Company Culture: Siobhan McHale

company culture transformation with siobhan mchale

On this episode, we talk with company culture expert Siobhan McHale, author of  "The Insider's Guide to Culture Change: Creating a Workplace That Delivers, Grows and Adapts". Here, McHale demystifies culture transformation and helps leader navigate the path to positive change!

We Discuss The Following Topics About Company Culture:

  • The importance of culture and how culture is one of the least understood topics in the workforce.
  • The importance of culture change and how culture can apply to any aspect of how a business functions.
  • Common pitfalls of culture change like focusing on personalities instead of roles within a company.
  • Her book titled, "The Insider's Guide To Culture Change - Creating a
    Workplace The Delivers, Grows and Adapts”.
  • Culture transformations - are culture set in stone?
  • The benefits of an adaptable culture.
  • And more!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free!

The Importance of Culture

  • “Culture” is one of the most talked about but least understood concepts in workplaces today; it’s also the ultimate source of competitive advantage. 
  • McHale defines culture as “The patterns of relating or the often hidden agreements that determine how the organization operates or functions.” 
  • Culture impacts every aspect of how your business operates.
  • Case Study - Jonathan, AAA Consulting: Client was losing bids, and wanted to create a more innovative culture. McHale, however, identified that the pattern of lack of innovation was enabled by the client himself, who signed off on the less-than-innovative losing bids. Once the client was alerted to the pattern, he stepped out of the role of “approver” and into the role of “innovation leader”. Within three months of reframing his role, AAA Consulting won a multi-million-dollar bid and was back on track!

The Importance of Change

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  • One of the big myths about culture is that it only relates to the employee experience – but culture (along with the changes made to it) can apply to any aspect of how the business operates.
  • You can decide to create a culture that’s commercial, strategic, disciplines, risk-averse, safety-conscious, growth-oriented, agile, performance-focused, customer-driven, etc.  
  • Leaders are now asking HR professionals for solutions to these problems, as well as solutions to more typical HR topics, like employee engagement concerns.

Common Pitfalls of Culture Change

  • Leaders tend to focus on behavior change, and attempt to affect change by working with people’s personalities (through personality testing, etc.), but often you can bring about change more quickly if you focus on role rather than personality.
  • Case Study – Sara Connors, A New York Hospital: Sara steps into multiple roles throughout her day – wife, mother, teacher, negotiator, advisor. In each of those roles, her behavior changes automatically as she shifts roles. The ability to frame and reframe peoples’ roles according to the needs of the organization achieves greater results than trying to change peoples’ personalities.

“The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change” – Critical Steps

  • Diagnose BEFORE moving to solutions. Rushing the diagnosis can lead to missing underlying patterns that are running the organization.
  • Case Study – Chloe, Water Works: Chloe’s team wasn’t performing, so she contacted McHale looking for a supervisor’s training program for her team to improve performance. After asking some questions, McHale began to believe that this was more of a culture problem, than a training problem, so initiated a short diagnosis of the organization. The diagnostic revealed that the Management Team blamed the Supervisors for the poor performance, but the Supervisors and Employees, in turn, blamed the Management Team. Neither side respected the other, and this pattern of disrespect was running the organization. If Chloe has simply initiated a supervisor’s training program without first diagnosing the problems at hand, that program would not have had the impact she was looking for and might’ve even made the situation worse.
  • Mindsets can be hard to change, but it’s faster changing mindsets if you change role, because patterns are connected to roles. 
  • Case Study – Chloe, Water Works: In this case study, the Supervisors and the Management Team were in the role of opponents, fighting with one another. Reframing their roles from “opponents” to “collaborators”, allowed them to focus on delivering the best service they can to their customers, achieving a much more productive result.

Culture Transformations – Are They Set In Stone?

  • No, because change happens constantly, both inside and outside an organization, and those changes require an organization to remain agile with a fluid culture.
  • Culture is an enabler of your business goals and strategies.
  • Culture change is leader-led – leaders cannot forget their responsibility to lead the culture change, and they cannot delegate that culture change to HR, it must be leader-led (with HR enabling the change by taking up their role with expert advice, tools and support)!

The Benefits of an Adaptable Culture

  • “Culture is your ultimate source of competitive advantage.”
  • Others may be able to replicate your products, your services, but they can never fully replicate your culture, it is unique to you! 

Siobhan McHale: Backstory

  • Background is in Organizational Psychology.
  • Degree in Psychology from National University of Ireland, Galway, MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of Sheffield.
  • First job after university, working in a warehouse, taught her the impact and importance of “culture”.
  • First decade of her career was spent as a management consultant, advising leaders across the globe how to manage change.
  • Tired of being an “outsider”, she decided to become a company “insider”, a culture change specialist working from within a company to implement transformational shifts and make workplaces better.
  • Led a radical culture shift at ANZ Bank that transformed the lowest performing bank in Australia into one of the top performing banks in the world.
  • She was driven to write “The Insider’s Guide To Culture Change: Creating a Workplace The Delivers, Grows and Adapts” when she realized that most books on culture change had been written from an outsider’s perspective.

Resources

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Siobhan McHale

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"Culture is your ultimate source of competitive advantage." @SiobhanMcHale2 #HRPodcast #CompanyCulture

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For more information on company culture, check out this article, "How Company Culture Affects Turnover."

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

As a creative, persuasive communications professional with extensive experience guiding projects from concept through completion Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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