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Consciously Creating Cultures

Conventional culture change efforts that involve declaring Vision, Mission, Values,

Principles etc., and disseminating those foundational elements throughout the organization, are valuable. But they do only part of the work. And it is the (relatively) easy part. Stopping at that point will yield change at a similar rate of effectiveness as a New Years Resolution…

The success rate in culture change work is quite low. Because they are not founded on an understanding of the nature of culture, and why it's so difficult to change.

If we are to change culture, we must first understand what it is. We define culture as, The unspoken and unconscious rules of engagement within any group of people. These unspoken rules govern everything; what can and cannot be discussed, what language is allowable, how people dress, the assumptions decisions are based on — everything.

Without conscious effort, culture just happens. When you walk into work do you say to yourself, “I’m going to follow these rules today,” or “I have to remember how to act today in order to fit in?” Of course not. Humans are social animals; once we are acclimated to a culture, we will adopt its practices (unconsciously) because we want to fit in.

Culture is unconscious, and it’s a product of Leadership. Cultures arise from the behaviors demonstrated by the organization’s leaders. Most cultures do not mirror just the CEO’s behavior, but the collective behavior of the leadership team.

You might ask: Why doesn’t the leader just change the priorities? Not so simple! Those priorities arise from her or his unconscious behavioral needs. Behavioral profiles such as Disc, Myers-Briggs, or our own Insight Coaching System offer insight for people into what their unconscious priorities are and how they shape behavior and therefore culture. The entire leadership team must be made aware of how their collective unconscious behaviors are impacting the organization if they are to have a shot at improving their organization’s culture.

Any culture change process that ignores these unconscious behavioral needs is doomed to failure. Once leaders are aware of their unconscious habits; which ones support those foundational elements, and which do not, they can:

  • choose when to employ their unconscious habits and when not to.

  • develop conscious habits (what we call conscious success strategies)

The Formula for Effective Culture Development:

Culture change = becoming conscious of one’s unconscious needs + evoking personal commitment to Vision, Mission, Values throughout the organization.

We have been doing Organizational culture development work for 30 years, and over that period have distinguished the Root Cause Attributes that both enhance and detract from organizational performance:

  1. Innovate. Root Cause Attributes: Creativity, Psychological Safety, Authority, Accountability, Results Focus, Strategy, & Coaching.

  2. Perform as a United Team. Root Cause Attributes: Openness, Trust, Role Clarity, Cooperation, Meetings, & Management.

  3. Evoke Engagement from Associates. Root Cause Attributes: Personal Purpose, Personal Responsibility, & Personal Growth

  4. Universal Detractors; behaviors that detract from the effectiveness of any organization: Drama, Condescension, Selfishness and Blame.

Once these unconscious Root Cause Organizational Attributes are identified, leaders must become aware of how they personally are contributing to these attributes. How they are behaving relative to these same attributes. In this way leaders can see how their personal behaviors directly leads to the organizational culture, and provides input as to what personal developmental targets they commit to.


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