Start with the heart!
I like that the graphic above illustrating organizational culture is blurry, because that is the best way I can describe it. Blurry! Organizations are living and breathing organisms that we bring to life both intentionally and unintentionally at times. And like it or not the same organizational cultures suck life out of us intentionally and unintentionally.
Organizational cultures are like fingerprints. I have been in several and have not seen a matching pair. Organizational cultures like a person's life begin young and mature over time as the organization ages. Organizations are impacted by both man-made endeavors and environmental impacts. Some, if not most, impacts are outside of the control of the leadership within the organization, but like a good helmsman, the leadership team within the organization can steer the organization through these impacts, if they are monitoring the weather and the horizon, so to speak.
That brings me to the point of my missive, it takes a heart! John Maxwell said it best, when he said you have to touch a heart before you can touch a hand. I am paraphrasing here, but the point is spot on. Think about it, before you can lead another person or an organization which is made up of multiple persons, you have to connect with them. You have to build rapport, trust, and a working relationship. Hence, before you can begin to embark upon the long journey of culture change within an organization you have to touch the hearts of the team. Develop trust, which in turn creates psychological safety and structure.
Another author on organizational leadership put it this way, and I am paraphrasing again: culture change requires grace and love. If you force it, it will get spit out just like a pill in a dogs mouth. Think abut the influence you have and the leadership accomplishments in your career. Was it with a team that you did not know or a team that you wept together, bled together, and laughed together with over time? Upon reflection, this begins to unfold. To touch a hand, you have to touch a heart.
Let's look at it from a childhood perspective. That's right "stranger danger." Despite our age, we all still experience this. I see it when people interact with complete strangers. They are on guard and not trusting. I get it, despite our best efforts in some settings, we have to be on guard. Self-preservation is after all a primal survival skill. This same survival skill effects our teams and organizational cultures as well. Hence, to begin influencing an organization's culture you have to genuinely and safely diminish the self-preservation "shield wall" if you will. That my friend takes time and trust. It takes effort. It takes passion. It takes genuine leadership.