The Future of Leadership: Influencing Business Culture in 2024

Business Culture

The last decade has shown a significant decline in employee motivation across the UK (Think Organisation, 2024). Employee engagement has also reached an all time low globally with only 1 in 4 people currently engaged (Gallup, 2023). According to Business Leaders Today (2024) ‘leaders keep teams motivated by building a business culture that supports a positive employee experience and a cooperative work environment that is psychologically safe for all team members’.

Business culture impacts employee experience because it is the shared attitudes, beliefs, priorities and values which guide the behaviours of all employees across organisations.

Employees are significantly more likely to stay in positive cultures that support and value them, allowing them to grow through an inclusive and psychologically safe environment. The challenge is, historically, leaders focused on results often at the expense of culture which is why influencing business culture is the future of leadership.

A Case Study

A recent client had a declining sales team, despite ‘on paper’ the team having everything it needed to deliver success. Employee engagement measures showed the team was ‘engaged’. Yet it wasn’t until Think Organisation undertook a culture deep dive that the real issues became apparent. On the surface, the team appeared ok. Yet, at the first workshop underlying negative behaviours quickly became apparent to our team. Ironically, this had been happening for several years and the leader had become oblivious to these behaviours – not realising the implications.

Firstly, the highest salesperson often turned up late to full team meetings, apologising profusely but often with a coffee in hand, relaxed that the leader wouldn’t challenge this behaviour, although behind the scenes the leader said they found this was frustrating.

The values of the client were respect, collaboration and compassion, so this is what our workshop focused on. When asked who was ‘the best’ salesperson the team unanimously named this highest salesperson. Yet in reality, this salesperson did not embody the values of the organisation. They were driven, cutthroat and extremely disrespectful to customers having derogatory names for them behind their backs. Motivated only by results this highest salesperson did not embody the values of the organisation.

Once our business culture measure had been rolled out it quickly became apparent the underlying issues which were undermining the culture and leading to poor performance of the other 95% of the sales team. Three months later the behaviours were changed, delivering a 40% increase in sales revenue and an employee NPS increase of 12 points.

So what is the secret?

1. Business Culture

Measure your business culture. The artefacts, the behaviours, the ways of working to understand how people think, feel and behave in your organisation. We recommend you get the experts in, Business Psychologists who understand how to scientifically measure the multiple dimensions of culture. However, questions you can ask yourself and your leaders include:

  • How do we treat each other in this organisation?
  • Do we live, breathe and sleep our vision, mission and values?
  • Could someone tell our values from how our employees behave?
  • Do our values shine through when we make difficult decisions?
  • Are we consistent, fair and transparent in how we treat infractions?

2. Compassion

Do the leaders of the organisation really care? Is being kind, caring and considerate part of our ethos and ways of working? It is important to understand compassion is about concern for others and the desire to take action, whereas empathy is the awareness of another’s emotional experiences. Compassion lives in organisational cultures (or it doesn’t), and whilst we often measure levels of compassion in terms of thoughts, feelings and actions the following statements can help identify compassion in your organisation.

  • When people are distressed we try and help each other
  • We try not to get distracted by worrying about how people feel
  • I get fed up with people wasting time at work talking about how they feel
  • When a colleague is sad at work I try and comfort them
  • My manager can often tell if someone is sad at work, even if they don’t say anything

3. Connect

Many leaders spend time trying to manage others. Their role means leaders are often responsible for influencing the behaviours and actions of others. The challenge is that many leaders also don’t know how important it is to truly connect with their teams, at an individual and a team level.

Think about an individual who you work with daily. In your opinion:

  • What motivates this person?
  • What frustrates this person?
  • What could this person do more of to increase their success?
  • What could this person share with you to help you?
  • What could you share with this person to help them?

Now ask yourself – have you ever asked them these questions? What would they answer? What would they answer in reciprocation for you? The importance of connections is fundamental for all leaders in 2024. High quality, authentic, two-way connections are what build strong, sustainable cultures which drive success.

4. Coach

There is no carrot and stick in leadership anymore. Leaders who coach, create safe, supportive and appropriately challenging work environments which foster positive performance cultures. It is vital that all employees feel psychologically safe, and coaching is the secret to this. All employees need direction and support, in different quantities at different times, and coaching can be the secret to this. Leaders are so often time-poor, and whilst many invest in professional Executive Coaches, many of these learnings can be practised daily in the workplace to enhance the culture. Here are some high-level coaching questions which can help leaders.

  • How can we use this 121/meeting today so that it benefits you the most?
  • What excites you most about this project you are working on?
  • What scares you the most about this project you are working on?
  • What important thing have you learned about yourself recently?
  • What do you need or want from me to ensure this is a success?

5. Contribute

Many ideas, solutions and seeds of innovation come from people on the front line or doing the work, as opposed to the leaders at the top. This is where ensuring a diverse team of people can contribute to projects and ways of working – and have the opportunity to learn from any mistakes. So often cultures are ashamed of their mistakes, hiding any less-than-perfect outcomes, that employees become scared of contributing. Everyone has different perspectives, ideas and understandings so leaders must facilitate contributions from everyone, not just the more high-ranking officials. This can be done in several ways.

  • Facilitate design sprints with diverse groups of people focused on key organisational problems which need to be solved
  • Measure the levels of psychological safety across teams and your organisation and seek to improve it
  • Have safe spaces where people can make suggestions, chat, ask for help and informally chat over current challenges
  • Train leaders and managers in the art of coaching to ensure their behaviours and responses facilitate idea generation
  • Ensure all employees understand each other and know each other enough (e.g. through a personality or strengths profile) as this can help improve contributions

6. Celebrate

So often successes are not celebrated, and leaders miss the opportunity to congratulate team members on their achievements. When employees feel appreciated, valued and part of the team then they are more likely to be engaged.

Celebrating good work, and congratulating high performers or people who role model behaviours and values will enhance and grow your business culture. Often we are so quick to move on to the next challenge that we forget to celebrate the successes or even the learning from the failures. This can lead to employees becoming disheartened as all humans need appreciation and a sense of achievement.

When it comes to celebrating, be mindful of.

  • Celebrating success in a way which suits the individuals or team involved
  • Small words, written cards, face to face thanks can go a long way compared to ‘big’ gestures
  • Celebrations need to be authentic, fair, consistent and transparent
  • Celebrate behaviours, approaches, progress and people overcoming adversity (not just results)
  • Congratulate people immediately, especially during projects, not just at the end

7. Change

Years ago we often talked about the BAU (business as usual) and the transformation we were planning on delivering. However, when the change became so frequent, or even a permanent state of flux, we coined the term CAU (change as usual).

Leaders need to embrace change and understand its influence on business culture. In a start-up the curve of change can take a couple of weeks, compared to six months in a FTSE 100. Understanding the speed of this cycle is crucial for all leaders. Busines culture change takes months, even years depending on the size, maturity and market the business operates in.

The following elements are fundamental.

  • What is currently urgent and who is going to work together to solve this challenge?
  • What different options do we have to solve this challenge or deliver this change?
  • How can we communicate what the solution or new world will look like after the change?
  • Who can help remove barriers to this change and deliver some quick wins?
  • How will we measure the progress of change or overcoming the challenge?


A successful leader in 2024 will be able to ask the following questions, to employees across their organisation, and get the following answers.

How do we really treat each other in this organisation?

In this organisation, we strive to treat each other with respect, empathy, and consideration. Our interactions are guided by a shared commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment. We listen actively to each other’s concerns and provide constructive feedback aimed at personal and professional growth. The emphasis on collaboration ensures that every team member feels valued and heard, promoting a sense of belonging and mutual respect. This approach not only enhances individual morale but also strengthens our collective ability to achieve organisational goals.

Does everyone live, breathe and sleep our vision, mission and values?

Our vision, mission, and values are not just statements on a wall; they are at the core of our daily operations and decision-making processes. We consistently integrate these principles into our work, ensuring that every action we take aligns with our organisational purpose and ethical standards. By prioritising our mission in every project and initiative, we create a cohesive and unified direction for all employees. Regular workshops, meetings, and communications reinforce these ideals, making them an intrinsic part of our organisational culture that influences behaviour and choices at every level.

Could someone tell our organisational values from how our employees behave?

Someone could easily discern our values by observing our employees’ behaviour. Our commitment to excellence, integrity, and compassion is evident in the way we conduct ourselves and interact with stakeholders. Employees demonstrate our values through collaborative teamwork, ethical decision-making, and genuine care for one another’s well-being. This consistent alignment between values and actions creates a transparent and trustworthy environment, where our organisational ethos is visible in everyday activities and engagements. This visibility reinforces our culture and attracts a diverse group of like-minded individuals who share and uphold these values.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact.

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact. 

Check our Insights page for more valuable information.

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