07 Aug Embracing the Cultural Shift as Leaders
In this piece we exam the cultural shift needed to improve how people see and feel about their work. There is a concept we like to call ‘Green Paper Thinking’. It stemmed from a previous work experience of one of our people where the printing of a specific file type was always on green paper. Then one day, this file grouping was unexpectedly needed and incited panic because they were out of green paper. When queried why the paper must be green and whether they could use another colour like blue or pink, the vigorous response was: “But we’ve always used green paper.”
This sentence has stuck with them over the years, and it sums up for us how overtime ideas and practices in companies can become cemented into their culture and often, to their downfall. As it turns out, it didn’t have to be on green paper, but people felt there was no room for change. This is why we believe in avoiding Green Paper Thinking at all costs. Businesses will always be in a constant state of flow, and we need to be moving with them.
“Moving together is the only option rather than leaving
some behind because this is a multi-generational shift.”
Changing the culture or your company and adapting to this shift can be a daunting and challenging process, but like anything, the unrest lies mainly in fear of the unknown. There is a way to navigate through the transition as if sitting in first class; it’s by taking a rather sensory approach.
Start with looking at your people. No doubt, there is a very different cohort sitting in front of your than the initial hiring day. Depending on where you are at with your company’s lifespan, you might have several generations sitting in front of you who have different motivators. With younger generations, there is a desire to know how they are doing and want to be more involved in decision making. It’s also reflected in how technology has transformed their lives and the insatiable appetite for instant gratification. It’s being sought in their place of work too while older generations had and many still have an entirely different approach to their working lives.
with both hands and truly commit to it.”
Next up is listening. Listen, then listen again and then listen some more. Replace the amount you speak with the amount you hear. Swap your ears and mouth and go from there. The answers are all there in front of you, within your people if you connect in with them. Despite leading the change, they will be the ones to guide you through the process of the cultural shift. The listening must be constant and consistent including pre, during and post the process. It’s the best way to ensure they are happy and your move, as well as where you decide to land, are solid.
Being open sounds like an obvious must, but not everyone is. Not everyone feels their work environment encourages a safe space open to advancement. Things are changing, not everyone will respond well to that, but it’s imperative everyone has an open mind as the process unfolds. There will always be some of your people more receptive to changes than others. It’s essential to have identified them in advance, allay their fears and check in with them throughout the process. Also, do not take those who are more open to it for granted either.
Finally, embrace the change. We have come a long way from traditional desk jobs to distributed teams working via technology across the globe. Tech has blurred the lines of our modern lives by removing the compartmentalising ways of the old. And this has been further compounded by how we’ve been forced to reconfigure our working ways this year. We need to grasp the cultural change with both hands and truly commit to it. It’s the only way. Otherwise, you risk a fractious and disharmonious result.
We are talking about the cultural shift as if adapting to it is non-negotiable, but you can stay where you are. You can print eternally on green paper if you wish. You run the risk however of someday finding everyone else using a digital multicoloured format, and your people are now working for them too.