Lots of “best practice” programs promise to improve corporate performance and family harmony in seven (choose your own number) or fewer steps.  Some work for a period of time, and then the effects fade into the sunset.  They fail most often because they don’t increase the awareness level of those involved; and, neglect any new heartfelt emotion or head-smart reason to persevere with new behaviors and attitudes, the momentum to change for the better gives way to the inertia of getting back where we belong.

Several years ago, Emily Lawson and Colin Price suggested that owners and CEOs could make life easier on themselves if they identified the scope of the change they needed BEFORE they started off in a new direction.  For our purposes, let’s just say the scope of change can be anywhere from very simple to a radical makeover – a cultural change for the family or the organization.  How do you increase awareness enough to get people moving and stay moving in a new direction?

Step 1: Make sure people understand that the change is purposeful.  That sounds like a platitude, and maybe it is.  But it’s based on a fundamental premise that you may not have considered:  People do react negatively to the prospect of change.  They react negatively to the promise of change never realized.  Only promise what you intend to carry out; and if you promise to do it, then do it.

Step 2:  Change your reward systems to match the new world.  If part of your new “brand” for the family or the organization is to be more people friendly, then find ways to reward people’s friendly behavior.  Reward comes in many colors (not always green!), and it does not have to cost you an arm and a leg or the development of an entitlement attitude among staff or family members.  But, there absolutely must be a reward!

Step 3:  Be(come) a consistent role model.  Actions speak louder than words.  Joe Batten, a leadership author and consultant, frequently reminded his protégés that “What you do thunders so loudly I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”  If you want to get everyone doing things differently, then you have to be ready to hold everyone (including yourself) accountable .

Step 4:  Make sure people have the skills required.  Telling people what you want is usually not enough to get the job done.  You sometimes have to show them; or, you have to bring in someone who can show them how to make it happen.  People learn differently, and most adults appear to learn quicker by doing than by being told.  Expect people to struggle, at least in the beginning.  After all, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn how to do it well. 

So, want to transform your family or your business culture?  Develop a checklist around the four points listed above.  If you think there should be a few more, add them to the list.  Don’t add steps, and do everything you can to make it easy for people to give you what you want.  And, most importantly, suspend disbelief.

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