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Leading the Way for Others to Follow

December 14, 2015

I recently had the honor of witnessing a pivotal moment of culture transformation during a leadership team meeting at a PHI Coaching client site: A powerful moment in time when, despite discomfort and vulnerability, a leadership team saw their administrator step into a new way of leading and sharing power.

With the support of the PHI Coaching Approach® to Communication skills and a community-wide commitment to use them, a courageous department leader stepped forward and gave the administrator feedback about his directive approach to a decision being made. The feedback was masterful. The department leader acknowledged the administrator’s strengths and best intentions and then — very clearly and directly, void of any judgment — identified the administrator’s directive manner as not being consistent with their goal of empowerment and inclusive decision-making.

The administrator paused and took a deep breath (an example of pull back, a key PHI Coaching Communication skill). He then softly and sincerely owned that he had hijacked the decision that could have been made more effectively by the group. He apologized and reflected on the process they were all going through to learn new communication skills and to be more inclusive.

The expectations for the rest of the leadership team shifted in that moment; the bar was raised and the path was made clearer. Leaders saw the goal to be more inclusive in action; they saw the need to be vulnerable and humble, to admit mistakes and learn from them, and how to ask for forgiveness and move forward.

Many culture transformation models offer guiding values, principles, and valuable frameworks for this work. All of that is good and helpful. But true culture transformation happens in the moment, when people change their actual behavior. True change happens one conversation at a time, when people use effective communication skills to live their way into the new culture.

And nothing in culture transformation is more powerful than a leader using those skills and modeling the way for others to follow.

— by Cean Eppelheimer, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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