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  • Writer's pictureJen Laidlaw

Start with the C-word

I had lunch with a friend yesterday & we got to talking about some recent changes at her place of business. The entire team attended a strength-finding training to increase empathy. The business created a strategic vision and purpose. They’re trying some new things. She’s having fun! And my friend seemed genuinely excited and energized about these changes. In the next breath, though, she shared her frustration that not everyone on the team seems to be “getting it”. It seems she’s faced with a steady stream of “old” thinking that the team is trying to package up, disguise, and sell as "new" thinking aligned with the new vision. Which it isn't. And it sounds like they're getting pretty defensive about it, too. So I asked her about company values and culture.

It only took a few minutes for us to agree that the behaviors– the culture- to get to the new vision seemed to be mostly undefined and definitely lagging behind. It’s not that the team doesn’t WANT the business to be successful- my friend quickly agreed that the team passionately cares about the business and the customers it serves. So- why isn’t everyone as excited as she seems to be? Is it lack of commitment to the vision? A lack of understanding? Lack of communication? The fault of leadership? The fear of change?????

This is what so often happens when businesses try to do things differently. We see the need for change. We create a vision, maybe even identify a purpose. We might hold a training. We tell the team, “Things are going to be different!” And maybe they are for a few weeks. And then when things start to backslide, we put in place some processes and tools and forms and rules to keep everyone in line. Surely that will do the trick! But we miss a whole step in between! And it’s the most difficult one. In order to make meaningful change, we need to change behaviors – we need to address culture. Otherwise, the vision and purpose and processes and tools eventually fall flat and fade into the background as the team reverts back to business as usual. Culture first change is lasting and meaningful change. And that’s the only kind of change that really matters.

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