By Chris Cancialosi
Oct. 24, 2013
A business leader sets a goal to make his company the industry leader in customer satisfaction. He implements feedback programs to better understand how to satisfy his customers. He sends his employees to customer service training to help them elevate the customer experience. He crunches numbers, offers incentives, and repeatedly reiterates the goal to his frustrated employees. But nothing works. It isn’t until another CEO refers him to a consultant that he even considers his company’s culture as a factor in the performance of his business.
Company culture - or the set of shared values and practices among the organization’s leadership and employees - is often overlooked as a source of problems or limitations. A company culture that’s misaligned with the company’s business goals will create struggles and frustration for the entire organization. On the other hand, a company culture that’s aligned with its business goals is primed to foster positive results and routinely outperform competitors. It may seem counterintuitive to hire “an outsider” to solve these types of issues within a company, but in reality, there are numerous benefits to hiring a consultant that many skeptics fail to recognize:
1.Outside Perspective: An organization’s leaders are as much an integrated part of the company’s culture as the employees, which means they’re all inherently limited in their capacity to see the culture for what it truly is. They may overlook actions, activities, or decisions that have a negative impact on business simply because they’re habitual or insignificant to an insider who lives with them, day in and day out. An outside adviser has the ability to recognize these potentially damaging aspects of the company culture and bring them to the staff’s attention so they can be dealt with. A consultant can observe the daily activities of the company, interview employees, ask tough questions, and make leaders take an honest look at their situation.
2.Forced Recognition of Problems: Just as it’s easy to overlook the flaws of a loved one, business leaders can look past problems within their own companies. Consultants, however, do not take the ignorance-is-bliss approach. Instead, they bring flaws to the forefront, forcing business leaders and employees to recognize the issues and resolve their problems head-on. They are able to say things - for the good of the organization - others may be unwilling to say. They’re positioned to more easily take risks during challenging times, such as determining how to integrate multiple company cultures during a merger.
3.Expert Opinion: Culture consultants provide value to your business by helping you understand your company’s unique culture and develop focused methods, processes, and practices for evolving or transforming that culture in order to elicit the particular types of behaviors that are required to achieve your goals. Consultants bring extensive experience in a wide variety of industries and sectors, working with everyone from startups to venture capital firms.
4.Unbiased Evaluation: Every person involved in a company has a stake in that business and looks at a problem from a business mindset. A consultant has no stake in the company other than to help it improve upon its existing situation. Therefore, an external consultant is able to keenly assess an organization’s culture in an unbiased way and serve as an adviser to internal leadership. Outside experts can be much more honest and open when facilitating dialogue with executive teams and employees without fear of reprisal or backlash.
5.Collaboration toward Improvement: Oftentimes, leaders hesitate to bring in consultants because they fear they will lose control or ownership of a group or project. However, cultural consultants strive to create collaboration for culture change within a client organization. Consultants work to educate business leaders on ways they can implement change or improve upon their company’s culture. Many consultants believe that if you educate the entire staff about what culture is and how it can be used as a competitive differentiator, as well as encourage every member of an organization to have an active role in defining and shaping that culture, you will build a successful, engaged workplace culture that adapts and evolves to meet each changing business goal.
Bringing in an outsider to help with an internal culture problem can seem counterintuitive, risky, or even unnecessary to some, but understanding the benefits of having a culture consultant work closely with your team will help you recognize the incredible advantages an external expert can bring to you and your company.
Chris Cancialosi is founder and managing partner at gothamCulture. The team at gothamCulture focuses on identifying the underlying causes of organizational obstacles and assisting leaders in developing and executing breakthrough strategies to elevate performance. Reach Cancialosi at www.gothamculture.com or (732) 610-7884.