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We’ve all experienced culture initiatives that were meant to motivate and compel us to do things differently. Most of these initiatives, however, result in clichés, fading exuberance, reversion to old ways of working, and change fatigue. Investments in culture change efforts are rarely actual investments; they simply become costs, with value fading over time.
Most culture change efforts focus solely on actions. More meetings, new mantras, new processes, more emails, Hawaiian shirt Fridays, more PTO…in other words, actions. While it may be intuitive to focus here, especially for leaders who are action-oriented, the real key to unlocking culture change comes from beliefs. Beliefs drive actions, and actions impact your results.
But beliefs don’t appear out of thin air. Beliefs come from experiences. Every day, experiences are either intentionally or unintentionally being created by leadership behavior, water cooler talk, incentive structures, feedback, news, etc. Since we constantly seek to confirm our beliefs, the more these experiences happen, and the more our beliefs are confirmed. Beliefs are either aligned with the mission, or they’re misaligned. Once beliefs have set in, good or bad, they can be difficult to change – unless you have a process to change them.
Culture change happens through beliefs and experiences, but leaders tend to focus on actions.
When you can shift beliefs to align with the results you want, you create an appreciating asset – a culture that yields growth, accountability, engagement and the ability to achieve the biggest of stretch goals. The value of your culture now increases over time, and is manifested in every aspect of the organization. We’ve seen this happen over our 30 years of working with clients from nearly every business sector.
Another reason culture efforts tend to fade is because culture and strategy are kept separate. In other words, culture is something happening “over there” and is being managed by HR/Operations, while strategy is being devised “over here” by the CEO/CSO/CIO. Keeping the two separate is akin to a boat trying to sail with its anchor still in the water. It may eventually move, but it will be slow going and costly.
Connecting culture to your strategy is critical. Using the gravity of your culture as a force to pull you towards your goals means you achieve results faster, more efficiently, and with greater impact.
You can align culture to your strategy by focusing on three critical elements: shifting beliefs, instilling clarity, and fostering positive accountability. Here’s what this looks like:
1. Identify the BELIEFS and EXPERIENCES that are driving behavior that is incongruent with achieving your key goals.
2. Create clarity by having only three to four KEY GOALS for next year.
By having just 3 to 4 top goals and being specific about what they are, you bring clarity to everyone in the organization – from C-suite to front-line. Now everyone is working to achieve a result (vs just doing a job)
Be sure everyone on the team or organization knows exactly what your top three to four key goals are. If you asked a VP and an Account Manager, would you get the same answer?
3. Foster positive ACCOUNTABILITY by demonstrating, highlighting, and rewarding accountable behavior.
It’s important to resist the temptation to go straight to the “action layer” to solve culture challenges. Instead, work backwards. What experiences am I as a leader creating, and what beliefs are forming because of those experiences? Are those beliefs driving the actions we want in order to achieve the results we need? If not, what new experiences can I create to foster and confirm the beliefs I want my teams to hold?
It’s also critical to ensure your culture and strategy are connected. Keeping them separate creates misalignment and competing priorities. When combined, you create clarity, alignment and accountability to the key results you need as a business by leveraging the full weight of your culture to move quickly towards your goals.
If we can help, or if you’d like to hear more about how Culture Partners provides a methodology and tools to shift your culture into a measurable, appreciating asset to achieve results, connect with us.