Changing Culture One Individual at a Time

by Donna Tomie Jolliffe
Guest Contributor

“Be the change you want to see in the world”  Mahatma Gandhi

That quote resonates for me within all circumstances be it family, community or the workplace.  I have, in my work, watched organizations “clean house”, bring in a new leader and hire key talent only to discover that the basic fabric of the organization remained, by and large, unchanged.  Why is that?

What is it in us that intentionally or unintentionally blocks change even when we recognize the change as great?  I believe it comes down to habits of thought, language and behaviour.  Even when we don’t like something we learn how to respond to it or mentally frame it so we can survive.  Our goal in change is to move beyond surviving to thriving, in work and in life.  To do this we need to create awareness of the thoughts and behaviours that will block the new from taking hold.

A friend of mine who is grounded in Eastern Tradition taught me that thoughts are merely habits of the mind.  If you think the same thought often enough the recording in your mind is well entrenched and may need to be replaced.  When our core beliefs (thoughts) don’t match our actions or language we show up, over time, as incongruent, inconsistent or disingenuous.  It is only a matter of time before the new falls away and the old resurfaces.  Talk to anyone who is trying to lose weight. I guarantee those who are successful over both the short and long term first changed a core belief about self.

For me, we first change our thoughts and our language to create the energy for new behaviours to follow.  This is work that must be done with intention and attention.  We need to clearly articulate the outcome we desire, and then align our thoughts, words and actions to manifest that outcome.

Culture change programs are great for creating expectations of a future state and, if properly constructed, create awareness of the gap between the future and current state, at the organizational level.  Truly great programs will then give individuals an opportunity to assess their inner landscape and determine what, if any, barriers may exist in their internal programs that need to change if they are going to be positive contributors to the new creation.

Individuals create sustainable change only when thoughts, words and behaviours align. If you are not sure of what your deepest beliefs may be I invite you to be attentive to your language as it will reveal your true inner frame of reference.  It is from here that energy and behaviour flow.

Believe first and you will see……

Written by our guest blogger – Donna Tomie Jolliffe. Donna is a Human Resources Leader and Executive Coach who focuses on individual and organizational transformation and effectiveness.   She is a trusted advisor to senior executives and various stakeholders throughout organizations.

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