Updated: Oct 30, 2019
What we were currently doing creates the present, and within an instant, the present becomes the past.
That was the insight gleaned from the unpacking of a case study on implementing change and tackling legacy issues at a peer-to-peer leadership forum
On legacy issues, it emerged that when our teams don’t feel the same level of responsibility for the business as we do, it’s because they don’t feel the degree of ownership that we do, probably because we show them that we are taking ownership of ensuring the overall success of the business, for ensuring problems get solved, new markets are opened up, customers are found and looked after and so on.
We have taught our people that they don’t have ownership, we do.
There was a certain amount of guilt in the room around this. It wasn’t all negative, however. The leaders also admitted to feelings of empowerment, coming from the realization that if we can create our past, we can equally create our future.
So, looking to the future, how do we unravel this belief, or culture, that I, the business leader, am going to take responsibility for everything?
At first, that was a challenging proposition until the participants began to acknowledge that culture isn’t frozen. In fact, it’s always evolving.
How to create a new culture
We discussed various ways of creating a new culture where our people take more ownership and more responsibility. Among the solutions offered were encouraging greater involvement in decision making, asking more questions and listening for the positives in what we hear rather than believing we alone have the perfect solution.
We then did an exercise where we asked ourselves what each of us is doing better in the last two years. Just as culture can evolve, it follows that leadership evolves too – we were attending a leadership forum after all, in the hope of becoming better leaders!
To get more clarity around the positive evolution, we also asked: what have I stopped doing and what have I started doing? What am I doing less of? What am I doing more of?
Positive leadership evolution
The following are some of the answers that emerged:
–I am delegating more responsibility rather than tasks.
–I am asking more questions and I listen more to understand rather than judge.
–I trust people more.
–I am less involved in discussions at meetings and create space for others to contribute.
–I am more inclined to notice what people are doing well and give positive feedback rather than looking for problems.
The final insight from the members on this discussion was to give themselves praise for how well they were contributing to the positive evolution of the culture rather than seeing what they need to change in the culture. In other words, to notice the little changes already happening – green shoots – and encourage these to grow further.
To come back to the title of the blog, which came from a participant on the day, you’ve successfully changed the culture when you see the oasis in the distance through the windscreen, but also see it in the rear-view mirror.