Stay Connected

Changing a culture is not for the faint-hearted

Changing a Culture is Not for the Faint-Hearted

I used to say that, with any team, nothing happens unless a leader makes it happen. But, to be more accurate, I now say that nothing different happens unless a leader makes it happen!

A leader… that’s you, right!? To make any serious change requires a change of culture—the way we do things around here—and changing culture is not for the faint of heart. 

It takes discipline, perseverance, time, energy, some pain, a bunch of momentum, some tough decisions, courage, influence, collaboration – it’s not at all easy to change a culture.

A colleague of mine once said to me, “Marty, culture change is like teenage sex. Everyone says they’re doing it. Very few people are actually doing it. And those who are doing it, are just fumbling around in the dark wondering what the hell is going on.”

So, with all this talk about culture change, what does it really take? There’s no set formula to building a high performance culture. But there are two things that I think are critical in changing any culture. 

The first is that you have to pay attention. And when I say “pay attention”, I mean focus on the people stuff just as much as you do on the more tangible pursuits of business: strategy, safety, market share, growth, profitability.

If you’re not paying attention to people and the culture, it’ll get away from you and you have no chance of understanding it or measuring it… and certainly no chance of changing it.

The second thing is that you have to burn the boats. When the 16th century explorer, Cortes, landed in Mexico, he burned the boats. His clear choice was, “We prevail here or we die. That’s it.” 

This takes a level of commitment to culture change that says, “We won’t go back, no matter what. Everything I do, every symbol I set up, every move I make, every message I send, will reinforce the fact that we’re not going back. Not as long as I’m standing.”

If you want to be a leader who drives change, who creates a high performance culture, then you’d better pay attention, and you’d better burn the boats. 

If you can do this, with your own unique style and approach, you’ll take your team to heights they could have never have reached without you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *