Culture is the Vulture - Social Irresponsibility

“Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Matthew 24:28 ESV

Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast" and for many organizations, culture has become a maniacal vulture! The rapacious scavenger-like temperament that lives within many corporations is draining the life of that organization. Vultures hover over that which is dying and prey on that which is dead. They are social creatures that travel in a venue (aka committee). These same characteristics can be found in a company culture where a committee of a few "antibodies", those who resist change, are close-minded, cleave to their social in-groups, and tend to inhibit and or intimidate forward-thinking or anything different from the way they perceive how business should be conducted. These “culture vultures” are socially irresponsible. The social deterioration in an organization’s culture leaves it fragile and vulnerable.

Healthy corporate cultures successfully contribute to the rhyme and flow of operations which lead to great performance. There is alignment where each person and all systems function homogeneously, moving in the same strategic direction to achieve a common goal. Systems and structures fail to work effectively when misalignments exist causing dysfunction in organizations. Dysfunction attracts corporate vultures! The proper arrangement and continuous communication of organizational values, purpose, goals, objectives, leadership development, organizational culture, and strategic planning bring cohesion and clarity to an organization. A weak susceptible organizational culture is the outgrowth of systems failure and ultimately poor performance.

3 Danger Signs that there is dysfunction attracting "culture vulture":

  1. Distrust throughout the organization- heighten rumors & threat of job loss; misconduct, withholding information

  2. Disengagement between leaders and employees due to poor communication, low morale; employees feeling insignificant or undervalued

  3. Discouragement among employees and between them and leaders - usually the "antibodies" are the bullies or disruptors that kill new ideas and contirbutes to dysfunction

3 Major Keys to Restore Your Corporate Culture

  1. Embed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles into the business model. CSR is very much alive! It’s no longer a warm and fuzzy philanthropic gesture but it’s redefining, differentiating, and establishing brands thus giving organizations a competitive advantage. It also gives companies opportunities to demonstrate how they care for the planet as well as its people while making a profit. CSR or sustainability principles and processes contribute to innovation, cost savings, and long-term sustainable planning for organizations. The social component of CSR is increasingly becoming not just popular but prevailing as an upsurge of social movements such as the #MeToo, #TimesUp, and so many other human rights issues hit headlines. These social concerns have forced business leaders to reassess their current corporate culture. Leaders acknowledge it is necessary to make significant changes from taking a band-aid approach to resolving their people problems to taking a long-term approach to addressing employee/ stakeholder concerns and place systems and structures in place to advert crisis i.e. law suites and truly build respect and consideration for their stakeholders and not just protect their investors and shareholders. Innovation and creativity will suffer in an unhealthy toxic environment especially where unethical behavior is seen and ignored. In a CEO Success study by PwC’s Strategy & Business, in 2018 “more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles.” and these behaviors are expected to continue. Contrary to popular assumptions about who has the greatest impact on the organization’s culture, leadership is still a great influencer. Leaders who incorporate CSR practices in their business model will strengthen their corporate culture.

  2. Improve Your EQ & SQ (Emotional & Social Intelligence) - Social Intelligence doesn’t receive as much exposure as emotional intelligence however when combined with emotional intelligence, it can help bring restoration to your corporate culture. Social intelligence (SI or SQ) involves choosing to get along with others. Similar to emotional intelligence, it also requires one to be self-aware and empathetic towards others. One distinguishing factor of SQ from EQ is mastering the art of active listening. SQ leaders are very focused on effective communication and receptivity. They rely on feedback from their teams so they can improve their interpersonal skills. SQ leaders have positive interaction and engagement with others, they’re in tune. They can read and assess how they feel. In The Key to Leadership: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Intelligence article, Daniel Goleman differentiates EQ from SQ stating EQ is the ability to master oneself, individually whereas, from a leadership perspective, an effective SQ leader relies on everyone else’s ability to be successful. He also stated, “social intelligence requires empathy and skilled interaction.” According to Mayer, Salvoey, and Caruso, professors who birthed the EQ concept "emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior." Dr. Mickens (2018) posits leaders who demonstrate high EQ know how to appropriately respond to negative feedback, demonstrate even temperament, and are agile and adept in problem-solving and making decisions. They also know how to communicate critical information to their followers.

  3. Invest in Learning & Development to Create a Thriving Culture - When a couple of Starbucks' employees misjudged and therefore mishandled two African-American young men resulting in their arrest, the CEO decided to close 8,000 of its stores and provide racial bias training for the managers and employees. Although this is not the only step necessary to drive culture change, it was a significant initial step to begin to create the desired workplace behaviors that eventually are embedded in the corporate culture. Leader set the tone for the culture in the organization. When values, beliefs, and behaviors are not reflecting the mission of the organization, then it has to be corrected. Ongoing metrics should be used to check the temperature of what is happening within the organizational culture and what needs to be addressed immediately. Dr. Mickens (2018) stated "the leader provides the context for how the organization will operate to achieve its objectives" therefore they must invest in their own personal leadership development as well as invest in their employees' learning and development continuously in order to grow and perform well.

This article is clearly not exhaustive when addressing obstacles that threat the corporate culture. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions which means that leaders must be intentional about knowing what's going on in their organizations. Cultural and Global Intelligence are just additional cognitive processes that involve how one thinks, evaluates, use judgment and make decisions using analytics. When people are made a priority in an organization, it will flourish. The best ROI you can expect to receive will be realized in proportion to the quality of your investment in your team.

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Dr. E. Michelle Mickens, DSL, is CEO of Live 4 Change, LLC, a Christian-based, global strategic leadership development consultancy that brings transformational change in the lives of leaders and their organizations. Live 4 Change, LLC equip C-suite executives, managers, emerging and experienced leaders with the right tools through the leadership development system, Be 4 R.E.A.L. Leadership Series ™. We offer consultations, coaching, workshops, training programs, digital products and more. Live 4 Change, LLC programs, products, and services are designed to:

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