engaged culture as leaders, we need to start by understanding how our own values are going to drive and shape that culture. If we’re bringing something into the mix that doesn’t align strongly with our own values, we have to ask ourselves ‘how will I ensure I walk the talk so that these expectations don’t become simply ‘words on a wall.’

What unspoken value do you bring to your team that affects your team culture?