Creating a cultural change is not easy. People become used to acting a certain way and are accustomed to a certain leadership style. Here are four steps that will enable you to bring about meaningful culture change. If you follow them, the probability of change is very high. Let’s take a look.
Define Corporate Values
In the current business environment, we constantly hear the terms core values, mission statements and culture thrown around. Although these ubiquitous terms are integrated into our daily business language, few employees can successfully define them and even fewer are living them at work. To ensure meaningful cultural change, we have to first define the values that we want our organization to follow. Once defined, the value system helps change the culture in a few important ways. First, corporate values become primary recruiting and retention tools. With the ease of researching companies, job seekers are doing their homework on the identities of potential employers and weighing whether or not these companies hold the values that the job seekers consider are important. On the flipside, managers and recruiters can use the core values to evaluate potential candidates to see if they are a good cultural fit for the organization.
Second, core values educate and inform current clients, potential customers, and industry partners about what the company is about and clarify the identity of the company. In this competitive world, having a set of specific core values that speak to the public is definitely a competitive advantage. Many companies have done this first step, have defined core values, but have not gone to the next step.
Define Pinpointed Behaviors
With a clearly defined set of core corporate values, defining behaviors to support those values is necessary. Cultural change will be more meaningful for employees when they can see and understand that their expected behaviors are aligned with the corporate values and goals. The definition is not always easy. By pinpointed behaviors we mean behaviors that are specific, observable and verifiable. In other words, two people looking at the behavior can come to the same conclusion as to whether it is happening or not. Examples of pinpointed behaviors aligned with the corporate value of “treating people with respect,” for example are: listening with attention, not imposing personal views on others, not interrupting conversations, not putting down people by words or body gestures, not backbiting, that is saying something negative about a person in his absence, not acting with prejudice based on race, status or education. When you define pinpointed behavior for each of your core values, you will be defining a value-behavior tree. A value-behavior tree is the frame of reference for culture change. All conversations within the company, all behaviors of everyone should be aligned with this tree. With such clear guidelines, employees feel empowered to act and exhibit these behaviors.
Change Your Own Behaviors
If you want to ask someone to change behavior to be aligned with the value-behavior tree, it is necessary that you have done it first. Otherwise, you would be a hypocrite. Modeling behavior based on the values is crucial – especially by anyone in a leadership role, starting with the CEO and the executive team. If the CEO doesn’t lead, the cultural change will not succeed. So, try yourself to be the best example of the change. How do you change your behavior? By defining antecedents to the behavior or reminders for practicing the new behaviors, by making the effort to exhibit the behavior, and then having someone you trust give you feedback. It’s that simple, but it requires disciplined action.
Facilitate Change in Others
Once the leadership team is actively “living and breathing” the culture and corporate values, the rest of the organization follows suit. To facilitate change in others, reinforcement is huge. There are two management processes we are suggesting organizations implement and cascade at all levels called team result process and vertical result process. Conversation about the core values and the pinpointed behaviors that manifest them are embedded in these twin processes. Organizations should encourage a system of promoting these new behaviors. As an example of paying attention to values, leadership teams can select one value for each month and the conversations at all levels can be focused on that value throughout the company.
With these four steps, moving your organization through a difficult change or cultural shift will be comfortable for both leadership and teams.