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6 Ways to Transform Culture Part 1

May 18, 2020

Have you ever worked in an organization or on a team that exhausted you? The kind of place that took every last ounce of energy from you at the end of the day? Left you feeling drained and spent?

Conversely, have you ever worked in an organization or on a team that was exciting? The kind of place that left you surprised at the end of the day that the time went by so fast? Left you feeling energetic and motivated to come back the next day to continue the tasks at hand knowing that you were doing something that was going to make a difference? Knowing that you were accomplishing something that mattered to someone? That’s the difference between a company that makes-do and one that is an industry leader. Becoming a leader in your industry brings top talent, money, and brand recognition. You can cause this type of change with just six steps.

6 Ways to Transform Culture

My Experience

I have facilitated dozens of cultural workshops over the course of the last 20 years and a common workshop exercise is to describe the current culture and the practices or behaviors that the team wishes to change or evolve. Across multiple companies and dozens of teams, the lists are strikingly similar, consisting of: lack of communication, working in silos, limited propagation of knowledge, blaming, being reactive, and doing the same thing over and over. Desired cultural behaviors and norms conversely consist of: regular and frequent communication, teamwork, desire to share knowledge and improved training, learning from mistakes and issues, being proactive, and continuously improving. The fascinating thing about these lists is how consistent they are from team to team and organization to organization. The ‘how’ to begin to tackle shifting a culture from one set of norms to another becomes the key. 

While the desired cultural states are strikingly similar in their description, each culture remains a unique entity with its own nuances and personalities. As a result, the mechanisms for shifting culture could look different from one to another while striving for the same end result. The important thing to remember is that all cultural transformations must have leadership support, as the leader sets the tone and the tempo for how cultures perform and behave. 

Over the next two months, we will explore 6 cultural transformation behaviors that leaders can employ in their interactions to leave the team feeling energetic and motivated. They are amazingly simple and they demonstrate and model the norms of the kind of behavior that will be tolerated and accepted versus what will be confronted and driven out. These personal habits are things that all leaders can do to help shape and transform the culture of their organization to a culture that people find infectious and attractive. 


There is nothing that makes as big of an impact in person to person interactions as simple as a smile. A genuine smile communicates that “I enjoy being in your company. I am interested in this interaction. I am happy that we are interacting. I have time for you. I find value in our relationship.” All of these things and more can be communicated with a smile. Even more amazing is that smiles are usually infectious all on their own and one smile typically perpetuates additional smiles that will permeate the organization leaving people feeling good.

Good Morning

The workplace is often a place where people can focus and get things done. Oftentimes this means people are living within their own minds sorting out the things that need to be completed to accomplish the greater tasks and objectives. Unfortunately, this can leave people passing by each other in hallways and workspaces without acknowledging the other. While in ‘peer to peer’ interactions this can happen from time to time without major fallout, for leaders it cannot be overlooked. When a leader does not acknowledge the other person, it gets noticed and can ultimately foster and create the kind of culture where ‘peer to peer’ relations wither due to individuals all feeling as if they are working in isolation. 

Say “Thank you”

This is one of the easiest and simplest ways to communicate to people that they are appreciated and their contributions are noticed. That the part they play in the organization matters and is recognized. Saying ‘thank you’ is an extremely underrated and underutilized phrase in many organizations and the reason why is fascinating. The responses I have heard from leaders is: “Why should I say thank you to someone for doing their job? That’s what I am paying them for.” Such a mindset couldn’t be more damaging and toxic to the soul of an organization. 

The experiences and interactions created by the leader defines the type of culture that ultimately results. Next month we will explore 3 additional behaviors that leaders can employ to help build up and motivate their organizations and transform their cultures into infectious and sought after places to work.



About Jacob Dombroski

Jacob is a manufacturing director with over 20 years of experience in CPG and Packaging industries. He has held multiple roles in leadership over the past decade which has help shape and develop his philosophy and perspective on taking care of people and what makes a great leader. Jacob lives with his wife and son in Southeast Michigan.

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