Do You Need A Helping Hand for Guiding Culture Change in Your Organization?

If you are a leader on the verge of directing an organizational culture change, it is normal for you to feel like you are unprepared. Driving big changes requires a strong, dedicated and committed effort from leadership, but it is far from impossible.

As you determine the ways in which you will influence a cultural shift within your organization, I think it is wise to step back and view the process from a broader perspective. Most of all, I think it’s important to spend time considering the “Why” behind your culture-change initiative. It is easy to get bogged down in the weeds of details and minutiae, but you need to understand the big picture in order to ensure complete understanding of what’s at stake among your workforce.

How to Generate the Right Mindset for Culture Change

How did you get here?

That’s a question every leader needs to ask when they find themselves facing the need for a big cultural shift.

In my blog post on the topic two weeks ago, I listed ten signs that an organization is ready for a culture change. As you move forward into your transformation strategy, I think it’s critical that you remind yourself of those signs so you can tap into the reasons why your organization’s culture needs to shift.

To reiterate, the signs I listed were:

  • Financial performance and other metrics are less than stellar
  • People feel reluctant to communicate, even when communication is critical
  • Employees cannot get on the same page with leadership — or each other
  • Competitors keep pulling away
  • Employee engagement levels are low or nonexistent
  • There is a great resistance to progress or change
  • Missed opportunities keep piling up
  • Good people keep going away
  • Everyone is focused on the past
  • Leadership’s values are all wrong


This seems like a long list of very difficult issues and attempting to correct each one individually would be too much to ask of any leader. Thankfully, you do not have to tackle each one on its own; these are all issues that can be corrected through positive, influential culture change.

The cultural shift within your organization must begin in your mind, which means that you must develop the appropriate mindset. The first order of business is to take a longer, more holistic view. When you approach a culture change within your organization, you cannot look at it as if you are putting out a number of individual fires; instead, you are shifting and altering the entire landscape. It’s a huge challenge, but it is far from impossible.

Real-World Leaders Driving Real-World Culture Change

It is easy to stand back and discuss organizational culture change in the abstract. I can give you tons of advice on the topic, but I think it is even more powerful to look at real-world cases of leaders who have successfully transformed the cultures within their respective organizations. Here are a few impressive examples:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft is a giant in the corporate world, but the company had been experiencing some challenging internal cultural issues in the early part of this decade. Satya Nadella took over as CEO in early 2014 and immediately got to work on a massive restructuring initiative. Nadella’s approach aimed to bring people together and reduce the amount of toxic internal competition between individuals and departments. Entire divisions were merged, changing the complexion of the company significantly.

Crucially, Nadella understood that communication would be key in the reorganization effort. So, he made a strong commitment to ensuring that everyone from the top to the bottom understood the reasons behind the change. It has taken some time, but Microsoft now has a very bright future, with a workforce that sees real meaning in the jobs they perform.

British Airways Chairperson Lord King

British Airways became an instant mega company when it was formed in 1974, but because it was assembled by merging four other preexisting airlines, it was terribly bloated and inefficient. There was also no single, solid organizational culture to bind its people and ideas together. The oil crisis of that decade caused the company to take a huge hit, financially, while its customer base shrunk. Furthermore, these conditions led to the company developing a reputation for providing awful service to its customers.

Lord King was made Chairperson of the airline in 1981. He took great pains to modernize the airline’s fleet of planes, as well as its approach to treating people. Crucially, King also brought in outside help in the form of a marketing expert who was able to help the organization repair its image. But the most important thing King did in his efforts at transforming the culture was ensure transparent communication between himself and the people who worked for British Airways. Tough decisions had to be made, but those decisions were approached honestly and with excellent communication. Within a decade, the airline became the most profitable company in its industry.

Novelis Vice President of Global Talent Management Joanne McInnerney

Novelis, a leading industrial aluminum company based in Atlanta, Georgia, had been plagued with too much “top-down” decision making and bureaucracy. Employee engagement was very low, and employees did not feel empowered to make decisions, innovate or even communicate effectively with their leaders. CEO Steve Fisher asked Joanne McInnerney to oversee a transformation of the company’s culture in 2015.

McInnerney, who has a Ph. D in Industrial Organizational Psychology, was eager to take on the challenge. By focusing her culture-change strategy on engaging people within the workforce, the culture has transformed considerably in the last few years. As a result, Novelis is now seeing record shipments, cash flow and earnings.

Leaders Don’t Do Culture Change by Themselves

In the above examples — and in every instance of successful organizational culture change — leaders had support accomplishing their goals. Microsoft’s Nadella had help and a complete buy-in from other members of the C-Suite, plus he understood the importance of making employees allies in the effort to transform the company’s culture. King sought outside help, knowing that he could not lead a culture change alone. McInnerney, who is a powerful leader in her own right, was tapped by the company’s CEO to bring her amazing expertise to the culture-change initiative at Novelis.

If you understand that your organization requires a change in its culture, but you are worried that you don’t have what it takes to make the necessary transformation happen, I get it. But you do not have to do it alone. You have supporters and champions within your organization, and there are surely people in your extended network who can support your efforts.

I am here to help, as well. I have assisted numerous leaders during the toughest times in their careers, and I have been there for them as they have successfully transformed the cultures within their respective organizations. I know what effective culture change looks like, and I know how leaders can get their people to jump on board with the necessary transformation.

Are you interested in learning more about how the Leaders Edge can help you shift your organization’s culture? I invite you to reach out today to learn more. Feel free to send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or give me a call at 1.855.871.3374. I am looking forward to helping you transform your organization’s culture in a positive and impactful way.

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