Want to change your culture? Change your leader

Sharon Davies — Founding director, Talent Propeller Limited, aged 20 and returning from working in the US and UK, secured a job in a recruitment agency. She was charged with building a desk from scratch and recruiting staff for the advertising and publishing industries. On her first day, she was handed a newspaper and told to start calling. “That was a pretty daunting experience but I believe in doing things that scare you so I just got on with it.”

Fast-forward 13 years and today Sharon is the owner of five businesses. They include the New Zealand and Australian arms of recruitment solutions provider Talent Propeller Ltd and Big Splash, an advertising agency specialising in the creation of recruitment advertising. 

Light bulb moment: “Attitude feeds from the top” 

Sadly, Sharon lost her first husband and business partner to a melanoma brain tumour in 2011, just six months after she also lost her mother to a brain tumour.

Returning to work after a short break, she realised staff were worried about the future. “They were tentative and afraid of how secure their jobs were and how secure the company was. They needed a leader to not assure them that things would be okay, but to drive how we were all going to be moving forward. “I decided that our culture would feed from the top. It was up to me to decide to be positive, to be ambitious and adventurous — to not be afraid and to be goal-orientated. Most importantly though, we decided to be a YES business.”

This very simple philosophy quickly grew opportunities for progression and expansion. “We saw that many opportunities were missed by human nature’s first reaction being ‘no’. So we changed our culture and our first reaction is always ‘yes’.” Culture and Engagement “There is always talk about ‘culture’ and ‘employee engagement’ and a lot of similar buzz words used in business.” As we know, organisations spend thousands hiring consultants to review culture, engagement and happiness.

"However I have found that the most effective way to change culture is to change whatever and whomever is at the top. Whoever is running your organisation sets the culture. That feeds through to management and then through to staff. “It impacts your employment brand, your staff engagement and the longevity of employees. It feeds how hard people work, what their attitude is to change and how much they want to apply themselves.

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