I was just speaking with a client, the CEO, and owner of a small business with twenty employees. He was deeply frustrated that he hadn’t been able to make any progress on a significant change he wanted his team to make. He wanted them to become more responsive and proactive, so he hired us to help them develop a culture of change.
Obstacles to Developing Company Culture
Most people are resistant to change. There are a number of reasons why:
- We’re hard-wired to seek sameness as a shortcut to safety. The amygdala is a part of the limbic system. It is constantly scanning the environment for potential threats. Unfortunately, anything that’s new or different is perceived as a threat.
- We’re inherently afraid of failure; our culture fosters perfectionism. Think about it: from the time we’re five years old, we’re taught that failing more than 30% of the time is unacceptable (that’s a C grade). In the real world, failure rates hover in the 85-96% range. Success is anything but a sure thing.
- We’re afraid of the unknown. This relates to the limbic system that is responsible for the fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses. Unknown=unsafe.
- Most of us work in a corporate culture that doesn’t encourage failure, even when they say they do.
4 Steps to Embracing Change
With the deck stacked against you, how can you overcome people’s natural resistance to change? Here’s what we do at NextGen Orgs:
- Develop a culture of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the very foundation of cohesive, agile teams. High performing teams develop a culture of deep, vulnerability-based trust. This creates a sense of psychological safety. It takes time to develop a culture like this, but there are specific practices we teach teams to adopt. Some examples include: develop emotional intelligence, learn how to have difficult conversations in real-time, and develop a practice of continuous feedback.
- Practice failing as a team in a facilitated space. This is one of my favorite things to do. We get a team together offsite and take them through a series of games (yes, games) that first illuminate the ways in which their culture isn’t optimal. These games then teach them how to work better together, brainstorm solutions, and find the best outcomes.
- Celebrate failures as they happen. Lots of companies give lip service to celebrating failure, but very few actually practice it. Do you highlight the best failure every month? Do you have a Slack channel for people to post their failures and what they learned from them? Those are just two ways you can celebrate failure.
- Practice mindfulness. Studies have shown that people with regular meditation practice are more resilient to change. One, in particular, showed that 50-year-olds who meditated for fifteen minutes a day had minds as nimble as 25-year-olds. A regular mindfulness practice makes a person more creative, more adaptable to change, and more resilient in the face of failure.
Do you have a story about an epic failure? Please share it in the comments!
Johanna Lyman is the Founder and CEO of NextGen Orgs. She is a Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach with over fifteen years of experience in implementing organization wide change strategies for both Fortune 500 companies and Small Businesses.
At NextGen Orgs, we use a combination of unique delivery methods and processes to get results. These methods crack the code on establishing lasting organizational behavior changes and do so in a relatively short period of time. Our proprietary and evolutionary system can eliminate months of leadership-related frustration. Therefore, empowering employees to develop strong leadership and build a cohesive, collaborative team.
Johanna is a professional speaker, available to speak on a variety of topics related to culture, communication, innovation, and leadership skills. She is the Board President for the Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism. She is deeply versed in how to help businesses have an impact and be a force for good in the world. Learn more (URL: https://www.nextgenorgs.com/about/). Contact Johanna at firstname.lastname@example.org