Leading Cultural Transformation Is Hard!

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Leading Cultural Transformation Is Hard!

Transforming the culture of your organisation is hard. You do your plan and strategy, tell people what you expect and then nothing much changes. You ask why.

Here are some pointers for leading cultural change.

Clear vision and direction

Be clear about what sort of organisation you want to be and what you are trying to achieve. Decide on the level of autonomy you want to give to your teams and what you want them to demonstrate. What matters is that you say what you mean. There is nothing more demotivating for teams to be told one thing, get excited, and then feel let down because you really meant something else.

Passion and infectious enthusiasm

To change an organisation’s culture you need to be clear about why and how you want the organisation to change and be passionate about that change. Simply communicating it isn’t enough. The whole leadership team has to sell the excitement of where you’re trying to get to and how the changes will benefit not just the company but the individuals working there. If your teams don’t believe in the basis for change, or worse, do not believe you will follow through in practice, the culture of your organisation will not change.

Role-model the change

People take their lead from what they observe the leadership doing. So role-model the expected behaviours in everything you say and do. And constantly challenge yourselves as to whether you’re keeping this up.

You also need to demonstrate the cultural shift in other ways. Think about your office layout. You can’t aspire to an open, collaborative culture if your office comprises lots of single offices and people work with their door shut.

Coach and explain

Simply role-modelling the behaviours isn’t enough. You also need to coach your teams to be able to follow your example. People need to understand the rationale for your behaviours and be guided in how they can demonstrate the required behaviours in their particular area. Give them examples of what you expect, and give them constructive feedback including positive reinforcement.


To change the culture of your organisation, you also need to have good active listening skills. This means not simply hearing what your teams say but actually engaging with them and seeking to understand their point of view. And don’t ignore the more negative people – they often have really good points to make and can win round the rest of the team if you can convince them of the need for change.

Quick wins

Once you explain how you want your organisation to change, you need to build on the momentum created. People generally accept that things aren’t going to suddenly change overnight – and often need time to adjust to the changes anyway. But it’s important to deliver some quick wins early, so people believe the changes will happen. And keep making changes in incremental steps while continually reinforcing your story.

Make the changes mandatory

At some point in the journey you need to make it clear that the status quo isn’t an option. But give people a chance to get on board, listen to their concerns and try to win them round. Change can be very unsettling for many people and they need time to absorb the implications and work out how this benefits them. Once they engage, they will add value and improve on your ideas for change.

Let the teams own the change

Once you’ve set the overall direction you want the organisation to take, don’t try to dictate everything. Let the teams work out the detail for themselves, with you gently nurturing the discussions, supporting, and being flexible and open-minded. That way it is a lot more likely that people will come with you on the change journey.

Keep reinforcing the messages

It’s essential that as a leadership team you continue to reinforce the messages around change and don’t get pulled into the next exciting thing. Remember, your teams will be further down the change track than you and it takes time for all the detailed processes, behaviours and team-working to take hold lower down in your organisation.

If you would like help in making change happen in your organisation, please contact us.

Contact us at Nimble Results to see how we can help

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