Yesterday, I ran into an “old” former colleague. It had been years. First thing he said: “How is that we look so old now?” I never liked him. Ha! :)
The truth is that it was great to reconnect. Coincidentally, he’s in the midst of solving some of these same cultural puzzles for his new organization. We talked about Part 1 over lunch.
A couple key points when beginning this new culture adventure …
There’s a huge difference between the sugar-rush, Diet Dr. Culture & Built-To-Last Cultures.
Most staff have seen the Mission/Vision/Whatever that comes down from the Ivory Corporate Tower. They are forced to attend the meetings and trainings, often delivered by corporate types or half-heartedly by facility leaders. During those meetings, they are very quietly grabbing each others hands with a knowing nod: “This too shall pass.” And, they’re right. It won’t last because they (the staff) didn’t give birth to it.
The GIVING BIRTH metaphor.
I’m a guy. I’m no expert. I know. But, I’m a father of 5, does that count for anything?! Here’s the metaphor that fits so well here: Establishing your company/facility’s culture should be like giving birth. There’s power in the creative process. There’s a massive difference psychologically (for buy-in/commitment) if I’m able to participate in defining the culture (expectations, standards, rewards, etc.) as opposed to having Know-It-Alls present it to me. If I go through the “labor“ of wrestling with the words, values, mottos, standards, and behaviors that we want for our workplace, and then the “delivery“ of agreeing to and training new hires in it, then I will be committed to the final product in a way that I simply can’t if it’s presented to me … let me illustrate:
- Several years ago I went through this creative process for the first time at a building I ran in Orange County, CA. Our before and after scoreboard made many in the organization take note and ask me to share our “secret sauce” as we went from worst to first in some key metrics like EBITDAR PPD. I was more than happy to share. It felt like I was on tour as I presented to more than 1/2 of our facilities. I would spend an entire day with a facility’s leadership team – presenting to them the what, how, why, and when of World Class Service, which is what we labeled the culture we gave birth to. The immediate response from those many facility teams was, by-and-large, enthusiastic. They wanted to do the same thing at their buildings. They wanted to do it right away. I gave them our Mission & Standards documents. I gave them our Orientation packet. I gave them our Daily, Weekly, Monthly system for making the culture take root.
And, then I left to the next facility. I hit rewind and repeat. Over and over again. I personally felt tremendous excitement about making a difference beyond my facility. I felt appreciation from ED/DNS partnerships who were looking for that missing thing to take them to the next level. They found it. They believed. And, except for a handful of facilities, most of their efforts fizzed out within 3 to 6 months.Why? I’ve thought a lot about that. Ultimately, I believe two things are absolutely required in order to transform your culture into a transformative force:
The Executive Director must be a “true believer” (not the regional or the divisional or the owner at the home office)
S/he must lead her/his facility through their own creative process. They must reinvent the wheel instead of adopting someone else’s wheel (no matter how successful that wheel made that someone else).
If this is true, then the questions become what, why, how, and when to recreate the wheel. The Birds And The Bees, if you will, of how cultures are made (I couldn’t resist). Culture Birds & Bees. That’ll be part 3 next.