This is Where Real Transformation Can Occur – It Takes Time and Leadership Dedication but Will Be Lasting and Deliver the Best ROI Imaginable.

The way work gets done, how people act, and ultimately the results you get in your business is the result of powerful, invisible force called your culture. If you want different results, or desire a different set of behaviors, you need to alter this force. Shifting culture is a complex exercise that requires focus and tenacity.

So what is this thing called Culture?

We define culture as the sum of all employees’ beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors including the actions that they take and the things they say. When a company is formed, it most closely reflects the beliefs and styles of the founders. Over time, as the company grows and greatly increases the number of employees, culture will evolve and may become a force with undesirable attributes.

This is what happens to start-ups that experience rapid growth and expand their operations. New employees are thrown into the fray without a whole lot of guidance about “how we do things here”. Before you know it, how that employee carries himself is less about being part of the company but is biased by their past experiences.

One day, the executive team wakes up and realizes that somewhere along the line the train switched tracks, they are no longer proud of what they’ve created, even if financial results are still strong. They know that as behaviors are now performance will eventually suffer and realize thing need to change.

Important points to consider when you’re ready to change

There are probably many elements for your company’s unique situation that you will address when you’re ready to dive into the changes that will recreate your culture. To get you started, here are some points to remember that will help you launch your initial efforts.

  • Culture change is evolutionary
  • Shift the individual parts to shift the whole
  • As leadership behaviors change, individual will begin to change

Let’s dive deeper into each of these.

Culture Change is Evolutionary

In the fast-paced world within which we live, people want to see quick results. It’s like “Give me a pill” rather than go for the lasting effects of proper nutrition and long-term exercise. You get the point. In the business world, we want to install a new IT solution or capital equipment and make decisions based solely on the speed of ROI.

While getting the culture you want in place will deliver the highest and longest lasting ROI imaginable, it’s not something you can buy and install. And, to get it in place is hard work that takes time. Just as the effort of diet and exercise will make you healthy and more energetic over time, stick with reinforcing the desired attributes for your future culture and it will evolve and become what you want.

Shift the Individual Parts to Shift the Whole

As you think of how you will start, remember that culture is the sum of all employees’ beliefs, thoughts, and actions. That means that you need to work with individual employees and help mold their behavior and thought processes every chance you get.

You can choose to do this with a mix of formal approaches like training events, articles in company newsletters, comments from executives at all employee meetings, and giving special recognition to people who demonstrated the desired behavior. Also, make sure to hire people who have values that align with the company you are creating.

Beyond the formal approaches, how teams and individuals interact each day creates the opportunity for coaching and course correction. Attend lots of meetings to observe the conversations and work style in the trenches, and be sure to make reinforcing comments to help shape the team members thinking and their underlying philosophies.

As Leadership Behaviors Change, Individuals Will Begin to Change

The person who has the most influence on how employees will act over time is their boss, followed by their peers and other managers or executives with which they have regular contact. You respond to your boss because he/she has direct responsibility for your work assignments, performance appraisals, and ultimately your pay. As a leader with direct reports, this is an opportunity to set clear behavior expectations to practically mold the culture.

In daily interactions with work mates and other team members, and with other managers or executives, your team is acutely aware of their decisions, behaviors, and work style. They observe them in action and notice what gets recognized and rewarded by their leadership, which is further reinforcement for them about acceptable and desired approaches within their company.

This is why it’s so critical to have alignment across your leadership team. Everyone is watching, so act consistent with how you want others to behave!