On Culture Change. On Who Will We Become?

Org culture isn’t created some day. Org culture is created day-by-day.
Org culture isn’t created some day. Org culture is created day-by-day.
Org culture isn’t created some day. Org culture is created day-by-day.

It’s funny: a lot of people say they want awesome human qualities such as curiosity, creativity, and courage for themselves and for their people, but they aren’t willing to first be their prerequisites. They just aren’t. That, or they don’t realize that you cannot have the big, cool one like diversity of thought without the less cool one like open-mindedness that must come first. I think this is why most orgs simply pay these qualities lip service: they want the org to have them, but they’re not willing to do the hard work to actually have them integrated into the culture. And so the culture remains.

Culture change is possible, but it is very difficult. Ask Uncle Lou Gerstner. It takes a strong, disciplined leader to do it. This leader sets the new path, the new direction, the new way we’ll do things around here, the new here-is-what-we-will-and-won’t-tolerate-going-forward. This leader models the new behaviors they desire to see in their people. And then it flows down from there because people do as the boss does. Whatever the boss does, so go we.

Who your boss is.

(Some people contest me on this point, but it is absolutely true. The boss sets the behavioral and attitudinal tone. Who your boss is is everything. Who your boss is trumps culture! As the good people at Gallup say, It’s the Manager.)

The trouble with management.

The trouble is when bosses first start out with directs. Without proper training — no, not college; that was 20 years ago — new boss’s instincts typically default to micromanaging. They know no better. Worse, the real trouble with micromanaging is it feels like you’re making a positive difference while you run around doing your directs’ jobs for them. (If you’re doing their jobs for them, then why do you need them!? The Elon Musk School of Management First Principles ask.)

The other two troubles with micromanagement.

The other two troubles with micromanagement are your directs will hate you for it, and your bosses will applaud you for it. So pesky, this micromanagement stuff. Pesky isn’t the right word: pernicious is. And it doesn’t have to be.

Vision. Mission. Tools. Get out.

The best managers share the vision, provide the tools and resources, and then get the hell out of the way for the directs to GO! To get to work on the problem. Sure, some might roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches with the rest of us, and that is all well and good. But they certainly don’t have to because that’s not their job any more. Their job now is to be stuck in meetings all day long not doing anything real nor tangible! With no real output. It’s no wonder they default to micromanagement — it feels like you’re doing something helpful! Well, it feels like you’re doing something other than attending another lame, pointless meeting.

Smart, driven people don’t need to be told what to do. They already got that from the job description. They just need to know what the Vision and Mission are — you know, why we’re all here in the first place — and then be given a few resources and tools to help them get the job done, and then they’re off! See, it turns out that this whole management thing is not that hard, nor really all that time consuming. We’ve just completely overthought it, and 100% over-meeting’d it. And in the process, completely overworked ourselves with so much unnecessary worry, negativity, emotional expenditure, and pointlessness.

We did not think things through first.

We did not think things through first. First Principles. Nobody sets out to double or triple their workload out of the gate with a new promotion, but that’s what we back ourselves into when we take on all the directs’ problems and duties. Rather, we take ’em head on! With Gusto! Because we’re doing /something/! And we’re finally not in a meeting! (Finally! Whew!)

The Irony of Good Management Equals closed-door policy because...

The irony of good management is to have a closed door policy. Your people shouldn’t really need you once they have the Vision, Mission and tools and resources to do the job. The problem is people need to feel like they’re doing something, like they’re making a difference in their lives. So, again, they default to doing, doing, doing, without first thinking, thinking, thinking what is it we’re truly after here.

What is it we’re truly after here?

Do we really want to grow people or minimize people? Do we trust those who work for us or do we not? Are we really here to be siloed and have divisional strife, or are we here to create and collaborate and accept ideas from anywhere because we believe that good ideas can come from anywhere?

Who do we set out to become? How will we show up today? Culture isn’t created some day. Culture is created day-by-day in how we choose to show up. Are we in this for me, for selfish reasons, for channel WIIFM? Or, are we in this for service dedication, to serve others? To create and collaborate and problem-solve with people we know, like and trust?

Who will we become?


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I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.

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