<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=585972928235617&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Corporate Culture Starts at the Top. But Who’s at the Top?

Corporate Culture Starts at the Top- But Who’s at the Top

Much is written every year about corporate culture. And yes, every corporation has a culture—they may not have built it purposefully, they may not be proud of it, it may hold the organization back rather than propel it to success—but there’s always a culture and it always impacts performance.

Don’t look to a mission or vision statement hanging on the wall to discern the culture of a given organization. Just watch what the people do. Despite what the pretty prose might say, the actual culture is revealed in how the company’s people interact with each other and with the outside world, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

Say it either way: The culture—values, attitudes, beliefs, priorities, expectations, attitudes, taboos, unwritten rules—is demonstrated by the aggregate behaviors of its people. Or the people define the culture by how they act.

The Leader of an Organization is Not Just the CEO

“The fish rots from the head,” goes the old expression designed to scare the boss into paying attention to this stuff. It’s true that the leader sets the tone, sets the pace and sets the standards and expectations. But the leader of the organization is not just the CEO who sits two, three, four or more rungs above you on the corporate ladder. If you’re a sales manager, or anyone with a small group reporting to you, then you’re the head of that fish, and whether or not it rots depends in large part on you.Company Culture Statistics

We’ve all seen successful, high-quality units in otherwise lackluster companies, just as we’ve seen embarrassing local operations with high employee turnover and missed budgets in companies that are strong performers in other locations. The bigger the company, the more likely it is that there are mini-cultures wherever you look, micro-cultures set by local leaders, department heads, and project managers. 

What Culture are You Creating?

You produce the micro-culture in your shop. So, what will it be? Customers first? High performance standards? Fair dealing? Growth and development of associates? How will your people know what your micro-culture is? They’ll just watch what people do, starting with you.

You reveal and demonstrate and reinforce your organization’s culture in myriad ways, in the…

  • Questions you ask
  • Activities you inspect
  • Budgets you establish
  • Deadlines you set
  • Performance you measure
  • Recognition you give
  • Outcomes you reward
  • Achievements you celebrate
  • Criticism you deliver
  • Talent you recruit
  • People you promote
  • Folks you fire
  • Policies you prescribe
  • Accounts you assign
  • Technology you install
  • Resources you provide
  • Tasks you delegate
  • Values you demonstrate
  • Energy you show
  • Behaviors you model
  • Time you invest
  • Attention you pay
  • Suggestions you make
  • Empowerment you grant
  • Information you disseminate
  • Arrangements you cancel
  • Crap you tolerate
  • Stuff you ignore 

I know sometimes you think your people aren’t paying attention to you. They are—but they’re probably heeding your actions more than your words. What do your actions say? Before your people reveal the culture by how they act, you set it by how you act.

2021 media sales report - download now button

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in January 2014 and has since been updated.

Topics: sales strategy