Implementing Culture Change

Posted by Jenni Catron on Sep 25, 2019 1:02:34 PM

Cultural change isn’t something that occurs overnight. It’s something that must be cultivated over time and on purpose. Great leaders understand the ultimate goal of these efforts. No healthy culture can remain stagnant. Read on to learn more about five steps you can take to make this happen in your business or church.


5 Steps to Implement Culture Change

Here are the five steps:

  1. Clarify what needs to change

  2. Identify what caused the vision drift

  3. Understand your present culture

  4. Listen and listen well

  5. Find those early adopters

Now, let’s dive into the implementation.


1. Cast Vision

What is vision casting? It’s the first step. That’s because people typically don’t see the need for change. That’s common, so you, as the leader, must help people understand the potential benefits of changing cultural behaviors. It’s hard because you seem like the bad guy. People are resistant to more accountability, processes, systems, or expectations. Often cultural change is uncomfortable for people because it disrupts the behaviors, the norms, the patterns that are comfortable and familiar. 

You want to help people see what you would be able to accomplish if you were more accountable to each other? How many more people would you reach? Cast a vision for what’s possible. I bet you’d get a lot more done. 

In situations where accountability is needed, I’d remind your team of their stewardship responsibility. This is especially important for churches, nonprofits, or where you receive donations to your organization for the work you do in a church setting. People are giving out of faith and obedience to God, which allows others to draw a salary for doing ministry work. 

Here are some important thoughts to keep in the forefront of service.

  • When others give of their resources in faith and obedience, we need to uphold our end of the bargain and give our absolute best in time and energy. Vision casting helps everyone see beyond themselves and focus on accountability and stewardship of resources. People deserve our absolute best.
  • Remind and inspire volunteers that every Sunday, someone may be attending for the very first time. We want to do everything we can to make sure they hear the story of the Gospel that could ultimately impact their lives. We don’t want to do anything that would hinder or get in the way of that opportunity.
  • As a team, we’re committed to each other. We show up on time, and we embrace responsibility because the experience we’re creating could have an eternal impact on others.


2. Be Patient and Go Slow


Patience is hard for leaders. We naturally see a preferred future, and it’s a no brainer for us, but temper your impatience. As a leader, you naturally see further than others. It’s how God’s gifted you as a leader, but don’t be prideful because you can see what’s ahead. Leading cultural change may be part of your unique gifts. You create the pathway. It’s a tension that you must manage as a leader because you want to embrace what’s ahead, bringing people along with you, rather than dragging them kicking and screaming. Be patient and go slow.


My husband and I do a lot of hiking. He obviously can go a lot faster. He’s a lot stronger and has more endurance. When we go hiking together, he isn’t dragging me up the mountain. He slows his pace to match my pace. He carries extra gear in his backpack, so my pack is lighter. He lightens my load and makes the path easier for me so we can arrive there together. That’s what we do as leaders. We look for ways to make the path clearer and to slow our pace as we bring people with us.


3. Invite Feedback


Although leadership feedback should be a continuous process, find a couple of people who can give you feedback on how the team is experiencing the changes that you’re making. How is the team responding to cultural changes? What are they feeling? Usually, people don’t let you know until they’re frustrated or disgruntled, so have those trusted people tell you how the team is responding.


Don’t wait for them to come to you after things have escalated and it’s too late. Remember, they don’t want to disappoint you. Seek them out and let them know they have permission to give you valuable and honest feedback. Create a feedback culture. Let them know you want to hear the good and the bad to make this the best process possible.


4. Be Honest About your Team


If you do all that you can do, and there are still some people who remain resistant to the point where they are a detriment, it might be time to decide whether they should stay on the team. I would caution if your whole team isn’t with you, then pause, slow down, listen, seek to understand. But if there are one or two people and it’s the minority, not the vast majority, then it might be time to be honest with yourself and with them.


Maybe the culture is changing in a way that they don’t feel like they can align anymore. They may not be able to make that change and leap with you. Sometimes, we’re reluctant to recognize when a season has changed, and it’s time for somebody to move on. These partings are normal and necessary. And it’s okay. How you lead through this, however, is critical. A great resource on this topic is Dr. Henry Cloud’s book called “Necessary Endings.


5. Pray About Your Leadership


It goes without saying that you should pray throughout your leadership, but particularly when you’re leading through cultural initiatives. We want to spend time in prayer, giving everything to God. Pray for discernment, wisdom, and lean on God’s direction. 


One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of Nehemiah. It’s a case study on how a leader navigated through change. What strikes me about Nehemiah as he’s leading the people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem is how many times Nehemiah goes to prayer throughout the entire process. It reveals his relationship with God and how seriously he took his leadership responsibility. Nehemiah knew leadership wasn’t about him. He knew it was about the people that he was leading. He knew that he had to seek God for wisdom beyond himself.


A Leader Who Shapes Culture, Shapes Lives

We’ve been given this beautiful responsibility of leadership. It’s a treasure to steward well. We need God’s wisdom to lead and guide, especially through cultural change. 


I would encourage you to remember that leadership shapes human lives. And for that reason, it’s sacred work. You get to partner with God to lead yourself and lead others to accomplish his vision and his plans. That is sacred and beautiful work.

Live Out Your Vision & Purpose

Remember, we contribute to culture. Culture is the uniqueness of each person that you lead and who help live out the vision and purpose. Slow down to see them and inspire them to be the best that they can be. Create the best culture that you can for your teams because everyone wants to be part of something great. They need a leader to show them the way.


To change a culture, cast a vision that helps others see the path of possibilities.

** Culture Matters | Free Workbook  **

Most leaders agree that a healthy culture is essential in any organization. Everything we do as leaders is either building or eroding culture. 

We want to help you develop an extraordinary team culture, so if you haven’t downloaded our free workbook, please access this resourceThis guide will help you define your culture, develop your vision statement, and develop your plan for an extraordinary team culture!


About the Author

Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.

Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.

Topics: Leadership, Culture, Leadership Development, Team Culture, Team Development

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