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In It For The Long Haul: The Reality of Culture Change – The Prime Time Way

Deion Sanders creating culture change

Back in September my esteemed Butler Street colleague, Joel Schaeffer, wrote a blog during the early days of the 2023 college football season outlining what is needed to implement culture change – using Coach Prime, aka Deion Sanders, as a ripped from the headlines example. And honestly, at the time it was (still is) a really good example, with the CU Buffs winning their first three games of the season, instantly exceeding expectations and creating serious buzz.

But as is usually the case, culture change, especially in a turnaround situation (be it in football or in business) is a massively challenging endeavor that requires careful planning and execution. Even with careful planning and execution (and a healthy dose of swagger) it rarely happens quickly or without some serious bumps and bruises along the way (and in the case of Coach Prime’s CU Buffs, winning only one game (4-8) the rest of the season, losing out on a bowl game opportunity, and putting the CU fanbase in a rut).

As leaders, and as we have seen with Coach Prime, we need to be mindful of how we approach shifting culture that we know is a long-term game, and at the same time, achieve results in a way that shows progressive improvement. Here are the top three things that leaders should consider (and that we’ve seen Coach Prime do) to persevere in the tough moments along the way to help turn the tide:

1. Clear Vision and Communication:

  • What is Needed: Leaders need a clear, compelling vision of the desired future state of the organization. This vision should be inspiring, realistic, and aligned with the company's values and goals.

  • How to Persevere: Constantly communicate this vision to all levels of the organization. Use storytelling and real-life examples to make it relatable. During setbacks, remind everyone of the long-term benefits and how current challenges are stepping stones towards achieving this vision.

2. Employee Engagement and Involvement:

  • What is Needed: Employees should feel that they are a part of the change process. This involves soliciting their input, addressing their concerns, and making them feel valued and heard.

  • How to Persevere: Maintain an open dialogue with employees, even during tough times. Encourage feedback and take it seriously. Celebrate small wins and recognize contributions to keep morale high. Show empathy and support, demonstrating that you understand the challenges they face and are there to support them.

3. Flexible Strategy and Adaptability:

  • What is Needed: The strategy for change should be well-defined but flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Leaders should be prepared to adjust as needed, based on feedback and changing conditions.

  • How to Persevere: Develop a mindset of agility within the organization. Encourage a culture of learning from mistakes and failures. Invest in necessary training or re-tooling to help your team make the right course corrections. Use setbacks as opportunities to refine strategies and processes. Stay focused on the long-term vision but be willing to modify the approach as necessary to stay on track.

You can bet that Coach Prime is already making moves for a better 2024 season, and as leaders, we should too. At Butler Street, we help prepare leaders to lead in a variety of circumstances, especially to implement successful culture change turnaround situations. We help leaders understand the value of consistent leadership (with a balanced dose of swagger), appreciate the value that L&D has when making culture change happen – and stick, and become more aware of what their teams need to be truly successful. With good habits and the Four Cornerstones of Success® at their and their team’s disposal, leaders can focus on clear and consistent communication of the vision, actively engage and involve employees in the change process, and remain adaptable, using setbacks as learning opportunities to refine their approach.

Need help getting there? Contact us to learn more about how Butler Street has helped leaders like you create lasting culture change.

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