Culture Change And Leadership

John R. Childress

corporate cultureCorporate Culture can make or break your business. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors. To achieve success, you need to figure out what your culture is, decide what it should be, and move everyone toward the desired culture. But changing an organization’s culture is the most challenging task you’ll face as a CEO or senior executive.

Regardless of your industry, here are elements that will help change your company’s culture successfully:

  • Change the Leaders or Change the Leaders. The CEO and senior team must be willing to change their individual and collective ways of working and their personal behaviors to match the new cultural behaviors required inside the company.

Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors.

  • An aligned senior team that accepts the accountability and responsibility to lead the culture change. If any one individual, say the CFO, believes that he has real work to do and the rest of you can deal with the ‘soft stuff’, and chooses not to accept to actively support the culture change effort, the change won’t take hold. It’s all in or all out!
  • Behaviors, Behaviors, Behaviors. Frame the new culture and your new requirements for work around observable behaviors, not values.
  • Overcome the critical mass of inertia. Unless you get the critical mass of ‘undecided or cautious’ to change, the inertia of the old culture will bring the entire change process to a grinding halt. One way is to enroll those key influential employees in the organization who are most respected and enthusiastic about the culture change and train them to be internal facilitators, mentors, coaches and guides.

Corporate Culture can make or break your business.

  • Redesign the daily business processes so that they promote the behaviors required of the new culture. And place a special emphasis on redesigning the HR processes to better match the new culture desired. Reevaluate your promotion and development policies; do they match the new culture desired?
  • Measure, Readjust, and Measure Again. While measuring the overall impact of culture change is not an easy task, it is absolutely necessary to find those elements of the culture that can be measured and tracked on a relatively frequent basis. If your changes are taking hold, these indictors should move.

There is no shortcut to reshaping culture. Miss any one of these elements, or try to cut back on them, and you will definitely fail. And by the way, it’s going to take a lot more leadership time than you originally planned. How much? How about 40% of the time of senior executives devoted to reshaping the culture! If you can’t commit, don’t start.

Don’t forget to check out John’s awesome book!

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