We offer 2 steps to those of you looking to make real culture change and create a Conscious Culture of High-Performance.
Culture: It’s talked about everywhere.
Open LinkedIn and you can find an endless stream of articles about culture. Culture is one of the most popular session titles at conferences. Magazines use it to entice readers. And yes, we notice the irony as we’re using it here! … but we want to offer a perspective on culture that is unique and not mentioned in any of the hundreds of articles we’ve read (if you find one, please send it to us!).
Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and we’re sure dinner (not dessert) … there are wrong ways to strengthen it… and it trumps salary.
All of that is pretty straight forward … but HOW does one change it?
The practice of changing cultures is very complicated and difficult.
However, once we understand the nature of culture, why it's so difficult to change, and what the steps are in creating that change, it greatly simplifies the process.
If we are to change culture, we must first understand what it is. We define culture as the unspoken rules of engagement within any group of people.
These unspoken rules govern everything; what can and cannot be discussed, what language is allowable, how people dress, the assumptions decisions are based on — everything.
Culture just happens. When you walk into work do you say to yourself, “I’m going to follow these rules today,” or “I have to remember how to act today in order to fit in?”
Of course not.
Humans are social animals; once we are acclimated to a culture, we will adopt its practices (unconsciously) because we want to fit in.
Culture is unconscious, and it’s a product of Leadership.
Cultures arise from the behaviors demonstrated by the organization’s leaders. Most cultures do not mirror just the CEO’s behavior, but the collective behavior of the top executives.
You might ask: Why doesn’t the leader just change the priorities? Not so simple! Those priorities arise from her or his unconscious behavioral needs. Behavioral profiles such as Disc, Myers-Briggs, or our own Insight Coaching System offer insight for people into what their unconscious priorities are and how they shape behavior and therefore culture. And the entire leadership team must be made aware of how their collective unconscious behaviors are impacting the organization if they are to have a shot at improving their organization’s culture.
Any culture change effort must begin by helping leaders become conscious of these unconscious needs. Making them conscious allows people to choose when to employ them and when not to.
Any such culture change process that ignores these “comfort zone” behaviors is doomed to failure.
Once leaders are aware of their unconscious habits and which ones support the type of culture they’re trying to build and which do not, they can begin to develop conscious habits (what we call conscious success strategies) that intentionally support a high-performing culture.
One of our clients is a real visionary, she’s known for being a leader in her industry — her firm creates innovative products and services that are defining the state-of-the-art. She doesn’t like to be bothered with details, preferring to move on to the next visionary idea. It’s no coincidence that her organization, although innovative, is constantly struggling to remain profitable — they lack the discipline and focus on details necessary to maximize efficiencies. It’s a mirror image of her priorities. Once she was made aware of how her unconscious behaviors were impacting the culture, she immediately went to work on making conscious choices that supported success on a weekly, daily and hourly basis. Within a few weeks, the culture began to change and profitability increased.
If you want to have success changing/improving your culture here are the two steps we suggest:
Commit to making it happen. Committing is all or nothing. Yes or no. In or out. There’s no such thing as being 50%, 95% or even 99.9% committed. You are either 0% or 100% committed.
Get some help. We just so happen to know some folks that could help ;)
Culture only changes when the organization’s leaders change. And leaders can only change when they become aware of how their unconscious preferences are driving their behavior.
Key take away:
“Culture is the unspoken rules of engagement within any group of people. The fact that the rules of engagement are unspoken (unconscious) is what makes culture change so evasive for most organizations.”
About the author(s):
Tom Willis is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. He had the great honor of serving as CEO for Cornerstone; a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers; and an engineer with the Intel Corporation. His life is all about helping others uncover their talents so they can reach their unlimited potential and their organization can thrive.
| Linkedin: Tom
Brad Zimmerman is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. Zimmerman turned to organizational coaching more than 26 years ago following a successful career in sales and operations. Today, he helps businesses, nonprofits and other organizations develop cultures that transform work environments so people grow and the organizations thrive.
| Linkedin: Brad
Forbes: Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast. So What's For Lunch?
FastCompany: Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch
Harvard Business: The Wrong Ways to Strengthen Culture
Glassdoor: Culture Over Cash?