Most leaders have no clue about culture.
No clue. Nada. Nic (Czech). Nothing.
Oh yes, they talk about culture. They convey a belief that they actually don’t understand, but they don’t.
Those leaders that talk most about culture probably understand the least.
It’s all talking but no action.
The leaders I know who are good at culture transformation do quietly what needs to get done.
Here’s what those leaders do well.
- They don’t declare war on culture. They change what needs to get changed.
- They get that they need to go to the roots of culture formation, which is understanding behaviors that have been part of the system for ages (sometimes literally).
- They know it will take a lot of effort to change those behaviors. A lot of communication, training, changing processes, repeating yourself over and over and over again.
- Most of all, they understand it starts with them. That’s why better always starts with who (who they are and how they behave).
If you witness anything less than the above, it’s window dressing.
Culture transformation requires experts. I’m one of those experts. I know where to start.
Start with the CEO.
If they are not in, forget it.
If culture gets delegated, forget it.
Let me illustrate my point with two examples.
Number one. The Dutch government.
For years deals were made in the corridors and backrooms. Parliament was just a toy the governing politicians played with.
It was the Dutch version of House of Cards. Only nobody died.
Then parliament had enough. Politicians had to go. One after the other. Until everyone understood that something needed to change.
Promises were made. Transparency was guaranteed.
Of course, almost one year later, nothing has changed. The Prime Minister is…