Every Leader Needs to Break an Arm

Many of my “2D” friends laugh when they first meet me because I am built like the prototypical NFL quarterback 6’5”, 235lbs. This week I met with Carrie Wilkerson (@bareboot_exec) and she gave me the typical first comment “You are much bigger than your profile picture.”

As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, the best part of my summer days was playing a sport with all of my friends. However, within in the first two weeks of the beginning of summer, almost on cue, one of my friends would break their arm. This required a summer of patience.

Culture change is hard work and requires enormous patience. Many leaders are by nature impatient people who think results can be produced with the snap of a finger and completed by the end of the week or the end of a quarter.

Culture change takes a long time because it is complex and disruptive. Culture change involves unlearning old habits and acquiring new ways of thinking and behaving. Many employees have invested years in performing the way they are, typically with great rewards.

Getting people to abandon their old ways and embrace new ones cannot be accomplished through an edict, a pronouncement, or a “to all employees” memo. And, the larger the organization and more dispersed the employees, the more challenging it is and the more time and patience it requires.

Coming back from any type of injury requires daily visits to physical therapy and a multitude of doctors’ visits.

Leaders sometimes think their role in a culture change effort is simply an occasional meeting in which the topic is one of many on the agenda or visiting the troops on special days.

Culture change involves daily actions that can be easily witnessed by employees and teammates. Think of the effort this way: how much leader time is presently devoted each day to efforts related to the budget, the bottom line, administration or operations. If the culture change effort is not elevated to at least that level, it will be viewed as an extra, not as the pursuit of a new way of working. Employees have many priorities competing for their limited time and resources, and the “extras” ultimately get ignored or left to chance.

So, how much patience do you have to change the way to do things? Are you willing to invest DAILY in the hard work off the field so your team is stronger on the field?