In the past, being a good leader was simpler. It meant knowing where to go and then getting things done. Today, leadership means doing a lot of different things well, while enabling other people to live the culture. But what does living the culture mean and how does one go about enabling this?
The transfer of learnings, inspiration and motivation from external sources to everyday life continues to be one of the main learning and development challenges for leaders (and the consulting industry overall). The palpable excitement that might have been in the room after identifying common values or coining the business purpose can dissipate very quickly if it’s not lived and supported.
A living culture is one that is supported by practices and formats for communication, collaboration and decision-making. Where the desired cultural reality is consciously brought to life and then supported in the operational reality. This requires that leaders think about the mindset, behaviours, output they wish to generate and what kind of circumstances - processes, structures and prompts might be necessary to hold, enforce, invite and remind everyone of the change.
We all know that culture eats strategy for breakfast. But what can we feed culture with so that our strategy can remain alive and well and be put into practice?
My approach to cultural transformation is to frame it as a discovery process followed by a design and implementation phase. It needs to be supported by strong decisions in which everyone perceives a change after the decision is made, throughout all the corners of the organisation. I come in as a moderator and help you detect both where the old mentality tends to slip back in (the status quo can be invisibly stubborn) and help you come up with creative new ways to bring in the desired change in how you do things.
It’s in the little things:
The tech company that had been on the market so long it needed a fresh new client perspective? They put a red chair in every meeting room and whoever sits in it has to speak from the customer’s perspective.
The boutique hotel that wanted customers to feel really at home? They now offer solo travellers a pet goldfish to take care of for the duration of their stay.
The high-growth startup that needed to shift their meeting culture from speaking different languages (figuratively and literally speaking) to listening to one another? A bell on the meeting room table can be rung whenever the interruptions begin to happen. When someone rings the bell everyone is quiet until it can no longer be heard. Little things can work wonders…