Written by: Emily Wagner

To say “business transformation” or “innovation” out loud always has such a sweet ring to it, but the reality is never as nice. The most difficult thing about any effort to transform and become something new, breeding a fresh vision of creativity, will always require a culture of change. But the funny thing about change is all the caveats that follow that one little word. Resentment, opinions not spoken and opinions not heard, internal buy-in for a plan that might be risky. The negative side effects.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I once had a client tell me, “in order to avoid making waves, we have been going along with agreements in the business I felt in my gut were wrong for my cultural goals”. I cringed at this of course. This organization, as with many I have encountered, struggled immensely to bring its leaders together into brainstorming sessions with egos aside and the ability to voice and truly hear opinions in an open forum. The result? Nothing. No true transformation was ever accomplished or agreed upon. Those bringing thoughts to the table were consistently overshadowed by those with the loudest voices in the room. I have seen many attempts like this at proactive change remain stagnant.

In the same turn, I also had a client come to me after the conclusion of a project and request an honest assessment of their particular business process, from our point of view as their partner. In this situation I was asked, “Give me everything. We want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly” and they listened with open ears. These are the conversations that make me genuinely excited to come to work each day. A valuable exchange of information with a responsive outcome. The result here? A fluid Fortune 100 company that is on their way to being known as best in class in leadership acquisition and strategy, not only in their industry, but amongst the highest ranks in the business.

Receptiveness and respect. The absolute most important elements in adopting a culture of change are equally weighted in receptiveness and respect. This involves both a true openness to hearing the “ugly” as a means to build a new foundation or “norm” and the emotional maturity to respect different voices, even when in direct conflict of one another. This is where egos are checked.

The hardest thing about the process of change within an organization is ensuring you, and everyone involved in your business has a receptiveness to ideas that may not be easy to hear. Changing your company’s cultural mission, product value proposition, or even just rebranding your business from a visual standpoint will always make some people uneasy, but can be embraced in time with a well-executed delivery and a sense of community involved in the process.

A culture with opinions and a willingness to hear them is ready to embrace change.