Successful culture change starts at the top

Amanda Milsom
As human beings, we are programmed to try and fit in. In the corporate world, this means we take cues from our leaders as to what is valued, rewarded, and how we should behave. So, when you’re looking to change your culture, it has to start at the top.

Setting the tone
Leaders set the tone for the whole organisation. What they say and do sends a message to the organisation. And as importantly, so does what they encourage, discourage and tolerate in others. Every behaviour and each decision sends a message and that message is interpreted by the people in the organisation as a reflection of what is valued, which in turn molds the behaviour of others. That’s why culture change begins by working with leaders, helping them specifically with:
  1. Becoming more self-aware.  We help leaders to uncover their blindspots – to understand their unconscious, automatic actions and turn these into conscious, intentional behaviour. Once they understand themselves and the impact of their actions better, leaders can start to intentionally and authentically shape their behaviour to ensure they it support and promotes their desired culture.

  2. Committing to action. After leaders have acknowledged their blind spots, it’s crucial they are clear about what small adjustments they want to make over time – this is not a quick fix but small shifts can make a big difference.

  3. Getting help and support. No one does it on their own. Leaders need to seek feedback from trusted advisors – colleagues, coaches and external advisors – who can provide both constructive and appreciative feedback, hold them to account, and help them embed their new behaviours while being authentic.

When a leader demonstrates a shift in behaviour consistently over time, it sends shockwaves throughout the organisation. Actions speak louder than words, and a leader’s carry the most weight.   Until Leaders are seen walking the talk you will get limited traction on culture.

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