21st Century corporate governance is a busy job. Acting on behalf of shareholders, boards of directors are paying attention to an escalating list of risks and rewards from a firm’s undertakings. Like many activities within any organization, “the squeaky wheels get the grease.” Other than in desperate situations such as ‘turnarounds,’ culture seldom ranks as a pressing matter in the boardroom. That’s a big mistake.
During my tenure as a CEO, my Board of Directors never posed questions pertaining to corporate culture. I wasn’t surprised in the least. Jacobs Suchard Directors expected me to run their North American operation as an entrepreneurial enterprise, and as long as the returns were favorable, they assumed I was doing just that.
Most leaders can describe the values of their organization, but fewer are successful at ‘walking that talk’. In fact, as communication increases about an organization’s values, there’s a greater risk that employees and customers will become cynical. Why? Because the gap between the ‘walk’ and ‘talk’ is always more visible than we think. As anyone involved in a culture change process will know, it takes time and effort to align these two.
So what are some of the quickest ways a leader can recognize that gap and take the responsibility required to do something about it?
Leaders today know that employee engagement is the key to high performance, so let’s look below the surface and see what’s really involved in creating an engaged workforce. One definition of engagement includes both the aspects of emotional involvement and commitment. You will want to keep those two aspects in mind as you continue to read my comments on this critical subject and understand why “heart” matters so much when it comes to engagement.
I was delighted to recently attend an event at Chief Executive Group honoring our long-time client and my personal friend, L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner, with a lifetime achievement award. There are many company and CEO awards, and Les has been the recipient of many, but this one stood out for me as deeply significant and highly deserving.
The day after this event, I was struck by the comment by Jim Cramer that Les is “Dean of Everything in retailing,” and the notion that he is certainly a leader with much to teach the world.
The longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Les is nothing short of an American business legend.