In addition to being the CIO at the USTA, I have been given the privilege to lead our organization-wide culture change initiative.
Trying to change the way we function as a company is an important and daunting task. It’s especially challenging given the fact that historically, we've had a great deal of success. It’s tough to convince people to change when they feel that the way they’ve done things in the past has worked well for them.
When trying to change the culture of an organization, it’s critical that you personalize the value of the proposed change. While most people try to be altruistic, to truly get 100 percent buy-in, people need to clearly understand what’s in it for them. We actually created a "what's in it for me" team that is helping our staff understand the personal value they can hope to glean from being part of an improved culture.
It’s also important that change happens from both the top as well as the bottom. We have elicited leaders from every level of the organization to participate in our culture change effort. It’s critical that people from every strata in the company, every business unit, see representatives from their world actively and positively engaged in helping to drive the required change.
People believe people like themselves. The CEO can espouse the need for change, but it's much more powerful for an administrative assistant to hear the same messaging from a fellow assistant.
The senior leadership of an organization also needs to consistently model the behaviors they're promoting. It’s one thing for a so-called leader to “talk the talk.” It’s another thing for that individual to be seen “walking the talk.” People take their cues from their leaders. Their thought process is, “If they're not taking the change seriously, why should I?”
Communication is also very important. It’s critical to help people understand where the organization is going, why it’s choosing to go there, and why they should want to be a part of the journey. Change is uncomfortable, but culture change can be exhausting. It needs to be run like a marathon, with milestones along the way, and progress celebrated at every accomplishment. People need to feel reinvigorated along the path to success.
You also need to provide straight talk for people and not blow sunshine up their pants! People can tell a phony from a mile away. Be authentic, and deal with real challenge in a timely fashion. You need to show that you care deeply about changing the organization, and the impact this change has on the people.
There’s another old expression that says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Do you genuinely care about the people being impacted by the change? Are you taking the time to engage them and bring them along for the ride? Do they feel like a key part of the parade, or merely spectators along the parade route?
What are you doing to change your company’s culture? What is working for you? What have you seen backfire? Let’s get the conversation started.