How To Turn Culture Into A Productive Force

Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business

A strong productive culture is a superpower behind every long-lasting success. Culture demands artful management and everyday care, which seem to remain a mystery for many. How do you turn corporate culture into a productive force and secure success?

In CORPORATE SUPERPOWER: Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business, author Oleg Konovalov discusses what culture is, its functions and roles, why it is important and how to fix it when it goes wrong. The book offers a step-by-step guide on how to manage this incredible asset. Oleg is a management consultant with rich experience of running businesses in different industries and countries. His book is an exceptionally well-done overview of culture and how to turn it into an asset for any organization.

I spoke with Oleg about the book and his findings.



Why do you think culture is getting so much attention these days?

We are well into the Knowledge Era, a time for new thinking about people, and appreciate that everyone has a stake in building the future. This is an era of a competition of corporate cultures, not processes.

Culture influences people’s actions, vision, minds, and hearts. In fact, an organization’s culture is its soul, and whoever controls the culture controls the soul and so, organization.

No company can move further than its employees’ competencies, where strategic development is bounded by the development of people. A successful implementation of corporate strategy directly depends on the active involvement and constant improvement of everyone.

Organizational culture is the most crucial ingredient of success, giving life to all of its many processes. Strong culture stimulates the enhancement of productivity by homogenizing the best psychological qualities of employees, the sense of unity and belonging, internal cooperation, and employees’ loyalty. Also, sustainable development depends on an organization’s ability to attract and retain the best people.



Why Leaders Must Care for the Culture

You argue that if a leader cannot care for the corporate culture, success is not possible. Why is something so important overlooked?

The problem is that only a few businesses understand corporate culture, its nature, and functions. Culture is the result of conscious choice, artful management, and daily efforts. Unfortunately, the duty of cultural caretaking frequently appears at the very bottom of a list of priorities.

The leader’s mission is to serve others and help people grow. What do we see in reality? Many leaders lose their charisma and drive because they get bogged down in the daily routine. They forget about the people behind the data in their daily reports.

Culture reflects the leadership. Leaders need to honestly assess how they are perceived, and this is not what many leaders are not prepared to face. Culture must be managed with great care and professionalism; otherwise, leaders can easily become the destroyers rather the champions of an organization.



How do leaders best take actions to improve culture?

Every serious improvement begins with a vision. Start by changing your own self, as people would not change more than their leaders do. It is critically important for company management to be actively involved with their sleeves rolled up.

See what you have at hand. Growing a tree needs fertile soil. A company’s past is the best fertile soil or foundation for moving forward.

Maintain a support base on all levels. It is difficult and time consuming to get every individual on board with change, particularly in large organizations.

Maintain control over change processes. Change processes demand control and alignment of every single step which must be checked and revised regularly, like checking on a patient in critical care.

Be prepared for alignment. A long transition can be interrupted by environmental or market changes which can affect the original goals, and likely will require a revaluation and realignment of goals and the approach taken up till that point.

Change means investing in people and developing their talents and skills. Such investment always returns through higher performance and increased potential.


3 Characteristics of a Negative Culture

What’s a “Dark Kingdom”? What are the top 3 characteristics of a Dark Kingdom culture?

Dark Kingdom companies have an organizational culture just like any other company, but it’s negative. A negative culture does not reward people for high performance and commitment. It is as dangerous as cancer for a company because it metastasizes slowly, ruining the whole body of a company and causing major lapses in organizational behavior.

There are three strong signs of a Dark Kingdom culture. First and the most obvious sign is that the company lacks a vital ingredient: a personal touch in organizational life, in its products or services. All effort is directed towards meaningless reports and long presentations which incorporate figures but not the real people behind them. The value of people is not paramount, concentrating instead on formalities and procedures.

Second, culture is centered on the bosses’ ambitions or manipulated by groups of shortsighted managers exercising their hierarchical rights and hiding their uselessness behind false reports. Culture becomes a wrongly-focused force against people and the organization itself.

Third, the cultural energy is not positive, but rather becomes an inhibitor which slows the chemical reaction of turning resources into a product. Counterproductive culture makes seamless production unreachable and utilization of resources costly and inefficient.


Tell us about the impact on employees working in such a negative atmosphere.

People are not valued members of such organization but the hostages of a nerve-racking, anti-human environment. They are not concentrating on execution of duties or customer satisfaction, but on survival in the company.

The price which is paid by hostages of a toxic culture is reflected in fatigue, anxiety, frustration, lowered self-esteem, and constant stress. Psychological tiredness accumulates day by day, and at its peak can even affect the health of the organization’s members.

A Dark Kingdom’s employees may even be viewed by their bosses as the obstacles to making money. People work in an atmosphere of fear and demoralization. Fear is a bad motivator. There is little chance for loyalty, job satisfaction, or respect in such an environment.


Talk about leadership and trust and its interrelationship with culture.

Leaders seed and grow trust which is a huge resource itself. It becomes a mark of a risk-free and meaningful relationship, which is critical for non-linear collaboration and achievement of organizational goals.

Trusting a leader means employees can concentrate on their duties being sure that their future prospects are secured. Trusting a leader depends on the relationship between the leader’s values, words, and actions. This must be consistent to earn the trust of employees. A strong culture doesn’t tolerate inconsistency from different levels of management.

Trust reflects fair dealing with employees and a willingness to give back to them. They will stand for a trusted leader in any challenge. If the leader is not trustworthy, employees will be unwilling to stick with such a person or the organization through difficult periods.

Trust grows within an organization among employees and spreads beyond its boundaries, or as far as an organization’s culture can reach. People are more willing to invest themselves in an organization if they trust it, and naturally become more engaged as a result.


When you are consulting with an organization, how do you assess its culture?

Most businesses have difficulties defining their own culture more precisely than using such basic definitions as good, friendly, or acceptable. Leaders form and define culture, but employees, while being contributors, are also consumers of an organization’s culture and perhaps the best judges of it. Therefore, it is critical to hear what people think of the culture and their suggestions.

The inner psychological state of the organization is reflected in the functions of culture. Initially, I am looking at every culture’s functions – language, active doing, self-regulating, self-detection, and revitalization, and whether the culture is focused on people or not. These factors define whether the culture is positive or negative.

I ask who takes care of culture—and how regularly? If culture is not cared for, then it will be logical to ask what are the managers and leaders in the company actually doing?

Responsibility for the culture falls on employees as well. Employees are culture residents with relevant duties and responsibilities, not just disinterested spectators. The extent to which people are aware of the organization’s vision, goals, and values defines what they will bring to the company – their best qualities and strengths or worries and weaknesses.

Culture is a measure of success and a cause of it; it is a desire for success and a way to it—a reality and a secured future at the same time, which demands everyday attention.




For more information, see CORPORATE SUPERPOWER: Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business

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