My client’s business has two thriving locations and he stood to inherit a third. This is when he came to me with a question for our coaching agenda. “How,” he asked, “do you change culture? Can it be done?”
In his case, he described his existing culture as “a culture of success” in both locations. “That’s just the way it is around here,” one of his team members had told him. The third location was completely the opposite. Business had long since stagnated and the employees had essentially checked out.
In Change Your Culture, Change Your Game, authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith believe that culture can absolutely be changed – by looking at the team’s internal belief systems and those experiences that formed them. In other words, we’ve got to look at our organization’s inner game.
Where does our organization’s inner game play out? Look at implementing change initiatives, for example. How effective are they really? Truth is, they often fail because we’re focused on the external actions to get results. That is, we say to ourselves, “Okay, if I just plug this behavior in, then that will happen.” True. It may. But ask yourself: how long did that new behavior last? Was it supported by everyone? By the culture itself? Was the team truly committed and invested? Or were they just complying?
It is only when we look internally at our organization’s collective beliefs – as we do individually with clients or ourselves – can we see the true source of our actions.
We begin to create a new culture by getting curious and asking questions:
1 . What’s the current culture of our team? (And is it working?) This is about how things are done. What’s important? What’s not? What to avoid? What to prioritize? Also name what it feels like to belong to the team.
2. What’s the culture we want? Name what we collectively want for the team. What would help us achieve our desired results? What would not?
3. What are the collective beliefs we have about our culture? And what experiences made up those beliefs? Our beliefs are driven by those past experiences. How did we contribute to them? Our accountability for our experiences is key here.
4. What are the beliefs we wish to have? And what experiences would support our new beliefs? How would we contribute to them?
By validating our organization’s belief system, we are more inclined to take meaningful actions toward the long-term results we want. In other words, we take real responsibility for creating our culture. Obviously this takes time, and a willingness and commitment to ask some potentially hard questions. Above all, it takes a collective belief that it can be done.