Improve Corporate Culture by Elevating the Morale of Your Sr. Executives

Many of the companies that we have been asked to “turn-around” had executive teams that were without hope.  Despair and lack of faith were the emotions of the day, resulting in a missing sense of community and a negative corporate culture.  These executives couldn’t see a way out and had no vision for the future.

Recently, I was asked to do a GAP audit (Growth, Accountability and Performance) for one of our clients.  The CEO was at his wits end with the numerous challenges that he had to address.  Some of his challenges included:

  • A “me-too” product that was launched very late in the game and without key features that would make it a compelling solution
  • An ineffective Sr. Management team whose focus was on what the other guy wasn’t doing leading to an eroding corporate culture
  • A sales funnel that wasn’t nearly large enough to support the company’s revenue objectives
  • A non-existent strategy for developing the sales funnel
  • The perception of an “in-crowd”. Every senior manager felt like the CEO was favoring the “other guys”

The atmosphere at the company was so bad it was palpable.  The senior management team was without hope and no one on the team could share with me their thoughts for improving the situation.  Team members were in a state of panic. Corporate culture was basically non-existent.

When there is no hope, it is difficult to get out of a bad situation.  When communication breaks down, there is no way to have meaningful discussions.  When team members view each other as the enemy, alignment of thought is almost impossible.

Here are 8 things that you can do to massively improve morale and turn your company into a successful, high-performance, high-energy culture of respect and success:

  1. Admit that there is a problem.  Burying your head in the sand while this negative activity continues will not help you improve your corporate culture.  If you have a lot of finger-pointing and bad vibes amongst your team, you need to nip it in the bud and now.
  2. Find a conference room that you can spare for 6-8 weeks.  This room will become your success room; much like the cabinet war rooms that Churchill and his team operated during World War II.  I refer to this space as your success room, because this is the place that your team will use to map out a turn-around strategy.  The success room is the place where your senior managers will meet, twice a day, to hash out the issues and map out a recovery plan.  This room should be available only for this team and for the period of time outlined.
  3. On the first day, have your Success Team map out all of their complaints, grumblings, upsets and write these on the white board.  I highly recommend that you use an outside facilitator to help coach your team through this difficult process, as this allows objectivity and avoids accusations of ‘favoring’.
  4. Once all of your key issues have been identified and listed on the board, use brainstorming sessions to outline possible solutions to each of the problems.  Everyone on the team needs to be part of these sessions throughout the time allotted.
  5. Once you have identified your Goals, Objectives and Strategies, assign team members tasks that will move your company out of the problem(s) and into a viable solution(s).  There will be many tasks, as you uncover the issues.  Make sure that the tasks are broken into do-able daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly chunks.  Highlight the tasks, as they are completed.  Everyone will need to assume responsibility for achieving their tasks on time.  If a task is going to slip, the person responsible should let everyone know, ASAP.  The team should ask why the task(s) can’t be completed on time.  Perhaps they need additional resources (brainstorm on how to get these) or more information (brainstorm on where to gather this information).   Whatever the case, there will be no hiding out.  Get the information to the team and resolve the issue with the team.
  6. Have each team member write down what they appreciate about your company's corporate culture and each of their team members.  You can do this on the board or distribute “thank-you” cards for each team member, so they know that they are valued by their colleagues.  While this may sound like a silly exercise, it does work.  When people feel appreciated, even a bit, it frees their energy so that they can focus.
  7. Hold 2 success room sessions each day, for the period allotted (I recommend a period of 4-8+ weeks).  In the morning, meet to ensure that everyone is in alignment with the plan and discuss items that need to change or be moved out to a later date, as above. During the afternoon session, ask team members to list any challenges or issues that may keep them from being successful.  Some of your strategies may need to be re-worked.  That’s ok.  Be willing to keep going until you get it right.  The more your team effectively communicates with each other, the better the communication will become.
  8. Make everyone in the room responsible for sales.  Revenue can’t happen if the product isn’t right or if there isn’t enough demand generation to build a viable sales funnel.  Revenues will be lost if customers move away from your company to your competitors.  Everyone needs to have an idea of how you will hit or exceed your quotas.  Everyone must contribute to supporting the Head of Sales to ensure that the company meets its growth goals.

This process will be tough going at first.  Over the weeks and months (hopefully no more that 2 or 3 months) your team will learn to trust each other, communicate more effectively and take responsibility for making a positive contribution to your company.  The uplift in atmosphere will improve your corporate culture, thus elevating moral and productivity. Where there is hope and energy, there is fire.  That fire will transform your company's corporate culture.

Read about the importance of accountable leadership in a high-performance culture.