Kalle Ek // April 26 2016

When to neglect company culture

If you think yourself as a manager, here is the number 1 reason why you shouldn’t care about consciously creating or nurturing a company culture:

It takes time and resources and takes focus away from short term profits

Most managers are being commissioned on short-term results (monthly, quarterly or yearly). If I we’re thinking like a manager, I would probably concentrate all my efforts on hitting those numbers (hey, if you don’t you might even end up being sacked by your boss or board).

However, I have never thought myself to be a manager, even though I have been given a manager title and a position on several occasion. I have always thought myself as being a leader and had a passion for long term results.

People who should neglect company culture

Before we remind ourselves why all leaders should focus on consciously designing company culture, let’s have 2 more groups of people who should neglect it.

People who see themselves as managers (as discussed above)

People who are “in it to sell it”

People who are ”narcissistic visionaries”

When I am discussing about management or leadership I always come back to Jim Collins. In his first book Built to Last he talks about the way companies core ideology is one of the keys to sustainable success. If you are a business owner who is building a company to last, you must concentrate on the company culture. However, if you are a business owner whose focus is to make a quick exit (i.e. Built to Sell type of company) don’t worry about the company culture that much. My guess is that you won’t be around to see if and when things start to fall apart.

The third group who should neglect the culture are the ”narcissistic visionaries”. By narcissistic visionaries I mean the people who Jim Collins refers “lone geniuses”. In his most famous book Good to Great he talks about the differences of a level 4 leader and a level 5 leader. Level 4 leaders want to create the culture around his or hers vision whereas Level 5 leaders create the culture around a cause (=purpose=mission).

My hint to all narcissistic visionaries: when executing on your vision to become reality, company culture is not that significant. Sure, it plays a part in it but it’s not crucial. It’s more crucial to keep the focus on the vision you decided and keep people excited on executing on that vision. If you think yourself as a man or woman with a vision, no worries, neglect the company culture. Things will probably start to fall apart only after you’re long gone.

Purpose + Culture = Profits

So, as a reminder for the Level 5 leaders. The ones who want to build a company around a cause. And to be clear, you might have this mindset regards what you do today – no matter of your position or the title. My reminder for you is that the company culture is you’re best way to make sure the success is sustainable. If you get the culture right, everything else might fall into places.

And for more good news, also for the ones who aren’t that into sustainability but profitability, recent studies show that purpose-oriented companies (i.e. companies built around a cause) make more profits on long-term. So, if you are a long-term investor or a board member, my suggestion is to make sure your company/companies are focused on nurturing company culture around a meaningful purpose.

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I wanted to end this post with a quote from a leader I have the utmost respect, one of the best coaches of all time:

“I wanted to build a club from the bottom. Winning a game is only a short-term gain. Building a club brings stability and consistency.” -Sir Alex Ferguson

(Manager of Manchester United from 1986-2013. During that time the club won 13 English league titles along with 25 other trophies).

Being a leader is a choice, not a title.