Would You Know How To Survive a Cultural Earthquake?

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One of the greatest tests a leader will ever face is when the team’s culture is suddenly, sometimes violently, shaken up.

You might call these “cultural tremors”, and they can strike when the tectonic plates of the team’s culture are shifted. When that happens, the leader must quickly exercise the ability to read the changing situation and respond to this changing reality.

Several years ago, the Willow Creek Association established a Canadian organization, which soon found an ally in another organization called The Leadership Centre. I was on the staff of The Leadership Center. So closely aligned were our respective ministry’s that the two Boards soon realized that it would make sense to merge the two organizations into a single entity.

The potential for cultural tremors to begin rumbling was very real.

According to a KPMG study, 83% of mergers fail, and yet this merger in Canada became wildly successful. Why? Ultimately, the success of this merger, the bringing together of two completely separate teams and organizations, was because of heightened cultural intelligence.

Specifically, those leading the merger process avoided the pitfall of cultural tremors by paying close attention to 3 vital cultural alignments. And when you begin to sense cultural tremors rumbling on your own team, you need to pay attention to these same alignments:

1. Team goals must be crystal clear and fully aligned

Everyone on the team must agree on where the team is headed and what everyone is working towards.

2. Team strategies must be consistent

If one part of the organization is pulling left while another part is pulling right, the team won’t get anywhere.

3. Team values must be shared and embraced

Nothing will create cracks in team unity faster than misalignment on team values.

Because those leading our merger process took such care to ensure alignment on goals, strategies and values, the cultural tremors of the merger were avoided, and the combined organization thrived.

You could be facing your own cultural tremors at any moment. Anytime a new team member is added or whenever two teams are brought together to work on a joint project, the potential is there for at least a cultural tremor.

So learn to keep your leadership finger on the pulse of these three alignments.

Otherwise those cultural tremors could turn into a full-blown cultural earthquake.


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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