Becoming a Culture Champion: Strategies for Modern Leadership

    You don’t need armor, a strong horse, or dragon-slaying skills to be this kind of champion. Anyone can be a culture champion. Chances are, you have some ready and waiting to be developed within your walls.

    Culture drives everything you do and every decision that is made. It shapes how your people collaborate, which behaviors are rewarded, and who moves up the leadership ladder. It’s what makes you ‘you’. And it’s much bigger than just one leader.
    Culture can be good or bad, positive, or toxic. Keeping every single person aligned around something consistent and engaged can be difficult, but it critically shapes the success of your business and talent strategies. That’s where your culture champions come in.

    What is a Culture Champion? 

    Defining the Role of a Culture Champion

    They’re not just in HR. They can come from all levels and functions.

    A culture champion is a breathing, walking, talking example of your organization’s values.

    Culture champions are highly engaged individuals who actively seek out ways to nurture and bring your culture to life in a way that inspires, energizes and rallies other employees around your mission and values. They work wonders in cultivating a positive workplace and inspire others to follow suit. They understand the concept of culture is a mirror of leadership.


    The Attributes of a Culture Champion 

    The most effective culture champions: 

    • Act with integrity. They are honest, dependable, and follow through on their commitments.

    • Embrace change and innovation. A culture champion understands culture, evolves, seeks to find new solutions to problems and understands the greatness that can be achieved with everyone working in the same direction. 

    • Build trusted relationships. They consistently demonstrate empathy and understanding to foster mutual respect and successful collaboration with others, both in direct influence and indirect.

    • Inspire and coach others. Patient and supportive, they inspire confidence in others, encourage people to grow skillsets, and know how to set them up for success.

    • Demonstrate courage and passion. A culture champion has the courage to reflect on their own behavior and address bad habits, and this passion and commitment to growth inspires those around them to follow suit.

    • Lead with consistency. They help everyone to visualize, commit to, and make the decisions that achieve goals and ensure alignment to the stated values of the organization.

    • Accountability. Really the culture of a team is the worse behavior you are willing to tolerate. They hold others accountable to the values, recognizing the good, and calling out the bad. 

    The Impact of Cultural Champions on Corporate Culture

    “Organizational culture is the ‘water’ in the fishbowl. If the water is clean, nourishing and energizing, the fish will thrive and if the water is toxic, the fish will die, leaving the infrastructure value-less.” – Ranjan De Silva.

    If you don’t champion culture in a company, it can create misalignment, confusion, and unhappiness in teams. Values alignment is how you succeed in the modern workplace. 

    Employees are 10.4 times more likely to leave a job because of toxic work culture than because of pay (MIT Sloan), and leadership consistently emerged as the biggest predictor of toxic culture (MIT Sloan). 

    92% of executives believe that improving culture will improve business value (Harvard).

    When your leaders do champion culture in a company, it keeps people engaged, confident, passionate and on the same page. Highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable while significantly outperforming their unaligned peers in terms of (LSA Global):

    •       Retaining customers 2.23-to-1
    •       Satisfying customers 3.2-to-1
    •       Effectively leading 8.71-to-1
    •       Engaging employees 16.8-to-1

    How to Become a Culture Champion

    Steps to Cultivating a Champion Mindset

    What do culture champions actually do, day-to-day? 

    1. Communicate clearly. Does everyone in the organization clearly understand the organization’s mission, values, and goals along the way? Are roadblocks a sign of misaligning values?

    2. Make time for self-reflection. Every person has subconscious biases. How do yours show up in the day-to-day? Could you have handled that difficult situation differently?

    3. Appreciate the people around you. Every person within your walls has their own skills, challenges, and aspirations, so use them! Ask questions, be supportive, recognize contributions, and reward achievements. Be human, and it will ripple throughout the organization.

    4. Value giving and receiving feedback. Motivate everyone to make feedback the norm. Putting yourself in all those various pairs of shoes will help you understand how to better meet individual and team needs.

    5. Embrace innovation and collaboration. Be creative in looking for opportunities for improvement. Culture is a group effort, not a solo mission, and culture champions inspire communication, trust, focus and ensure everyone knows what they are working towards.

    6. Nurture psychological safety. Fear in the workplace is a powerful driver of a toxic culture. A culture champion seeks to break that down. Create a safe space for sharing ideas and feelings, nurturing compassion, and for making mistakes (learning experiences, not the end of the corporate world!) so employees will be more willing to contribute ideas in the future.

    7. Focus on developing everyone into a culture champion. When we do better, we feel better. Your people will grow skillsets, feel inspired to apply them within your walls, and inspired to help others do the same. These could be your future leaders!

    Overcoming Challenges in Becoming a Culture Champion

    People are people, not robots. We’re talking about building an emotional connection, so it’s all about the soft skills that get the hard work done. It’s essential to provide training and support to equip people with those, so they become – and inspire others to become – cultural champions.

    If you want to champion culture in a company, inviting an external keynote speaker is a great start. 

    They can provide guidance and inspiration, and coach leaders and teams in empathy, feedback techniques, coaching and mentoring, navigating difficult conversations, and overcoming biases. That speaker can help you to create a community of learning and support –the soil in which cultural champions grow. 

    Alex Keynote Video Thumbnail

    The Role of Our Corporate Culture Keynote in Your Journey

    Key Insights from Our Corporate Culture Keynote

    Culture is a top-down initiative, and leaders must "own" it, instead of just talking about it or delegating it to others.

    Our corporate culture keynote is a guide to understanding concepts such as 'cultural debt' and 'culture conning', and topics including social learning theory, and re-wiring primal biases for modern leadership in and out of the office. It’s a recipe for creating culture champions.

    How Our Keynote Empowers Future Culture Champions

    Alex Draper’s leadership keynotes can help to shape a positive, productive, and inclusive culture in your organization. They provide leaders with a toolbelt of practical skills and strategies that effectively embody and promote company values. 

    Using them every day will foster a healthy corporate culture that attracts – and keeps – the best people.

    Culture champions are made, not simply born. 

    Get in touch to find out how Alex’s keynotes can help to develop every leader and team member into a superhero of the modern workplace; a culture champion, who understands how to influence, inspire, and instil confidence in others. Capes are optional.

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