Have you recently stepped into a new leadership role? You want to get off to a great start and achieve big results? While it’s tempting to immediately focus on strategy, zeroing in on fostering a positive workplace culture makes more sense.

Why culture matters

Positive workplace cultures are built on values of appreciation, inclusion, learning and trust and connect work to a higher purpose. According to the O.C. Tanner 2020 Global Culture Report, a positive workplace culture is thirteen times more likely to have highly engaged employees and two times more likely to increase revenue.

As a management consultant, I experienced a positive workplace culture as a differentiator for business success when I saw how the same strategies for addressing common business issues played out in different companies. It was clear that successful strategies required successful execution and positive cultures more successfully executed strategies every time. 

Maximizing the start of your new leadership role to shape culture

Ideally, leaders invest in fostering positive cultures as part of their day-to-day leadership all the time, but no time is more critical than the first 90 days of stepping into a new role.

Those first few months are the perfect time to focus on culture because employees are expecting change and are open to adopting new behaviors. It’s important not to waste this opportunity to establish positive cultural norms that will best support your vision. 

Positively influence culture in the first 90 days

I recently worked with Pam, a newly appointed Chief Operating Officer of a financial services firm hired to increase the company’s net promoter score by transforming client services. To do so, the customer service team she inherited needed to be more innovative and willing to embrace new approaches. Not easy given most employees had been in their roles for decades and were stuck in their ways. Here are some of the steps I helped Pam to implement in her first 90 days to shift the organizational culture to better support her vision and business outcomes:

  • Ask questions and listen. Pam embarked on a “listening tour, talking to people at all levels about themselves and their work to quickly learn what was and wasn’t working and to surface new ideas. Asking questions and listening also signaled that people, culture and meaningful connections matter to Pam which quickly built trust and psychological safety.
  • Tap into your why. Motivation and accountability increase when employees feel connected to the organization’s purpose and understand how their role contributes. Pam sparked a renewed sense of purpose and meaning by communicating how her core values align with the work and what inspires her about her job and encouraging others to do the same. 
  • Admit when you don’t know. Pam embraced the mistakes she inevitably made while being new as an opportunity to model learning and growing by stepping outside of her comfort zone and failing forward – important behaviors needed to support her transformation goals. 
  • Say thank you often. People need to feel appreciated to be motivated. Pam quickly reinforced a culture of appreciation and recognition by remembering to say thank you often. And she built goodwill with written personal notes to express gratitude. 

This low investment in time, effort and dollars over her fist 90 days helped Pam get off to a great start and achieve her business goals long-term. Whether you are a new or existing leader, use these tips to strengthen your leadership, team dynamics and workplace culture to better support your vision and desired business results.