Leading Cultural Change

“Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt.”
­­Bryan Walker, Ideo

What is culture?

Culture starts with what people do and how they do it. In any sector, what people do may not differ dramatically, but high-performing organisations distinguish themselves in how they do it. This cumulative effect of what is done and how it is done ultimately determines an organisation’s performance.

Culture also encompasses why people do what they do. As the Titanic’s captain grasped a little too late on that fateful night in 1912, 90 per cent of an iceberg’s mass lies beneath the surface. Culture is similar as it includes observable behaviours (the what and how above the surface) as well as everything underneath – the shared mindsets and beliefs that influence how people in an organisation behave. Just like a captain navigating frigid waters, anyone trying to understand an organisation’s culture must recognise that most of what matters cannot be readily seen.

Our approach to cultural change through our Battenberg approach places people and their culture at the heart of everything. It’s what keep organisations up and running. We know that to make change sustainable, culture has to be at the epicentre of its change.

Leading successful cultural change.

If you’re radically changing the culture of your business, the quintessential element should be shifting the mindset of the people who work there.

Any transformation programme will also include plenty of challenge, training and support for your employees. Finally, it should plan to visibly reward failure as well as success.

That’s why we invited Nick Horne from Group Chief Executive at Wythenshawe Community Housing Group (WCHG) and Nicole Kershaw from Chief Executive at One Manchester to talk about inspirational cultural change.

Never Waste a Good Crisis

Since Nick joined Wythenshawe, he has taken them on ” a journey of transformation and change and this includes cultural change where empowerment, trust and accountability are central to what we are looking to create”, shared Nick.

Nick outlined  what he saw as the reasons for cultural change in that

  • Culture correlates with performance.
  • Healthy cultures enable organisations to adapt.
  • Unhealthy cultures lead to underperformance…or worse.

For Nick, organisational culture is much about “the environment we create for our employees”, he stated. And, then, he continued “through our actions as leaders that our employees then create a reality around them”.

Moreover, he said, “organisational culture should be considered as a mix of organisational leadership, the business’ traditions and our values, behaviour our attitudes and interactions”.

“There are no old roads to new directions.”  – The Boston Consulting Group.

Let me Love and Steal

Like in every successful formula, there are demanding elements that steal and diminish business cultures and those which add and increase.

Our strategy should focus on these healthy, adding elements. How to drive the attention of new talent? How to retain great performers?

Culture fit is ever-important. With a decisive mindset change, instigating employees to thrive and grow, a culture of effort, consistency, transparency and motivation can be fostered. Organisational culture lets the performer become the real stars. Also, helps to attract and engage new talent.

According to Nick, “when we have a positive culture, it makes our colleagues more inclined to put in the discretionary effort and going the extra mile”. He continued saying that “cultural satisfaction improves financial performance”.

An Evolving Culture

“It’s tough when markets change and your people within the company don’t. “

– Harvard Business Review.

Nicole also talked about her role leading a significant and inspiring evolution and not a revolution and about making her organisation a  “community anchor”. As her culture was “adapting to become more agile and virtual”, by using an approach around the 3D’s Discover, Design and Deliver.

And never waste a good crisis. “What COVID-19 brought into OneManchester was drivers for change with a sharper focus, an opportunity to quickly transform our operating model“, confirmed Nicole.

She outlined her key drivers for change:

  • Service Offer —  redesigning customer engagement offering.
  • Customer Experience – a colleague and customer coalition in a learning environment.
  • Culture – a thriving environment, highlighting recognition and engagement
  • Insight – towards actionable, crafted steps (E.g. ‘Happiness Index’ initiative and a mental health training course).
  • Technology – an improved journey to agile.
Empowering your People

In fact, cultural changes are driven by many factors.

In this respect. behaviour plays a fundamental aspect of this leadership challenge.Emotional intelligence has to become increasingly important”, commented Nicole.

Also, according to Nicole, “communication is key and keeping morale levels up”. In this journey, leaders to recognise how best to deal with conflict, effective, feedback and collaboration.

So, do you Really Want to Change?

The process of cultural change begins with self. What am I going to do differently?

Insights Discovery personal profile

What’s been said…
Really thought-provoking session today with Nick and Nicole. It was really interesting hearing about the need to move from a leadership style of command and control to one of empowerment. In Derek Biddle and Ali Stewart’s award-winning Liberating Leadership model, they discuss the need for equal measures of High Challenge and High Support resulting in empowering people. The model of human behaviour Insights Discovery helps increase self-awareness through a simple yet highly colourful lens. Our leadership style is driven by our personal preferences so if we understand these we can understand our leaning towards a more controlling or coaching style.
Suzanne Shaw, Ascent Development.

If you are interested in culture change then check out our blog on “Culture Change in the time of Zoom”.

Culture Change in the Time of Zoom

Contact us

If you’d like a complementary insight into your style, you can contact Suzanne Shaw at suzanne@ascentdevelopment.co.uk. They’ll produce your personal Underlying Beliefs and Insights Discovery profile which they can debrief over a virtual coffee.

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