What Does Oprah Know about Workplace Culture?

Recently I tuned into a CNN episode of the Van Jones show because Oprah was the guest. I always get a dose of inspiration whenever Oprah speaks and was curious what she had to say this time.

During a discussion of the current political situation, Oprah claimed that “we all play a role in creating our current situation. Americans need to be humble and accept their culpability.” But then she went on to point out that no matter your political affiliation “underneath everybody is this desire and need to be valued. To know that what you say, what you think, what you want to do in the world, your fullest expression of yourself, is the thing that matters.”

Oprah in the workplace

I was struck by her comments and how they equally apply to the workplace. I know that organizational culture doesn’t form simply by the words and actions of the leaders. Every single employee within the company plays a role in the ongoing culture ecosystem. And, I also know that every employee wants to be valued and to be able to contribute.

However, when I’m talking to people about their work what I also hear is that they’re tired, they’re frustrated, they need hope and in some cases they’re scared. “Everybody agrees we should reduce bureaucracy, but nothing happens and leaders all act as if everything is ok” one manager told me. So how do we manage our culture more fully so that all employees are focusing their energy appropriately and realizing their full potential?

The Three Commitments

Leaders need to step up and be humble and accept their role in the creation of the current culture. They need to be curious about whether everything really is ok. This is the first commitment, because then it allows for the “opening of the kimono” as one of my clients put it. It gives permission to move forward with a culture assessment. This assessment will reveal the internal goods on what’s working well and where things could be even better.

Are you ready to make this commitment? If not, what’s holding you back?

Then comes the second commitment. Albert Einstein said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. So if we want the culture to change, something else also has to change.  In many cases, it requires personal growth by the leaders.

How committed are you to your own development? Are you ready to add your support to an already full workload to help your leadership team reach the next level?

The third commitment is the pledge to action. Too many leaders fall into the trap of thinking that running a survey is the action. Sorry to break it to you, the assessment is just the starting line. Yes, it will provide you with robust data and the ability to have wonderful rich discussions with your employees. You’ll collect a plethora of ways to energize your employees, increase productivity and generate a better bottom line. You will have all the tools for change.

How willing are you to make culture change initiatives a priority? How can you make room for this work in an already disruptive environment?

Oprah inspired me when she said, “The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” Isn’t it time for you to step out of the historic culture that exists in your organization so that you and your employees can live your dreams?

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