Changing culture is one of the most asked questions I get when I’m on the road teaching about leadership. It typically goes something like this: I definitely want a different culture than the one I have. My current one is more like a soap opera than a business. How do I change it?
It’s a little difficult and takes longer than an hour with a few commercial breaks. (Although, there may be some drama, crying and certainly the possibility that a long-lost, broke cousin who dropped out of high school will become CEO of your company within a couple of months. But hey, it might not happen!)
Loser cousin aside, here are a few things you have to do to change your culture:
- Define your culture – What exactly are you looking for? Do you want a place with no gossip? Do you want your team members to be customer focused? Is the internal team the customer? Figure out exactly what you want to see day to day and write it down.
- Cast a vision for your culture – Once you know what you want to change, you have to spend time casting it as a vision. Time … T.I.M.E.! It is not going to happen overnight. But you have to start somewhere, so begin by teaching your team. We have a no-gossip policy here, so we constantly remind our team members. If there is an infraction, we give them a warning. After the initial warning, they’re out like an ‘80’s Members Only jacket if they do it again. People need to hear what success looks like, so they can go in that direction. It won’t just happen by osmosis.
- Implement your culture – Here is the most important part. You have to live, eat and breathe your new culture. You can’t tell everyone what you want, only for them to see you sitting around waiting for them to make it happen. They will take their lead from you, whether good or bad. Show them how it’s supposed to look. Make sure you are rewarding exactly what you want to see, and be sure there are consequences when that very culture isn’t lived out. Keep in mind, however, you’re possibly turning a battleship, so leniency may be needed in the early stages. But eventually, an example will need to be made to show you’re serious. Once you make that example, you have to live that way going forward, so do it carefully and prayerfully.
Execution here is key. And it can’t be left up to you. Your entire leadership needs to adopt this new way of “living” at the office. If they can’t get there, then guess what? They can’t stay there. As you get going, you’ll be surprised at how well people will either follow or buck the system. Reward the followers, get rid of the buckers.
Question: What does good or great culture look like to you?