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Simply stated is the brutal fact: 70% of all change initiatives fail. Why? Managers flounder in an alphabet soup of change methods, drowning in conflicting advice. Change efforts exact a heavy toll – human and economic—as companies flail from one change method to another.

To effect successful change, first grasp the two basic theories of change:

1) Theory E – change emphasizing economic value—as measured only by shareholder returns. This “hard” approach boosts returns through economic incentives, drastic layoffs, and restructuring. People are not output and autocratic leaders are dinosaurs anymore. The 80’s model of balancing a company by restructuring bodies off the balance sheet doesn’t work anymore. I know full well. I used to do it!

2) Theory O – change as a “softer” approach— focuses on developing corporate culture and human capability, patiently building trust and emotional commitment to the company through teamwork and communication. This theory isn’t easy, because employees distrust leaders who alternate between nurturing and cutthroat behavior.

Over the next three months, I’m going to give you the blueprint, the turn-by-turn WAZE GPS navigation on what it takes to have a successful change initiative every time, why it’s important to follow this proven process and never veer from it (or I guarantee your failure) and how to implement and execute every step along the way. Yeah, I just heard you call ‘bullshit.’ Fine, here’s proof. I only accept three Culture Influencing clients a year who understand what’s involved, the commitment it takes and submit the EGO, to wipe your feet at the door, AND the stones to stand your ground and not veer off course throughout the 36-month program.

It’s worked for mid-market manufacturing organizations, global multi-billion dollar conglomerates and small entrepreneurships under $20M and everywhere in between. I can guarantee a lot of things when it comes to my accountability. Much of our relationship hinges on YOU – your level of commitment, dedication, desire and determination to follow through and to take consistent action and lead.  If you follow the program, take it seriously and do the work, then it’s more than reasonable to expect to achieve what many others have achieved.

Why Haven’t I Heard of You?

I’m not a seeker of fame or notoriety nor do I want to be an NY Times Best Selling author. Who cares other than self-aggrandizing egotists who’ve hosed up the business world for decades. And frankly, some of you think you really are Masters of the Universe. I, fortunately, don’t need nor choose to be around people like that. The focus of The Culture Whisperer brand has always been to take what’s been hidden, in plain sight, under the bushel basket and shout from the rooftops to those few who it matters most to. Executives and business professionals who understand the rhythm between ego, results and relationships. It’s really that simple.

The Backstory

Let’s step in – historically, the study of change has been restricted to mature, large companies that needed to reverse their competitive declines. The arguments advanced in this article also apply to entrepreneurial companies that need to manage rapid growth. Here, too, we believe the most successful strategy for change will be a rhythm between the two theories E and O. We call it theory G (EGO is the linchpin that kills change initiatives at all levels of an organization).

One group subscribes to an ideology akin to Theory E. Their primary goal is to prepare for a cash-out, such as an IPO or an acquisition by an established player. Maximizing market value before the cash-out is their sole and abiding purpose. These entrepreneurs emphasize shaping the firm’s strategy, structure and systems to build a quick, strong market presence. Mercurial leaders who drive the company using a  strong top-down style are typically at the helm of such companies. They lure others to join them using high-powered incentives such as stock options. The goal is to get rich quick. The Achilles: there’s no purpose, no higher reason to succeed other than fast-cash-for-fast-friends. This is why many flame out during the roller coaster ride of financing rounds, etc.

Other entrepreneurs are driven by an ideology more akin to Theory O—the building of an institution. Accumulating wealth is secondary to creating a sustainable company based on a deeply held set of values having a strong culture. These entrepreneurs are likely to subscribe to an egalitarian style that invites everyone’s participation. They look to attract others who share their passion about the cause (their purpose or ‘why’) and certainly they’re being provided generous stock options as well.

The goal, in this case, is to make a difference, not just to make money. Many people fault entrepreneurs who are driven by a Theory E view of the world. But we can think of other entrepreneurs who have destroyed businesses because they were overly wrapped up in the Theory O pursuit of a higher ideal and didn’t pay attention to the pragmatics of the market. There’s a distinct rhythm to success – there is no balance and stop thinking there is.

Theory G states that successful change initiatives, thus influencing culture comes from the successful rhythm between Ego, Results and Relationships. You can pour through The Culture Whisperer here and glean as much or as little as you want to on the system we’ve used for nearly thirty years.

What You’re Up Against

In less than a week, we exit from Labor Day with fewer than 75 days before your people will be in “Holiday-mode.” Shocking I know, but when you think about that timeline you know, “damn, he’s right.” You’ll find yourself saying that alot if you come along with us. Finding the right rhythm during this season takes commitment, clarity, and consistent communication if you’re to deliver the expected outcomes set forth in January. Laying the foundation of rhythm in your Elegant Leadership will get you the culture you must have if you’re to be successful.

What leadership strength can you build upon to become more effective?

What behavior is hurting your relationships and thus your performance?

How do you cultivate the proper attitude to become an Elegant Leader? 

When competing priorities pull you in different directions, can you always focus on your performance?

To get you started on the right page, right pew, whatever management weaselspeak you’re used to  – two critical factors need to be observed and maintained,

  1. Manage the ramifications, minimize the blowback and avoid culture flashpoints, (the crap that hits the fan), and

  2. Maximize the achievement of your business objectives adopting, modeling and living culture influencing strategies that drive sustainable results (the goods).

Your team, your people, your organization needs you to lead and to Lead Elegantly. Without it, they will succumb, and you may too, to the winds of change because you hesitate to lead. They must see and believe in the vision – remember it’s not your vision – it’s the organization’s vision. Everyone must be reminded of where we’re going when the shit hits the fan. If you’re not the exception, then be the example for them.

Are you delivering significant results today? And at what cost?

Realizing we’re not where we want to be in our leadership presence, competence and proficiency, it takes a resolute spirit and a healthy disposition to come to grips with less than stellar leadership behaviors and perceptions. Long-lasting learning comes at the intersection of being uncomfortable and the willingness to expand that capacity. Here’s one example to combat the landmines of points 1 and 2 above.

If you have the courage to know what’s holding you back from being the Elegant Leader with Voltage you know you are and can be, then taking TheUgly Truth survey is your first step. At the end of the day, every leader is responsible for results, and earning the right to advance and lead is based upon your performance. If Nick Saban hadn’t won a National Championship at LSU, it’s unlikely he would have had the opportunity to coach at Miami in the NFL or at The University of Alabama where he’s won 5 National titles in 10 years. Are you tracking here?

There are many structured approaches to influencing culture and change models. From Kotter’s 8 steps, the Roadmap, IMA, Lewin’s 3-stages theory, GE’s CAP and others. What makes ours work is you’re fully vested in the process by submitting your ego to the process in order to earn the promise. It’s never failed and why would you be the first one to fail?  But you don’t share this with the masses. No I don’t because so many leaders and professional managers cannot and will not get out of their own way. This isn’t some secret to be held onto or buried in the common area of your campus. Your success hinges on YOU sharing what’s been learned along the way and sharing the results along the way. Let me repeat that!

“Your success hinges on YOU sharing what’s been learned along the way, and sharing the results along the way.”

Sounds simplistic doesn’t it? It is and thus why so many fail because feeding an ego with some people is more important to say, “I did this…I led this…I, I, I…” And for many of you, why you’re tenure is 3-5 years, if you’re lucky, because you’ve screwed up yet again another company or organization because of your damn ego. The method you used at Company X may not work at Company Y if it’s not principle-centered focused on the right rhythm of results, relationships and ego. Here’s another bullet for you to chew on – take the simple example below:

How significant are the beliefs and behaviors that must change if you’re to have a successful change initiative that moves your culture forward? Moving from ‘this is how work gets done here’ to ‘this is the way we are expected to do things around here.’ It’s establishing a model where the leaders go first and eat last – meaning here’s how we are to approach our work, our relationships at work, communicate more often and solve problems together. The leader doesn’t eat until the organization successfully models what’s expected around here. Are you getting the picture? I drew it out for you.

That’s a lot to digest and my delivery isn’t what most suits gravitate towards unless their pretty comfortable in their own skin. More to follow…in the meantime, you may be interested in researching a bit more here and I’ve listed several articles you may find of value.

What Many Call Culture Change is Nothing More than Fixing Climate

How to Avoid a Culture Change Failure

If Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, then What’s For Dinner?

Are You Worth Following?

There are countless duplicitous people, who have assumed leadership roles, have eroded what leadership means and has led to the demise of many businesses. The Culture Whisperer will poke you in the eye and punch you in the gut for your past behaviors. Only leaders who have a sincere and honest desire to elevate themselves, who have the courage and desire to change and the willingness to ask for advice, seek counsel and commit to change and to eliminate unproductive behaviors will come out on the other side more successful, authentic, genuine and happier with themselves and those around them.

Perhaps you’d like more information on The Culture Whisperer or How to Become an Elegant Leadership with Voltage or what Elegant Leadership can do for you, your team and your organization, feel free to contact me with your feedback, thoughts and ideas or to discuss any of these – contact me directly 205-482-2177. I’ve written a FREE guide if you want to know more here.

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