You want to change the culture of your team? Change your behaviour first

You want to change the culture of your team? Change your behaviour first

This business blog applies to Football coaches. It came after a long discussion with Fabio and the wonderful illustration by the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.


Each time I meet a CEO or other high-ranking Officer, who’s had the insight that the Disruption Economy requires her organization to transform itself and wants it NOW, my question comes as early as it can in the dialogue: “How badly do you want this change to take place? It is not just a matter of strategy, processes or organization. That is the easy bit. If you truly mean change, what spectacular change are you prepared to demand from yourself? Your people will not believe that change is around the corner, if they do not see you spectacularly change. They absolutely expect you to put skin in the game!”

Indeed, are we still so naïve, in theXXIst century, as to think that our people believe us when, instead of coming in persona to support them for “the most important change for the future of this company”, we send them a video clip or when we go on and on about a list of sacred “behaviours that will take us into the next Century”, we aren’t able to display a single one ourself? Is there anyone who will believe us when we claim “People are our biggest asset” after we laid their colleagues off?

Please take a look at this clip. I have no particular opinion about Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Probably many of you have seen this incident: The Prime Minister, heading in a hurry to a meeting, drops his cup of coffee…

These 1’28’’ are so rich for me:

  • Exemplarity doesn’t mean Perfection: Mark Rutte makes a fool of himself, tries to go through the fence, holding files and his coffee cup falls on the floor just in front of the TV cameras. Superman is dead! Really? Do the janitors look at their statesman as a loser after that? It is not Perfection that made those people enthusiastic about their leader, but his Exemplarity!
  • Vulnerability and Humility: I find interesting to see the embarrassed, stiff and dignified reaction of Mark Rutte’s colleagues (and honestly, I fear I wouldn’t have done better myself!) What a contrast to the Prime Minister taking the broom and towel off the hands of the first cleaner, smiling and joking while starting to humbly fix the consequences of his vulnerability!
  • Respect and low Power Distance: But what amazes me most, is this whole janitors’ team dancing, applauding and supporting him… Would your corporate culture allow this, if you, or your CEO (if this isn’t you yet…) were, while in a rush, to spill their coffee at the entrance gate?

There are three quick test I encourage you to seriously consider before you claim to want to transform your organization:

  • The Clarity test: Are you ready to create time and space for your people to digest what you preach? Will you encourage them to voice their concerns, doubts, questions, hopes and ideas and truly listen to them? Are you going to provide them with Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose so that they “own” the transformation you call for?
  • The Credibility test: How are you going to spectacularly behave differently, in a way that proves you mean change? Which “iconic action” (as one client calls them) will you take and lead to “be the change” that you want to see happen?
  • The Ultimate test: Are you ready to put yourself in danger for this transformation? Will it be your “Schwerpunkt” (focal point)? Will you arbitrate in coherence with your message?

As we all see, the World’s mood is changing fast. Business Futurist Gerd Leonhard says that “Trust is the new Currency”. And still, I see so many fake commitments, pretense of changes, false starts bearing costly disappointments for the whole organization, that I felt my duty to remind us humbly that Transformational Change is more than a communication exercise!

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