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Great Leaders Build Healthy Corporate Cultures

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Darren McKellin

Great Leaders Build Healthy Corporate Cultures

Recently I had dinner with an exceptional sales candidate who was late because he "was having an argument with the support team in his company." I know the company well and know it has a corporate culture where employees constantly have to "fight" and "push back" to get things done (the complete opposite of the Zscaler culture). Working in an environment with infighting is tiresome, and eventually, workers begin to look outside the company for new opportunities.

People often get enamored with the salary or title when changing jobs, but they should also put emphasis on the culture of the company. After all, if a worker dreads going to work in the morning, are they going to be happy or successful?

Creating a great corporate culture

Corporate culture played a big role in the decision to join my current employer, Zscaler. Glassdoor recently posted a list of Best Cloud Computing Companies To Work For In 2020, and Zscaler is ranked third. Our CEO, Jay Chaudhry, has a 97-percent approval rating from employees, which is an outstanding number. Jay communicates often with employees on a variety of subjects, including his “10 Zscaler Leadership Principals,” which sets the tone for Zscaler culture. Some of the key tenants within those principals include hire the best, customer obsession, and leaders are owners. The senior leadership in Zscaler is always flexible, collaborative, helpful and ready to do what it takes to help make our customers satisfied.

This has never more evident than during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Zscaler leadership team worked with a number of customers to help them maneuver their way through this unprecedented situation. Jay and the other Zscaler leaders truly felt a personal “obligation to help customers keep their employees safe and productive as they work from home.”

Managing conflict

Strong leadership also helps build a culture of teamwork and collaboration, which are key elements of a healthy corporate culture. However, no company is bereft of conflict. Yet, the ability to identify and resolve conflict is another key attribute of great leadership. These leaders can even identify the root of conflict before it even emerges.

When resolving conflict, most people take one of three options. They overreact, get emotional or avoid it. In each case, the situation can escalate out of control and keep resurfacing. I have found the best solution is to stay calm and quickly lower the tension level amongst the quarreling parties.

When talking to a colleague or customer who is agitated, stay calm and help the other person calm down before they resort to raising their voice any higher. Listen to what the other person wants you to hear, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. Keep your body language neutral and non-threatening. Usually just letting the other side share their feelings will cause them to become more open and cooperative, as most people just want to feel like they are being heard. This tact can often cause many arguments to dissolve right then and there.

After listening to their reasoning, find areas that everyone can agree on. Often this is the big picture, such as “We all want the project to be delivered on time to the customer’s satisfaction, so let’s review the steps we will take to get there.” In just about every conflict, there are options that can satisfy both sides. Brainstorm on those, which could bring about resolution much more quickly. In the end, both sides should agree to think about solutions and talk again.

Some conflicts arise from people overstepping their bounds and moving into another person’s territory. Leadership can help avoid these situations by clearly clarifying everyone’s roles and responsibilities.

Of course, there are rare instances when two employees simply don’t get along for any number of reasons. Every employee brings value to the organization, otherwise, you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Organizations with strong leadership likely have strategies in place to handle these situations, such as having them work on separate projects. In addition, when leaders must intervene in a conflict, it is imperative that they do so without showing favoritism and with the ultimate goal of resolving the conflict in a just and decisive fashion.

Setting the tone

Leaders define what is acceptable behavior in an office and set the culture for their teams. Office arguments sap the productivity of two or more workers and take energy away from important activities, such as running the business.

By their words and actions, they also make it clear how employees and the business should behave in the face of difficult situations.

How is the culture where you work now? Do you enjoy your job and teammates? Have your leaders put their words into action? If the answer is no, I encourage you to reflect on whether you are in the right company and consider if the grass might be greener somewhere else. Working at a company with high employee satisfaction is a luxury, and I would encourage everyone to settle for nothing but the best.


Darren McKellin is the Regional Director, North Asia, at Zscaler



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