Walking the Walk on Culture | Decision Making

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Adam Bryant used to write the terrific Corner Office column for the New York Times. In that column, he interviewed successful leaders from large and small enterprises. He’s now moved on to become a Managing Director at Merryck and Company, but he still publishes some terrific interviews as articles on LinkedIn. In a recent interview, he spoke with Mike LaBianca, senior vice president and global head of human resources for Sony Interactive Entertainment – PlayStation. He asked LaBianca to comment on organizational . Here’s what LaBianca told him:

For leaders, you have to the talk. You can talk about all sorts of cultural initiatives, but if you don’t see the leader actually putting those into practice, it actually hinders the development of a culture rather than helps it.

I started my career at Hewlett Packard, and probably the most impactful moment of my career was meeting Dave Packard for the first time. I think he was the chairman at the time. I had only been there five weeks, and I was in accounting. I went to give a report to his secretary, who was away from his desk. He came out and said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Packard. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” And he said, “Nonsense. Show it to me.”

He looked at me, put his arm around me, and said, “You know, I want to thank you for deciding to invest your career with us. It’s very important that we have people out of college who believe in our mission, believe in what we’re doing. You’re going to be what makes HP great.” It had a very meaningful effect on me. He continued to believe in taking the time to get to know every employee the moment that he could and expressing his support and thanks. That’s the most powerful cultural moment that I’ve ever experienced anywhere.

I think LaBianca is right on the money. What can leaders do with this advice about the walk? They have to assess their employees’ impressions of the culture. Do people feel as though senior leaders’ actions match their words? Is there a serious disconnect there – a case of empty talk? Sometimes, leaders won’t get straight answers to these questions if they ask themselves, particularly if a major disconnect occurs. They’ll need some help. They cannot ignore the problem though. Cynicism can be a pernicious thing in organizations, and it often spreads quickly throughout an organization.

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