Last month alone, 172 chief executives exited their jobs -- the highest monthly number on record -- according to executive placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
We can speculate all you want about the digital era changing the business environment or a slowing U.S. economy as chief reasons for the mass exodus. But have we ever considered the architecture of a company's culture?
New CEOs that replace the old ones will have to deal with the aftermath of a broken culture and get the organization back on track by assessing, understanding, and investing intentionally in rebuilding the culture.
4 strategies to rebuild your culture
Albrecht shared with me that when CEOs leave, there is often a swirl of gossip, concern, and resume-updating that needs to be quelled. Here are four strategies that Albrecht recommends leaders use to rebuild a dysfunctional culture into a healthy one that supports growth.
1. Start with aligning your culture with the business strategy.
Ideally, the CEO should truly care for the people they lead. When making the case, use data to showcase the importance of aligning culture with your business strategy.
At the Limeade Institute, Albrecht found that when employees feel cared for, they are 10x more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work; 9x more likely to want to stay at their company for three or more years; and twice as likely to be engaged at work.
Once the executive team buys in, Albrecht shared that they must walk the talk through their everyday behaviors. For the truly culture-committed CEOs, start by reconsidering the corner office.
"Getting off the private jet and out amongst front-line employees makes CEOs more aware, more involved and more likely to build authentic relationships with employees outside their chain of command," noted Albrecht.
2. Define the culture.
Most organizations forget to define their culture in writing. Each culture should be unique and intentional -- and directly supportive of company strategy.
Albrecht takes the view that culture and strategy are the yin and yang of any great business -- neither eat the other for breakfast.
Albrecht says if you're a tech startup, a culture of innovation and velocity might make sense. If you're a hospital system, consider a culture of empathy and precision care. Once you have your definition, communicate it far and wide. And never forget that "values are the ingredients to focus on when defining culture," says Albrecht
3. Always ask if what you're doing reflects the culture.
Leaders must evaluate their systems, organizational structure, policies, procedures, internal communications, how they conduct meetings, how they interview, etc. to constantly ensure these things align with cultural values.
The thing with culture is that you don't always see it -- especially after you've been at an organization for a sustained amount of time. It's most noticeable as a new employee or when you step into a client's office for the first time.
"This makes long-tenured CEOs some of the worst candidates to decide if a culture is healthy or not," notes Albrecht. He adds, "They need to put resources toward evaluating employee perceptions of culture -- and take action on the results.
Albrecht shared that you can evaluate your culture by asking your employees for feedback on the following questions:
- Is decision making top-down or collaborative?
- Are teams disjointed or integrated?
- Is the organization hierarchical or flat?
- Do you feel micromanaged or autonomous?
- Is there a feeling of secrecy or transparency?
4. Test and reiterate.
Sometimes throwing spaghetti at the wall is the best approach -- especially if you can clean it up quickly when it doesn't stick. In other words, be willing to fail fast and fix faster.
As you take on the role of a culture architect, there are a number of ways to know if you're moving in the right direction -- like employee feedback, behavior and straight-up business results.
Albrecht says, "Test your methods frequently and be willing to reiterate often, as swiftly as you can. Listen to the Board, sure. But listen to the new hires and customer-facing people too. They need to see you out there, showing care."