Crucial Skills®

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Crucial Influence

Guest Post: 7 steps to evolve a culture from control to trust

Adrian Gostick

Adrian Gostick is the New York Times bestselling author of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results.

Q I’ve been newly appointed to manage a team that’s previous management was very controlling and not very trusting. I am having trouble getting my employees to buy in to our goals, responsibilities, and camaraderie. What are some ways to get them motivated and to start looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past?

A When leaders set out to establish a new more positive culture, they face an equal chance of one of two eventualities: adoption or oblivion. Adoption requires an extensive process of employee input, management accountability, and continuing communication and recognition. Adoption is a lot of work for a leader and thus, it is rare.

Honestly, in our work with organizations, the more common result we see is oblivion. The majority of culture shifts are never integrated into the day-to-day actions. Instead, they fade away—becoming victims of sub-par or inconsistent communication and reinforcement. Where many managers slip up is trying to focus their employees as if this process were something to check off a to-do list rather than a commitment that runs DNA-deep. Superficiality in this process is deadly because employees mirror it. They view the mission, vision, and goals with continued suspicion, rather than as core values to embrace.

A wise leader can begin to create a new culture of openness and trust by starting with inclusion—bringing employees together to draft the team’s mission, values, and goals. The leader must then commit to open communication (we call this a Share Everything culture) and then publicly recognize even small steps toward the desired culture.

In our new book, All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, we defined the seven steps managers can use to influence corporate culture. These steps were built from the results of a 300,000-person research study conducted by Towers Watson. They also include solid direction for turning around the cynicism and doubt your leaders are facing:

  1. Define your burning platform. Instill a sense of urgency about threats on the horizon and define mission and values with great clarity.
  2. Create a customer focus. Help employees focus like lasers on specific customer needs and salesmanship—motivating employees to take initiative.
  3. Develop agility. Learn how to capitalize on new opportunities.
  4. Share everything. Become a place of truth, constant communication, and marked transparency.
  5. Partner with your talent. Have a sincere desire to create opportunities for employees to grow and develop—retaining the best.
  6. Root for each other. Provide much greater levels of peer-to-peer and top-down recognition and camaraderie.
  7. Establish clear accountability. Turn accountability from a negative into a positive in developing a performance-driven culture.

Right now, your particular situation may seem inexorable. It is not. There is a path to a hidden reservoir of drive and dedication in your people. There is a process by which seeds of a strong culture can begin to grow. Good luck.

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