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Your CEO Is Dedicated to Building a Great Culture? Here's a Simple Test to Prove It...

Ask him to give you (the HR/Talent pro) veto power on any hire you think isn't a cultural fit.

That's veto power even if the business leader wants to hire the person.  It used to be called the "nuclear option" during the cold war.  Of course, you'd exercise that power with care.  You'd push and prod just like Reagan did back in the day, but you'd stop short of using it - most of the time.  

It's called leverage.  You.  With veto power over anyone who would be a net negative to the culture.

That's the test to see if your CEO is serious, or if he just read that culture is important in last month's issue of the Harvard Business Review.  Not that there's anything wrong with that...


Ed Baldwin

We could all gain from developing some simple tools to assess our ability and commitment to building a great culture. Most of the tools out there are complex, expensive not tremendously more telling than this litmus test. Good stuff KD.

Glenn S. Phillips

I'm calling contradiction! The veto power should only come if the culture is already great and you trust that culture to maintain itself.

But your premise was about BUILDING a great culture, which suggests the culture is not great yet. So, do you give people the veto power during the building, when many may not be interested in change (regardless of their stated public comments)?

Frank Zupan

Interesting idea which presupposes that the "HR/Talent Pro" can tell the difference between good culture and a hole in the ground. My own observations and anecdotal evidence suggest otherwise...


It's pretty safe to assume that if the CEO understands culture, the HR Leader understands culture even more. Can't imagine a CEO who understands culture that would tolerate a HR Leader that doesn't. Now, if your CEO doesn't understand culture you may have a HR Leader that doesn't by definition, but again hard to imagine their understanding being less than the CEO. I guess your CEO could not expect, and therefore not hold HR accountable, for culture leadership. But that sounds a little dinosaur to me at this point. Maybe I'm wrong...

Ryan Zupancic

My two cents... I think I am with Glenn... Is your organization's culture worth protecting if the CEO doesn't understand it? Unless the guy was just installed as CEO, like it or not he already shapes the culture. Requesting explicit veto power seems to suggest you don't already have the ability to influence him from a bad decision. If that is the situation, I think you need some other work done before worrying about some litmus test. If you arent sitting at the table, I doubt this question will help you get there.


Why only the HR/talent pro would have veto power? I worked in a place where any team member could veto, even if they would not work closely to the candidate.

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