What Happens If the CEO Botches the Company Culture?

One of the prevailing themes of our recent event was on work culture; specifically, how to create a good one, and what happens if an employee isn’t a good fit, culture-wise. (You can read more about the key takeaways from that session here.) Here’s another question worth answering, though — what happens if you’re the one who botches your company culture?

As a CEO, founder, or owner, you automatically assume an interesting position. First of all, you are the face of your organization. To both the outside world and your team, you are the embodiment of your company’s values. Because you are in such a high position, there’s no denying your visibility — you’re always in the spotlight, and the more well-known your company is, the more you’re scrutinized under a microscope. Second, because of the authority you hold, you were likely the one who set the culture of your company in the first place. It’s precisely because of these two reasons that you should hold yourself accountable to the same values you expect to see from others.

You’re only human, after all, so what happens if you wake up one day and find that you aren’t practicing what you preach, or worse, what if you notice that the culture you wanted to set in place has already fallen apart and is now unrecognizable — all because of you?

Company culture


The first step you can take to repair your culture is to acknowledge that, simply put, you’ve blown it. You are able to build trust amongst your fellow team members when they recognize that you are being real. Your authenticity matters, especially given the position you find yourself in. Being humble enough to admit your shortcomings as a leader proves that you are transparent and trustworthy, and it’s this shared belief in what you say that helps hold a team together. Because of this, you’ll have a steady support system to rally around you as you work on bringing your culture back.


Get back to the basics by sitting down and working on your simple core values. Figure out what they are exactly, then write down two to three words per value so you can flesh out the essence of each concept further. It will be hard to set and stick to any kind of culture if you can’t clearly define what you believe in in the first place. Once you have your values in place, you can identify behaviors that either build up or go against the culture you want your company to live and project.

It also helps to find a coach who understands you and your business. It may seem ironic at the time, but sometimes you need to enlist the help of someone from the outside in order to fix the inside of your company. Your mentor or guide will bring in some crystal clear insights from an outsider’s perspective, and it’s this objectivity that allows you to get some honest feedback that isn’t tainted by emotional attachments or the knowledge of the goings-on within the organization.

At the end of the day, everything boils down to character. It bodes well for your character that you care enough about your company to concern yourself with the state of its values, and it also bodes well for your company to have a culture it can be proud of; one that can reel in awesome new people who want to work alongside or be served by a team like yours.



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