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Build It or Change? Making Culture Tangible

30,000 feet. Long-haul travel. I am tired but intrigued about what I am observing.
Not the behavior of other passengers, which would be cause for many articles, but the cabin team. There is a tangible difference in the approach, connection and way that many routine air travel activities are being executed. Having now flown with this particular airline a few times, this is not a one-off. Indeed, last year my family was with me—they still talk about that flight, because of the cabin team.
With land far below, and only a few hours until I need to step off this flying machine pretending to be fresh and unaffected by the travel, I reflect on what is driving the noticeable difference in the team working and resulting positive impact.
Culture—that word that often seems so ambiguous, yet when we experience it we see that it can indeed be so powerful. Is it easier to build a new culture or change what you have? Is this airline blessed with new teams or have they taken conscious steps? Other competitors clearly have tried to make an impact and from my personal experience it seems any change in culture is largely unobservable.

The culture in our teams and organizations is far more visible than we believe ...
Most of us are likely starting with an existing team, certain organization structures, approaches and perceived norms. So, evolving the culture needs to be our focus – our constant focus.

Here are the questions I believe we need to ask ourselves:

1. What’s your first question?
At the start of every meeting what are you focusing on? What signals are you sending about the priorities in the team/organization? To change the culture, it needs to be on the areas you are seeking to impact.
2. What do you tolerate?
We try hard to role model behaviors and lead by example. Yet, be honest, what are the behaviors, actions, comments that you tolerate and do not address? That is what really defines the culture.
3. Are you consistent?
We are not perfect, but we need to be more consistent to make the change become the norm. Be repetitive. Try different approaches but stay focused on the outcome.
The culture in our teams and organizations is far more visible than we believe. Our clients/customers see far more than we necessarily want them to. Not only is there huge opportunity to achieve more engagement, commitment, performance, impact and success through focusing on culture, we can also demonstrate who we are with greater results to those outside the organization.
Our expectations. Our way of doing things. What we value. These things are not amorphous, and they need our attention.
Back on the ground, I am trying to remain consistent …

Jay Connolly

Jay Connolly is the Global Chief Talent Officer of Dentons’ human resources, recruiting and training functions, delivering best practices and ensuring consistent standards across all geographies. He advises the firm’s leaders on opportunities to enhance all aspects of talent management including recruitment, performance management, diversity, training and development, and compensation and benefits programs for everyone at the firm. As part of the Dentons’ leadership team he is focused on building a world-leading HR and talent function. Learn more at: https://www.dentons.com/en/jay-connolly.

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About the Author: Jay Connolly is the Global Chief Talent Officer of Dentons’ human resources, recruiting and training functions, delivering best practices and ensuring consistent standards across all geographies. He advises the firm’s leaders on opportunities to enhance all aspects of talent management including recruitment, performance management, diversity, training and development, and compensation and benefits programs for everyone at the firm. As part of the Dentons’ leadership team he is focused on building a world-leading HR and talent function. Learn more at: https://www.dentons.com/en/jay-connolly.

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