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Change the Climate Before You Try Changing the Culture

Recently, during a weekend of watching college football, I heard a commentator describe a situation at one school’s athletic program. Though the university is a good one, the football program had been mired for years in mediocre success, often barely rising about a 500 season (win half, lose half).

Two years ago a new coach was hired. He immediately began implementing some changes to steer the program in the direction he believed it needed to go.

A change like this is not unlike the things a new CEO will do at a company. College football is not really any different these days. It is big business. Love it or hate it, football programs generate big bucks for schools. Head coaches are counted on to produce new and better results.

Change the Climate First

According to the commentator describing the transition, the new coach embarked first on an effort to change the climate on campus. The school had been used to losing at football. Therefore the football players had no big expectations of doing anything different. You might say the bar was set pretty low.

Apparently, the coach began talking about “what if”. What if we won more games? What if we competed more completely with the rival schools who were used to beating us? What if we won a title and played in a bigger bowl game?

He was basically planting the seeds of new expectations. He worked to stamp out the old, limiting beliefs. In doing so, he paved the way for the creation of a whole new culture. The culture would be the bedrock of success in the future.

Leveling the Field

As the climate changed there was a clean slate for presenting the new culture. It was simple genius.

If the coach had not worked to change the climate first, anything and everything about his vision for a new, winning culture would be conflicting with the old way of thinking.

People taking on new leadership roles in business may face similar challenges. If at first, you fail to check the weather around you (the climate), anything about your vision for building a new culture may fall flat. Perhaps even be declared dead on arrival.

Old Fashioned Change Management

What we are really talking about is implementing some solid change management before you start talking a new language of the change and setting new guidelines and procedures. Here are a few steps to consider.

Assess the Mess

Take a step back and assess the mess. Look around at all that has been happening. It’s time to get things back on track. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. It’s time to decide what needs to be done.

Take It Slow, but Be Intentional

Don’t rush to judgment. Take it all in. Hear everyone’s concerns. But while you are doing that, make every day be intentional. Don’t leave any part of your plan to chance.

Watch Your Back

As people learn about your plans and ideas, be watchful of those who want to cut you down. Beware “the Tall Poppy Syndrome” and the cutters who want to knock you off course.

In Conclusion

Taking on a new role like a head coach of a major college football program is not different than becoming the leader of a large organization. You have to overcome bad habits that existed prior to your arrival. Mindsets need changing.

You’ll never implement a culture change if the general climate has not been addressed. It would be like flying into perpetual headwinds, burning your fuel, and stalling your progress.

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