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Use Company Culture to Cultivate Great Managers

“People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad managers.” This mantra has circulated for decades and has a kernel of truth, but it doesn’t reflect the scope of the problem.

No one wants to work for an awful boss. However, people’s issues with their managers often go deeper than the individuals who hold these positions. They frequently stem from bad organizational culture that causes, exacerbates, or sanctifies the objectionable qualities of those in supervisory roles.

Poor culture creates a toxic environment that dictates the behavior and tactics of management. And since managers are usually the first touchpoint for their direct reports, they get blamed when employees assess their circumstances. Surveys may report that workers quit because of a bad boss. But often, what they’re really walking away from is an organization that doesn’t cultivate good leaders.

Companies with a strong culture maximize the potential of people in supervisory positions. Some outlier managers might still try to do things their way, but prioritizing culture makes it easier for CEOs to identify and deal with managers who don’t measure up.

In an era where employee engagement continues to decline, leaders should focus on the primary factor that fosters good management and a loyal workforce—forming a healthy company culture.

How A Strong Culture Creates Good Managers

Supervisors often develop negative traits because they lack the framework to help them build good management skills. Company leaders can provide this needed structure by creating a culture that nurtures behaviors that drive personal and organizational success.

Most CEOs understand that having a robust culture benefits rank-and-file employees. What may be less obvious to them is that a vibrant culture creates great managers who can better support and motivate their team members and help them achieve at a high level.

As Carpedia International CEO Peter Follows writes in a blog for Built In:

“Senior leadership must give managers the tools they need to develop an environment where employees grow, ultimately enabling the business to flourish.”

The first step company leaders should take to create top-level managers is to define and prioritize their company culture using trust and accountability as anchors.


Employees respect managers they trust. A culture emphasizing transparency and building strong professional relationships helps workers gain confidence in their boss. Leaders must establish an inclusive work community where people feel comfortable speaking up about issues, knowing their managers will listen to them. Managers who demonstrate respect also cultivate respect.

And a foundation of trust is what author Steven Covey calls a performance multiplier. He writes in Speed of Trust, “High trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering, and relationships with all stakeholders.” All signs of a well-managed team.

Positive accountability must be part of a company’s culture to help employees perform effectively. As author Henry J. Evans noted in Winning with Accountability, “Successful organizations front-load accountability into their strategy. Doing so breeds better relationships, eliminates surprises, and vastly improves job satisfaction and performance.”

Managers establish an even deeper level of trust when they not only require accountability from their team members; they also demonstrate it. Employees look up to a boss who owns their commitment to their team and the company culture.

In addition, incorporating accountability as a critical element of their culture makes it easier for leaders to weed out managers who refuse to comply with the behaviors that leaders have laid out for their staff. Managers who are cultural role models are far more likely to run thriving teams.

The second step for CEOs is to lead by example, demonstrating and encouraging the behaviors they want their managers to display. Then, they must initiate methods to reinforce the culture so it remains a focal point of the organization. By creating a systematic way to sustain their culture, leaders give managers the tools to build employee confidence and engagement.

As leadership coach and workplace culture consultant Marita Price writes for LinkedIn:

“Managers stand at the forefront of cultivating and nurturing a positive organizational culture. Their decisions, actions, and the manner in which they interact with their teams profoundly influence the work environment.”

A Manager’s Role in Sustaining Culture

A company’s CEO should frame their organizational culture and be what author and CultureWise CEO David J. Friedman refers to as their company’s “Chief Culture Officer.” But the responsibility to coach, reflect, and maintain it largely falls on managers’ shoulders because they are on the front lines with the workforce. Marita Price explains:

“Managers are more than just supervisors; they are leaders who possess the ability to drive meaningful change. When managers genuinely embrace and exemplify the organization’s core values, their behavior becomes a beacon that guides others.”

Leaders should prioritize specific behaviors in their culture to help managers succeed. The most important of these include:

  • Communicating expectations
    Not having clarity about tasks and responsibilities is one of the top reasons employees grow disillusioned with their jobs. The culture should emphasize the importance of setting expectations and making workers feel comfortable asking for specifics. Stressing this behavior in the culture helps managers communicate more effectively with their team members and ensure everyone is on the same page.

  • Offering constructive feedback
    Following up with employees to give them constructive feedback works in tandem with setting expectations. Establishing regular one-on-one meetings is an effective way to reinforce positive conduct and outcomes and offer advice about getting better. Employees crave growth and appreciate bosses who confirm they are on the right track and are willing to coach them to improve.

  • Providing meaningful recognition
    Feeling like their work isn’t appreciated or noticed is another top reason employees develop a sour attitude about management. They also sense the phoniness of hollow accolades. However, workers positively respond to managers who regularly provide authentic recognition of their team members’ contributions.

The quality of an organization’s culture makes or breaks employee engagement. And as Marita Price points out:

“Managers are the linchpins that hold the structure together. Their leadership, exemplified through authentic alignment of values and behaviors, empowers teams, and drives transformative change. By fostering employee engagement and nurturing a culture that evolves with the organization's journey, managers pave the way for success.”