Are you a leader determined to change some elements of the culture of your business or team? An HR professional responsible for culture management who's been given the job of 'making it happen'? Or a consultant wanting to give good advice to your client about getting traction on culture? Here are some tips on how to get people's attention and cut through any potential cynicism.
1. Change a specific feature of your own behaviour.
Let others know that you want to make this change, and ask for their help by giving you feedback when they see you reverting to old habits. In describing why you intend to change that behavior, explain how the new behavior will help the business achieve its strategic intent. For example:
"I want to become better at asking others for their opinion. I think this is important for our business because people who report to me are closer to the customer than I am, and therefore their views will help us become more customer-centric. If you see me slipping back to old habits of telling people the answers, please point this out to me."
2. Change the way meetings are run.
Meetings take up such a large part of corporate life – they're a microcosm of the whole – so a culture change here is highly visible. Here are some ideas:
1. Starting and ending meetings on time sends strong messages about accountability and discipline.
2. Changing the agenda sends messages about a change in values hierarchy. For example, talking about safety before presenting financial performance numbers says safety is the most important agenda item.
3. Having a stated objective for each agenda item sends messages about efficiency.
4. Introducing a rule that all email devices are turned off in the meeting, so that everybody is entirely focused on the meeting, sends a message about team respect.
3. Make a significant change to your team.
These changes are not only symbolic, but are often a key element of successful culture management. Bring in someone new whose approach would be seen to represent the aspired culture. For example, if you want to become more innovative, bring in a team member who previously worked at an organisation well known for leading innovation. Or ask a team member to leave whose behaviour has continually undermined the desired culture. Any change in personnel is seen as highly symbolic by others.
These three steps are not expensive, send strong messages about change, and go way beyond words. Remember culture is changed by walking your talk. These are ways that you can change the 'walk' fast and gain credibility that you intend to lead change.