Many times when we as leaders see that a project, a company or a strategy are not going the way we like, we look to quick fixes: a consultant to tell us how to do it, attending a conference to learn new ideas, the latest book on leadership, a brainstorm that came to us mid way through our morning shower, and so on.
While all these mechanisms can be valuable, changing outward results is most powerfully achieved by changing culture. Changing culture does not come from a proclamation to the team, a re-vamped mission statement, a new COO, or by telling everyone to read the latest book on leadership. Culture change, as I see it can only be changed through subtle consistent effort, consistently focusing on and affecting a multitude of little changes, both inwardly and outwardly.
If we’re unhappy with the results from sales for example, one pep talk to the team won’t do it. A brand new compensation system might have a positive effect, but if it doesn’t come with a subtle consistent shift in the way systems work within an organization, or improvement in the demeanor of management towards sales, or improvements in customer relations and fulfillment, then the results will be small and short lived.
If morale is low and turn over is high, we have only to look at ourselves as leaders. How do we change it, we ask? By consistently looking at all the little things, each day, day in and day out, that makes up an organization and its culture.
Perhaps morale is high, but client turnover is also high. What’s our stance towards our customers? Do we see them as being the ones with the problems? Do we focus on closing the deals and relegate the fulfillment to out-of-sight-out-of-mind? Each day, every day, we can ask ourselves what we’re doing to move the objectives of our clients forward, for their sake and their benefit.
Changing culture requires changing the entire organization holistically through subtle consistent effort. What Michael Gerber famously pointed out in “The E Myth,” that when we get too wrapped up in working in the business, as opposed to working on the business, then we stay stuck in a culture that is failing to evolve. Failing to evolve means failure. Subtle consistent effort in the direction of culture change, meaningful systems, and holistic organizational effectiveness enables us to grow and thrive.