If you feel your culture is about to change in the office, reach for Howard Schultz’s new book Onward as it will impart many a nugget of wisdom and insights on the culture of Starbucks. Also, you can look into books about Zappo’s company culture or Southwest Airlines’ culture or any number of model or exemplary organizations who seem to have gotten it right. The trick is that the right culture is different for each organization and what you want to look for is the time at which your culture might need to shift and how you can take action without sending it into culture shock.
Culture is contagious! I know that surprises you, but then again, shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t whatever the driving focus of your business, team, department or organization is, be rubbing off on everyone in the organization to such a degree that they live by a common mantra or thought process when working with your customers? Yes, it should, but it’s often more difficult than you might think.
If you are looking at a culture shift in your organization and want to keep it from being a culture shock, be sure to take note of these tips:
Bill Cosby is known to say that if 2% of the world population liked him, he’d still be profitable. What that says to me is that he’s okay with 98% of the population preferring a different kind of entertainment. In the world of comedy or crazy things kids say, that likely works. In your office, that’s a dangerous number to move forward with. If you can get buy in from as many as possible, your transition will be much smoother. Note, buy in does not mean they all have to like it, they merely have to agree that it is the most appropriate direction or maneuver at this time and are willing to support the change. Give the naysayers a momentary spotlight
The temptation in a culture shift might be to try and shut down those vocal enough to express their disagreement, particularly if they are the ones who always disagree. However, much like one handles a know it all in a training class, if you will proactively ask them to share their know-how, knowledge, or points and opinions, you’re far more likely to hear less from them throughout the process. Ask for what you know they are going to share at some point, up front, and that way they don’t’ feel the need to yell it at you later out of the stress of not feeling heard.
Let’s say you’ve hired an outside consultant to lead the culture shift and often this is a prime way to go because they’ll see more than you will and be able to address things you may have overlooked. However, if you hire someone you trust and then you talk about what he or she does in a negative way to the team or in front of others, you are creating a sabotage filled environment in your inconsistent support. Make sure you are comfortable with the culture change agent and then support them with all that you can muster for as long as it takes and for as long as you remain comfortable. Seek to clear up any discomfort with that person one on one before you broadcast it and that, too, will make sure employees are getting a consistent message.
A change in the culture does not happen overnight. It can take months of diligent reinforcement and work, but it’s doable and the above tips will help, if you use them.