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Blog/February 29, 2016

Is Your CEO Culturally Intelligent?

Businessman leaning on railing

Whether they are large public businesses or small, family-owned startups, successful construction companies have strong, positive cultures. These cultural roots typically start with a founder who has a vision of the type of company he or she wants to build. The CEO should be able to get his or her team “pumped up” – an effort that requires a lot of energy, but that should be on every leader’s actionable agenda nonetheless.

In their leadership capacities, CEOs must also influence organizational cultures to grow in a positive direction. Too often, the culture in a construction company can become a losing one, especially in tough times. By inspiring higher levels of execution and celebrating individual and team successes, a CEO can raise the aspirations of the organization’s human resources.

The best CEOs understand, practice, shape and lead with their company’s culture, raise their firms above mediocrity, and assemble many different people and talents. Taking the lead to shape the corporate culture can be quite a challenge anytime, but it’s even more important when the company grows to a multi-billion dollar organization.

Tony Guzzi, president and CEO, described how he manages all the companies that make up EMCOR: “The companies are first focused locally. Then we work together at corporate to see where we can help each other. We look for areas where we can work together. We are all united in wanting to do things the right way. We are big on entrepreneurial leaders. We are a company of leaders.”

According to Ron Magnus, managing director of FMI’s Center for Strategic Leadership, the CEO is the main caretaker and leader of the culture of the company. He presents the cultural model and “shines bright lights on it.” That culture involves everyone in the company, lies at the business’ very core, and translates into long-term success for the firm.

What this means is that success is determined is-your-ceo-culturally-intelligent-2by three critical factors within an organization. Purpose sets the path for the long haul. In order to strengthen and carry out this purpose (leading to success), the organization must have the right talent in place. Knowing how to recruit and retain this talent and adequately build the pipeline of “Peak Leaders” contributes and acts as a multiplier of success. These two pieces are raised exponentially by organizational culture, which reflects the organization’s vision. The CEO’s role is to assure the company is organized around its core vision and to make it clear why the organization exists.

Magnus adds, “The ‘tweaks’ the CEO makes need to be such that they enhance the culture and empower the people in the company to do great things. That’s magical!”

So how can a firm go about cultivating a CEO and building bench strength around a solid and productive corporate culture? To gain a deeper awareness of the importance of a strong corporate culture requires a focus on the goals, values and behaviors of the organization – or, its leaders’ “cultural intelligence” (CQ).

At its simplest, cultural intelligence is the capacity to adapt to unfamiliar, ambiguous, culture-based beliefs and attitudes of the people with whom you interact. In other words, people with high CQs are able to adjust their own thoughts, behaviors and communication style to match those of culturally diverse employees.

Here are a few key attributes of high-CQ CEOs:

  • Leaders with high CQs understand their own cultural assumptions and suspend judgments when interacting with others. (Effectively communicating with culturally different employees requires the adjustment of verbal and nonverbal behaviors to match the diversity of others.)
  • High-CQ leaders are better able to manage diverse expectations than their low-CQ counterparts are.
  • Recent research links high CQ to several performance outcomes, including better judgment and decision-making, negotiation success and global leadership effectiveness.
  • Cultural intelligence has also been linked to higher leadership potential, interaction adjustment and overall mental well being.

 

Being intelligent and aware of both corporate and social culture is a key CEO component that cannot be completely delegated, although it can be taught and passed on through example and influence. As always, the role of the CEO includes managing the bottom line, but managing and shaping a great culture is the key to keeping up the bottom line.

Want to know more?