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Executive Summit: New Perspectives on Leadership and IT’s Role

In a changing work environment, corporate culture has to be managed like any other change initiative.

In a changing work environment, corporate culture has to be managed like any other change initiative, explained Brian Rohr, senior vice president, organization development at Sammons Financial Group (Dallas; $28 billion in assets), at Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit 2005 in Palm Springs, Calif. "Culture is the seedbed where everything else takes place -- initiatives, strategy, policy, processes, structures, practices and how we do our work."

Seven years ago, according to Rohr, Sammons Financial Group began discussions on creating a culture to support strategy and ownership that would differentiate them from the marketplace. "Our culture shaping process was based on elevating peoples' thinking," says Rohr. "We wanted to take it from what they need to what we need as a company."

To do this, Sammons Financial Group defined company culture on the human needs of mastery, mutuality and meaning. "We all want to be in charge, we all want to work with other people and we all are seeking some kind of meaning or purpose. By combining our human needs we can become better human beings and, in turn, better employees," says Rohr.

Part of revisioning a strong corporate culture at Sammons Financial Group included revisioning interactions between the employer, employee and customer. "Results begin in discipline with micro-level or macro-level behaviors," says Rohr. "These behaviors expose our stereotypes, biases, how we think the world works, and this gives us the opportunity to make ourselves better people."

Sammons Financial Group decided to create an inclusive culture based on self-awareness and self-management. "We all need to know what we are creating together. Sharing the same vision and the same purpose is essential to any culture," Rohr explains. By creating training seminars lead by head executives, the enterprise was able to put promise to practice. The training encourages open dialogues with management, engagement, coaching and ownership. The company also created benefits for the 1100 employees, giving stake in the success of the company directly to the employees. "Each year all employees are granted 15%-20% of their salary in stock," explains Rohr, "Today employees' salaries have reached the $100 million mark."

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