How to Evolve your Culture Coming out of Coronavirus (Part 1 of 2)

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One certainty has emerged from nearly every conversation I’ve had with leaders across organizations and industries in the last two months: culture and how organizations evolve theirs is an existential question of the moment.

Leaders everywhere are thinking about some variation of:

Whether it’s back to normal or a new normal, how do we evolve our culture in a way that acknowledges what we’ve gone through and sets our people up for success in the future?

Each Tuesday for the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing 5 fundamental questions that will shape how to evolve your culture to make sure it’s thriving and inclusive.

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For leaders, on your own or with trusted friends and colleagues, now is an especially potent time to think intentionally about what the future might look like for your organization and how your culture will evolve.

I say this not as means of escaping short-term reality or as some thought exercise based in fantasy. Rather, the best leaders use moments of challenge and hardship to develop a vision and find ways to tap into the potential of teams and people that maybe hadn’t been realized before.

A the great author JK Rowling shared in her 2008 Harvard Class Day Speech:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Because culture change takes time, it’s far better to be proactive and intentional about identifying and implementing the inspired future you want, rather than to let it simply morph or wither on its own. In a world of uncertainty, this is one thing you can control and feel proud of.

How?
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Here are the first five fundamental questions that every leader should be thinking about right now in terms of culture and the future:

  1. How do you give yourself grace and space? Just about everybody is burned out and scared and processes emotions and change in different ways. We tend to focus on the immediate. Creating space on your calendar, in your day, away from screens, and away from other obligations — even if it’s 5 minutes — is important to free up mental space and to widen perspective. Doing this even without the pressure to figure out or come to an answer is important. Without a mind a little freer from clutter and angst, you won’t be able to answer any of these questions. A wider view graced by a long-term outlook rather than short-term imperatives will get you to better results.
  2. What do your organization’s or team’s values tell you to do in hard times or when the answer isn’t clear? If they don’t point you in the right direction, maybe this is a good moment to rethink and revise them. Values are far more than words on a page, or posters on a wall. They should guide you when making hard decisions and should clarify how you want people to act toward each other and in doing their work. Values are the universal guiding stars and all organizations should have and live them. Maybe they have evolved in light of recent events. Now is the moment to get them right.
  3. What about in-person connection is important to our organization? Why is it important? The absence of it now is a great time to clarify for yourself: what about in-person connection is valuable for your organization? Whether an all-hands meeting for 1000 people or the way you arrange desk space, what do you need to keep and what maybe are disproven ideas you can let go of relating to people being together? How can you build a sense of community aligned with your values and with people’s need for safety and collaborating in different ways?
  4. Related — what do we stand for about when to open? If some governments and localities start to allow businesses to open before others, what are your own standards for when to open and how you return to business, whether it’s open doors or new marketing campaigns? What do those standards tell you about your values?
  5. Zoom fatigue is real — how do we avoid it? Nonstop video meetings cannot be a total replacement for ways of working because people burn out quickly. A recent National Geographic article pointed out the science behind what a lot of us have experienced. The long term health and productivity of your teams should be the priority. What are the ways of communicating and working that you can employ beyond days full of video calls? How might you distinguish information-sharing from collaborating?

I’d love to hear what you think. What’s working for you? I’ll share my next five questions next week.

Communications and culture leader, author, certified coach, lawyer, yoga teacher. www.azureleadership.com/honestlyspeakingbook

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