A recent lunch meeting with a colleague generated some great insights about how to help senior leaders make the decision to refine their organization’s culture (thanks, Melissa, for your terrific questions and enthusiasm for this topic!).

Previous blog postings have explained the reality of a senior leader’s world – they have been trained to primarily (OK, even exclusively) focus on performance, results, and financial targets. Most are unaware of their organization’s culture and too few senior leaders understand the impact of culture on performance, results, and financial success. If they are aware of the power of culture to drive results, most senior leaders do not know what to do to refine their company’s culture. Most senior leaders have rarely experienced successful culture change; even fewer have led successful culture change.

Two Steps Can Help Senior Leaders Understand “It’s Time”

Senior leaders are comfortable with data. They study performance data every day. We culture change consultants must leverage this highly-developed skill to educate senior leaders about the current conditions that exist in their culture. By clarifying exactly how their culture operates today, we can help senior leaders see the gaps between how their organization operates and the characteristics of high performing, values aligned organizations.

Step 1: Show them the Data! We need to help senior leaders discover:

  • Data from outside their organization that clearly describes the best practices of high performing, values aligned cultures, and
  • Data from inside their organization that clearly describes what’s happening in their company’s work environment and highlights what best practices are NOT in place in their company’s culture.

We want these leaders to realize that they have (intentionally or not) reinforced the current culture and the ways the business operates today. In essence,  they’re getting from their culture exactly what they should expect to get. It is what it is – the current operating environment has been reinforced (consciously or unconsciously) for years. And, what the work environment delivers today may not be good (culture, results, customer relationships, etc.) – and culture change is needed to enable that environment to deliver really good outcomes, consistently. Solid data can help “clean the eyeglasses” so that a senior leader can see why the business operates the way it does, and what needs changing.

Step 2: Show them the Cost of Doing Nothing!
Once senior leaders examine this data, they’re typically not satisfied with how the culture operates ( results, customer relationships, employee relationships, values alignment, etc.). They know the culture needs to change, but to do so they’ll probably travel down an unknown path. They’ll be concerned about what to do to change their current culture . . . and may prefer the safe path, staying with the current, known issues rather than embark on a path that (they feel) may not make the culture better.

We need to create an urgent insight that “staying the course” will not serve senior leaders well. A great way to do that is through Blanchard‘s online Cost of Doing Nothing Calculator. This easy tool enables leaders to enter real data from their organization and, in minutes, establish the hard-dollar costs of keeping the current conditions in place.

Once senior leaders understand the costs of “status quo,” they are typically ready to dive in to culture change . . . guided by experienced culture change consultants who created a proven, award-winning process.

What indicators do you look for that let you know your team’s culture needs refinement? Share your insights in the comments section below.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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