Thursday, September 05, 2019

Are Your Leaders Supported?

What does the support system for your organization’s leadership look like?

Who is their “boss?”

  • Activist shareholders who are trying to make their 10x investment and get out in the next year?
  • A University Board of Directors wishing to put their college in US News and World Reports Top College and University rankings? Or just survive?
  • A long-tenured senior executive counting the days to retirement?
  • A new boss who is trying to “make a mark on the organization?”

During my time spent among organizational designers, particularly the Responsive Conference and Conscious Business communities, culture change can only happen with the support of the leadership.

Those who try to change the culture bottom-up will eventually hit a ceiling.

At its worst, traction towards a positive change in culture among the line staff and line manager can be squashed quickly by a senior executive or two if there is no support above and among them – demoralizing the line staff and managers for the long-term and harming future efforts.

Furthermore, if you are ASKING your line staff and line managers to change the culture, you need to make sure you are in a position to provide “air cover.”

All it takes is one senior executive to challenge your line staff and you caving in for that culture change initiative to fall apart. And for those who have been trying to create a positive culture to start heading for the exits.

If you have a change you wish to see in the culture, and you want your line staff and line managers to implement that change, what supports do YOU have when they (and you) are challenged by your peers and above.

  • Do you have a strong mentor and/or coach to lean on?
  • Are you clear on your vision and the advantages to your peers and boss if they support you in this change?
  • Are there other areas of the organization and peers that have already planted the seeds of the change you wish to see?
  • Is it clear that the “powers that be” understand the value of the long-game?

In organizations with strong traditional hierarchies, you can be certain that as you, your employees, and your allies try to create positive culture change – a noisemaker is going to escalate up the chain and work to sabotage your efforts.

In a strong traditional hierarchy, asking your line staff to take bullets without PROVEN support from YOU is asking for failure, and for the disappearance of your line staff.

You need to make sure that you have the support YOU need to support those who are helping you with your culture change effort.


Resistance to Change: Overcoming Multilevel Cynicism (Article)

HBR: Culture Change that Sticks (Article)

HBR: Changing Corporate Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate (Article)

The King’s Indian: Why Corporate Culture Change Fails, and How to Succeed (Medium Post)

Michelle McQuaid: Can You Create Change From the Bottom-Up? (Blog Post)

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