"Our old ways needs to change to ensure we survive and grow - but how?" - Interview by John Smibert
It is a massive challenge to change organisational culture - particularly when old practices are entrenched. Yet to survive and sustainably grow - given a dramatically changing B2B sales world - change is no option.
In my last discussion with sales leadership guru Maria Nordstrom she gave meaning to the words 'a high performing sales culture. So this time I asked Maria how the leadership should overcome inertia in the culture that is typified by the attitude; "That's the way we do things around here" - the sound of imminent organisational death.
Firstly Maria said that a cultural change is no small feat. The culture is what sits on the floor. She reminded me that; "How people talk - how people describe the organisation - is generally very different to what you as a leader believe they say".
It is the caustic cynicism that comes into things, which has to do with inconsistency, the way people communicate within the organisation, especially from the management, that is very, very key. So as a leader you need to be very conscious of that, and if you are in that situation, you need to find influencers within the organisation that can help you to really understand it and then start adjusting it by working and communicating in a different way.
Maria then went on to describe how leaders need to go about addressing the inertia to start the change to a high performing culture.
View or read the full interview to get to learn more. This is likely to be valuable reading for CEO's, CSO's and Sales leaders. I will conduct a series of interviews with Maria to explore this subject in more depth so stay tuned..
Maria Nordstrom, Managing Director of The Upside Group, is an executive coach, a specialist in sales leadership and a change leader focused on high performance sales cultures.
John: Hello, I've got Maria Nordstrom with me again - welcome back, Maria!
Maria: Thank you, John - it's a pleasure to be here!
John: Last time we were together we discussed a high-performing sales culture, what it is and how to achieve it, and I think you explained it very well. I'd like to explore a number of topics around that, and one is that the inertia that happens in organisations, "That's the way we've always done it," type of stuff... How do you address that? What's the issue related to that and how do you actually address it?
Maria: Well, that's quite a challenge, because of the culture that sits on the floor. There's always going to be a discrepancy between that culture on the floor and what the leaders think the culture is, and that is talking from my experience and having worked in organisations. How people talk - how people describe the organisation - is generally very different to what you as a leader believe they say.
John: And often you don't know it, unless you're a bloody good leader and you've got your eyes and ears open.
Maria: And you've very well-connected with the people and you actually have your ear to the ground and you actually, as you said, have a very good relationship with the people, and that's the key. Authentic leadership - being an authentic leader - allows you to have more of a connection with people and really to understand what, and if, there is a discrepancy between the culture you're trying to create and the culture that's actually happening on the ground.
The key with the people on the ground is if they describe the culture in a positive way, then you really don't have a major challenge. It is the caustic cynicism that comes into things, which has to do with inconsistency, the way people communicate within the organisation, especially from the leadership, that is very, very key. So as a leader you need to be very conscious of that, and basically if you are in that situation, you need to find influences within the organisation that can help you to really understand it and then start adjusting it by working and communicating in a different way.
John: Yes. A leader can't change an organisation on his or her own, right? It is a team effort.
Maria: Absolutely it is. We talked about creating a high-performing sales culture; that's not a leader or a leadership team. Creating a higher-performing sales culture is the same thing as "This is the way we do things around here," it's really understanding the layers of the organisation and the influences within that, and working with those layers to actually create a high-performing culture, hence changing the culture over time.
John: And if you can identify the leaders in the troops and help them take a lead in driving the change in culture, it'll make a big difference.
Maria: Yes, absolutely. So we're talking about leaders or influencers within that. We have this concept of people leading from where they stand and I think that's important. If people feel that they're empowered to make decisions, and this comes back to creating that high-performing culture again, that people truly understand their role and where they fit, and what their role means in the context of the outcomes the organisation is trying to achieve. So if you talk about those people in groups, if they understand their role, where it fits and how they actually will affect the outcomes, then you'll find that the consistency in the leadership at any level in the organisation will drive the organisation to where it needs to be.
John: Yes, that makes sense. And you really need this culture where people have no fear in speaking out, there's no fear of challenging, those sorts of things. If the leader is authentic in the way they lead, people will feel comfortable that they can challenge, they can put their hand up and say, "Hey, I don't like the way this is happening," or whatever.
Maria: Yes. Talking from my own experience is if you have somebody that they know that will listen, not necessarily execute everything you say but listen and actually digest the information that they're being provided with as possibility or an opportunity. Once you do that and you hear people, truly hear people, people feel that they're more connected and also feel more empowered, hence they will work to actually support the organisation and its outcomes, rather than just themselves.
John: So in driving change it just comes back again to that leadership, and I'd like to talk more about leadership in our future interviews. There are some great thoughts there. I think what you've said will be very valuable for leaders trying to drive a change in their organisation and for others involved in change - thank you very much!
Maria: Thank you, John!
Access Maria Nordstrom at The Upside Group
View a previous discussion with Maria here:
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