Culture is Key to Success of New Leaders

One of the key success factors that I pay attention to when conducting an executive search is that of corporate culture. Why? Because without cultural fit, your new candidate will ultimately fail. In fact, studies show that a senior executive who does not fit well with the organization culture will typically leave on their own and/or be transitioned out within eighteen months. As you can expect, this departure will come with a cost, anywhere between three and five time’s salary.

Yet, what exactly is organization culture? How is it defined and why does it matter? Organization culture is described as “how we do things around here” or the match between people, social behaviours, workplace practices and personal/corporate values. It is the personality of an organization and consists of a set of beliefs, attitudes, values and social behaviours that make up the core of the organization. It’s rather like a marketing brand. 

Why does culture matter? It matters because if a leader doesn’t fit in with their new employer’s work style, work ethics, social behaviours or office processes and practices as well as philosophy, chances are his/her incompatibility will negatively impact their ability to effectively lead. 

A new executive needs to understand his/her organization as quickly as possible and if their cultural fit is askew, the leader will be unable to tap into the very sources of organizational power and key networks needed to quickly build trust. 

In my practice, I look for several so called, executive style “fit” categories in addition to knowledge and experience. We do this by working with clients to identify their corporate culture and the key success factors required of any candidate. We look at the current intact teams and identify the key leadership skills required to move an organization forward. We then make a list that acts as an ongoing checklist as each candidate is evaluated. 

One of the key strategies for identifying cultural fit is to conduct a series of psychometric assessments. Overall, our tool provides an in-depth view into 10 character competencies that are grouped as the Attitudes, Beliefs, and Commitments of the person completing this assessment. The statistical analysis that accompanies the tool allows the consultant and the client to compare one candidate to another and to a national “norm”.  As well, the client can determine the ultimate importance of each of the ten factors. Each assessment comes with advice and comprehensive reports that allow more in-depth analysis and discussion. 

Being especially cognizant of leadership traits and organization culture, utilizing a comprehensive and thorough interview and reference process enables me to identify factors such as integrity, the ability to adapt to and lead change, and staying focused. 

Successful candidates with the right fit will integrate into the current culture quickly and yet can lead very difficult change because they do well with interpersonal relationships. They are sensitive, team and goal oriented and work well with their corporate board and/or business owners. 

When we do identify an area of weakness or challenge, an in-depth client discussion will determine if there are any compensating factors that will help override the issue. The key is to isolate any cultural factor that would lead to the candidate derailing and being unsuccessful. 

According to a recent study, 56% of survey participants indicated that poor cultural fit resulted in staff turnover. This statistic is a very high and costly number and suggests than in-house recruiters are not sufficiently attuned to the issue of culture. 

This is where an executive recruiter can be of help. Search is our business. We are deep into focusing on organization culture, key competencies, skills and expertise. So the next time, you reflect on the cost of severance packages and hiring a replacement, think about using the services of executive recruiter. Legacy Bowes Group. 

Source: Half of Canada’s working population is unhappy, Hays Canada Study Shows, Hays, 2016. 

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