Productivity & Effectiveness

How to transform your company culture

By 06/08/2020 August 14th, 2020 No Comments

Transformations are all the rage in business these days. It’s hard to go on LinkedIn without people talking about it, extolling the virtues of it and selling their wares. It’s pretty hard to find a company that is NOT doing some form of transformation.

Yet it’s really hard to find one that is focusing on shifting the culture by paying attention to behaviours.

There are tech transformation, ways of working, agile, people, lean blah blah blah.

Yet, the culture of an organisation is group habit. It’s what people do every day.

Watch the video or read on below

It’s how they talk to each other. It’s how they communicate about work. It’s how they come together to achieve value for the customer.

These are behaviours.

The culture of an organisation is the sum of everybody’s behaviours and interactions. It is group habit.

So, to change the culture of an organisation, you need to focus on changing behaviours.

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

If you take a gander at any high performing company (that people want to stay working in), they are full of people exhibiting high performing behaviours.

It’s not about agile, or lean, MoreOrLessSafe or any other methodology that’s the rage; it’s about how people interact, behave, communicate and work together.

It’s why some companies who are “agile” are failing to build a diverse, effective workforce. It’s why some companies that are “traditional” are crushing it.

People + Behaviours = Culture.

Change programs are failing

A recent report stated that around 70% of Change programs fail.

Why?

Because they don’t focus on changing… BEHAVIOURS.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve personally seen that I believe contribute to change programs failing.

1 – Companies put EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT above BEHAVIOURS and BUSINESS RESULTS

Engagement is important, no doubt about it.

What would happen though, if every member of staff was highly engaged but the business didn’t meet its results or add value to customers?

Blessing White X Model is a good model to consider. They have the concept of “Honeymooners”. These people are very happy and engaged, but not adding much value to the business

There is also no scientific, industry recognised and agreed upon measure of engagement. If we can’t compare engagement in one company, with engagement in another – what value does that give us?

Even worse is that we often can’t relate employee engagement to business success (for example, as per the honeymooners ideas) – so why use it?

  • Most of the metrics and data I’ve read on engagement and the relationship to profit are promoted and sponsored by people selling engagement models.
  • What does the score even mean? If someone is a 7 on a scale what value does that offer? If the company is 33% engaged – what does that tell you?
  • What if the lowest performers are not engaged but your main contributors are?
  • Smaller companies tend to have higher engagement…. Is it because they are doing more meaningful work? Or because they don’t feel like a cog in a machine?
  • Roll out a new survey and engagement goes up. Throw a party or pizza lunch and engagement goes up.

When companies pick an engagement model from the shelf-of-engagement-models, they are putting their faith in that model to provide business effectiveness and an improved bottom line.

But there is rarely any concrete, scientific evidence that aligns the two. Most of the marketing spin is anecdotal. Most of it is just that – marketing.

Engagement models and surveys are qualitative – they represent how people “feel” – yet these feelings are turned in to quantitative data and new initiatives are created off the back of it at huge expense – with the goal of shifting a number.

Couldn’t you find out how the business needs to be improved by studying it, getting to know your people and supporting people in process improvement?

One worrying thing I see is that engagement models take away the need for managers to truly get to know their staff. They rely on the data rather than building strong relationships with their team.

And most importantly, why are companies measuring engagement in the first place? Are they trying to make the world of work better? Or because they believe high engagement leads to profit?

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

You get what you start to measure – and people know how to game it

Whatever the “surveys” are geared around, is what you end up getting. People will start changing behaviours to meet the survey when it’s prioritised as a business initiative.

So, you’d better be sure the survey is combining business effectiveness with staff engagement. And many don’t.

I worked in one company where the bonus scheme was tied to scoring highly on the engagement survey. HR needed to prove they were effective at changing the Ways of Working – so they incentivised the engagement program.

Can you guess what happened? Of course, everybody scored highly, got their bonus and the company continued to flounder. People cheated the survey.

We know that people who are engaged in what they do tend to be more productive, but that productive work must lead to results. It’s the work that’s important, and if that work IS important then being engaged in it makes sense. But remember the honeymooners? They are engaged in their work – but it’s not adding value. So are they doing the wrong work? Or no work at all?

How is an engagement survey going to tell you if someone is doing the right work? That’s a manager’s job.

I’ve seen this firsthand a number of times. People who love where they work (mostly because nobody talks to them about their performance) and they love their work (why wouldn’t they? They are often doing work of little value because their performance isn’t great – and managers are afraid to have a robust conversation about it – so they give them less valuable work to do that these people enjoy, but is not pushing them).

It is very misleading indeed to state that increasing employee engagement will therefore increase business results and productivity.

Engagement belongs to management. If managers build strong relationships, help people grow their career, design meaningful work, unblock systemic work issues and actually care about the people they manage – then you get engagement for free.

2 – Companies focus a lot on CULTURE CHANGE, but it’s rarely directed towards BEHAVIOURS

Take a wander around many modern offices and you will see posters and banners stating the company values.

You will find these values on their websites.

PR friendly executives do talks on company values at conferences and on webinars.

These values often form part of interviews, onboarding bootcamps and the like. Company handbooks are full of nice words, glitzy copy and warm and fuzzy platitudes.

But the values you write down may or may not be what the leaders of the company value.

If you want to know a company’s true values – then find out how people are promoted.

Find out how people are incentivised. Find out how people are rewarded. Study what behaviours the executives and managers exhibit every day. And if these behaviours, incentives and reasons for promotion align with the words on the walls – then you have found a very rare thing indeed. Stay at that company and help it flourish.

The reality is leaders and managers (and employees too), often don’t walk the talk.

They often exhibit behaviours that are counter to the words on the wall. Often the best way to get promoted is to work the weekends, get friendly with the executives with power and cut corners to “show results”.

Don’t tell people how to behave and what to value – show them.

And if you do a good enough job of showing them – you won’t need to write them down.

But companies doing transitions and transformations often spend a ridiculous amount of time, energy, attention and money on wording, copy and launch initiatives – when that resource would be much better spent on changing behaviours.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

3 – “EMPOWERING PEOPLE” is a common phrase in companies

It’s common to hear of companies now empowering people as they go about their transformation. But there are lots of areas, decisions and parts of the business that firmly belong to management. And simply by saying people are empowered is crazy.

The reality is we are all empowered anyway. We can walk away, we can find another job, we can make decisions like a grown up. The real thing to do here is to study WHY people aren’t making decisions, or WHY they feel powerless, or WHY when they take some power, do they get reprimanded for it.

Leadership and management behaviours – that why.

In order for people to use the power they already have; managers must change their behaviours.

They must support and coach and help people to make bigger and better decisions. They must release power through delegation and clear vision and better ways of measuring outcomes.

Simply by saying people are empowered changes nothing. Behaving differently does.

4 – FIDDLING WITH THE NUMBERS is a typical change strategy

I see this all of the time. Leaders and managers who are fiddling with numbers as they try to bring about transformation. More people, more work, more output per person, less budgets, more budgets, no budgets, more NPS, better engagement numbers – you name it.

Target operating models, designs, stories of change and the like. All geared around plotting a new world with guess work numbers, numbers that can be easily measured, or numbers that you can blame with, or numbers that give people a sense of certainty.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

But change emerges from people working together towards a brighter picture of the future. To think that we can codify results and productivity numbers into a future plan is crazy.

Not only do we run the risk of people falling way short, or of the numbers being completely unachievable, but we may actually stifle even bigger returns. Once people hit a target they tend to stop. But what if the business is capable of more than the target?

Change programs are full of numbers and the best thing to do when you see these numbers (alright, might not be best for YOUR career, so tread carefully), is to ask the following few questions:

  1. Who came up with the numbers?
  2. Why are we measuring these numbers?
  3. How were the numbers decided upon?
  4. Where is the evidence for these numbers?
  5. What are we not measuring?
  6. Why are we not measuring certain things?

I’ve seen change programs stuffed full of numbers pulled directly from a consultancy company’s playbook.

I’ve even seen a large consultancy provide a “PowerPoint of change” that had a different client’s logo in it. It had a different client’s leadership team listed. And yes, it had a different client’s target numbers of change. When called out, they went away and changed the logo and the names, but not the numbers.

When I asked the questions above about the numbers, I got blank faces. All the numbers were made up – and likely they were for their other clients too.

Change programs are not about optimistic made up target states. They should be about a clear direction of travel, robust measures of business performance (from a customer’s perspective) and regular opportunities to change direction.

Measure the value to the customer. Measure the behaviours you have. Improve the value to the customer and do this with new behaviours – and you’ve won.

Why Focus on Behaviours?

By focusing on behaviours, you are focusing on culture.

Behaviours can:

  • Be described, documented and communicated
  • Be observed, changed and measured
  • Be modelled, demonstrated and copied
  • Be interviewed for and used for performance reviews

What are behaviours?

Behaviours are:

  • The output of work (work items, deliverables, ideas to reality) – these are behaviours in action
  • The communication that happens (what people say, how they say it, non-verbal communication, paralanguage)
  • What people do

Behaviours matter because they are objective – they can be studied. The words we use may not align with our behaviours – we fool ourselves all the time. We say we value people, that we are there for them, that we care, that we don’t care about the money and that we’re trying to build a 100-year business – yet our behaviours betray us.

People don’t always mind sub-standard behaviours (depends on what they are!), but they often can’t stand hypocrisy.

I worked with one organisation where the leaders rolled out new values about trust, integrity blah blah blah. I asked them why “a successful exit at all cost” was not one of their values. After all, the leadership team were doing everything possible to sell the company through immoral, wrong-headed and insulting behaviours. I wasn’t invited back.

I like the way manager-tools.com describe behaviours. I’ve added some examples for clarity.

  1. The Words we use.
    1. These affect business results, retention and other people’s behaviours
    2. Here are some examples of poor language I’ve heard in just the last few years
      1. “Just do it”
      2. “You’ll be the one to hang for this” (Really? Threatening!)
      3. “I’ll take you outside and shoot you” (Really?)
      4. “I’ll crucify you if you get this wrong” (OMG)
      5. “I’m not going to help you – I want to watch your entire department fail” (WOW)
  2. How we say what we say.
    1. Speed, tone, inflection, confidence, pitch
    2. “It’s not what you said, it’s how you say it”
  3. Body Language.
    1. Is it congruent with words?
    2. Is it aggressive or open?
    3. Deviating from baseline?
  4. Work Output.
    1. Quality, quantity, timeliness, communication
    2. Relationships
    3. Ability to get on with others
    4. Ability to co-operate around a shared goal

What affects behaviours?

Lots of things affect behaviours in the workplace

  1. OURSELVES and our view of the world.
    1. What are our own expectations?
    2. Our upbringing, entitlement, belief about what the world owes us.
    3. And a whole load more – we are complicated beings so we won’t focus on this – as managers and leaders cannot control this.
  2. HEALTH
    1. Our health has a huge impact on our behaviours at work.
    2. This includes mental health as well as physical health.
  3. Our SEASON of life
    1. What do we want from work?
    2. Are we after career growth and high salaries?
    3. Or are we looking for meaning?
    4. Do we have demands and motivations outside of work that mean we behave in a certain way at work?
  4. STRUCTURE and organisation of the work and work environment
    1. Different people in the same structure often achieve similar results.
    2. When people fail, they blame people in other parts of the business, but these other people are often constrained by the structure too.
    3. Reporting demands, measures, metrics, targets, pressure, stress from unachievable targets.
  5. MANAGEMENT behaviours
    1. These have a huge impact on us at work.
    2. Do our manager’s and leader’s behaviours cause us problems?
    3. Do the people we work for share the same values and expectations?
    4. How are people treated at work?
  6. The WORK
    1. The work itself can seriously effect our behaviours.
    2. Do we enjoy the work we do?
    3. Do we feel any affinity to the work?
    4. Or are we merely going through the motions?
  7. CLARITY over our Roles, Responsibilities and expected BEHAVIOURS
    1. Do we know what’s expected of us?
    2. Do we know what role we play in the workplace?
    3. Under-utilised people often create carnage in the workplace as they strive to protect what little they have.
    4. People who have no direction wander aimlessly, often dabbling in work and areas that they aren’t qualified to dabble in.
  8. FEEDBACK from managers and peers about positive and negative behaviours
    1. Is anyone telling us we’re doing well?
    2. Is anyone telling us we’re failing?
    3. Does anyone care about us?
  9. INCENTIVES
    1. How we are incentivised plays a significant part in our behaviours.
    2. Are we rewarded for doing the right thing?
    3. Are we rewarded for cheating and gaming the system?
    4. Are we after the perks that come with the title?
    5. Do we have shares or options that we’re heading towards?
    6. Is the work meaningful at a personal level?
  10. COACHING and TRAINING and career development around expected behaviours
    1. Are people receiving training that shifts behaviours?
    2. Are they being coached to be better?
    3. Are they being left to their own devices?
    4. I worked in a company once where around 50% of the team were VASTLY underperforming. Nobody had ever spoken to them about their performance. Managers washed their hands of these people. I spoke with HR and they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with it. Instead of having a grown-up conversation about performance – people brush it under the carpet. And then spend time, energy and money dealing with the fires instead. Or hiring more people to compensate…. (If you see a company with vastly more people than they need, I suspect it’s because they’re hiring to compensate for poor performance).
  11. DECISIONS by leaders and managers
    1. Leaders and managers should go to where their decisions have impact.
    2. A lot of poor behaviour in organisations is a direct result of a leader or manager not understanding their world, systems of work or people well enough.
  12. ROLE MODELLING by leaders and managers
    1. We copy what influential people do, say and create.
    2. It’s why it’s so important to start with leadership and management behaviours.
  13. The MARKET and its impact on the business
    1. Are we working in a growing and emerging market?
    2. Or are we in a dwindling market?

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

How to CHANGE behaviours – and therefore CULTURE

What follows are some ideas I’ve seen work. Not all will work for you, not all are needed – and of course, there will be things I’ve missed.

1 – Focus on role modelling from the top

The simplest way to start shifting behaviours is for leaders, managers and influencers to role model the right behaviours.

We cannot expect others to behave in a way that we are not prepared to. We cannot demand from others what we cannot exhibit from ourselves.

If need be, write down the sorts of behaviours you expect from people, communicate them – and then role model them.

2 – Hold others accountable for their behaviours

There’s an old management saying that “You don’t get what you expect, you get what you tolerate”.

This is a major problem infecting many businesses – managers and leaders who simply do not address poor behaviours. They let poor behaviours and poor performance slide.

They avoid the hard conversations and the difficult feedback. Why? Because it’s hard – it’s awkward sometimes and it requires leaders and managers to develop strength of character, nerves of steel and the sense of performing the right action.

When managers avoid dealing with low performance and poor behaviours, they are simply failing at their job.

If somebody exhibits consistently poor behaviours, they must receive feedback about it. If somebody does illegal, dangerous, immoral behaviours – they must face some consequences – yet I work with SO many companies where this is simply not happening – at all levels in the organisation.

I also see some managers waiting for the dreaded annual review to give feedback. Why wait? It’s not fair on anyone.

In my experience simply sitting down and explaining the lapse in behaviours or performance is enough to get people moving along.

Most people have never received feedback. People exhibiting poor performing behaviours are often extremely good and capable – they just need someone to point out where they’re going wrong.

3 – Leave the hierarchy alone

The number of consultants (usually from giant consulting firms) that I meet who propose removal of the hierarchy during a transformation is insane. Every single company I have been into, has consultants preaching the removal of the hierarchy with no obvious evidence as to why.

Sure, you don’t want layer upon layer of pointless hierarchy, but you cannot seriously expect everyone in the business to be able to (or want to) make strategic commercial decisions.

You can’t expect everyone in the business to have the same high, medium and low-level view of the business.

You can’t expect everyone to understand the market, deal with shareholders, make redundancy decisions, decide on expansion plans, organise budgets, deal with low performers or any other number of things that executives and managers deal with day to day.

The hierarchy serves many purposes. It allows delegation to happen and succession planning to thrive. It provides different lenses and views on the business – and it lets people get on with what they’re good at – rather than having to take on vast sways of responsibility they don’t want.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a hierarchy in a business – it’s the people in it that cause the problems.

And this comes back to leadership and management behaviours.

Photo by Edvard Alexander Rølvaag on Unsplash

4 – Understand the system and the impact you have on it

Leaders and Managers must understand the system they are in governance of. They should study it, staple themselves to work, be able to explain it to others and know the impact they are having on it.

With this knowledge they are able to design and build a system of work to support the staff and the customers. They will know where the failures are, where the pressure points are bubbling and how to release agility from it. They will understand the demands on the system, how people can thrive in it and where to focus energy and attention.

They will then know what needs transforming, why and how.

Without this knowledge leaders and managers will continue to make decisions blindly – and with those decisions, continue to release carnage and red tape on the people in the business.

Managers and leaders must go to where their decisions have impact – and see for themselves what the outcome was. Was it what was intended? Or did they create a series of problems instead?

They must understand the very world they are trying to transform. Yet it’s surprisingly common to have very few insights, evidence or data at the start of a transformation. Why do it?

5 – Leaders and manager must be able to clearly articulate the aim and purpose of the system

If you’re trying to transform behaviours and culture you must be able to articulate why to the people in your business. And this starts with understand why the business exists, and how it needs to change to continue to support and provide for your customers.

This is about painting a picture of the future, building a strategy and then aligning people around this bright future and plan.

Without a True North or shining light, or painted picture, how will your people know where to head? How will they be able to make decisions in alignment with what the business exists for?

More importantly – why will they care enough to change their behaviours?

People need to feel like they’re adding value and the work is meaningful. There is no better way to explain this than to understand why the business exists and put that at the heart of the change.

6 – Study the real problems before any transformation takes place

There are usually two core problems facing most businesses. Within these two core problems are likely plenty of other issues. The key to a successful transformation is knowing what you are transforming away from, and what you are transforming towards.

Without knowing your problems deeply, it will be pretty tough to take the right action, make the right decisions and work out how you are progressing. It’s also impossible to know when you’ve finished your transformation if you don’t know what you’re trying to solve or achieve.

I worked in one organisation where they were transitioning to a new Way of Working (agile). When I asked the directors why – I was told because it would make them faster and people would be happier working this way. I asked them for data – nothing.

When I asked them what agile was, I got 7 different versions of what they thought it was.

  • Why were they transforming?
  • And what were they transforming to?

Here are the two major problems facing most businesses – and simple ideas on how to look at these problems.

1.Limits to delivery and growth

  • Many managers and leaders PUSH for more.
  • More people. More capacity. More work. More hours. More features. More marketing campaigns. More demand. More incentives. More revenue.
  • But the solution is NOT to push, but to look for the reasons that are stopping delivery or growth.
  • This is exactly what Cultivated Management’s model of Release Agility is geared around.
  • What’s stopping us? Rather than simply adding more.
  • By studying the real reasons that are stopping delivery and growth, and then removing these factors – you can move quickly and grow.
  • Think about:
    • Poor communication
    • Poor leadership and management behaviours
    • Too many steering groups, committees and boards
    • Confusion over what the business is trying to achieve
    • Too many meetings
    • Too many functional divides in the business
    • Competing departments, requirements, goals, measures,
    • Lack of decision making
    • Slow recruitment
    • Too much money, not enough money
    • etc

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

2.Short term problem solving

  • Many companies are simply not solving problems sufficiently, so they re-appear – often with more intensity.
  • Some of the following are examples:
    • They are not addressing behavioural issues or low performance
    • They are not addressing systemic process problems
    • They are bringing in tech to solve a problem that doesn’t exist
    • They are bringing in coaches to solve management problems
    • They are throwing engagement surveys and other “people” orientated initiatives at people, rather than dealing with low performing leaders and managers
    • They are incentivising delivery at the expense of smooth and consistent process
    • They are rewarding salespeople for selling to meet numbers, even when they sell things the company doesn’t even have
    • They reward a hero culture creating single points of failures and relationship driven team selection – at the expense of everyone else
  • The solution is to study, observe and staple yourself to the real problems and then fix the root cause of these problems – no matter how gnarly.
  • The solution is to make it everyone’s job to fix the process, improve the world of work and to study deeply why things go wrong.

7 – Change is emergent – you need to study it

Change is a result of actions, interactions and behaviours.

Not all change is good. Not all change is bad. Some change will be positive for the business, some not.

But change is a result. It emerges as people go about their work.

Change is always happening – the key is understanding the change, measuring the change and trying new things to see what happens. The best managers are those that are always on the look out for changes, not just when a transformation is taking place. They study what caused the change and what impact the change is having on the team and business.

Change cannot be predicted in advance. We may test some hypothesis and expect something, but change may not play that game with us.

It’s why I have such a problem with Target Operating Models. I’ve seen some beautiful examples:

One was a genuine work of artistry. It looked amazing. A lot of hard work went into it. It was approved, signed off and agreed. It was stuck on the wall. It was reprinted, blown up and added to the company handbook.

The reality was nobody studied it or understood it. Nobody had any concrete plans to bring this Target Operating Model to life. Everybody continued to behave in the same way, getting the same results.

Another TOM I saw was dissected and brought to life by a huge transformation program. Teams were built, jargon was changed, terminology was fine-tuned, communications were sent out, leaders were excited. The TOM was coming alive. The problem was the system of work the TOM was changing simply didn’t want to play ball. It creaked, it resisted, it showed deeper and richer complexities than the designers had seen before. The people in the system didn’t want the future state, the customers didn’t need it, the skills defined weren’t required.

They’d built a TOM for a future that had no place in this company. Instead, the best managers in the business were solving the real problems in front of them. They were building teams to deal with the problems. They were adapting, changing, improving. They didn’t need a TOM to improve the work. Eventually the TOM was deleted. After 14 months of design at huge expense, it was discarded. And all for the better.

Change is emergent.

It needs people to study it, watch it, respond to it, embrace it, learn how to measure it, deal with bad change, play with change, adapt to it, swim with it, nudge it, experiment with it, change themselves because of it, build teams around it, understand it, enjoy it and develop the behaviours that embrace the ever changing nature of business.

In other words, it needs people who know how to study change.

8 – Set the bar high for learning – Knowledge can only be gained by studying

As change is emergent and organisations are constantly changing (they are organic after all), it needs managers and leaders to role model high behaviours of learning.

Learning is how we study change; it’s how we adapt to it and it’s how we study our problems and address root cause issues. It’s also how we get better professionally and as humans. We learn.

Learning isn’t just about consuming new information. It’s also about self-reflection, owning past mistakes and learning from them, and critically understanding our own strengths and weaknesses.

Our management will never be more or less than us as a person. If we want to be a better manager, we must become a better person.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

By role modelling learning and growing, we will encourage others to do the same too.

To transform a company culture you need to learn, improve, study, reflect and adapt. This cannot be forced. This cannot be mandated through a Learning Management System. This cannot be a tick box exercise. It needs to be lived and breathed and acted upon.

Managers should role model how to learn, and ask for more from their people. Encourage them to grow, support them, provide coaching, give them feedback about performance – but most importantly – show them that you’re learning too.

To gain knowledge of our work, of ourselves, of the changes happening in our organisations – we must study.

9 – Stories go where facts cannot

Transformations in work and life are emotional. Or at least they should be.

If you’re transforming a company culture you must ensure its personal, emotional and visual. Storytelling goes to places that facts cannot. It brings data and evidence to life.

Tell stories. Explain how people will change and grow and overcome obstacles. Paint a picture of the future and explain why it’s so important.

Stories will help people resonate with new ideas, plans and potentially big changes to their lives.

But most importantly, as leaders and managers who’ve decided on new initiatives or sweeping changes we likely feel emotionally connected to these ideas. But that doesn’t mean others do too.

So, we must explain to people why it means so much to us, the company, the customers – and help them to feel an emotional connection to someone else’s idea.

10 – HR should play a large supporting role

No transformation or change program will work if HR are not actively supporting managers. As we’ve discussed, behaviours need to shift if you’re changing the culture of an organisation.

To change behaviours managers must be giving people feedback, explaining new standards of behaviours and nudging people to be better. And this will unsettle people, especially in organisations where feedback about performance is non-existent.

I see tweets every day from people telling me they would quit a job if a manager gave them feedback. Really? Feedback should be designed to make people better, to improve performance, to enhance careers. And if you’re receiving feedback about low performance and poor behaviours then quitting will make that company better.

Feedback is a tool for nudging behaviours. We cannot make someone behave differently, but we can ask for better, role model and give them constructive, timely and useful feedback to work with.

HR must support this by supporting the manager.

I worked in one company where I was brought in to improve the overall performance of the team. The team was in a bad way. People were skipping out of work with no consequences, some people simply didn’t have the skills to do the job and the way people spoke to each other was shocking.

So, I started giving people feedback. Most people responded brilliantly. I’d say 80% of the team started lifting and became high performers – simply from having somebody tell them they were below the standard, and how to get above it. The other 20% complained to HR.

As this company was SO intent on keeping its staff happy, it had an employee engagement model in place. Sadly, it measured how happy they were – not whether they were effective. I had made them unhappy, so HR came to see me and told me I couldn’t give these people feedback again!

If you are shifting behaviours, you must have HR supporting managers in this. As long as the feedback is professional, entirely about behaviours, in line with the goals of the business and delivered in a calm and neutral way – there is NOTHING wrong with giving employees feedback.

Changing behaviours is holistic – and HR, with their high value initiatives, should play an integral part in supporting managers and leaders.

Closing Thoughts

If your change program does not involve studying, understanding and nudging behaviours, then you’re likely to get the same results in your new world as you did in your last – if you even get there.

Change is emergent, systems need to be improved, new skills and experiences need to be formed and clarity over direction is essential. How people behave is the company culture. It’s not the tech, the values on the wall or the beer on a Friday – its how people behave.

Change requires a focus on behaviours.

Consider though that high performing people will naturally work well with others, improve the processes, focus on the customer, develop themselves and role model the right behaviours. Your goal is to fill your leadership team, management tier, employee base with people who behave in the way that supports the culture you’re trying to transform towards.

The more people you have behaving in the way you want your culture to be, the easier it is for others to copy and the more obvious it is when people don’t.

If you’re embarking on a transformation program I wish you the best of luck. There is absolute value in transforming company cultures. Just be sure to focus on behaviours first – and pay attention to change as it emerges.

And more importantly, it’s fair to say that change is always happening and transformation is an on-going pursuit. After all, there is little point in transforming to a new way of working – a new culture – to then stagnate there too.

And that’s why I encourage managers to become extremely good at observing, studying and nurturing constant change. This constant change is inevitable – and the best managers are those that understand why it happened, what happened and the impact it has on the business.

Good luck.

Rob..

Rob

Rob