I’m working with a client executive team to help them transform their culture. They are individually and collectively frustrated that their efforts to date have not affected much change within the geographically distributed 350 person organization. They made some people moves to get the right people in the right seats, they created and rolled out a solid set of Core Values, and, yes, they have the right people in the right leadership seats. But none of those things moved the culture needle.
This team is missing one of the two critical elements required to build culture. Culture is determined by specific behaviors that are rewarded and punished over time AND by leaders leading by example.
These leaders weren’t effectively walking their own talk!
To help them get started, I asked the team to identify a couple of specific behaviors they want to cement in their culture.
The two we settled on were: show up to meetings on time and deliver on commitments.
With these objectives clear, my next assignment for the executive team was for THEM to model the behaviors themselves for a month. THEY must show up and start every meeting they attend on time and deliver on every one of THEIR own commitments.
Then — and only then — I’ll have them begin to coach and course-correct (i.e. reward and punish) their teams in alignment with the two behaviors. In relatively short order, these targeted behaviors will become normalized elements of their culture.
This process is an effective model to implement any change. Start with crystal clear behavioral outcomes, implement the behaviors yourself, then roll it out to the organization and course-correct from there.
The problem is, we as leaders often forget the key element of leading by example.
Make no mistake about it: all eyes and ears are always on YOU as the leader. Your integrity, alignment, and accountability lay the foundation for every behavior and result within your organization.
You MUST lead by example.
Resources I’ve Found Valuable
In my work as a business and leadership growth coach, I encounter cases, research, and stories about how leaders learn, grow, and become more effective. I’ll share a select few in each edition of my newsletter — particularly those at the intersection of leadership, business growth, and behavior change.
How to Filter Conflicting Advice from Mentors (short)
Mentors are invaluable to entrepreneurs. But what happens when you get conflicting advice from multiple mentors? Who should you listen to?
The Map is Not the Territory (long)
The map of reality is not reality. In our march to simplify things with useful models, we confuse models with reality. It is as if the spreadsheet comes to life. We forget that reality is a lot messier. The map isn’t the territory. The theory isn’t what it describes, it’s simply a way we choose to interpret a certain set of information. This is important to keep in mind as we think through problems and strive to make better decisions.
Ron Rivera Wanted to Learn About a Winning Culture, so He Went to Jimmy Johnson’s Garage
A lot of attention is paid to cross-training but very little to cross-thinking. That’s probably because the latter is done mostly indoors in a chair, and it can make your head hurt worse than blackstrap rum. But two practitioners of it, Ron Rivera and Jimmie Johnson, have found cross-referencing their professions to be a useful mutual tool. As Johnson makes his last full run on the NASCAR circuit, he carries some thoughts from the NFL coach in his head, and as Rivera installs his system with the Washington Redskins, he will be borrowing some things he learned from watching the No. 48 car.
The Surfer’s Secret to Happiness
Watching the surfers, I noticed that the time they spent standing on their boards, riding waves — doing what nonsurfers would call surfing — was minimal compared with the time they spent bobbing around in the water next to the board, generally going nowhere. Even the really good surfers spend far more time off the board than on it.
And the thing about surfers? They don’t seem to regret all that time they don’t spend standing on boards and riding waves. Not only are they surfers all the time, they are, it seems to me, happy all the time.
Could I do that? Could I declare myself a surfer all the time, and seize that happiness?
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