So You Want to Craft a New Culture?

The year is running ahead at a significant pace and very soon Q1 will be over. Perhaps you’re concerned about your current situation. You’re not exactly sure how you got to this point, and you think you know what the problem is. How long can you continue along this path? Whether you’re answering to a Board, your directs, your people, no one wants to be left without a chair when the music stops. What are you going to do about it? Maybe you are mad as hell about it and aren’t going to take it anymore.

Someone has to start the process and make the initial volley for the organization. Perhaps you’re considering or have begun the following:

  • Create an explicit concise statement of the desired culture state, a definitive line in the sand – a cultural decision,

  • Amend hiring practices to align current and future talent with the organizational strategy,

  • Improve the onboarding process in order to indoctrinate future hires with “how we do things around here”,

  • Adjust personnel policies so they align to the desired culture and avoid recriminatory actions,

  • Carve standards in stone a la Moses, that’s why they’re called standards,

  • Create a sustainable reinforcement plan and oversight to ensure the organization doesn’t fall off-track,

  • Measure the right metrics that support the culture and employee-directed roles of what to do, not how to do it

The aforementioned are not mutually exclusive, nor completely exhaustive however they are favorable first steps. Lest we forget the statistical failure of 70% or more “transformations” fail. It’s not about changing your climate or strictly your behaviors or attempting to label your culture movement. You begin with your environment – the landscape of why we exist (our purpose), what we do and how we deliver value.

How do you take a group of total strangers and move them as an organization to want to work with and behave together as a group?

Many organizations embraced a multitude of theories and consultative processes  over the decades in an effort to find the elusive recipe to drive a strong corporate culture. They fail because of a focus on wholly changing a deeply complex system rather than aligning the individuals within the organization around a set of shared core culture values. Some still say to this day, “…but we’re a family…” Hell I hope not!

Families are dysfunctional, and if that’s your mantra for growing an organization of any size and scale, no wonder you’re floundering. Some organizations start on the path and then fail to integrate their values into everyday life, behaviors and habits. When the going gets tough, deadlines near and stress increases, the organization acts like a person resorting to ineffective and destructive behaviors.

Under times of stress or extreme pressures, ALL of us revert back to the skills and behaviors we have mastered.

For example, firearms training, like many learned activities are perishable skills; meaning without consistent repetition you will lose those skills. Golf is a perishable skill. Communication, leadership, even glass blowing are all perishable skills. You will revert back to what you’ve mastered under stress because you haven’t repeated the acceptable behaviors, the direct learned skills enough under stress to perform at a favorable level. Why do you think the military conduct exercises ALL the time? You should too!

The difference between success and failure in any organizational change is having the courage to stick with a given direction that overcomes fear at its worst moment.

We recently began a #CultureShift with a highly-entrenched well respected global brand. The initial volley is for all levels of leadership to understand nothing can or will change until the right environment exists. Get the right environment “out there” first and then we will have earned the right to get the right behaviors. Once the environment is correct, then we will begin to see behaviors change for the better. Get the behaviors right with what we do and how we work, then we will have set the stage to see incremental productivity gains. That will ebb and flow initially as people adjust to a new normal. Sometimes when you trim a crepe myrtle, it appears to look sickly or dying. After you continue to tend to it, then it begins to grow new limbs, branches and will yield beautiful blooms. No different in any organization. Get the environment right to get the behaviors right to get the productivity right.

Once the productivity metrics begin to take shape and take hold, then we will get the results, the metrics, the financials and so on right. Leadership is measured in the long run. That’s one reason, why many “transformations” fail. So stop transforming and start getting your act together as leaders and LEAD! If you’re not someone worth following, then seek counsel to improve. Get your ego, relationships and results in rhythm. Again, it takes courage to step through fear as individuals and hold true to our common set of values and beliefs in order to affect change and move the company forward towards the outcomes we must have!

Get the ENVIRONMENT right in order to get the behaviors right

Get the BEHAVIORS right in order to get the productivity right

Get the PRODUCTIVITY right in order to get the

RESULTS we must have!

You will be uncomfortable. There will be failures along the way. You didn’t learn everything from your successes and it wasn’t a comfortable journey either. Having the courage to be uncomfortable adds energy, enthusiasm, feelings of self conscious, nerves and occasionally, inadequacy is real; all growth is dependent on pushing the boundaries, learning and changing behavior patterns along the way.

We encourage the Triple-A framework: Awareness – Avoidance – Alternatives. We create the awareness in each individual in order to identify what needs changing individually and collectively. When we see ourselves begin to revert back the behaviors we’ve mastered, then we avoid those behaviors.  You know there are things you can do more, do less, start and stop. Keep yourself in check and employ alternatives when “evil me” begins to rear its ugly head. There are many methods to catch yourself and replace good with bad anything to release the tension in various ways. When you’re going through hell, you’re entitled get a partner who’s sharing the journey as you. Isolation and inactivity kill every relationship and no one said you’re in it alone.

You cannot do it alone either! You will need allies in order to not be part of the 70% plus statistic. Select 5 allies throughout the organization. We suggest 3 at your level and above and any 2 others where you have a relationship with within the organization. They are your accountability partners. It’s never “if,” it’s always “when” it’s going to hit the fan, and you’re going to need someone who understands what it’s like in your “boots” to link up and work through the “messy of change.” Some challenges are solely yours, sometimes in order to rebuild confidence you may need a break and sometimes you will need to “suck it up buttercup” and jump in with both feet!

We’ve given you a starting point, an outline of what to consider if you have the courage to take the next step:

  1. Articulate your purpose and vision – re-establish and build your community, your company, your organization with a language to communicate to the team. Communication is a system just like sales and marketing or research and development. Treat it as such!
  2. Hire for fit – add people who have the emotional, technical and practical skills that demonstrate the culture evolution we need in order to get the results we must have. It’s about modeling capabilities and potential.
  3. Set clear expectations – leaders establish and model the standard, they set the finish line; they don’t set the bar and then move it when the going gets tough. New situations will always be evolving and articulating purpose and continuous reinforcement are the principles. Accountability is the most important preference to getting it done. Oversight ensures you don’t fall off track!
  4. Continuous feedback – treat every feedback encouter as a gift! Everyone must understand, practice and live by the standards. They need to be caught doing it right and be appreciated for that ability. When they fall short, let them know what was done well, AND “if we improve here and here we’ll be even better.” No shit sandwiches!
  5. Lead with integrity – you own it! You have one shot at this every day, and every hour.  If you don’t take charge of the culture, then employees will develop their own and all of its convoluted mess.
  6. Get a Partner – you’re not in it by yourself, and it’s not some glossy $200K consultants justification either. Find someone who’s done it before for an organization like yours with people like yours. In other words, check the fruit and see if it’s something that makes sense.

Creating culture collisions is what we live and breathe every day. Whether your culture is good and you want to evolve into a High Performing Culture, or you know your culture is not where it should be and you realize it starts with you, then we’re your trusted advisers. We are your stake in the ground during the highly stressful times when fear can overcome you. We work with multi-nationals, operating units for PEGs, and private companies with revenues $15M and above. For more information on why we do what we do and how it will benefit you, then click here or here.

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