• canibarro

Driving the Culture You Want By Modeling The Way


Most of us want to build teams made up of people that LOVE what they do and feel empowered to make things better. This doesn't happen on it's own. As a manager, YOU have immense power to influence the team culture. When I ask any of my friends who are managers about work, they talk more about their projects than they do about the culture. But when I ask about the culture, they have a TON to say. Why? Because it's like gravity... it impacts the amount of resistance or ease you experience as you move work forward.


When it comes to managing a team of people, you have an incredible amount of latitude to influence your team's culture. Owning the role as Cultural Architect is the first step.

In order to influence a team culture, the team has to see you AS the cultural change you want. For example, if you want a culture of accountability, your team needs to see you as accountable. If you want a culture of openness/coachability, then your team needs to see you as open to coaching. You have to BE IT and then you have to TEACH IT. Seems silly, but it's true.

If you are struggling against resistance, defensiveness or apathy, here are 5 steps you can take to effectively begin modeling the change you want to see: 1. Determine the aspect of culture you want to drive (accountability, innovation, coachability). What is limiting your performance or engagement? Resistance to change might mean you want to build towards a culture of experimentation. Defensiveness might mean you want to build towards a culture of collaboration or a culture of learning/professional development.

2. Define 2-4 behaviors that people on the team would be doing to live the culture. How would people show up and live the culture you think is needed? Make the behaviors quantifiable...some you can actually see someone doing. For instance, if you want people to be more vulnerable and open to coaching, then what would they be saying or doing? Obviously asking for feedback would be a behavior, but that is probably too big a leap. Perhaps seeing teammates sharing mistakes they made... sharing learning they had...making issues visible...being observed and sharing/hearing 5 things you did that was awesome. All of these are observable behaviors AND all of these are behaviors that lower RISK. So if I'm trying to build openness to coaching (which is learning), my number ONE job is to manage risk of embarrassment, not knowing, being judged, failing, etc. This is not to say that you're responsible for people's feelings. But you are responsible for driving an experience where people feel ready and open to grow...IF that's the culture you are trying to build.

3. Reflect on how your team sees you in relation to the behaviors. Confirm with them how accurate you are. So how do you think they see you in relation to being accountable or coachable? What do their actions tell you? Go ask. We typically think of leadership as something we put out or that comes from us, but it really lives in the messages our team has about who they believe we are. Your team has more to say about your leadership than you do. Go learn.

4. Act by committing to a 2-4 week period of actively engaging in the behaviors with your team. You are modeling a new way of being. You are asking them to model how to be with you in this new way of being. You are setting up the opportunity to BE the CULTURE and are officially starting the change process.

5. Ask your team how they "see" you now... after 2-4 weeks of engaging in the behaviors. This is your opportunity to gauge how much leadership credibility you have to lead the change AND how much impact you've had along the way.

It doesn't stop here, but it's certainly a strong start. By doing this, you are modeling the change. You are modeling being open to change. You are beginning to ramp up a behavior change that everyone can engage in that will eventually shift your culture. You ARE building the team you set out to lead.


If you want to learn more about driving culture, register for my FREE WEBINAR this Thursday at 9:00am by clicking here. Register even if you can't attend at that time if you want access the playback!