how to transform an old school culture

How to Transform an Old School Culture to Award Winning Innovators

There’s a lot to be said for old school culture.

You’ve got a strong, respected brand. Loyal customers. Your values and mission are clear. Employees know what’s up and what to do next. They’re proud of the work that they do and why it matters.

Whatever you do, you don’t want to lose that.

And yet all that clarity can lead to stagnation. So, you put some new leaders in place. You do extensive market research. Reorganize to keep pace with a changing market. And, you ask your employees to work a bit differently.

It can be tough for your employees to keep up. How do you maintain trust when so much is changing? How do you leverage the best of the old school culture while driving innovation and engagement for the future?

One Secret to Transform Culture, Build Trust and Drive Innovation

I recently spoke with Susie McNamara about the cultural transformation work she led at her last job at a large consumer products company.

When I heard Susie talk about her work on a recent HR Leaders Podcast I was particularly intrigued by a leadership development technique they call “mini- personal experiments.”

First, they leveraged their consumer innovation team to help conduct a strategic brainstorming session with 30 people managers. They used some of the same methods they use to understand what’s on consumers hearts and minds, to tap into what employees need most. Their task—have a transparent conversation to get underneath the key behaviors critical to building trust and engagement.

I love what they did next.

From Old School Culture to Building Courage and Trust Through Mini-Personal Experiments

Next, they identified bold but simple “mini-personal experiments” strategy (if you’ve read Winning Well, think “confidence bursts” where they identified simple but bold behaviors they believed, if practiced consistently, would build better engagement and trust.)

“The magic behind these experiments is that they’re both easy and uncomfortable,” McNamara shared. “We weren’t asking for a long-term commitment, just a focused effort to try out a new behavior and observe the impact.”

Need leaders explaining “Why?” Run a personal experiment. For one day have a manager commit to starting every conversation they have that day with the “Why” behind what they’re going to say next.

Having trouble prioritizing? Join the “Say it with your signature” personal experiment, and write down your top three priorities and include them in your email signature.

And Susie’s favorite experiment, for perfectionists like her who struggled with over-preparing—the “one-hour challenge,” which meant limiting prep time for meetings and presentations to one hour.

Did mini-personal experiments single-handedly change the culture? Of course not. Culture change is always a complex cocktail.

But employee engagement scores soared and they won some prestigious recognition for the impact.

What mini-personal experiment would make the biggest impact on your leadership? What bold and easy behavior could you adopt for one day, one week or one month and study the impact?

Your turn: How about you?

What’s ONE of your BEST PRACTICES for building a courageous culture?

See Also:

To Become Who You Want to Be, Try These 15 Experiments

How CLOs are Rethinking Learning Strategies for Short and Long-Term Development of Employees