Are Your Employees Moving to the Future Without You?

Some of you know that in the last year I made the decision to personally switch to the metric system. I was originally inspired by a video from Dan Pink on this, and it was surprisingly easy for me to change little things in my life—on my own—to adopt the metric system. My weather apps now show the temperature in Celsius. My scale shows kilograms instead of pounds. I changed many of the settings in my car to kilometers, and I’m actually getting used to the fact that my cruise control on the Beltway is now set to 105. So do you remember in the 1970s when there was a (failed) movement to switch to metric? That’s because in the 1970s you needed a movement for it to happen. We didn’t have the individual power to start changing things on our own. Now we do.

So what does all this have to do with culture? It’s about the balance of power. In the old days, an organization would decide on what it wanted its culture to be, and that was that. The employees had to adapt. Today, the organization (or, more specifically, the leaders at the top) can certainly shape the culture, but the employees are becoming less dependent on the top leaders when it comes to defining the culture, and they are more aware when their experience of the culture is disconnected from their experiences in the rest of their lives.

In other words, your job as a leader is no longer to simply dictate the culture. It’s more about discovering your culture, and how your people experience it, and whether or not your culture is evolving towards the future. Exactly how much does your culture value cross-functional collaboration and communication? You may say it does, but is that what your people experience? And are you giving them the tools to do that, or are they all using their personal slack accounts to stay in touch with each other?

Just like with the metric system, your employees now have the power to move to the future on their own, with or without you. There is no one right answer about how futurist your culture needs to be, but I would start by understanding the culture more deeply so you can at least SEE if there is a disconnect between what you are creating and how your employees are experiencing it. This is a curve you want to stay ahead of.

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