Seven Action Items to Shift Your Culture Forward

Seven Action Items to Shift Your Culture Forward

Culture is at the heart and soul of every organization across the globe, and Human Synergistics’ 3rd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference examined this topic with the theme of Leadership and Culture—It’s a Two-Way Street. There were many executable learnings that came out of the event and here are six items that organizations can act upon to move their culture to a Constructive style—along with a seventh, personal favorite for each of us to remember.

1. Change the Climate

Dr. Robert Cooke had a fascinating presentation, discussing organizational climate and how shared “perceptions and attitudes” develop in an organization over time. Climate factors represent the tip of the iceberg; they are the things employees feel and sense in the environment in real time and that are visible to everyone in the organization—items such as encouraging real teamwork versus working in silos. Changing the climate factors has a greater impact on climate than actively pursuing the “ideal culture.” Therefore, change climate factors to change culture.


2. Lead and Be a Role Model

Dr. Peter Fuda shared tactics to make an impact, influence others, and transform results. He told the story of a daughter who has two apples, and her mom says, “Can I have an apple?” The daughter proceeds to take a bite of each apple; her mom is incredulous and can’t believe this “bad behavior.” The daughter looks at her mom and says, “Here, have this one—it’s sweeter.” The moral of the story is to always assume good and noble intentions. Dr. Fuda suggests we be a role model first and act out of only good intentions. We need to set the example for how we behave and how we expect others to behave. Set a higher standard and eliminate day-to-day frustrations by taking decisive action. Finally, inspire hope, not fear. Therefore, be the leader you want others to become and you will shift from awareness and acceptance to positive action and alignment.

Always assume a noble intention.
-Peter Fuda

3. Build Level 2 Relationships

Dr. Edgar Schein and Peter Schein spoke of the evolving culture of management to facilitate humble leadership. Many relationships in our organizations could be described as transactional. The objective is to get things done. Humble leadership is about “level two” relationships, which involve true caring and getting to know the person and not the role or title. Therefore, take the time to get to know the people in your organization as individuals instead of seeing only their role or title. You will become a more effective leader.

Humble Leadership

4. Change an Entrenched Culture

Right Reverend Jeffrey D. Lee and Reverend Gay Clark Jennings shared an amazing story about a deeply entrenched culture in the Chicago Diocese of the Episcopal Church. The Church is in the “caring and people” business; however, it was clear from the assessment that the culture was so entrenched it meant letting go of people. Painful decisions were made, and today the culture in the Episcopal Church is moving toward its ideal culture. Therefore, change an entrenched culture to create meaningful and measurable change. People will notice and applaud you for your efforts. They shared how the work expanded in the Episcopal Church to the church center as they worked with Human Synergistics to conduct a cultural assessment identifying both the ideal and current culture. This was another important lesson about how initial culture work doesn’t necessarily have to start at the top of the entire organization.

5. Break Old Habits

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, the “World’s #1 Leadership Thinker,” listed some of the “transactional flaws” we need to lose. These lessons took place through active one-on-one audience participation. Dr. Goldsmith suggested we give more praise or “proper recognition” versus criticism. Stop sharing negative thoughts and stop explaining why something won’t work. Express gratitude versus trying to win too much. Not listening is a form of “disrespect.” So really listen! Therefore, if we break old habits, we also change climate and culture.


6. Measure Culture

Culture can be measured, and we know that there is a direct relationship between a Constructive culture and organization performance. All the speakers touched on this item in one way or another. Therefore, change your organization’s culture and change your performance.

7. Life is Short—Have Fun

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith mesmerized the audience by asking the question: You are 95 years old and about to die; what advice would you give yourself to be happy? This action item is personal for me and perhaps it holds meaning for you, too. Stop chasing what you don’t have, and if you have a dream, go for it. Life is short, so have fun!

Marshall Goldsmith at the Ultimate Culture Conference

I suggest leaders act on all six culture action items and simultaneously find out what brings joy and happiness in their lives.

If you attended the Ultimate Culture Conference, please share your favorite learnings below.

About the Author

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Scott Goodspeed

At the Brown University School of Professional Studies, Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership, our mission is to transform healthcare and create a lasting impact in the world by recruiting the best students and faculty committed to advancing academic excellence, collaboration, and innovation. Scott comes to Brown University from Stroudwater Associates, where he consulted with hospitals and healthcare systems across the US. With substantial industry experience, he focuses on health system governance, clarifying strategy, deploying rapid cultural change and enhancing operational and financial outcomes. Previously he was principal and vice president at iVantage Health Analytics, and president and CEO of four hospitals in three states.