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  • Dr. Ken Thiessen

No Courage - No Culture Change

Updated: Apr 13, 2019



Every good story has a villain and a hero. Without exception, the hero is required to exercise great amounts of courage and bravery to stand up to the villain and eventually “slay the dragon.” The same is true of culture change. The villain in the great story of culture change is the status quo, and the hero is a leader with the courage, bravery and persistence to slay the organizational dragons that choke the life out of it, diminish individual and organizational effectiveness, and threaten its very existence!

Culture Change is Hard Work!

If you’ve ever been a catalyst for culture change, you know that it doesn’t come without hard work - a LOT of hard work. Singer songwriter Bruce Cockburn puts it this way, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. You have to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” In some ways that describes the process of initiating and birthing culture change in your organization. As one who’s been a catalyst for culture change, I bear the scars of the process but the good new is that I’ve also experienced the rich rewards that emerge the other side of the scars! There is nothing like it and I’d do it all over again! Any leader worth following is a leader who will do the hard work of being a catalyst for culture change! Initiating the process of culture change is in many ways the starting point on your way to becoming a better leader than you are today.

Culture Change Requires Courageous Leadership

Once you initiate the process of culture change, assume that the anxiety level in your organization is going to spike! GUARANTEED! Organizational systems have an inherent, built-in mechanism that fights to preserve the status quo. Seth Godin calls it the “resistance.” Some of the resistance will come from surprising sources. People you thought would join you in the fight to “slay the dragon” actually become fire-breathing dragons themselves. Your resolve, determination and courage will be challenged and tested. But just as in the good stories, it’s the hero who’s prepared to hang in there against all odds to win in the end that inspires us to greater things! Your courage, determination, and resolve as a leader will inspire a handful of others to join you in the noble cause of bringing about culture change. Your organization and the key people in it will thank you for it! The ones who don’t probably don’t fit the culture you’re moving into.

Culture Change Often Forces Difficult HR Decisions

The other GUARANTEE when you initiate culture change is that you will have to make some difficult personnel decisions. You’ll discover that some of the people currently employed in your organization don’t fit the culture you’re moving into or they’re unwilling to make the personal adjustments required to fit into the new culture. Sometimes these will be long standing employees, personal friends, and sometimes even family members. Just because the decisions related to these individuals are difficult, that is no excuse for delaying the decision. If the new culture change is to fully take root, the failure of leadership nerve at this point will sabotage the culture change in its infancy!

For Consideration AND Action

1. What’s the fear that keeps you as a leader from initiating the culture change your organization needs?

2. What’s the cost to your organization if you allow your fear to paralyze you from initiating needed culture change?

3. What can you do today to begin that process?

Set up a free 30 minute consultation to help you begin your journey to culture change in your organization!


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