To Change Your Culture, Ferret Out Skeptics and Nonbelievers Early – Blueprint Action #8

Every time I review the 18 action steps of culture renovation with audiences, I say the same thing in my introduction of Step 8.

This is the hardest one.

It sounds obvious to make sure skeptics, blockers, non-believers, doubters, etc., don’t get in the way of culture renovation. If influential enough, they can derail it in a hurry. But in many cases, they aren’t easy to spot; often, they are hiding in plain sight.

In my career, I’ve encountered plenty of people who practiced the art of “the sun always shines up.” They were fantastic corporate citizens to leaders and influential people in the company, but like a hurricane with other people, often those lower in the organization.

We encounter people like this all the time, those saboteurs that sometimes openly—but many times discreetly—derail internal initiatives. There are many reasons for their behaviors. Often, they feel threatened. Their power base is being eroded, their authority usurped, their scope diminished. Other times, it’s purely ego-driven; maybe the idea wasn’t theirs and they need it to be. Sometimes they just intellectually or principally disagree with the new direction but may or may not be candid about their disagreement.

The key is to move those people away from their ability to do damage as quickly as possible, which often means removing them from the organization. Of the successful CEOs I interviewed for the book, several admitted they had to ferret those sentiments out early and make the necessary adjustments.

In fact, our research showed that almost 40% of organizations that successfully renovated their cultures replaced leaders who were not willing or able to embrace and model the desired culture. Conversely, 38% of those surveyed told us that their companies tolerated the behavior of leaders who resisted the change, and their opposition was a primary inhibitor to success. But it’s not always the leaders. As my friend Rob Cross reminded me, research he’s done in the past showed that just one deenergizer on a team can drastically reduce success. As discussed in Step 5, the ability to identify influencers and energizers and enlist them as culture ambassadors is a critical step, but so is identifying and dealing with the opposite.

Need help identifying influencers and blockers? Conduct an organizational network analysis.

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