Changing Corporate Culture: Educate and Encourage

Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Educate

In order for someone to succeed in a new culture they must first understand the culture in question. If you were going to send someone from your company to China you would first give them training on how to conduct business in China’s culture. The same is true when asking someone to integrate into a new corporate culture. You must first educate your staff so they know what is expected in the new culture. By doing this you will give them the knowledge necessary to succeed.

Many firms unfortunately miss this critical first step. Often those in leadership positions see the desired cultural shift as “easy to understand” or “something that will just happen over time.” The reality is that your staff is the central key to your cultural change because they are your culture. Humans inately shy away from change that they do not understand. What is exciting to note, however, is that most humans are excited and easily willing to accept change that they see as beneficial. As a result it is important to educate your staff not just so they understand your terminology, but also so that they understand what you are working to achieve and how it will benefit them.

Encourage

Most people understand the reasons that education is a critical first step, but struggle to see why encouragement is such a key component. When my wife and I first started to teach our children the alphabet we encouraged them every time they got a letter correct. After they had learned five or so letters they started to realize that they were capable of learning the letters and eventually they became self motivated as they became excited about how the letters worked in the world around them.

The same holds true for adults. If you receive encouragement (positive reinforcement) along with education it is easier to understand when you are succeeding. The result is a shorter duration to obtaining the knowledge and the development of self motivation. Simply stated, we learn better when we receive positive reinforcement for our actions.

Most often the encouragement we are referring to takes the form of verbal praise when someone incorporates that which they have learned into their job. The important thing is to ensure that they understand what they are being praised (encouraged) for.

What it looks like

Take for example the objective of changing corporate culture toward a culture that embraces business development.  Under this example, the first thing people need to know is how they can be a part of bring work in the door.  This may require training in areas such as networking, understanding the marketing process, and business development. During and after training management should focus on encouraging employees that try out newly acquired skills by simply saying ‘good job…’ and calling out the specific action that was in line with the corporate culture shift.

 

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Building a Company of Rainmakers

When I first heard the term “Rainmaking” used as an euphemism for bringing business in the door I immediately thought of someone banging on a drum and dancing with the hope of producing rain. Just as I am skeptical of the success of a tribesman accomplishing this feat, so are many of our employers and coworkers as they wonder how the elite 5% of our companies are successful at bringing work in the door everyday. In order to truly build a company of rainmakers we have to breakdown this skepticism with knowledge, and then help others in our companies to truly embrace the rainmaking process.

Drums and Dancing don’t make a Rainmaker, but Networking does
As we discussed during my seminar on this topic at Build Business 2008, networking is the universal key to “making it rain” in business.  This is because everyone, even introverts, can be successful at building strong networks. The key to networking is selflessly and continuously helping other people. By focusing on helping other people we build mutually beneficial relationships where others want to help us in return. Over time these relationships develop into a strong network of people that are continually working to help us succeed. When we apply this process consistently, we find that our network is regularly providing us with leads and information that yield new work.  This is the process that turns someone into a Rainmaker.

Transforming Corporate Culture
Once we have demystified the art of networking we can then walk through the four steps of changing corporate culture: 1) Educating and Encouraging, 2) Defining Expectations, 3) Acknowledging and Celebrating Success, and finally, 4) Rewarding Success. As we follow this process we will find that building a corporate culture that embraces rainmaking is a choice rather than an accident.

Four Steps to Changing Corporate Culture

Corporate culture doesn’t change overnight, just as it was not built overnight. It is not always an easy process, but by looking at the thousands of firms that have gone before us we can identify a systematic process that yields success through a cultural change. That systematic process can be broken down into four easy-to-understand steps that will allow you to take control of your cultural change:

Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Education and encouragement are the foundational step of any cultural change.  Without the knowledge of how to succeed in a new culture it will be impossible for employees to move towards that new culture.  As an example I am going to focus on changing corporate culture toward a culture that embraces Rainmaking.  Under this example, the first thing people need to know is how to “make rain” or how to bring work in the door.  This will require training in areas such as networking and business development. During and after training it is important to encourage employees to try out their newly acquired skills.  Through this process you will begin an ongoing process of training and raising up a company that embraces the new culture.
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Step 2 – Define Expectations

The second step in changing a corporate culture is defining expectations. This should not be done in the context of threatening or coercion, but rather by clearly identifying what is expected of employees in the company.  Note the emphasis on individuals in each step; changing corporate culture is dependent on changing one person at a time. This also means that what is expected of individuals may vary, a project manager may be responsible to achieve specific business development goals while a receptionist may be responsible to learn people’s voices on the phone and address key clients by name.

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Acknowledging and celebrating success is the most important step in changing corporate culture.  Firms often begin the process of change by bringing in outside training and defining new expectations, but the culture change never takes root.  The reason is that culture change is dependent on the acknowledgement of success at the highest level. Taking our example of building a culture that embraces rainmaking, this could be accomplished by the CEO taking the time to walk into individual’s offices just to say “thank you” to an employee for bringing work in the door.  That brief moment of acknowledgement will ensure that the individual knows what they did was important, not just to their manager, but that all the way up the chain their efforts are being appreciated.  In addition to acknowledging success you can celebrate success through popping a cork on a bottle of champagne when a new client signs up, or with bagels the next morning for the department with a note of thanks.

Step 4 – Reward Success

The final step in changing a corporate culture is rewarding success.  Title changes, bonuses, parking spaces, raises, and office locations linked to culture change successes ensure the long-term success of your cultural change.  This final stage should only be implanted after the other three steps as it can backfire without the proper foundation. The goal is to build the cultural shift based on people that are working to build a better company for themselves and others.

A Final Note

It is important to measure your success in changing your corporate culture one person at a time. Your culture didn’t instantly become what it is today, and it will not instantly become what you want it to be.  Rather, focus your attention on the success of individuals, by doing this you will see a wave of optimism unfold as these individuals begin to build your new corporate culture.

For more information on each of the Four Steps to Changing Corporate Culture see the links below:
Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Step 2 – Define Expectations

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Step 4 – Reward Success