How to Best Influence Your Team’s Culture

By Simon Confino and originally posted at HuffPost

“The first step to influence the organisation you are in is to explore your own calling and fear in relation to the change you want to see.” Frederic Laloux

As we start a new year, many leaders will have reflected on how to best influence their work culture. One which relies less on them exercising traditional ‘power over’ leadership and shifts towards team empowerment. One where people feel able to innovate, experiment and take appropriate risks. One which retains and attracts the best people or, in my language, a culture with a high ‘We-Q’.

As founder of the We-Q, Team Collaborative Intelligence App, I had the pleasure of spending time with Frederic Laloux, author of Reinventing Organizations and one of the world’s most influential contributors to the study of healthy and effective organisations. He had strong opinions on the subject.

“The first step to influence the organisation you are in is to explore your own calling and fear in relation to these things.”

Fred explained that if you are not clear in yourself, you are unlikely to have the resilience, or be able to touch the hearts of those you wish to influence. Without that, you won’t achieve the change you desire. This means having a clear eyed assessment of the upside and downsides.

There is always a cost to change, that is why we resist it. So let’s take an honest look at the downside, the risks involved.

Typical examples might be:

“If I speak out, I’ll be seen as a rebel activist and could lose my job’. Or, “what if I experiment and things gets worse and I don’t deliver the figures”. Or, “what if I devolve power to the team and I discover that infighting and chaos ensues?”

Frederic argues that we must face these fears and answer them. Until you do, you won’t have the freedom within yourself to act in a credible and authentic way. There will always be hesitancy, and people will stall the changes you want to make.

Once you have faced your fears, you can start the journey of change joyfully, knowing that whatever the outcome, you and others will have grown and learnt lessons.

The second big question is: What do I long for?

As Frederic says:

“If it comes from the head only, it never works. There is always a counter argument from someone resisting change.”

The desire for change needs to come from a deeper place, from your personal ‘stories’.

It needs to come from either what has hurt you, or the potential you have seen in yourself and others. For example, have you glimpsed your team’s drive, when they have been free to act collaboratively? Do you sense their potential if they were to be truly unshackled and act from deep values? Have you then seen this confidence dented by fearful, critical, bellicose or risk averse management? When you connect with yourself from this deep place and recall your feelings, you have a much better chance of connecting with people’s deep desire for positive change. When you speak from that place people connect, they can’t resist. “Yes we Can!”

You are then beginning to cause change at what Fred calls an ‘energetic level’. He tells the story of the CEO of a hospital who talked to people of her desire for change in a conceptual way; “I want a liberated, empowered, self-managed culture.” She got resistance from people who argued it was not appropriate to devolve responsibility in a risk-averse hospital culture.

The CEO noticed how upset she was seeing nurses standing around and clock watching close to shift change. She was horrified and disgusted to think that the management culture had degraded nurses’ morale and aspirations to serve, that far. It was when she spoke of her feelings that her management colleagues responded and agreed that deep change was indeed needed. The CEO had touched a raw collective nerve. Her insight was to tell a story which reminded her fellow directors why they had come into the profession in the first place.

The final top tip Fred offers, is to avoid being a lone martyr. Create influence virally, one person at a time. You will need allies and believers. Find the person around you who is both a great listener and a great challenger. Together you will be able to dig and uncover the stories which will be most powerful in influencing others to join you.

Good luck!

Republished with permission of the author.

Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.