Story Time with BRM Institute: The Development of Organizational Culture
These days, it seems you can’t read very far into an article about leadership without reading about “corporate culture” and how it needs to change, to evolve.
To evolve something, though, we first need to understand it. What is culture in terms of the workplace?
Simply put, workplace culture is the “personality” of the organization. It is a set of behavioral norms, policies, procedures, accepted behavior, values, attitudes, ethics, goals, and codes of conduct. Wow, what a mouthful! Culture in the workplace encompasses everything that is deemed acceptable in the place of work.
Every organization is different, whether it is large, small, or mid-size. No matter an organization’s size, however, changing culture isn’t as easy as you might think. The reason for that is because culture doesn’t simply exist in the present. It is a culmination of every relationship between two or more people having anything to do with an organization, past, and present.
In honor of the recent Super Bowl, let's use a football-themed illustration. Expand to keep reading!
Conroy was the most celebrated fictional football player of all time. He was the quarterback for the North American Nighthawks (also fictional). The Nighthawks were such an elite team that the players tended to get a bit cocky and arrogant, but none so much as Conroy, the quarterback.
He took every opportunity to make plays himself and to take all of the glory. Conroy didn’t try to play fair and didn’t try to be a good teammate. He was all for personal glory and making more money in endorsements. Conroy didn’t listen to his teammates about making better plays and didn’t value their feedback at all.
The Nighthawks’ human factor was well known in the community as subpar. (An organization’s human factor is the recognition of an individual’s imagination and creative gifts.) The Nighthawks were discouraged, non-interested in camaraderie or true teamwork, and, worst of all, no matter what anyone said or did, people weren’t truly heard as individuals. Players stopped aspiring to make the team, which meant the talent pool was diminished, which meant the team became less talented. Viewership decreased. Sponsorships stopped.
The coaching team decided to do a complete overhaul. They made the difficult decision to fire Conroy and sign on another quarterback to replace him. This quarterback, John, had a great attitude and loved a well-functioning team.
Sadly, his team had disintegrated during Conroy’s leadership. The players had grown accustomed to not getting the ball, not being heard, and not matter in the overall scheme of things. It didn’t occur to them that John could actually evolve the culture, so they didn’t give him a chance. John didn’t realize that he needed to appeal to them.
The team’s reputation wasn’t improving, and ticket sales weren’t increasing. The team’s owners were at a loss for what to do until one of them heard about business relationship management (BRM) and growth mindsets. John brought the idea back to the group and said, “Listen, I don’t think it applies only to business. It applies to all relationships. It might help. It’s worth a try.”
They bought the team copies of BRM Explained (link), highlighted sections applicable to the team, and asked each player to read the book and come to the next practice ready to begin evolving their culture and playing better as a team.
The players weren’t sure at all that this tactic was going to work, but they gave their word that they would try. Their team was important to them, and they wanted to save it.
So, they kept their minds and hearts open as they came to the next practice. They learned that John could see individual talents on the team that Conroy hadn’t been open to seeing. John saw that he could utilize those talents in different ways, and the players who were developing their growth mindsets came to trust him to put their talents to good use as they all adopted a shared purpose and moved in the same proverbial direction.
As the players became happier, so too did the staff, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the vendors, and everyone who had anything to do with the team. Word-of-mouth began to spread that the North American Nighthawks had changed—and eventually, most people gave them a second chance. (Of course, this didn’t include the Antarctica Anteaters, but that’s a different story. The Anteaters were just miffed that their made-up name didn’t hold a candle to the Nighthawks!)
The culture shift didn’t happen overnight. The team’s reputation had to be rebuilt, and trust had to be earned. But the Nighthawks were persistent. They worked on their relationship skills, and they put in the effort. Ticket sales increased. Sponsors returned. The Nighthawks won the World League so-called Playoffs. They evolved their culture and changed their lives—all because they developed their growth mindsets, managed their relationships, and adopted the principles of BRM.
So, while this story was dramatized, you get the point. Culture is far-reaching, and it takes a concentrated effort of positive relationships to change it.
BRM skills can be put to use by anyone with relationships. And for organizations and the teams within them? Well, BRM is the secret sauce to becoming more efficient, more productive, and having an overall smoother operational experience. Of course, BRM is also the key to having a healthy and thriving organizational culture.
If you’d like to examine ways to evolve your organization’s culture, register for the upcoming workshop on March 29, 2022:
From Fear to Fulfilled: Being fearless while redefining achievement and evolving culture in your organization.
Other educational resources to hone this skill include the BRM Fundamentals class. A two-day class begins on March 14, 2022.
For further reading about the power of business relationship management, try BRM Explained: The Collected Works.
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