Did Tiger forget to practice?

Golf balls falling out of basketTiger Woods came back to golf in January. After a long layoff due to health reasons, he felt he was ready to carry on.  Unfortunately, his golf game was far from its previous level.  It wasn’t fabulous, it wasn’t even average, it sucked. He finished dead last.

But you can bet that he blasted off that golf course and went right back out to the practice range.  He knows that in order to make an improvement he needs to practice, practice, and practice.

The same is true when you want to make an improvement to your culture. You need to practice new behaviours to help drive change to a better culture. So how does one “practice” culture change?

  • Define the shift you want to make. What changes will drive your organization forward? What is the problem you’re trying to solve?  For example, are you trying to increase collaboration in order to drive more innovation?  Or maybe you need to improve your customer loyalty.
  • Create a list of behaviours that will demonstrate the new way of operating.  If you are looking for better collaboration across your team, how can you shift your behaviours to turn the heat up on that collaboration?  More listening and less directing?  Or maybe you need to be more active in bringing out the contributions from those who are generally silent at the table.
  • Develop a process to practice these new behaviours. In the book The 31 Practices, the authors recommend a framework of picking one item to work on every day of the month.

At one of my organizations we decided that we wanted to improve the culture of reward and recognition. Based on employee focus groups we learned that our employees wanted to be valued by their immediate managers. It wasn’t about monetary perks. So our leadership team decided to put a practice in place of saying three personal thank yous a week. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but we decided to start low and develop the skill set. In fact, we also decided that we would hold each accountable to do it by sharing our thank yous with each other. When one manager struggled, we were able to offer suggestions and get him back on track.

  • Review the progress. If you can’t measure or monitor your progress or impact you’re less likely to keep up the work to develop this new skill. Look for ways to record the reaction you’re getting when you demonstrate the new behaviour.
  • Tweak, adjust your list.  If you’re not getting the results you thought you would, maybe it’s time for a re-calibration. Maybe you need to work harder and demonstrate the new behaviour more often or maybe you just need to give it more time. Sometimes when leaders change their behaviour employees are a bit mistrusting at first.  They need to be assured that this isn’t just some short-term fad and that you’re serious about the change.

I know from my brother, golf expert Bob Weeks that Tiger Woods is a great student of the game. However, I’m also pretty sure that Tiger would agree with Ernst F. Schumacher author of Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. “An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.”

The culture of an organization develops based on the behaviours of the leaders. To have a winning culture you need to have leaders with the right competencies. What new skill or behaviour are you going to kindle this week in order to fan the flames of culture change in your organization and score a hole-in-one?

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