Just a few short years ago, CSC Australia chief, Mike Shove, thought he had to play the role of tough guy to deal with financial pressure the organization was facing in a highly competitive outsourcing market.
Appointed to the role of CEO in April 2003, Shove said he was tackling serious financial challenges as the local outsourcing market underwent a significant shift.
He said customer expectations had shifted and there was a lot of competitive pressure from Indian offshoring providers.
In a frank presentation to the Human Synergistics 9th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership, Shove said the company's service offerings also needed a total refresh.
He outlined how CSC Australia was able to overcome this tough period by transforming the culture of the organization.
And part of this process involved changing his own behaviour and leadership style which has improved greatly since those early days.
Prior to the transformation Shove said staff were disengaged and needed to come together and work as a team.
As an advocate of human synergistics, he said it is important to understand the impact of behaviour and particularly leadership, as leadership drives culture and culture drives performance.
"Transformation only happens if it is led from the top, senior management must lead the way," he said.
Shove realized his 'tough guy' management style did not support a more collaborative environment.
"We set new standards for behaviour that allowed for robust discussion without any finger pointing," Shove said.
The assessment, he said, revealed the organization was too internally focused.
"We knew we had to be clear about our vision and strategy and as managers we had to be role models," he said.
"The first thing we did was remove the barriers to innovation. We had to stop being so operationally focused and realize every staff member has customers, regardless of title.
"Our vision was to be number one in customer intimacy and find ways to successfully measure that vision."
Four years ago, CSC was supporting 72 different initiatives that were under-funded and not very strategic.
"We refined the structure, changed reporting lines and cut back on these initiatives," Shove said.
"We reduced our initiatives to seven strategic programs that were all customer-centric. Basically, we put customers at the centre of everything we do."
In the beginning, there wasn't buy-in from all managers as some advised Shove they "just needed to get tougher" labelling human synergistics as too "namby pamby" maintaining a cynicism that did pass eventually.
As part of the new culture, CSC adds between 40 to 70 new graduates each year to the organization.
"Our generation Y staff really lift the standard for the old guys; they actually turn up in my office and tell me what I'm doing wrong. I always wonder how they get past security," he joked.
"Today, staff understand their role in the company better and it has certainly improved customer relationships."
Another speaker at the conference, Lion Nathan commercial director James Brindley said culture can definitely be linked to results.
"Once upon a time our organization was internally competitive so we had border wars and there was a short-term focus on results," Brindley said.
"As our culture has improved over the years so has the sustainability of our results. We connect everything back to our culture.
"A leader's behaviour and style is the number one factor in shaping culture."
As part of the transformation Brindley said the organization introduced 10 core values and looked at better ways to manage its asset base of staff.
"We over-communicate to staff, emphasize integrity, drive innovation, always have a big customer focus and provide a flexible environment for good work/life balance," he said.
Brindley describes the nine-year transformation journey as a cultural revolution that has helped the company retain staff in a tight market.
"A Chinese man once told me that the secret of business is to make money out of good relationships," he said.
The Lion Nathan value proposition, which is well known by staff, is to: "Be the best you can be, make a difference, and have a great time doing it."