Culture Changes through Embodiment

What does cultural change really mean to you? I've seen many too businesses struggle to move beyond well-meaning lip service.

But meaningful action just takes the earnest intent to model best behaviours—and a small team to light the fire.

If I had a dime for every time I've heard a business pay lip service to the need to change their culture, I'd have around $20. The topic usually comes up when we get to talking about dealing with risk, rewarding success and failure. About the leaders' response to wins and losses. About fairness.

Unfortunately, culture change initiatives too often simply check a box on this year's strat plan. "We held 4 workshops and 5 All Hands meetings on culture change. Everyone agreed that they felt better afterwards."

But what change was this intended to bring about? What measures did you use to determine the outcomes? (Number of meetings is not a measure of outcome, btw.)

List the behaviours that your group rewards and the behaviours that it punishes. Well done—you've defined your culture. Quite simply, it's about recognizing contribution, taking ownership to get something done, taking responsibility when things don't work out, and helping people to grow.

Ultimately, an organization is cast in the mould of its leaders. I know—I've seen hundreds. Cultural change is no more or less than a change in leadership behaviour. If the leader is not open to this, no change will happen without a change in leadership.

And the most effective way I know to light a fire is to behave as if the culture has already changed—then make a success of it. Because success draws support. If the business needs to encourage risk, calculate some risks and take them. If the business needs to reward hard work, recognize it loud and clear.

If you lead a project in this way, you will at least test the boundaries of your business's culture.

And who knows, maybe you'll light the fire of change.

Lighting Fires

This exercise may be high stakes, but I guarantee you'll have fun:

  1. Pick a corporate behaviour that's standing in the way of your business's success.

  2. Consider a project that you can take on. How can you behave in your leadership role in a way that challenges the behavioural norm?

  3. How will this contribute to the success of your project?

  4. How can you manifest that contribution beyond your team?

Call me Friday between 9-noon Eastern on (647) 400 2514 and we can talk about the fires you can light.

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