Thursday, August 8, 2019

How to Beat Scrutiny During a Culture Change


Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

When leading a culture change initiative, scrutiny of senior leaders’ plans, decisions, and actions increases heavily. I tell senior leaders that they’ll never be able to run a yellow light at a traffic signal in their town again! Yes, even senior leader behavior away from the workplace is scrutinized.

Consequently, it is extremely important for senior leaders to model their declared values – every day, with every interaction.

Too often senior leaders “manage by announcements,” publishing a set of expectations or rules that they declare are to be embraced from that moment forward, yet they do not actively demonstrate those expectations themselves, measure how well others embrace those expectations, etc. No wonder leader credibility suffers in many organizations. Only when senior leaders model desired valued behaviors will the rest of the organization trust those leaders, follow those leaders, and model those desired valued behaviors themselves.

Here’s a great example. A client shared an interesting perspective about his boss, a gentleman he’d been working with for over a year. His boss – let’s call him Tom – is a fabulous champion of the company’s culture change process. Tom has effectively led culture change initiatives at his last two organizations and has begun work to refine the culture of his current organization. Tom started with his senior leadership team by sharing his leadership point of view – his philosophy of leadership – and his values. He asked his direct reports to hold him accountable to those values and the valued behaviors Tom has defined.

In addition, Tom chartered his senior leadership team to refine that group’s purpose, values, behaviors, and norms to ensure everything they do helps the business grow and succeed and is consistent with their agreements.

The client’s comment unintentionally described the scrutiny Tom is under. He said, “I keep waiting for Tom to be inconsistent.” Two things are clear –
  1. Tom has really put himself on the line by declaring his values and asking his staff to hold him accountable for those values.
  2. For over a year, Tom hasn’t yet acted in conflict with his declared values. That’s really powerful!

Does Your Culture Serve Customers, Employees, and Stakeholders Equally Well?

If the existing culture is not serving customers, employees, or stakeholders consistently, it may be time for a change.

Senior leaders can refine their organization’s existing culture by doing three things:
     First, clarify performance expectations and gain employee agreement on those expectations.
     Second, define values in behavioral terms and gain employee agreement to demonstrate those behaviors.
     Finally, hold themselves and all organizational leaders, managers, and staff accountable for both performance and values.

Most senior leaders have not experienced successful culture change. Even fewer, across the globe, have led successful culture change. The journey to become a high performing, values-aligned organization is both intense and gratifying. Senior leaders may not be aware of it, but they are both the sponsors and drivers of the organization’s current culture. When you are ready, we’re here to help.


S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

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