Performing an Organizational Culture Change

I often work with organizations that are struggling because of a lack of trust and accountability between upper level management and employees. The management team is making decisions that the employees do not understand or support. The employees are not accomplishing the tasks that management says are priorities.

Does this sound familiar?

How do you re-build trust within a large organization? How do you hold people accountable?

A culture change is the short answer. A culture change, however, takes time. Companies that wish to see a cultural change within their organization should prepare for a 6-to-12 month training and development program. The program should include intense discussions on communication, accountability and feedback from all involved. Grievances should be aired in a respectful and helpful environment. Here are the key elements that a program such as this entails:

Trust: This is key, and once it is lost, rebuilding trust will need to be an active and intentional goal. When discussing trust, it is important to start by displaying vulnerability.

Vulnerability and Transparency: These are key leadership traits. As a leader, you must be honest with your staff. You need to be able to tell employees not only about the work, but also about yourself.

Humanize yourself:  People are harder to trust when we don’t see them as human. Allow people to learn a little about your personal life. You do not have to share intimate details, but a little goes a long way. Share a story of your kids or be willing to share photos of the hot rods you work on during weekends.

During training, focus on developing new strategies and skills to build trust. This could involve the planning of smaller team meetings for leaders to try out new activities and skills. After these smaller meetings, it is important to come back together and debrief. What went well? What didn’t work? What issues and tensions still exist?

Emotional Intelligence is a must during these meetings. If the leader is trying a new approach, it is important to take the emotions of all team members into account. Change is difficult and everyone within an organization will “feel” something about culture changes. Be honest and direct about these feelings. Use phrases such as, “Some of you might be feeling anxious…” or “Frustration is understandable…” This human element allows employees to feel that they are being heard. This small step can lead to increased understanding and trust at all levels.

An organizational culture change involves a lot of planning, a lot of meetings and a dedication to changing workplace behaviors. The desired outcomes must be worth the time and effort. People must be dedicated to making individual changes, in order to see large changes as a group. With the right elements, training and people, an organization can grow in the areas of trust and accountability. An organization can change.