Leading a Culture Shift

Posted February 20, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

Here’s what I know…as a leader you have a profound impact on your team’s culture.  The more senior you are, the more the effects of your behaviour… aka what you SAY and what you DO on a daily basis… will shape your company or team’s overall feel.


This week I’ve been spending time with two companies that are working on trying to change their respective cultures.  Both companies are incredibly people-focused and are really committed to doing things right.


As I sat with these groups of middle managers, and the cynical side of me, couldn’t help but wonder… what we’re talking about is all well and good, but what’s the “talk that’s being walked” at the most senior levels?


Here’s what you need to know as a leader:  if you are trying to change a culture or merge two cultures, a key ingredient (possibly the most important ingredient) is YOU.


It really doesn’t matter how much you tell employees what you want them to be saying and doing to form a new culture, if you’re not living it yourself, the culture that will ultimately reign will be the one that you’re creating.  “Do as I say and not as I do” just doesn’t cut it.


I’m fascinated by senior leaders who tell me that they want their groups to be more innovative and yet themselves show no innovation when it comes to solving core problem processes that are causing their teams grief.  Ultimately, the message being sent is “we actually like things the way they are here, despite the fact that we’re shouting about being more innovative”.


That being said, if the top of your house is dysfunctional, it doesn’t mean you should just throw in the towel and behave in a similar manner.  You can create a culture within a culture. In spite of the fact that you may find yourself in a company that’s running counter to the values it’s espousing, you can create a pod of excellence within your organization through your team.  And if you don’t believe me, go and revisit “First, Break All the Rules” and read what Curt Coffman, Marcus  Buckingham and Gallup found out when they looked at dysfunctional organizations… great managers were still pumping out amazing results.


So, what kind of culture are you creating?  Are you throwing in the towel because of the economy or are you creating a vision that your team can get behind that can pull you through?


Happy leading!

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