Bravery Around Culture

By Michelle Gardiner

Published Date: 2019/09


As part of our Pathway to the Boardroom series, Derwent was joined by esteemed Directors Georgina Williams and Janette Kendall to speak with Melbourne based executives about the transition to a Non Executive career.

Culture is something we spend a great deal of time trying to comprehend and implement successfully, yet despite there being no ' one size fits all approach', there are key components that seem to be the grounding of any organisation that is deemed to have a great culture.  Georgina shared Culture is amorphous and difficult to quantify however it is important to continuously test and attempt to influence’ Janette  believes it can be easier to influence culture as a Non Executive Director than it is when you are an executive sitting inside the organisation.  Often an executives tenure is shorter than that of a NED, therefor may be more inclined to compromise and accommodate competing views.  ‘As a Non Executive Director you need to be brave and call out bad behaviour’ stated Janette.  ‘It is how you deal with bad behaviour that is really the question’.

Both Georgina and Janette gave some valuable examples on the contentious issue of managing, measuring and quantifying culture.

  • There are the usual metrics such as conducting staff surveys however the real insights can sometimes been found in getting access to the free flow comments. 
  • Ensuring you regularly cycle various senior executives through the board meetings.
  • Include a standing agenda item for board meetings that allows the board to ask any questions they wish to the senior management team.
  • Attending town hall calls allows the directors to see how management delivers messages as well as how these messages are received by staff.
  • Reviewing social media, to see how the corporate reputation of the organisation is being perceived by both customers and employees online.
  • It is important to look beyond the domestic environment and seek comparable examples of culture overseas.  This may include taking the time to actually visit organisations and see it for yourself first hand.
  • Site visits are a very important part of managing and measuring culture.  A combination of both formal and informal or unannounced visits can provide great insights.  However, it is a fine line you walk in being too accessible and potentially muddying the message of the CEO.
  • Remuneration plays a big part influencing culture, there should be more focus on the way remuneration is earned, for example, a certain amount of sales within a business should come from referrals, this double checks that growth is coming from good business practice eg quality of product and customer satisfaction.  Again it may prove useful to look outside the Australian market for advice on remuneration.

“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.” David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot