Infusing your culture throughout change

 In Branding, Change Management, Internal Communications, Leadership, Organizational Leadership

Managing change within an organization is no easy feat. Whether it’s a small-scale change impacting some areas of the agency or an organization-wide change that affects all employees, the leadership and change management approach have far-reaching implications. How you lead through change can determine how your organization moves forward as well as your success as a leader.

It’s nearly impossible to talk about change without addressing culture. Your organization’s culture embodies how you do what you do each day. It defines how you and your employees live your purpose, mission and values. Your culture guides management practices, employee behavior and the things that set your agency apart – celebrating successes, supporting employees and special ways you make up your employee experience. Here’s an example of one element of Transcend’s culture. Pre-COVID-19, when all employees would gather for lunch, be it before a holiday or celebrating work anniversaries, we’d play “the birthday game.” The game is simple. Someone reads through the list of birthdays of celebrities and notable figures in the newspaper (or asks Google) and gives clues for everyone else to guess whose birthday it is. Everyone shouts out names and laughs.

I digress! Culture is the DNA of an organization. On the importance of culture, Peter Drucker, management consultant and author, famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”

Leading through a merger and a pandemic

Imagine this … two organizations merge, leaders and employees begin creating the new organization and culture, and six months later a global pandemic hits. The organizations were two hospice providers in North Carolina. During a recent webinar for the National Association of Home Care & Hospice, Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of AuthoraCare Collective, described how they created the combined brand and led, and continue to lead, through COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is a paradigm shift. We knew we had two options before us,” Kristen said. “We could walk away from the work breathing life into our culture because of the barriers and challenges. It would be easy to drift back to what we’ve always done in the past. Or, we could lean into building the brand and culture through the crisis.”

They chose to lean in and get to work. They stepped up to build their preferred future. For several months ahead of the official merger, 70 employees from the two organizations began working together to create their future as one organization. Kristen worked with a team to define their mission and core promises.

“We wanted to create a universal language that was reflective of the DNA of both organizations. We were intentional with our choice of words. It started with our name. The first part of our name, authora, is about being the author of your own story and the authority over your care,” she said. “Through the merger, we authored our culture and brand simultaneously.”

A critical component to the success of the merger was involving employees at all levels of the organization.

Kristen described the moment she knew the new brand and culture were beginning take hold. She said two employees were talking about a patient care issue. They had a clear understanding of what the patient had to decide. The patient had a different thought. The nurse and social worker were trying to figure out how to talk to the patient about the different approach. The nurse paused and said, “Wait. This is [the patient’s] story. We need to follow what they want.”

Creating your preferred future

The AuthoraCare Collective story highlights some of the elements that are critical for a change to take hold and be embraced in an organization:

  • Communicate your vision for the future
  • Lead with empathy
  • Empower employees to be involved throughout the process
  • Connect the reason for change back to your mission and purpose

Is your brand, mission and purpose fully embraced in your organization? Send me an email if you’d like to discuss how to fully engage your employees in your preferred future.

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