Is it possible to successfully deliver a change in culture when it isn’t aligned with the culture displayed by senior leadership teams?
In a word, no.
Culture can never be defined just by the content in an employee handbook.
You can build the best value statements, performance management framework, competencies, communications and engagement plans in the world, but if senior leaders don’t support these in their day-to-day behaviour, the desired culture change will never happen.
Live the values rather than pay lip service
We’ve all seen instances of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ from Leadership teams. If the desired culture is to greet each of your colleagues cheerfully in the morning, but the Leadership team ignore you on their way to the office – what message does that put out about their belief in the values?
How people behave sets the tone. Many organisations have integrity, or something similar, listed in their handbook or competencies. That’s quite fundamental. So when potential employees say “what’s it really like to work here?”, you’d like to hear “we mean what we say and say what we mean” or “we’re honest and say no if that’s the right answer“.
Hearing different answers
When these aren’t the given answers, is it possible to change the culture through designed change intervention? The reality is, the Leadership team have to demonstrate support for the culture change through their behaviour. Can one person, the CEO possibly, provide the ingredients to create a change necessary in their Leadeship team?
Or as one CEO put it, is it a matter of “being on the right bus“?
The real answer to the question comes through the tone people use and the feeling you are left with, rather than what they actually say. This is the acid test for successful culture change.