Imagine you are a leader who wants to transform a culture. How can you show that working life is going be different?
One approach is to learn from individuals who change their lives. People can think about change for years, but the first steps often begin on a physical level. They take care of their body, start running, move house or whatever.
Physical change leads to psychological change and they feel better. This reinforces the philosophical change. Let’s explore how you can follow similar steps to transform a culture: ‘the way we do things around here’.
Change the physical things
Physical changes set the tone. But they must be followed by deeper changes if you are serious about transforming a culture. Re-branding by changing the airline’s colours, for example, means nothing unless there are deeper changes.
Start by making physical changes for the employees, beginning with the hygiene factors. Pay the market rate, improve the building and give them the tools to do the job.
“Three years ago I took over a company that was in the dark ages,” said one leader.
“So we modernised the entrance, gave the receptionists smart uniforms, displayed our products in the reception area, put in proper coffee bars, installed wireless and gutted the office.
“Previously it had been open plan, full of 90’s style chicken run desks, with little privacy. Stress and sickness were at an all time high. Redesigning the office, we got the balance between public and private spaces so people can talk or do creative work.
“Several Atrium areas are constantly occupied by people working or having informal meetings. They are also encouraged to work from home on Fridays.
“Customers now use our offices for their meetings, productivity has improved and the changes paid for themselves within one year.”
Imagine you are aiming to shift a culture. People believe what they see, not what they hear. Actions speak louder than words.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to change the physical things. Try completing the following sentence.
Change the psychological things
Do what you can to create a winning feeling. Give people the chance to deliver some early wins. But make sure they also have to work to achieve success.
When taking over a failing football team, for example, I organised a pre-season tournament with some top name clubs – teams they had only previously dreamt of playing. At the same time, however, we organised the group stages so that club had a good chance of reaching the semi-finals.
The team achieved this goal, got a medal and boosted their self-confidence. The Board were impressed and granted extra funds for buying more new players.
Here are some ideas for shifting the psychological state in a culture.
Communicate the company’s road map for achieving its picture of success. People enjoy having a sense of direction – they like a ‘plan’.
Put the road map in a place where people can see it everyday, such as on their screen saver.
Give people ownership for implementing their part of the strategy. Give them an opportunity to opt-into delivering their part of the goals.
Encourage them to get some early successes. Publicise these successes in, for example, a newsletter called ‘Weekly Wins’.
Reward the behaviour you want repeated. Promote people who live the values you want in the future culture.
Spend time with the positive people. Don’t pay people who choose not to opt-into the new culture.
Recruit new people who show the drive required to reach the team’s destination.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to change the psychological things. Try completing the following sentence.
Change the philosophical things
Great leaders harness people’s energy towards achieving a compelling goal. They tap into peoples’ aspirations: be it to gain freedom, deliver great customer service or create a pioneering product.
Such leaders also show the new philosophical way is working. They keep moving from the concept to the concrete to describe tangible successes.
You will make this happen in your own way, but here are some suggestions.
Keep communicating the road map towards achieving the picture of success.
Describe the successes that people have delivered in the past month towards achieving the goals.
Describe the plans for the delivering successes in the next month.
Describe the challenges the organisation faces, the strategies for tackling these and the support people will get to do great work.
Produce and publicise success stories that highlight the strategies people are following to achieve the picture of success.
Keep reminding people why they are succeeding: they are doing something physically different. They have changed the physical things to change the psychological things to change the philosophical things.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to change the philosophical things. Try completing the following sentence.