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Influencing behaviour to shape corporate culture

Jack Smith, Summer Sensation, Flowers Gallery

You might not be able to dictate corporate culture, says Ron Ashkenas on his HBR.org blog, but he insists you can influence it.

Ashkenas shares an old joke about a CEO who attends a presentation on corporate culture and then asks his head of HR to "get me one of those things".

So how can leaders get people to think and act the way they want them to? Ashkenas says they can't. Nevertheless, leaders can shape the culture of their companies by influencing those behaviours in several ways. The author advocates a three-step approach, as follows:

1) Explain your vision. Define your aspirations and the most important behaviours you want to promote.

2) Show how new behaviours can help the business. Work with your team to apply the behaviours to a specific project that needs acceleration or improvement. Set the team a specific stretch goal over a limited period while making a clear effort to bring the new culture to life.

3) Integrate your culture into HR processes. Hire, promote, reward and develop people on the basis of the desired behaviours.

You Can't Dictate Culture – But You Can Influence It
Ron Ashkenas