What Creates An Organizations Culture?

Leaders are facing enormous business challenges, and need to make changes in their organizations. Gain insight on how best to effectively make these changes and form a new culture.

Leaders at all levels are facing enormous challenges in achieving and sustaining planned operating results. Challenges are emerging from every business arena. Executives need to be cognizant about globalization, political opportunities, economic change, tariff negotiations, additional costs due to enforced regulations, and tightened accounting governance so that incidents such as Enron, World Com and the banking crises never occur again.  The CEO and his/her staff have one primary responsibility and that is providing shareholder value, yet this obligation has become even more difficult than in the past. CEOs are typically driving an organization’s culture and its associate’s sense of trust and well-being.

The way things are done in a company from recruitment, rewards, punishments, team building, achievement of goals and objectives, meeting management, handling conflict, dealing with competition and more are all a reflection of the organization’s culture. Yet, one wonders how does a corporation change the establishment’s culture when the business has become so challenging even for the best leaders.

Culture is the framework within which businesses operate and the binoculars through which others view an organization. If we view a business as a system of interacting and interrelated parts, then culture simply creates, defines and supports that philosophy. However, it is extremely unwise to consider that culture is only defined by what companies do today. This can lead to costly and painful problems for the company later. Cultural change efforts that focus only on the what are doomed to failure before the change ever begins. The greater question is why do organizations do things the way they do? One has to ask the question, is there a particular benefit of doing things in a certain way. Are we doing things this way because we have always done them that way and now the technology has changed to offer a better way? Culture can sometimes be described as an anxiety-reducing agent. Because of this phenomena, company cultures are extremely resistant to change.

Consider businesses that failed due to their inability to change their culture. IBM is a great example from the 1980s when the company ran into serious financial difficulties. Up to that point the company was unwilling to change the ways in which it was approaching the market even though the market was rapidly changing around it. Consider your own business. Are you willing to change even if it means breaking tradition?

To determine your readiness for change, take a few minutes and evaluate the organization’s characteristics. Consider each characteristic and how deeply rooted the current business practices are in the organization. Ask yourself, why do we do things the way we do on a particular trait. Then rate the need to change from one to ten. One should be an urgent need to change, while ten would represent no reason to change. Next, rate the ease of change from one to ten – one being the most difficult and ten being the easiest.


Organizational Cultural Characteristics

Characteristic Need to change Ease of change
Associate development
Leadership development
Team accomplishments
Risk Taking
Trust in management
Attention to Detail
Meeting management
Project implementations
Managing and achieving goals

Now compare the total score on the need to change to the total score on the ease of change. If the two scores are close together, your company’s ability to change should not be difficult. However, if you honestly evaluate each characteristic you will often find a behavior that needs to be addressed.  Unfortunately, what we often see is that there is a perception of cause and effect and that is enough to cause a behavior to become a cultural value. Assuming that the behavior and the result occur together often enough, the behavior will be taken for granted. Team members will no longer question the behavior because it is the culture and that is how their world works. Other cultural values will arise to support and enable the behavior and in the end, a simple behavior leads to an interlocking network of beliefs, assumptions, and values. Attempting to change any piece is extremely difficult because every other piece attempts to pull it back into place. Suffice it to say that cultures do not change easily.

Making a company cultural change takes hard work on everyone’s part but starts at the top. Initially, leadership needs to gain awareness across the company about the need for change. Doing so requires a solid communication plan and a management team that is locked arm-in-arm. The communication should be designed to create a desire in the enterprise for change. Many times this means educating the employee community about why change is needed and ideas that can help improve business but require acceptance. Once acceptance begins, workers need to be supported with training and education on policies, procedures, and systems changes. Knowledge of what is new must be tested regularly for the first year or more until change becomes the new culture.

Is your organization facing change? Contact Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.comor log on to http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com to make an appointment.






Unrecognized Ineffective Habits of Successful Leaders – Part Two

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

“Last week we talked about great leaders who attempt to add too much value by taking over every meeting and every situation and promoting themselves to all who will listen. This week we will explore the deterioration of management respect when overusing emotions. To read last’s Part One, click here https://marykuniski.com/2018/06/27/unrecognized-ineffective-leadership-habits/.

“I realize there is something incredibly honest about trees in the winter, how they are experts at letting things go.” 

Jeffrey McDaniel

Overusing Emotions

Speaking when angry

Showing visible emotions have no place in business. Unfortunately, we are all human and no matter how hard we try our feelings will come out from time-to-time when we are facing stressful situations.  Our response to these unexpected emotions often separates the good from the great leaders. Alternatively, leaders who use emotional volatility as a management tool will only survive a short time as an executive. They use scare tactics to get the job done and use and abuse those around them.

I once worked for a Regional Vice President who believed in using emotional volatility as a scare tactic to engage his store managers across the region. One can only guess how he rose up the ladder to that level. For nine months he drove the staff crazy with his ridiculous demands. Store managers and their crews were working around the clock to meet his requirements. The stores did improve in appearance, but after a time the regional management team had enough of his needs and together made serious complaints to the corporate office. Not only did this leader have to apologize to his team of District and Store Managers, but he was demoted to a store manager and never had a chance again to rise to a leadership level. His career virtually ended after the complaints rolled in.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Ambrose Bierce

How does one control his or her emotions?

Here’s a simple formula. Think Ctrl, Alt, Del. Ctrl stands for controlling your emotions. Alt stands for altering your attitude, and Del stands for delete negative thoughts. The next time you feel ready to explode, hit ctrl, alt, del on your emotions and smile and reboot!


 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics negativity costs business $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects. No matter what the cause, negativity is damaging to the workplace. Gossiping, poor attitude, communication, and even external investors can breed negativity. Unless a leader quickly and directly addresses the situation, the consequences will tangibly affect the business. For instance, negativity can lead to distrust within a team, a decrease in employee engagement, or even liability issues if it evolves into harassment. Negativity in the workplace saps energy and diverts attention from productivity and performance, and because of this, leaders need to be proactive in maintaining a positive culture.

How to convert to a positive culture?

Leaders need to model the behavior they want to see. For example, if a leader spends his/her entire management meeting verbally acosting his/her staff when business is down, business will likely get worse. The best leaders I have experienced  communicate in a positive way that they understand why they did not make the plan during the previous period, but identify all the ways the team can overcome the problems they had in the last period. All they need to be successful is a positive approach and extra elbow grease. Using this method provides an encouraging positive environment that discourages negative gossip and improves morale.

Leaders who provide rewards and recognition to their team will see an increase in morale and productivity. Negativity is harmful to the workplace and can be eliminated through positive communication and individual recognition.

Clinging to the past

I once had a district manager who loved to say, “shoot while the ducks are flying.” One day during a district visit my store manager got out a pop gun and put a plastic duck in a Ficus tree. When the DM walked into his office, the store manager came out from behind his door and shot the duck. While it was not a good idea to be holding a gun when his DM showed up, the store manager made his point that we cannot live in the past. Our customers and we struggle with change. How many times have we heard or said, “but we have always done it this way or if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The point both parties were making was going after the business while its happening. Do whatever you need to do to keep it going.

Today, we are experiencing change more rapidly than at any time in history. In 1984, my husband and I  purchased the a board game called Dark Tower. It was the first game with some technology. The game had a tower that spun around for each player. It was pretty exciting, and we spent three days playing it before realizing we were obsessed with the game. Think about what we are obsessed with today. We are in an age of virtual distraction, and our electronics are changing faster than we can absorb. The ideals, beliefs, and perspectives of the past are exploding to reveal a wildly different future, which is why we are perplexed when we see businesses frantically clinging to the past and relying on old approaches rather than shaping new ones. Consider the retailers that failed or are failing due to their inability to change. Montgomery Ward – the original eCommerce retailer failed because they could not adapt to match the Amazon fulfillment approach. They merely operated themselves out of business. Radio Shack, a key retailer of electronics could not keep up with the changing marketplace. Toys R Us – the number one retailer of toys going out of business now. How does this happen? Undoubtedly, the failure of leadership to accept and make a dramatic change to keep up with the changing landscape made a massive contribution to the failure of these retailers.

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that our past successes will enable future ones. Events occur, and we overestimate the risks of attempting a new approach to driving business and underestimate the risk of standing still. For example, would we ever have thought that 9/11 would happen and reinforce the need for us to accelerate our rate of change, innovation, and creativity?

How do we make change happen?

Use the acronym ADKAR to remember the steps. First, make sure all employees are aware of the need for change. Outstanding communication that identifies the business problem and provides the financial implication of the problem is required. If the message is on point, it will generate a DESIRE for change. Escalating the desire for change is crucial to final acceptance. Next, an evaluation needs to be completed to determine if each workgroup has the KNOWLEDGE and ABILITY to make change occur and be successful. Most important of all is REINFORCEMENT of the change. Leaders who do not identify a methodology to ensure the change sticks are immediately subject to failure.

Making excuses

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ouerselves. The process never ends until we die. Moreover, the choices we make are our responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Why is it that we believe we need excuses for not getting work done. We are all busy so making explanations look legitimate has gotten a lot harder. How many times have you had an employee arrive late for work and say traffic was horrible when you were in the same traffic. Perhaps you have someone that is known for not answering his/her emails. Their excuse – it went to my spam email. These plausible excuses become more and more deniable as time goes on.

As a leader, do you accept responsibility for your actions? Accepting responsibility has two primary components. First, one has to take responsibility for his/her actions or failures. Leaders who fail to do this will immediately lose the respect of his/her staff. All human beings make mistakes and/or poor choices – some mistakes being worse than others. Errors include occasions when we fail to act when we know we should.  The second component is accepting responsibility when you have indirect responsibility for those that report to you. When you take responsibility for your direct reports mistakes your character is revealed.

Accepting responsibility, both personal and indirect responsibility is one of the most important factors in defining a person’s character.  When that responsible moment comes, what you do or don’t do is an indication of the type of person you are.

How to change?

Accepting responsibility requires you to own your behavior and that of your team. Admit your misconduct or failure-to-act when you should have done so. Next, offer a sincere apology to those you have wronged. If possible, make amends or do what is needed to correct what you have done. Finally, accept whatever punishment is handed out for the choice you made. These steps may sound simple, but they can be tough to take. Accepting responsibility is part of being a great leader. Start early in your career with this process and accepting responsibility becomes more natural as time goes on.

Playing Favorites

Who doesn’t like to be the boss’s favorite? Unfortunately, for all its management inappropriateness, favoritism is rampant in the business world.  Georgetown University’s business school surveyed senior executives at companies with over 1,000 employees and found that 84% admitted bias is alive and well in their organizations. There is an apparent reason for this behavior. Managers want to give work assignments to those employees whom they can trust. Typically, the favorites are the trusted employees. Trusted employees are most often given the favored assignment due to their competency in completing the task, but this behavior does not allow other employees to be trained or show their skills. They too might be supported if allowed to show their skills and abilities.

How to stop showing favoritism?

Leaders need first to be aware that they are showing favoritism. One of the best ways to ensure they are not favoring certain employees is to make a conscious effort to divvy up the work assignments in a fair and equitable way. Next, managers need to hold themselves and others accountable for getting the work done. If one of the employees fails to do the job, don’t let them off the hook. Instead, challenge them to get back on track and only give them help when they have made the effort to complete the work themselves.

Executives can be successful leaders by receiving stakeholder-centered feedback and addressing areas of opportunity like those discussed in today’s blog.  With courage, humility, and discipline good leaders can become great leaders. The business world could use a lot more great leaders! For more information about improving your leadership skills, contact Executive Coach, Mary Kuniski at mkuniski@me.com.

Published by GoldenProfessionalCoaching.com

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders


“What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

“The Golden Book” Dale Carnegie

“https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/01/16/a-common-but-overlooked-   howmanagement-problem-playing-favorites/#7f7771f635dd




Is Your Company Threatened By This Potentially Devastating Situation?

Leadership experts predict a management vacuum to arise in the corporate world in the next few years. Read here to learn how to develop an effective succession plan.

My Post (15)

Does your company have an effective succession plan that has identified the next CEO and the one after that? Today’s leadership has the responsibility of hiring and training tomorrow’s leaders. Warren G. Bennis, an American leadership expert claims that “too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted employees have unique talents that tend to be irreplaceable. Such individuals cannot be forced into roles for which they are not suited, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow talented employees to do the work they were born to do.”

A Challenging Question

Several years ago, my CEO made a challenge to his leadership team. He asked if he took the top 10% of individual performers from the organization to begin a new division, would the leaders have someone to backfill the top 10% of employee’s positions. Of course, the answer was no! Identifying and building a succession plan to train top performers is often a frightening task for executives who fear the associate will leave the organization or worse yet take over the leader’s position. In cases such as this, top performers are quite frequently hidden behind their supervisor’s work and taken for granted. A correct succession plan would identify these high performers and provide a strategy to encourage growth and retention of these future company executives.

The “Obvious” Solution

I remember a woman I hired with several years of work experience. I could tell she was a superstar right from the start. She wanted a manager role, but she just wasn’t ready for that much responsibility. I convinced her to accept a lower position after a tough negotiation. Within a year she was promoted to a manager and that same year she received a perfect employee engagement score from her staff. Two years later she was promoted to a Director. When traveling to a trade show, we ran into the CEO. I made a point of introducing her to the CEO as the future of my company. He smiled broadly and was delighted. Today, she continues to grow in her talents and is still with the company. I am grateful that I was able to assist in coaching her to the leader she is today. Whether she becomes the CEO of this company or another, I honestly believe she has the talent and fortitude to be a CEO one day. 

A Fast Approaching Deadline

Sometimes valuable leaders lurk in the shadows of an organization. These are the individuals that are in the trenches doing a tremendous amount of work but lack acknowledgment or recognition by upper management, which kills their motivation to reach their full potential. Not recognizing future leaders in a company’s succession plan is unfortunate due to the future need for engaged leaders. A vast leadership vacuum is beginning to impact corporate cultures due to the retirement of over 10,000 people per day from the baby boomer era.

If you are ready to build a real succession plan to fortify your company’s future, check back next week to learn about how to create a “bulletproof” organization with effective succession planning.


A synopsis of the false missile alert aimed at Hawaii. Who should take ownership of this significant process failure. Read and decide for yourself.

On Sunday morning about 6:00 am I was reading the news on my cell phone and was shocked to hear that the Hawaii state emergency alert system had sent out the message.


I can’t even imagine what it was like to hear all those cell phones’ audible alarms screaming with this announcement and the panic that must have ensued quickly after that. One of my questions is who wrote the template for this alert? Did anyone read it and assess its impact on the public if sent? Perhaps the announcement was written quickly to give to a developer because he/she needed it in the next hour to hit a milestone. I have to believe that there is no person out there truly believes there is a shelter for this type of catastrophic event. Of course, as we well know now, the alert was false. (CNN, By Zachary Cohen January 9, 2018, 6:06 pm)

What caused this unfortunate panic situation? Unfortunately, we hear the same answer that has been creating terror for us for more than a century. One complacent person made a common computer error by pushing the wrong button during a safety drill. He/she even passed the programmers validation (question: are you sure) by simply pushing yes because he/she had accepted that same validation on a hundred other programs.  State emergency leaders and emergency officials immediately blamed the event on an employee who “pushed the wrong button.” It takes a lot of courage to come out and respond to the terrorized public – sorry we had one person push the wrong button.

The initial response to the tragic event turned into a major embarrassment for the state and its Governor, David Y. Ige. Hawaii officials worked quickly to head off damage to the leading industry in Hawaii, which is tourism, by sending a note out from the Governor to all residents and tourists of Hawaii. My relatives were on vacation in Hawaii during the event and received the letter from the governor under their hotel door. Their response to the dispatch was that the message was a nice gesture. After reading the communication, I believed the notice represented more than a simple apology. The moment of genuine leadership had arrived, and that required someone in power to take responsibility for the crises. Who better than the Governor since the buck will always stop with the top leader?

On Sunday, the Federal Communications Commission said that Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place in its emergency notification process. What did Hawaii do to respond to that statement? They quickly added a second person to verify the first button pusher was using the correct button, which was a logical and quick solution. My question is why that step was not already in place? It would have been so easy right then to fire the person who made a mistake and assume it would never happen again. Credit goes to Governor Ige, who happens to be up for re-election this year and has been criticized for his lack of leadership for saving the job and life of the button pusher. Colin Moore, Director of Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii, claimed there was no better test of leadership than responding to what happened yesterday.(NY Times, Adam Nagourney, January 14, 2018)

And there it is, not a statement about one person creating terror simply by being complacent. Rather we analyze the leadership style of the top man in the state. Aren’t all leaders analyzed throughout their lives? How would we respond in this terrible situation?

In his letter to the residents and visitors of Hawaii, Governor Ige explained “that the cause for this false alert was an error by a Civil Defense employee at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency who unknowingly activated this alert to be sent. It is ironic that a person who is dedicated to serving the people of Hawaii and protecting their safety was responsible for causing this situation. You can imagine how badly this person feels. I assure you that steps have already been taken by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to ensure that a situation of this type never happens again.”

Now let’s consider what kind of leader holds the name of the person creating such havoc close to his vest, does not fire him, and tells the public how terrible he feels that he made such a horrific mistake. One might consider Governor Ige’s leadership style is startling in the way he is taking care of his employee, but as the CEO of Hawaii, his approach could easily be considered a Laissez-faire leadership methodology. The French word Laissez-faire formally translated means, “let them do”  or more commonly translated to the phrase “let it be” As such, laissez-faire leaders are characterized by their hands-off approach, allowing employees to get on with tasks as they see fit. This leadership approach can apply to jobs where the employee is producing creative content or workplaces where employees are very experienced. However, when an organization/business is facing life and death decisions, leaders must monitor performance and effectively communicate expectations to prevent work standards slipping.

In any leadership style, operational, well-thought-out business practices need to be planned by the leaders and stakeholders, defined through a flow chart, responsibilities in the process identified, leaders of critical process steps highlighted, and one owner of the entire process (whose throat to choke) established before terror ensues. My conclusion based on public information gathered to date is Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has process gaps that need to be identified and resolved quickly, and the leadership of the agency must be held accountable for future failures.

Let’s ask ourselves if this were our company, would we find similar process gaps. What type of leader are we and how do we blend our leadership style to bring out the best in our company?

Golden Executive Coaching can help you build your leadership team and establish processes to improve your business! Certified by Marshall Goldsmith in Stakeholder Centered Coaching, we have 25 years experience in process management and are certified in change management. Go to www.Goldenprofessionalcoaching.com for more information.





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