Business team sitting in a meeting look like they need culture change management.

AN OVERVIEW OF LEADING CULTURAL CHANGE

Is your team motivated, engaged in their work and moving toward a common goal?

Most  businesses don’t leverage the power of teamwork and cross-departmental synergy. Words like culture and leadership make the “managers” cringe from the thought of losing control. But today’s most successful organizations have relinquished control in favor of employee empowerment. Hmmm…

A culture evolves either organically, or by design. The organic approach rarely bodes well. Without a clear mission, vision and strategy – people get lost and land in the wrong seats. Day-to-day activities soon become continuous tugs of war. Exhaustion ultimately drives the “team” into complete stagnation.

Improvement efforts must begin here for any chance of sustainable positive results of any kind! The good news is – there are plenty of common warning signs to help determine if the culture at your organization is working for you, or actually working against you.

SIGNS OF UNHEALTHY ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

If you’re honest enough to admit that any of these strike a chord with you, then you’re well on your way to transforming your organization! But the journey has begun in some muddy waters to navigate. It’s worth noting that these problems often stem from the top down and are fixed from the bottom-up!

  • Micro-management
  • Finger pointing across departments
  • Change is feared
  • Stressed out and/or unhappy employees
  • Favoritism and unfair opportunities
  • Necessary procedures slip through the cracks regularly
  • Lack of innovation
  • Accountability only applies to accounting
  • Core values, mission and vision statements: Non-existent, poorly articulated, or not followed
  • The business feels chaotic and out of control
  • An “I” not “We” atmosphere
  • Lack of personal responsibility
  • Employee retention and/or hiring is a problem
  • Unfriendly internal competition
  • Gossiping around the office (The Devil’s Radio)

THE 5 LEVELS OF CORPORATE CULTURE

Establishing a baseline with an honest assessment of where your organization stands now is the best starting place. Most businesses are going to fall into one of these categories. Transformation to number 5 should be your target.

  1. Blame Game: A fear based culture in which there exists no trust, no innovation, and no defined values whatsoever. Sadly, this seems to be today’s new standard, and a majority of employees would rate their workplace in this category.
  2. Multidirectional: Cohesiveness exists in some departments, but lack of communication and cooperation on a broad level keeps small teams moving in different directions. Small victories occasionally occur, and upper management usually takes the credit.
  3. Good Enough: Along with perceived long-term “success”, mediocrity has been accepted without the thought of “sh#t luck” getting them as far as they have. These are the hardest ones to implement change of any kind in.
  4. Brand-Driven: Employees are always thinking, inventing, and innovating because it’s “the super cool new company”. Exceptional growth rates are common. Sustainability is not.
  5. Leadership-Enriched: This is your target model. Leaders cultivate other leaders and a sense of humility is shared throughout the organization. All that matters is objectives (which are crystal clear), a sense of value and achievement, and ownership of projects. People take charge and never wait for someone to tell them what to do. Positive change is not only consistent, it’s expected.  Individuals own the setbacks. The team always shares the success.

6 TRAITS OF LEADERSHIP-ENRICHED ORGANIZATIONS

So you’ve identified our target model as “Leadership-Enriched”. Let’s dive a little deeper into the main characteristics of these top-performing organizations.

  1. Trust: A level of trust is established knowing that your teammates consistently do what they are supposed to do on their own accord.
  2. Communication: Everyone has a voice. You are not just encouraged to speak up, but expected to speak up.
  3. Clarity: The mission, vision, values and principles are the driving and unwavering force of momentum.
  4. Teamwork: A strong sense of partnership creates massive cross-departmental synergy which no single member or department could do on their own.
  5. Determination: Leadership-enriched organizations welcome all feedback good and bad, using it to correct their course for success. Giving up is not an option.
  6. Humility: Success is never single-handed, it is shared. Meanwhile, proper credit and recognition fuels continuous improvement and talent development. It’s a “We” not “I” atmosphere.

COMMON CHANGE - RESISTANT BEHAVIORS

When trying to create some positive change in an organization which is not leadership-enriched, the critics and “Defenders Of The Status Quo” begin to surface. Great leaders recognize that resistance is not something to overcome, but to uncover. Resistance is simply a symptom of an unhealthy culture. Don’t be surprised to see one of these guys/gals crop up along your path to positive improvement.

  1. Phony Compliance: It appears they’ve accepted and implemented the change(s), but they’re still doing things the old way.
  2. Total Rebellion: An endless supply of excuses why it won’t work or why they can’t do it.
  3. Enthusiastic Procrastination: They’re 100% in on the change, but will be the last to actually do anything different.
  4. Passive Aggressive: They don’t want to change or aren’t convinced it’s a good idea, so they consistently avoid you.
  5. Intentional Sabotage: They execute the change knowing there’s a small flaw in the plan simply to show you were wrong.
  6. Ignorant Compliance: They take the change and run with it, but unfortunately it’s in an unintended direction.

Armed with this information, the real work can begin. You know where you’re at, what you’re striving toward, and the common negative reactions to expect along the way. Roll up your sleeves. It’s time to rally the troops, ladies and gents!

TIPS FOR FACILITATING CULTURAL CHANGE

This work is not for the faint of heart. Creating a culture of teamwork, leadership, continuous improvement and talent development never happens overnight. It requires commitment to see it through to fruition. But it’s also a hallmark of successful organizations worldwide, and truly the secret sauce that can accelerate your organization’s objectives in exponential ways.

Interestingly, the focus is less organization-based than it is people-based. To improve organizational culture, yes, you must focus on clearly articulating the organization’s mission, vision, values, and messaging. But the real work is aligning all of this with the employee’s perceptions of these components with their own unique and personal motives, objectives and values.

NOTE – Without everyone in your organization being part of the improvement process, no sustainable positive change can happen. EVER.

This is certainly not intended to be a complete step-by-step guide as it is a general starting point and overview of the process.  

1. CULTURAL AUDIT – An assessment of the behaviors, values, messages, and processes. Are these perceived or real? Why? What needs to happen to create clarity, trust and alignment? What internal “cliques” can be uncovered? This is no easy task. Anonymous feedback exercises can be helpful here. 

2. ESTABLISH METRICS & BENCHMARKS – As with all improvement projects, you need to establish metrics and benchmarks to track your progress. There are a lot of useful culture metrics you can track with an assessment survey such as communication, agility, collaboration, support, etc. etc. You must continue to monitor these metrics and elicit feedback for improvement on a regularly scheduled basis. I recommend quarterly. The DMAIC methodology can work well here. 

3. ORGANIZATION DESIGN – Get the right people in the right positions. Initial basic documentation of roles & responsibilities should be done. Clearly define success in each position. Allow your team to help establish clear roles and responsibilities to create some ownership in the improvement process. 

4. ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT – Facilitate positive change by aligning your strategy, people and finally the systems to improve overall effectiveness and performance. Not everyone always makes the cut here. You might need to make some tough personnel decisions to ensure you’re truly raising the bar! 

5. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT – Leadership development should start to happen organically. With the team starting to see victories, trust and confidence is piggy-backing on that success to create a culture where everyone wants to improve. With this culture established, you’ll be able to implement actual leadership development programs and raise the bar higher. 

6. BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION – This is your goal, not a step. If you’ve completed a thorough organization improvement process, you’ve not only transformed your business, you’ve set the table for continual positive improvement! 

THE BENEFITS OF A LEADERSHIP-ENRICHED CULTURE

Leveraging the power of people and true teamwork is not only the fastest way to accelerate your objectives, it is the only way of creating true sustainable positive change.

Here are some of the highest impact benefits to expect after you have transformed into a truly leadership-enriched organization:

  • Higher customer satisfaction/loyalty rates
  • Less stressed, happier and healthier employees
  • Cross-departmental synergy and cooperation
  • Positive impact on brand identity and image
  • More productive teams
  • Continuous improvement and feedback
  • Higher level of trust throughout the organization
  • Steady growth
  • Increased ability to respond to change
  • Higher levels of personal responsibility
  • Better employee retention
  • Attraction of top talent
  • Increased engagement from employees
  • Improved communication
  • Aligned initiatives and management responsibilities
  • Winning is fun and builds comradery and trust

This is the most important part of transforming into a truly scalable and sustainable organization. I’d encourage you to take a hard look at your small business to determine if the culture is working for you, or working against you. I hope this post helps you determine that. 

~Brian

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