Berger Leadership Blog

5 ways to renovate your culture

Dan BergerCulture is the foundation of a company's success. It's how you attract and retain talent. It's how you live up to your members'/customers' expectations. It thrives when leaders embody its characteristics and lead by example. If you have a poor work environment, your bottom line will feel its impact.

There are many components that ultimately feed into your culture, which can make addressing bad culture and habits difficult. In these situations, it might seem easier to throw out the entire playbook and start from scratch. However, author Kevin Oakes – who specializes in practices to promote high performance – argues that companies should instead "renovate" their cultures by identifying values and traits that work, and move forward from there.

Here are five key ways Oakes outlines to renovate your culture:

  1. Develop and deploy a comprehensive listening strategy. Our organizations are made up of diverse people – from skills, to experiences, to goals, and the list goes on. Great leaders recognize that they don't know everything when it comes to a roles and responsibilities standpoint, so why would you attempt to change your culture on your own? My organization has made a dedicated commitment to improving our culture in recent years: We sent out a staff survey that sought to better understand what our employees want to see from us, and then we formed a Culture Committee that's made up of individuals from different departments. The Culture Committee speaks to their peers, seeks feedback on initiatives, and makes recommendations to our exec team to implement change. These are some of the things Oakes recommends to ensure you get a full picture from your team.
  2. Paint a vision for the future: Don't dwell on the past. Identify areas of improvement, take responsibility – even if the problem began with a predecessor – and make a plan to move on. No one wants to work for a negative boss or someone who can't seem to let a previous issue go. Be an inspiration to your team by acknowledging where your organization came from and how you're going to be stronger.
  3. Identify influencers and blockers: Seek out the natural leaders on your teams and get them on board. Similar to my Culture Committee, Oakes recommends finding "culture ambassadors," who are those that are sought for their advice and insights.
  4. Establish a co-creation mindset: Bring about change by getting your employees involved in the process to identify improvement areas and possible solutions. It might be the contrarian in me, but I'm more likely to do something when I feel a strong sense of responsibility over it vs. someone telling me I should do it. There needs to be that sense of ownership for improving culture across your organization, not just from the executive team.
  5. Ferret out the skeptics: Just as important as identifying your ambassadors – identify those who might be less receptive to change or potentially a bad influence. Keep them on your radar, too, so you can work to get their buy-in and commitment to improving. We're only as strong as our weakest link, so be ready to make those difficult decisions if it's warranted.

Culture isn't something you put into place once and forget about. It's constantly evolving as society, our business needs, and personnel change. It needs your stewardship to keep strong. These tips from Oakes will help you renovate culture when needed.

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About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry.

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