Is Culture a Battle Worth Fighting?

     According to a Strategy& survey, 96% say culture change is needed in their organizations, yet over 50% say they need a major culture change but will do little, if anything, about it.

     A Korn Ferry study found 32% say their culture does align with their strategy – great! That only leaves 68% that don’t!

     Less than 20% of employees are engaged, according to Gallup, meaning nearly 80% are not fully engaged.

So, why bother with Culture? If you don’t work through your culture, it’s highly likely it will work against you, your employees and your organization – whether you’re initiating it or in the midst of any change. Years ago, there was an auto part commercial’s tag line, ‘…you can pay me now…or pay me later.’ Point being, you will one day have to pay a price. The best part is you get to decide when and where!

Some will say, ‘…culture’s a soft phenomenon…something [we] can ignore because we’re busy achieving [our] business goals?’ Seen it. Heard it. How’s it working for you? Hope you understand, when I post direct questions or direct answers, they’re not coming from a point of arrogance or conceit. You don’t know me or my team and I don’t know yours. I do know the pain and the stress you’re going through, been through it many times and what it feels like to come out of the other end of the tunnel seeing the light of day as well as getting run over by that oncoming train.

My first experience was being part of the pre-M&A team of two billion dollar organizations coming together – one sales driven, one operationally driven – and it didn’t work. There’s no better teacher than real-life experience, in my opinion.

‘…it really works. What Scott did for us was simple and practical. I wish I’d decided to ask for help sooner…’ – J. Whitaker, VP/GM – Recreation manufacturing

How do you define ‘soft’? That’s the 30-plus year old question coming from a very dated vantage point. You’re very smart, an expert in your field. But, how can you be so narrow-minded to not see the ‘space between the leaves’ here. I can see how some of the technically or financially educated executives perceive culture as an invisible hand.  There’s this nebulous emotion many C-executives share with me about influence where they don’t believe or are unwilling/unable to see it or touch it. It’s alive and well and it’s more real than some late-night horror flick with similar endings. And, it is right in front of you and it cannot be neglected without serious consequences.[kleo_gap size=”10px” class=”” id=””]

If you like stressful and chaotic, then stop reading here.

If you want your business to excel and move toward efficiency and more effective, then let’s continue. It can be a very hard hand that has a grip on you without you even noticing. The ‘stick’ of a fighter jet takes about 10# of delicate pressure to move the bird to its desired position. The ‘stick’ of the current Blue Angels F/A-18 takes about 45# of pressure. The ‘edge’ these aviators control is the ability to hold onto the stick with consistent pressure that makes the hand and the stick one. Your lead is affected much in the same manner. Culture touches everything you do and everything you think you do. Let’s talk specifics – your call center, IT services, HR & administration, accounting and payroll, branding, operations, business development and sales prevention, risk management, capital and financing and scalability. Pick one. Any of these and let’s talk about culture’s affects and effects. Yes, I’m asking you to pick up the phone and have a conversation, and in minutes you’ll have simple, powerful and practical measures you can immediately implement to your unique situation.

How are you and your behaviors part of the current culture? Whether you are the C-leader or a department leader, you affect every touch point within the business. You wonder why your organization isn’t more innovative? Is it because the competition is so technologically savvy that they are that far ahead? Or is it because you’re not open to learning new, unexpected information – quick to judge before you understand something? (because that’s frankly how to ‘handle’ something new, foreign or uncomfortable isn’t it?)

You wonder why your organization is so bad at change? Is your staff too busy with their performance targets, so there is no time to change? Are their calendars so packed with meetings (you think valuable meetings and they think they’re shit), but they use them to get a break from the daily noise as a means of coping with the stress. Are their ‘plates so full’ all they can do is ‘manage compliance’ and forget getting actual work done. Or is it because you’re so attached to your habits of thinking and doing?

What’s causing your best employees leave and managers complain? Is that just a ‘cost of doing business’? Employees must be disloyal and unreliable – you’d be better off if you did everything yourself. Or is it because you don’t give them space to act, while you allow space for complaining? Complaining is not acting and not solving issues last time I checked.

How is turnover on the decline and customers less content? Is it the tough market and unreasonably demanding and opportunistic clients? Or have you stopped listening to customers for a while? (because you can only ‘take so much bitching’)

Are you hearing? Are you listening? Culture is directly linked to leadership. Culture is about personal behaviors and interactions with people – all people. The ‘invisible’ hand we mentioned earlier, the one that helps or hinders, becomes visible when you learn to see group dynamics. Sure, you’re awesome when everythings fine and rosy. Add the element of ‘scorched earth’ (stress, deadlines, pressures, etc.) and see what a joy you are around other people. Notice how people copy each other, how they coach each other, and when appropriate, correct each other to do it ‘the way we do things around here.’

Move your organization from this is how we do things around here to this is how we’re expected to do things around here. One is healthy and the other is not.

Maybe it’s easier for executives educated in humanities, health care, education and other “people-oriented” fields. But, any executive can learn to “see” culture and work with it. A starting point to liberate your thinking and lead better performance and healthier work life is to download my eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Elegant Leader”. While you’re downloading the file, please check out the page here.

Elegant Leadership makes a difference in productivity and fulfillment at work. The research evidence is compelling. It makes it easier to trust and be open to change. The last thing you want during organizational change is fear, uncertainty, doubt, people not feeling safe and respected. You can’t afford false, negative assumption from the past either: “Things never work around here, managers are out to get you and we’ve tried that before and failed, etc.”

What you want is people to see the positive possibilities of the change, the untapped future potential, and to achieve more than they expected when they began the change. Why? Because they were included in the process of change. Their physically, mentally and emotionally vested in its success! You need to know about Elegant Leadership and apply it. Your organization depends on it.

Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes before you start a change program or a new strategy and read the eBook. Understand the value of your role in any change initiative – and understand your company culture! Instead of risking time, money, and expectations of everyone involved, become more effective and understand culture and the basics of Elegant Leadership before you start any change.

It’s an insightful, easy read with journaling questions to help you to better understand your situation. I invite you to be the one who knows how to facilitate the necessary change by working with culture instead of against it. I hope you’ll become an Elegant Leader who engages everyone. Our workplaces are in need of positive leaders who move the other 87% forward to become fully engaged and make significant contributions. Are you in?

I look forward to your responses and questions. Let me know how I can help you engage and upgrade your organization. You don’t talk to a bank of CSR’s who filter ‘a request’. You and I can talk when it suits by clicking here.

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