Many lead by example. Unfortunately, not everyone will follow the example you set, especially if you are new to the organization. Improve that by understanding context and vocabulary and changing frameworks, the narrative and processes – in that order.
One of the main insights from my executive onboarding work over the past decade goes to the advantage of converging before evolving. No one is going to follow you anywhere, anytime until you have earned the right to lead. Consider these five steps:
1. Understand current behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment.
2. Learn and use their vocabulary, not yours.
3. Add new frameworks to stimulate new thinking.
4. Strengthen the narrative and emotional connections.
5. Modify processes to build muscle memory around the change.
Understand The Current State
All meaningful change has a cultural component. A big part of converging is building an understanding of the current culture by asking the five most important questions for BRAVE leaders to understand an organization’s behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment.
Learn Their Vocabulary
Every organization has its own vocabulary. Some even publish glossaries of their most used acronyms. But common words mean different things in different organizations. One client scheduled a meeting with me. When I showed up in his office at the appointed time he asked me why I was there. “Meeting” in his language meant phone call. Either way, don’t battle vocabulary. Adopt theirs.
The same is true with values. Vocabulary and values are foundational and sticky.
Every organization has its own frameworks for thinking things through. Some are explicit. Some are implicit.
It turns out this is the easiest first point of intervention. You can get people thinking about things in new ways by introducing new frameworks. Doing this doesn’t suggest you think there’s anything wrong with what they are doing or thinking (which would be threatening). Instead, new frameworks lead to their coming up with different insights and potentially new choices and behaviors (which is empowering). Net, start here.
Strengthen The Narrative
At the last CEO Connection CEO Boot Camp, Oratory Glory’s Holley Murchison led a powerful discussion about the importance of narrative. Some of her main points:
• We communicate with stories.
• The hallmark of a good story is emotion.
• Your narrative/story is a way to communicate why we’re here, what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re going to connect to get things done.
• Start by thinking about your audience and how you can create space for your audience to hear your story. Be intentional about your audience to make them feel like the narrative is about them.
• There should be one master narrative told by different people to different audience members in different ways.
• Stories that feed the narrative can be built on background and interests, values and beliefs, passions and aspirations and skills and achievements.
Net, once you’ve got their minds engaged with new frameworks and new thinking, get their hearts engaged with a new narrative and emotional connections.
Then change the way work is done to embed the new thinking and new stories. Processes tend to be the hardest to change. This is why you should tackle them last and why you should tackle them at all. They are the hardest for you to change to deliver the outcomes suggested by the frameworks you put in place and mandated by the new narrative. And they will be the hardest for others to change to undue the frameworks and narrative you put in place.
These suggestions are in complete alignment with the prescriptions in my earlier article on “Executive Onboarding: The Key to Accelerating Success and Reducing Risk in a New Job“:
1. Get a head start. Start converging even before day one, learning about the existing culture and jumpstarting relationships.
2. Manage the message and the narrative and stories about you.
3. Build the team, honoring existing vocabulary and values and then introducing new frameworks, a new narrative and stories and new processes – in that order.