Can You Fix Culture?
At a recent EntreLeadership here in Nashville, this question came up: “If I don’t have the culture I want with behavior, attitude and work ethic, how do I go back and fix that?”
The answer is…you can’t. That’s right. You can’t fix it. You can only go forward and create the culture you want. You see, to fix culture would mean spending time on each and every situation trying to turn it around. That, my friends, would be a massive waste of time. Instead, let’s change the culture. So to get the behavior, attitude and work ethic you want, you have to instill the right kind of culture that fosters exactly that. You need sweeping changes.
Now, I usually spend hours with businesses walking them through the process that fits them. But since this is a blog post, I’ll give highlights that should help you get the ball rolling. Trust me when I say that you need to do a lot of writing:
- Start with you. – You have to realize that you are the reason the culture is the way that it is — unless you inherited the business. Therefore, you have to start figuring out what it is about you that allowed it to get this way. Was it fear? Was it busyness? Or was it just plain ignorance? Ignorance isn’t bad if you fix it. Most of the time I find that owners and leaders were never taught how to do culture right in the first place. Either way, make a list of things you believe caused the culture to be the way it is.
- What’s the problem? – What exactly is wrong with the culture? If it’s behavior and attitude, is there a ton of gossip? In the post Champions! I talk about how gossip is a cancer that will tear your organization apart and will keep champions from working there. Why do people gossip? Sometimes it’s because they don’t believe their leader will actually listen and help fix the problems. Doesn’t make it right, but it does help to find the root cause. Next list, what’s wrong with your business that resulted in this bad culture?
- And the winner is… – Number the list of issues in order of importance. Now tackle the top three. Everything else can wait because you can’t do all things at once. Unless you only have three issues. But the heaviest hitting problems must be addressed now. Create lists of everything that needs to happen to turn those situations around. Starting with El Numero Uno. Pray over it like crazy. Get advice from people you trust, who know more about this than you do. Then tackle it with the proper amount of pressure or finesse.
- Get buy-in. – You can either tell people about the changes you’re making and hope they change with you, or you can get buy-in from them. Explain to the team how bad the culture is and ask them for ways to fix it. Now, you already have some of those answers on your lists. But you’re doing this to get the much-needed buy-in from your team. Allow them to come up with ideas and give them credit. That will build respect in your team for you and your leadership, and it will become a self-policing situation with the culture. They will begin to see how things can get better, and they will fight to keep it that way.
As you implement, remember that culture isn’t created overnight. You’re bad culture wasn’t. Be patient, but not lazy. Walk forward every day as if the culture has changed. This will be a sign to your team that you are serious about providing an environment where they can flourish.
Question: What bad culture experiences have you had?
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