Official Culture vs. Actual Culture
It doesn’t matter what a company promotes, internally or externally, about its way of communicating if its top executives have a fundamentally different style.
Even the best organizations flex to adjust their way of talking to match the guy(s) or gal(s) who run the show. For all the reasons linked to personal survival in a corporate culture, employees will aim to please by attempting to communicate the way you do.
For example, if aggressiveness is part of the executive ego, everyone in the organization will knowingly or unwittingly try to include that in their own communication style. Problems arise when the topline style is hard to emulate and get worse if this style counters the official personality of the organization.
In some ways it’s equivalent to the challenges that arise if your marketing team creates promotional material that’s not consistent with your brand. You can spot that and take corrective action, but inconsistent personal communication styles are more potent since they lurk under the surface of the organization’s culture.
Here’s a very personal question…
As the owner, CEO, or director of your company or organization, are you really aware of how your communication style fits what your marketing and PR groups are positing to the clients? Do you really know what your sales or business development teams have to do each day if they find themselves juggling the official line about what your company represents in the market place against what you and other executives say publicly?
Whether you already know this is an issue or haven’t even thought about it, what can you do?
3 Questions Every CEO Should Ask
There are three questions you should be asking the people in your organization about your communication. Before you begin, be sure to give them permission to offer uncompromising feedback. It is essential to find out what people actually see, not what they were told or what you may think they see.
Allow the people in your business to answer three questions:
1. How well does your communication style as CEO fit the official culture?
2. What specific benefits or damages have resulted from that?
3. Given the choice, would the employee rather have you change your style or modify the corporate culture to be consistent with you?
Go down through all levels in the organization to look for inconsistencies or shifts in the answers to these questions. This will reveal where the boundary lies between the pleasers and the truth-tellers in your organization.
If you haven’t done this or something like it before, be prepared for a bumpy ride! In the end, though, you’ll be armed with valuable information about how your communication and style filter down and affect your business.