Redefining culture: How the current crisis can make way for great leaders

As a leader, you are creating, destroying, or redefining culture every day. Here are five ways you can build a healthy work culture for the long run.

Redefining culture: How the current crisis can make way for great leaders

Sunday April 16, 2023,

4 min Read

“Yeh kya ho raha hai Duryodhan? (What is happening Duryodhan)” is a dialogue that people from my generation may remember, doubling down with laughter as we watched the Bollywood classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Fast forward 40 years, replace Duryodhan with the names of some new age industry titans, and you could repeat it with the same level of exasperation, but completely seriously.

The world as we know it is filled with narratives that span the across a spectrum of boundless optimism to hopeless cynicism, with a seemingly endless list of companies announcing layoffs. Amid this upheaval, lying at the intersection of emotion and decision, is where culture is getting redefined.

Take for instance, the impact of layoffs. At first glance, this is obviously a period of tremendous turmoil and uncertainty for the those without ajob, . Go deeper, and you will realise that the long term damage could actually be to organisations - not just the ones that made these decisionsbut even to others in the same industry. After all, the war for talent is a never-ending one and sooner or later, it will be a sellers’ market again. You can expect commitment and loyalty only from a workforce that feels heard and respected.

Here are five tips on what leaders can do to maintain their organisations’ brand value and respect during this time of crisis.

Culture is truly tested during tough times

Culture is not meant to be understood as just a fuzzy word to be explored when times are good. . So, even as you are trying to reverse that sales graph or  attempt to identify potential savings, keep an eye on how people are feeling and what they are saying as they are at their most vulnerable. I would suggest partnering with your HR teams to track those engagement and attrition trends more closely than ever.

Striking a balance

Strike a balance between being paranoid enough to stay on your toes but confident enough to stay the course. The lines between immediate goals and long-term strategy can get blurred, but when those lines are crossed, people notice. Forget business, look at even music titans - a Bruce Springsteen or Taylor Swift can play around with the details, but any sharp, unexplained change in vision is accompanied by losses in fandom. Have faith in your strategy, and people will have faith in you.

Share the faith, over-communicate

While this may seem like a distraction when the need of the hour is to fold up the sleeves and bail the water out, but taking time out to inspire and align your leadership or to share your challenges and vision with the larger company can make the problem-solving quicker and seamless. Gandhi’s success as a leader stemmed not just from what he did, but how he carried an entire nation with him while he did it.

Treat culture as a journey and not a “fix-it” project

Companies with a distinctive culture take ages, sometimes decades, to build. This is not done  not just through heavy-handed initiatives or inspiring speeches, but also daily decisions and micro-events; how you hire, appreciate, align, reward, exit your employees is truly building culture one day at a time.

Turn the lens inwards

As painful and lonely as the tough times are, they can be an invaluable source of insight about yourself, your values and drivers. Ask yourself some tough questions about the decisions you took and why. Get feedback from people around you on how you are perceived. Take help from your HR partner or a coach to decode all the information coming your way and turn it to your advantage.

Remember, the camera is always on and you are the star whether you like it or not. Every expression, action, word, response, message is being carefully noted analysed and discussed to be brought up in the future. As a leader, you are creating, destroying, or redefining culture every day, make sure to use this opportunity wisely.

Sudeep Ralhan is an HR Leader with over 20 years of experience across the Tech, BPO, FMCG and startup spaces, spanning multiple geographies.

Edited by Akanksha Sarma

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)