Can You Shift Company Culture During Covid-19?

Get Creative – Part 1 of 2

Jackie & Kevin Freiberg

“If existing culture dictates the way changes will be implemented, then blow up the old rules.”

Crisis always seems to precede big change. And ready or not, crisis hit forcing many companies and leaders to make real-time decisions under the pressures created by COVID-19. NOW is not the time to ignore culture. Now is exactly the time to get creative, find new and innovative ways to digitize culture in ways that continue to encourage and support the changes necessary to keep your business afloat.

Here are four of eight strategies to help you incite culture shift NOW:

Break the rules.
Playing by old rules isn’t an option if you want to survive. Cultures are designed to protect themselves. Remember the definition of insanity: doing things the same way expecting a different result? Well, trying to adjust culture using traditional initiatives is taking a step toward insanity – the majority of people are working remote and if you are among the minority headed back to work, then you’re doing so under some very strict safety and distancing guidelines. So culture has to become virtual and has to be delivered and experienced anew. Don’t assume people will bring culture home, that’s also a step toward insanity. And don’t call it good if you’ve got a weekly Zoom Happy Hour. That’s not culture, it’s one more work commitment. Ask the team:

  • What are the most creative digital ways we can engage and connect? What digital platforms allow us to monitor performance and track progress?
  • What digital arenas and activities allow for more collaboration and creative expression?
  • What can we do to live our values, spread our values and celebrate our values in a virtual work environment?

If returning to work is still a moving target, prepare now. Ask what can we do to ensure the transitions from full isolation back to work is safe so we don’t contribute to a second outbreak. Ask who wants to remain remote and who is ready to go back. Ask what concerns people. These are important questions to address now as a way to mentally and emotionally prepare people for another change.

Re-channel your energy.
When change hits, people get disoriented. It’s easy to lose focus and lose your footing. Unless there is a compelling vision to focus everyone’s attention, fear and doubt will take over. When change and disruption blow through an organization, warning systems go off in people’s minds. Heightened sensitivity, awareness and energy abound. If you don’t move quickly, people will take this energy and waste it on self-protective behavior or fueling the fires of resistance. Revisit the routines you’re in now. Is there a way to shake up the routine and regain any lost footing as a way to work more efficiently and/or improve your effectiveness? Envision a new way… harness the energy by focusing forward. Why not spend some time rethinking how experiences, services and products have been delivered? Let your creative expression flow and ask, “is there a way to reimagine how we deliver better, faster and safer?”

Borrow from other industries. Sadly, some restaurants are closed for good, yet others are crushing it. Chick-Fil-A, morning, noon and night, has pick-up lines that are often 70 cars deep. Mobile ordering is a digital dream and the drive-up process is providing safety every step of the way. What can you do to borrow from mobile and digitized connections as a way to ensure ongoing safety and as ways to keep your business in business?

Make your moves bold, dramatic and unwavering.
Move. Meet disruption head-on. Change requires a unique combination of passion, courage, conviction, audacity and determination. People need to see that you’re on the move and that you are serious. Your early moves must be bold so you can gain momentum as quickly as possible. Movement leads to learning; learn, adjust and move on.

Surround yourself with creatives.
Organizations tend to hire in their own image. If you’ve surrounded yourself with people who fit in nicely with the old ways of doing things, shifting culture is not only about changing the rules, it’s about changing the rule-makers. If you’re bringing more of the same to the table, you won’t have a place there much longer. Who around you is moving fast, adding value and bringing ideas to life? Creativity and action are contagious, join in to fuel the progress. Change isn’t always organizational, change is incremental as well. So don’t feel like you have to shift the titanic, you can affect change one project, one initiative, one connection at a time. The goal here is to spread creativity and shift.

What can you do?

Look at your culture to determine what strategies are no longer serving the organization.

  • Set clear goals and expectations for yourself and for others. Energy will shift away from the uncertainty and blur and gravitate toward clear goals and determination. 
  • Remember, conviction and resolve are contagious. Share your progress, it may motivate others.
  • Challenge yourself and team to identify, rethink and reimagine any antiquated rules, tenets, or programs that no longer serve the culture and its progress forward.