Culture may be set from the top, but it’s lived from the bottom up. It’s the experience of the employees’ day in and day out that create how the culture lives, thrives or dies in an organization. We’ve talked in the past about the formal and the informal distinction of any organizational culture. The formal is what’s espoused and talked about; the informal is what’s lived reality for most employees in the organization.
It’s this reality that you should be focusing on when you implement a change, be it a new direction, a new structure, a new policy or new processes. Because it’s in the informal culture where the truth about the policies is spoken and it’s here where ideas to help implement the change are discussed. It’s up to you to fish them out.
In a former organization, I used to hear a senior executive tell every leader in the organization that it was their job to talk to a customer and a customer facing employee every day. The rational was that you couldn’t get the reality of what was happening in your organization by simply talking to your direct reports. They had too much at stake to let it all out.
But the customer and the frontline employee would tell you the truth. Even if it was painful to hear. So my question to you is, what mechanisms do you have in play at your organization to feed information up to leadership? If you don’t have something in place, you need to and it’s a simple fix to start.
You can start by talking to your frontline employees. You can implement a share point for them to provide open and direct feedback. You can create a drop box for the employees to pitch ideas. But, if you do any of these things, you need to act on them. You can’t just let them sit and not take any action. You also cannot not communicate the results of the actions taken.
It gets challenging when you try and make the change in your leadership. You need you leaders to ask the right questions, you need them to learn how to handle tough feedback and you need them to create an environment where it’s understood that providing that feedback isn’t just ok, it’s expected.
To do this, you need to set the tone at the top. You need to reflect these behaviors day in and day out.
Our suggestion … reward those who speak up and speak out for the good of the organization.