When Product Development VP Grace Kim presented the CEO’s new corporate culture to the employees in her department, she was surprised at how quickly everyone started brainstorming ideas to promote the new culture. Colorful posters soon decorated their office floor—encouraging them to be more collaborative, show more initiative, question traditional approaches and improve follow-through to boost results. Everyone was bringing their new “To Boldly Go…” branded water bottles to meetings to remind them to live the new culture that was in place.
But after a month, nothing had really changed.
Her team wasn’t collaborating, challenging, initiating or following through in new ways.
We know why. As consultants who work every day with large companies trying to implement new initiatives in purpose, culture, and transformation, we know one of the main reasons why employees don’t just change their behavior to fit the new culture is because leaders like Grace aren’t helping them live the new values through habit creation.
“Habit” is an overused word that sparks visions of a doctor’s advice. Smoking is a bad habit. Exercise is a good habit.
But in truth, habits are the result of behavior patterns we repeat day in and day out. They become etched in our neural pathways. They become almost entirely automatic when they are changed—one at a time—using four proven steps. Yet, even when business goals depend on employee behavior change, leaders rarely employ proven habit formation techniques to impact these neurologically embedded behaviors.
If Grace wants her team to stand out in living the CEO’s new culture, she needs to focus on one habit at a time, starting with one element of the new culture that is easiest for her team to adopt—collaborating together. Then she needs to follow the four steps or organizational habit creation:
Organizational habits will change but relapses can and will happen—that’s part of the process. Sticking with the four principles—and leading by consistently reinforcing and rewarding the new habits—help make them part of the “new way.”