Einstein once stated, “We can not solve our problems with the same thinking that we created them with”. Nothing could be truer when it comes to transforming business cultures from stiff and rigid rule bound hierarchies to agile and flexibly fit for using change to advantage.
For companies attached to command and control mode where authority is confused with power and leadership and decision-making are clustered at the management levels, it will take a radical leap of commitment and true leadership to change the business culture.
In truth, more money is made by companies that dare to grow, learn and create by engaging not only their customers but also their employees in a persistently vibrant embrace of environmental and social values that, in turn, creates higher value for the customer and as a consequence, the shareholder. They make more money because making money isn’t their sole purpose. Performance is driven by more than sales, revenues and the standard formula; it’s also driven by employees who are fully engaged in helping the company attain a higher purpose – one far greater and much more inspirational. This is important to know because it is the purpose of a company that orients the business culture. Small aspirations like making money might engage the intellect, but it won’t engage deeper levels of talent or creativity. Aspirations that aim low to only increase shareholder value, serve only one set of interests and often leave employees, communities, the ecological services the company uses as inputs. That takes real passion and a measure of adversity to call it out.
So, if that’s the benefit then how do companies make the shift?
The arc of transforming a business culture from a traditional to a more, caring inspirational working environment is anything but cookie-cutter or linear. It starts from the level of leadership you have within and expands as you collectively face the fear of losing status, losing ‘power’ over others, losing control, or losing what you fight long and hard for – more money. The path of adapting the business culture for growth must confront the beliefs that drive the results on the surface. And that’s why I called this article, “How to change the business culture without focusing on it.”
- Select a humongous purpose so big that the destination doesn’t exist. Here’s why. If you focus solely on making money, you ignore all the forces that create it. A sort of selective attention develops where a gorilla can walk through the room and no one will notice. The gorilla in today’s business environment is exponential environmental, technological and social change. Rather than focus on the outcome, you focus on a compelling contribution to the world. Make it big. Make it matter to many, not just a sole beneficiary like shareholders. Everyone will win. It takes everyone bringing all they have within them to accomplish something big. What are you trying to achieve as a company? What shared purpose, shared vision can you tackle that has real meaning and incites passion? For instance, something like switching over to 100% renewable energy.
- Engage your employees as if you trust them. I say ‘as if’ because mid-low trust managed companies hire people, then tell them what to do. On the surface, it looks like they hire for talent, but no, they hire for compliance. As I said in Decision Making for Dummies it’s like paying people for full-time work but asking for part-time effort. This leaves a lot of creative energy and talent frustrated and ultimately, after too long, depression sets in and the entire company can lose confidence in its ability. The company and employees pay the price through stress-related illness and quality of work and home life.
- Commit to growth on the leadership journey. Yes, it starts with a personal commitment to leading at a higher level so that you gain greater personal fulfillment and don’t have to wait to retire to do what you care and are passionate about. It’ll mean greeting your skeletons in the closet so you can improve the relationship you have with your Self to a higher level of self-worth and trust.
- Spot the patterns of decision-making. Patterns of decision-making are driven by the underlying beliefs of the company. In a coffee shop outside of Costa Verde, I spoke with a veteran consultant who, after working with over 1000 companies, could walk in, spot the decision spin cycle and know exactly what would happen next. If he asked an annoying question like ‘Why?’, he heard: “This is the way things are done around here.” In today’s fast moving environment, hearing that phrase forecasts the dying part of ‘Adapt or Die.’ When you can spot the patterns you can isolate the belief biasing the decision. You can identify the specific belief that’s subliminally having an effect. Beliefs are based on what you believe to be true and stem from the past. Values are transcend, imply importance and design the future. Knowing the belief you can intentionally change it to a value-based decision. No more dying required.
Once the step has been taken through the threshold of personal and organizational transformation you might look back from time to time, but you’ll have no regrets because the world you’re creating in your workplace is one that everyone looking forward to contributing to. I love working with companies bold enough to stride into new territory. They are design-building a bridge across the river of uncertainty between what is already known and what is possible. They give me hope for our future.
How about you?