4 Tips to Transforming a Culture: Thing Big, Act Small

When making big changes in an organization’s culture we have to act big, right? Not so fast. 

Building a great organizational culture doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money on big strategy initiatives related to organizational health, employee engagement, or diversity and inclusion. 

In fact, when hiring expensive consulting firms to develop great strategies to foster “the best culture ever,” the strategy ends up living in the Power Point they present and doesn’t ever infuse into the culture’s reality. I can say this because I worked at a big management consulting firm and was one of the people you would spend a lot of money on to hire to fix your company culture. Let’s just say, I’ve seen it happen!

The fact is, you can’t outsource your company’s culture.

Impact Culture Daily

Culture starts at the top with a leader’s vision about what type of organizational culture they value, and then comes to life in the way those values are carried out by leaders and employees on a daily basis.

In fact, if the strategy for a culture is not brought to life on a daily basis, even more problems exist than not having this strategy at all. Think about this common situation: a leader talks at a big employee meeting about the company’s values, but they aren’t experienced in realty. This simply highlights the disconnect and hypocrisy between what is intended and what is felt.

The key to fostering a positive culture reflective of desired values, is to bring those values to life in the micro moments of the day. CONSISTENTLY. Employees will only believe the cultural values if they experience them regularly. The good news is, bringing cultural values to life in micro moments is easy, doesn’t take much time and can be implemented for free. 

How to Execute a New Culture 

Let’s dig into an example for how to implement a strategic vision for a culture – the goal is to foster a “fail fast” culture in which you want to encourage risk taking and learning from mistakes. Here are some ideas for how you bring this culture to life on a daily basis so it’s truly experienced and felt by employees:

  • Email communications: Send short emails to employees sharing an experience that didn’t go exactly as expected for you and what you learned from the experience. 
    • Examples can be from your personal or profession life 
    • Encourage others to share their examples as well 
    • Consider setting up a Slack account to turn this topic into an ongoing discussion among employees
  • 1×1 meetings: Ask each team member individually in 1x1s what new ideas they have that they would like to try. Brainstorm together how the idea could be tested in small ways or what support the employee would need to try something new.
  • Team meetings: Spend five minutes at the beginning of each team meeting doing a lightening round for everyone to share something that they learned last week at work when either trying something new, making a mistake or having something turn out differently than expected.
  • Shared experiences: When planning the next team outing, don’t do the regular happy hour. Instead, collectively try something new that no one on the team has done. Try taking a pottery class or glass blowing class together. Debrief after over beverages and bites about how it went. Was it harder or easier than expected? What did they learn about themselves in the process?

Want more examples of how to bring common workplace values to life through daily, micro moments at work so the values are felt, not just heard? I’m excited to offer team and organizational culture consulting services. Click here to learn more! 

Let's Connect

Beth believes a positive, connected and committed organizational culture is critical to business success. That’s why she combined her 25 years of corporate leadership and management consulting experience with her expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to launch, The Brimful Life, a consulting firm that works with executives to strengthen their leadership skills and transform their leadership teams and organizational cultures to better support the organization’s vision and strategic goals. In addition, The Brimful Life podcast series, keynote presentations and workshops inspire and equip leaders to put people and culture first.

Beth has lived and worked in London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Boston and New York City. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia, a MA in International Relations from Tufts University and an MBA from Columbia University.

Beth lives a brimful life by spending time with her husband and three kids and with running, speed skating and watching cooking competition shows on TV which is ironic because she hates to cook.

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