Building your organizational culture in uncertain times

The past several months have seen many changes in the business world, and no doubt many changes in your business. But there is one change that may end up being a change for the better, and it may be happening right under your nose:

Your organizational culture may be improving.

The culture of an organization, as you well know, is not something you can easily control. It is more a result of doing things the right way, treating your employees in a fair and positive fashion, communicating effectively, and sharing your successes with the entire team.

Your response to the frightened, angry and confused world of today can have a dramatic effect on those around you.

Doing all of those things results in enhanced employee engagement and the continued evolution of your business into one that everyone wants to work for. And that is what establishes a winning organizational culture.

So how are the restrictions and challenges that we are currently facing working toward that?

You have had to change many, many aspects of your operation to meet the rules and needs of the “New Normal.” But if you have met these in a proactive fashion and kept your employees in a steady, two-way communication loop, chances are your workplace culture has held steady—and possibly improved.

Your response to the frightened, angry and confused world of today can have a dramatic effect on those around you. Remember a few key attributes that will keep things moving forward:

More than anything, you need to maintain a presence rooted in honesty and authenticity. The answers you need to provide to the new questions that arise every day are not always easy or pretty. But if you continue to come from a core of integrity and truth, you and your organization will be better prepared to meet the challenges we are facing in a way that continues to move us all forward.

Now is not the time for elaborate and convoluted game plans and murky re-writes of your vision and goals. Your team is counting on you for leadership in a straightforward and readily accessible style. If you do not know the answer, do not try to dazzle your employees with jargon and tap dancing. It is not that you don’t know; it is that you do not know yet. So tell them so.

Make sure your words and ideas can be understood and easily visualized throughout your entire organization. If an oceanside walk along the shore at your beach house calms you in times of stress, that is great; but it may not be the right solution to share with members of your crew trying to make rent. You all need to be on the same page, with a shared understanding of the problems you’re facing, and how to solve them.

And that shared understanding stems from empathy, truly working to understand the many components of our current situation at a human level. Some of us are natural empaths, but for some, it comes harder. It is okay if you have to work at it, and you may have some stumbles along the way. But it is critically important to continue to put yourself in the shoes of those you are leading, and use that experience to guide your efforts.

An approach to management and leadership in times of crisis that is rooted in those fundamentals can indeed lift your organizational culture to new heights. Tough times do not last, but smart leaders do.

Dr. Cindy McGovern is known as the “First Lady of Sales.” She speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership, and is the author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller “Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work.”” Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting (, a sales management and consulting firm in San Francisco.