The Two Prerequisites for Transforming a Culture

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

Peter Drucker once said that “company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.” 

And what have we got? The research studies tell us the same thing every year: people love what they do, but hate where they do it (eighty-six and sixty-six percent respectively, last I heard). If employers could listen in on their employees around the water cooler or during happy hour, they wouldn’t need statistics. 

Where employees do what they do is circumscribed by a single word: culture. The riddle of our cultural dysfunction is leading to an inescapable conclusion: we have to solve these problems together. In all of our conflicts, it’s not about “you”, or “me”, or “him”, or “her”, or “them”, but about us. This means that the better we are together, the more we accomplish, which benefits all of us. 

How do we begin to form a better “us”? There are two prerequisites before we begin, without which we are doomed before we start. 

Two components of every healthy culture

The first is people-centered leadership. This requires people-centered leaders: leaders who recognize the importance of others before self, not just in theory, but organically and intuitively practiced. 

The people-centered leader has wisely learned that to receive what you truly want and need in life, you can’t extract it from others. Instead, others have to give it to you freely. Anything obtained by force or coercion causes blowback. What goes around comes around. 

These leaders focus on initiating and modeling the art of giving. They reap the rewards from giving, distributing those rewards fairly throughout their organization. Mastering this art takes a lifetime of willingness, with character and behavior demonstrating the knowledge and wisdom gained through the effort. 

This means undergoing personal transformation. There is no us without leadership focused first and foremost on us, a reorientation of our natural biopsychosocial tendencies towards others ahead of ourselves. 

The second prerequisite is courage. Any proposed solution obviously requires stakeholder buy-in, but that is just the beginning. Change always encounters initial resistance, and cultural transformation is a magnitude of change greater than most. All resistance is overcome using the same techniques, and all effective techniques require time for them to work. Courage will be required to guide the process through until completion. 

With that said, the greatest courage you will need, both for yourself and for your followers, is the courage to continually change as the culture transforms us. A changing culture necessarily places demands on individuals to change even further. To see this process through to completion will necessarily transform every individual within the culture. You will be pleased with the person you see on the other side, but only if you have the courage to see it through. 

If you are courageously people-centered, I have a solution. It is not new, it is well documented (both within the literature and from numerous anecdotal reports), and I, along with others, have practiced it and can affirm its validity. I also have a map for how to implement it. 

Most of all, it works, because it is not based on “you”, or “I”. It is based on us. Where we go from there will be determined by us.

Here is to a better us.

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