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All Eyes Are on the Management Team

December 15, 2015

The character of a leadership team and how they are held accountable is one of the most revealing and important elements of successful culture transformation. How do team members talk about and model change? To what extent does the new initiative drive team member decisions and behavior? How do senior leaders mentor individual team members and hold them accountable to live the new culture?

All of these elements impact how staff see and respond to a culture-change initiative. The more leaders live and model the change and are held accountable to do so, the more hopeful, supportive, and motivated staff will be to join in. Likewise, the more disparate a leader’s behavior is to the new culture and the less they are held accountable, the more cynical and hopeless staff will feel.

Developing the ideal leadership team can be a challenging task. Certainly technical expertise is essential; we need DONs with great nursing skills, EVS managers who can successfully oversee the physical plant, and administrators who can manage a budget and navigate the regulatory environment, to name only a few.

Equally as important, however, are managers who support change initiatives in word and deed, use effective and respectful communication skills, and empower workers while learning alongside them. Effective managers who believe in a participative process and are willing to pull back from problem solving, actively engaging others in solutions.

Achieving these ideals can be challenging, so it’s important to keep in mind the ultimate goal, which is two-fold: We need managers to do an excellent technical job while embracing change and acting in a way that is consistent with the desired culture. Challenging as it may be, untold damage occurs when we stop short of achieving these goals.

When leaders are given a pass and not held accountable for engaging in the change process, the damage done is swift and deep. Staff see the managers who are not held accountable for supporting the new culture. This fosters doubt in the importance and sincerity of the change initiative. Staff talk about the disparity — they begin to wonder why they themselves should bother changing. After all, change is hard! This, in turn, feeds resistance, contributes to a lack of hope, and chips away at trust within the organization.

Senior leaders who nurture a ripe expectation that all leadership team members will participate in change initiatives, and who ensure that people are held accountable for learning and living the new culture for others to follow, will lead the most successful change initiatives. Be clear that all eyes are on the management team.

— by Cean Eppelheimer, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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