Culture as a Competitive Advantage

A company’s cultural situation represents a powerful set of emotional resources, not unlike other resources — human, technological, financial, and so on. It’s dependent on leaders to uncover how and inspire why to marshal the most value with it in their marketplace. The environment or climate is in some ways very challenging and often difficult to deal with – one reason why so many leaders avoid it altogether or give the gratuitous blessing to HR to ‘go figure this engagement thing out.’ Here’s what so many culture experts miss. They ‘go after’ the Holy Grail Culture contract and deliver bupkis. BTW, this article contains real quotes from Fortune 500 leaders we’ve worked with and those we chose not to work with.

‘The single most important characteristic any leader brings with them to their role is Courage.’

No one buys vapor! Results, outcomes, hard returns, ROI is measured and these ‘gurus’ can’t substantiate their value. Enter in…the Culture Whisperer, sans cape, with a proven process that delivers results – to the tune of 5-10X – because the focus is on windows of opportunity that you’re either in, wanting to jump in to, or waiting to take advantage of. Culture is the vehicle, however driving sustainable change comes from seeing the results BEFORE the culture is changed. It’s not a date, it’s not a specific point, and it sure as hell is not a transformation! That’s selling something!

You have choices to make and you have options in front of you. The rub comes from answering these questions:

Do you have the stones to start something and finishing it? You used to!

Are you prepared for the realities of today filled with the uncertainties of tomorrow? 

What are you doing to anticipate the next change and where are you looking for it?

Here’s the point – do you have the courage to step up and step out and abandon the same-old tired-ass process that delivered results 2, 3, 5-years ago (when and where it was safe) for a direction that may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for you?

Somehow, someway you’ve lost a bit of that edge that made you the Rockstar success you once were; settling for the mediocrity of the moment, ‘because I can manage that’.  That quote tells me all we need to know. Simply stated is, “I’m not willing to risk my livelihood – the Executive estate in Shaker Heights, my vacation home in Rosemary Beach, the lifestyle my 2nd wife’s accustomed to, my kids’ Ivy League education and so no – on a process I don’t have control of.” And that’s where you’re not tracking! Culture is simply a processs by where the people who contribute the most have a voice in how they collectively deliver the results you must have in a timeframe faster than they currently perform their role.

It’s about where we must execute the best and the fastest now to take advantage of the opportunities before us. Culture is the blueprint or GPS of how you get there. The best way to start is to ask yourself a series of questions.

What are the most important emotional forces that determine what your people do?

Do you not realize all they do today is command, control and compliance because that’s the environment that’s been perpetuated as people are hired and fired. There’s not enough communication from your supporters, your ‘like-me’s’ that have bought in to what your selling. There’s no consensus and there’s no critical mass – only compliance.

What few behavior changes would matter most in meeting strategic and operational imperatives?

It’s listening to the answers and pulling out the simplest, practical change that can be implemented today which delivers powerful results. How? Becuase you’ve put your money where your mouth is and allowed some space for them to flex their muscles as they build new behavioral, cultural muscles. You then hold space for them for when a mistake is made the world doesn’t come to an end. It’s a mistake. It’s not Armageddon!

Who are the authentic informal leaders you can enlist?

Grab hold of the word ‘enlist’. You’re enlisting a volunteer army. These are the ones who believe in you, who believe what you believe and frankly they live out those values better than you or anyone else. Leverage this now! Stop managing, start leading and cheer them on. Critical mass comes from when you and your leadership team validate they’re doing it right and you’re not passive-aggressively beating them down when they fail.

What can you and your fellow senior leaders do differently to signal and reinforce those critical behaviors?

Your role as Chief Cheerleader and Chief Cultural Officer is to repeat the message of favorable change, windows of opportunity will be our advantage and the little changes we make are the necessary feedback all of us need to know we’re doing the right thing and you’ve ‘caught’ us doing the right thing. The benefit is they will continue to do the right thing. What gets measured gets done and what gets applauded gets repeated…just as what’s berated gets repeated out of fear.

I hear peers, colleagues and even some Execs tell me, ‘change and change management was yesterday. Today we are doing transformations.’ Again, such bullshit. Digital transformation for business models, because data is the new oil. And agile transformations for the organization and its processes, because flexibility and speed are essential in times of great uncertainty. Yeah, okay so that sounds just like bullshit spin to me – it’s still change and it’s a damn constant just like death and gravity. We don’t call those perpetual slumber and groundforce adherence do we?

I’ve said often run far and fast away from those selling transformation. To bridge some of those who like that term, we’ve  chosen the moniker transforMOTION, becuase that’s where transformations fail. Why? Because your people are fatigued, tired of the bullshit stench of a dead woodchuck from some book or article their manager or above read and shoves down their throats. Real world no punches drawn here. Stop the madness and fix the damn problem. Haven’t all of your peers and colleagues been elevated into greater roles of authority and responsiblity becuase you do two things well?

Communicate extremely well and solve problems better than others.

Then why isn’t it working now? While only the name – change and change management – may have changed where it’s labelled transformation, it actually contains very traditional, time-tested proven principles of change management which is execution of strategy.

This is why you’ve been seeing the panaceas, roadmaps and blueprints on the rise: simply introduce LeSS or SAFe or copy Spotify and call this your agile transformation. It’s nothing more than packaging what resonates with those you who’ve not figured it out until the catchphrases showed up. BTW, for those of you who think I’m using educational marketing to get you to buy something. The answer is no. At some point, you will decide to accept the courage it takes to make the decision you know you must make if you’re going to be successful and have a compeitive or more competitive advantage in your market. I’m simply kicking your ass off the fence – whether it’s us or some other firm – make a decision. You’re less than 80 days from everyone being in Holiday mode and the clock is ticking…

And a final point, ignoring the nature of change as a natural process of a complex system in favor of a pattern that has previously worked reasonably well, but is at least well-known is not a wise stewardship of your finite resources of time, people, money and capital just because it’s manageable. The ‘change theatre’ is not about winning people over to ‘your side’. Your vision is extremely imortant, but you must have the ‘meat’ of a proven process that’s worked in your sector, segment and niche because the people are the ones who are doing the heavy lifting, not you! Take a look at why we do what we do, how we implement sustainable change that delivers expected outcomes while strengthening relationships across the organization and what others have said about our work. READ MORE…

if that’s not your cup of tea and you’d rather talk about it, then access my private calendar here…

still not working for you, gauge your own organization with this self-assessment here…

For more information on the actual process, click on the three entry points:

90-Day Culture Accelerator

Advancing Your Culture

Culture Influencing 

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