In today’s competitive business environment, executives are not interested in investing money in company culture unless they are able to see results in terms of tangible business value. Working in the field of transformational leadership and large-scale change, I see plenty of consultants who do magnificent work but struggle with connecting the dots between the work they do and the ultimate value they will add.
When I speak with senior leaders, I ask them about their organization’s performance. They are quick to note where results are stellar and where they have a need for improvement. They are very familiar with their performance data and share it with little hesitation.
When I ask these same senior leaders about the quality of their work culture, they stumble. They hesitate. They don’t have the data regarding the effectiveness of their work culture at their fingertips.
Why are most leaders so comfortable with tracking results and, at the same time, so disconnected from understanding the health of their work culture?
As the first culture-shaping consulting firm, Senn Delaney has quite literally made organizational culture its business. Larry Senn and his colleagues, including partner and executive vice president Bill Parsons, have brought their mission of “creating healthy, high-performance cultures” to more than 500 companies. Bill shared some of the knowledge they’ve gathered over their 38 years of experience at the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference—including the four principles that must be upheld to really shape culture and improve performance.
What do you think when you hear the words “culture change”? More important, what do your baseline employees—the women and men who get the essential and routine work done—think when they’re first introduced to organizational culture change?
From our experience, here’s how many react: “Oh, great… another bunch of buzzwords and another round of change, none of which will affect my job. I’ll just smile and nod.”
And yet the simple reality is culture change—real, sustainable change—best occurs when our frontline workers accept change as a positive move for them. After all, no one wants to have change happen to them. Or worse yet, to become a victim when change comes at them. Instead, they want to be part of the solution. The most inspired or motivated take it a step further: They want to be involved actively in the change plan.
Culture change is a human experience. It’s not just a business imperative, as it has been viewed for decades, as reflected in the following examples. “If we’re going to grow, we have to change the culture,” or “This culture is toxic, and it is affecting our customer service.” These examples reflect a perspective that is short-sighted and can be detrimental to the success of your business and employees. For culture change to have a chance of becoming contagious, leaders should more deeply understand how business needs and the human experience of change can work in concert. Together, these two can help navigate change pitfalls. More on those in a moment.