The Human Resource: Building a strong culture, part 1

As a change management consultant leading leadership teams and practice partners down the path of achieving their desired short- and long-term goals I often encounter executives who have lost touch with reality. When asked to describe the culture of their firm they provide these illustrious views of the perfect magical world of rainbows and unicorns and how wonderful everything is and how amazing their culture and workplace is.

Unfortunately, after spending a few hours with their front line staff and in most cases associates or attorneys and firm administrators responsible for the bulk of the workforce getting the job done, the perception of company culture is often 100% different. It is in speaking with these individuals that I uncover and identify the true nature of the current workforce behavioral norms and actions, which is a true reflection of the actual company culture.

We have a great firm culture, solid values,
everyone collaborates, people love working here!

Many of these leaders have somehow become delusional in their view of what is happening in their own organization. What is worse, the leader is the one promulgating the negative culture by their demonstrated actions and behaviors, and they have become blind to the impact of these actions and behaviors on the rest of the workforce. Often these leaders surround themselves with people who only agree with them and tell them how wonderful they are. They align with people who make them feel good, and disassociate, ignore, or ostracize anyone with an opinion different than their own.

They have forgotten how the firm got to where it is today, and what core focus is needed to empower and build a strong people organization. One that can provide feedback and share ideas without fear of retaliation or being bullied. When the leader believes everyone in the firm is beneath them and elevates a select few, they alienate the rest of their organization and begin to destroy the morale, the loyalty, and the trust necessary to achieve success.

I encourage leaders to examine their own actions and behaviors and to surround themselves with subject matter experts who will not simply agree with them out of fear or out of a desire to be rewarded. Instead, to be a truly successful servant leader, they need to empower those in their organization who have the competence and experience in their respective functional areas to thrive and contribute at the highest level. Building a strong and collaborative leadership team requires the leader to humble themselves adequately to allow others with a passion to make the firm great and contribute to

Burnout businesswoman under pressure in the office


Too often a leader isolates their interaction with the few team partners or associates that agree with their ideas and a group think begins to take shape, or as I have repeatedly observed multiple people acting as one mind aligning and agreeing over and over with one another to the point that they have completely eliminated the possibility of any other ideas penetrating this closed circle of people and therefore oblivious to the negative impact of their actions and behaviors because their group always thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong.

Trust is a key ingredient for a successful culture, and once the workforce loses trust in leadership, you can forget having a positive culture or good morale!

When this happens, managers and then the workforce observe a negative change in leadership, and trust erodes. People stop believing leadership is doing what is best for the firm. They stop believing the leadership is doing what is best for the employees. Employees stop having a desire to share information, or their thoughts about the firm in fear of being targeted or excluded. Morale diminishes and gossip increases, productivity drops, and a common vision and goal disappears. Not only do people stop trusting what the leader is doing, but they also stop trusting everything the leader promises. Ultimately the leader, who claims to be doing everything for the good of the firm, is actually the catalyst destroying the morale and culture day by day, failing to fix the problem they created with this small group of followers who do whatever they want and say whatever they want to make the leader feel good about themselves.

About Warren Cook

Warren is the President and co-founder of SymbianceHR and provides strategic oversight for service delivery, business operations, and technical guidance on consulting engagements. He is a human resources subject matter expert with over 25 years of experience as a strategic human resources business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for the strategic planning of all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized strategic solutions that meet the client’s business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren is also the Chief Talent Officer and cofounder of SymbianceHiRe, a Symbiance company dedicated to providing direct placement talent acquisition services and temporary and contract staffing solutions to the business community. Warren holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today.”



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