Last week I shared the first of two posts on the key questions every leader should be considering about their company culture coming out of the COVID-19 crisis. This week I’m sharing part 2.
Leaders everywhere are thinking about some variation of the question:
Whether it’s back to normal or a new normal, how do we evolve our culture in a way that acknowledges what we’ve gone through and sets our people up for success in the future?
It’s important to be purposeful and intentional about culture, especially at a time like this. Culture is what defines an organization, and is not a “set it and forget it” proposition, or simply a box you check off. A vibrant, inclusive culture requires constant care and feeding, and re-tooling when the world changes.
It’s unlikely that any organization is going to go back to the way things were and continue to be successful. So now is a potent moment to consider your culture — how you want people to feel, to be included, and to conduct their work in service of your clients, customers, and mission.
Here is the second set of fundamental culture questions:
(1) What are the behaviors that we want people to own and exhibit in a new way of working? And crucially — who are the people in your organization who exemplify them? Culture is the sum total of behavior, and during times of big change comes a re-awakening to how we show up and how we engage with others. Be clear about what you expect in terms of how people live your values and treat your colleagues and customers. For example, how do people interact and conduct business? How do we build in more empathy while continuing to be productive? Should we have a new approach to meetings and collaborating?
(2) How can we empower people to feel they have a sense of agency and control? In times of change and uncertainty, people get anxious when they don’t feel they have a sense of control. What might we do to help colleagues feel more agency over the culture and more like owners of the organization? Especially around remote work and balancing family demands, thinking about questions like, “Do people have to have video on for every meeting?” and “Can people decline meeting invites without being penalized?” will go a long way to helping empower our people.
(3) How do we maintain and expand a commitment to diversity? Too many organizations have made great strides in recruiting and promotion and in terms of D&I programming in the last several years to see them fall apart or be discarded right now. It’s right thing to do and it’s good for business.
(4) What are the norms we want to establish as leaders for the new world? About caring for people and their families? Articulating and re-examining expectations for outcomes and performance? Showing recognition and celebrating wins? Empathy is the key attribute for leaders today. How do we show it in every interaction and in every business decision we make?
(5) How might the way we communicate change? For many of us, this time has resulted in far less performing and presenting, and simply being — a real move “back to basics.” When I think about how I communicate inside your organization and with the world outside it, how might I continue just being myself, being human and being reasonable, rather than performing according to a role or a way I thought I should? Here are some tips for how to communicate effectively internally and as a leader.