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Sarah Skidmore

Are you strategic or reactive about your culture?

  • 14 September 2017
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Guest post by Sarah Skidmore

Company culture is a touchy subject for some business owners. And, as a professional coach, if I don’t approach the client within their context, I most certainly will receive a defensive response.

I’ll get a response like: “We have a great culture here. Why would we need to look at the culture?” Or: “I don’t want to bring up the culture because bringing up the topic might create problems.” Hopefully, you don’t get this one: “Why do we need to talk about culture, we only care about performance.” But, one thing I have learned is that you won’t know your client’s perspective if you don’t bring up the topic.

Reacting to negative issues

As business leaders, we must move away from the thought that if we are discussing organizational culture, there must be an issue or negative reason for discussing culture. Historically, many business leaders find themselves talking about culture "once it’s too late" or in light of crisis management. Common times leaders think about culture:

  • There is a change in management or a new president.
  • There is a merger or acquisition taking place.
  • There is a major crisis happening for the organization, and leadership is trying to clean up the mess.

But, this is a completely reactive approach to organizational culture. Businesses are made of people and talent; and as business leaders, consider the proactive and strategic value in a preventative perspective on culture:

  • To serve as a catalyst for desired change.
  • To serve as insights necessary in preventative maintenance for the organization. 
  • To serve as a piece in a continuous improvement process.
  • To serve as evidence for strategic planning initiatives. 

Organizational culture is too critical for leaders to not proactively address. As a leader, be in touch with the cultural perceptions and desires of your employees.

Using the OCAI for growth

As a professional coach, I love the OCAI. One case, in particular, I used the OCAI with a marketing client. This firm hadn’t recently undergone a leadership transfer, merger or acquisition, or crisis they were trying to overcome. They were seeking growth and were successfully growing at the time. When I suggested the OCAI, I was met with initial hesitation from the owners: “We don’t currently have problems, so we don’t want this to cause problems.”

This the response of many business leaders, based on fear. Fear of what may be expressed. Fear that their leadership perspectives are not in line with their employees’ perspectives. Fear that employees will start thinking and come up with issues that don’t actually exist. The list of fears only continues.

In this situation, I conveyed the value in assessing the cultural perspectives of their current team and, ultimately, they went through the process. Much good came from the OCAI results and assessments. In the very least, the firm walked away with a group of employees that knew their leadership cared and valued their perspective enough to at least ask the question. 

OCAI is a simple to use assessment for employees that gathers the distinctions between the current perceived culture and the desired culture. As a professional coach, the results and reporting from OCAI is digestible and insightful. The OCAI is a great forward-thinking tool for leaders who are strategic about where they want to take their organization.

If you are strategic about culture, OCAI Online's workshop on Positive Culture Change Leadership in May 2018 is available at an Early Bird fee if you enroll before January 28, 2018. More information and registration is available at a first come first serve basis.

* What are your experiences with the OCAI? How did this culture model support your work? Please let us know in the comments!

Sarah Skidmore, consultant, coach and business strategist at Skidmore Consulting

Categories Case Studies OCAI