Attributes of Social influencers and cultural carriers
Adaptive Cultures’ clients often ask: “How many people do we need to engage in the transformation for cultural evolution to occur?”
The number of people is critical, and we often see powerful momentum building when around 30 per cent of an organisation has started to work in a new way and think from a different perspective. However, engaging people with sufficient levels of influence, engagement and energy is also crucial. How can you identify these people, and what conditions are required to maximise their impact on the organisation?
Ideal attributes of social influencers and cultural carriers are that they:
- Influence others in the organisation, whether that be through their position of authority, social standing, way of working or genuine decency
- Believe in the possibility of something beyond the current state. They can look to what is possible rather than be constrained by their own perceptions of limitations of the current culture
- Enact personal agency with a deep sense of caring. They self-author and are self-aware, which helps them to be highly adaptive
- Hold their worldviews lightly. This helps them to see what is needed in the moment in the current context, and work with non-familiar frameworks, rather than imposing solutions or frameworks based on their past experience
- Can remain objective to complaints, challenges and limitations in their organisational system
- Listen well and are interested in the perspectives of others
- Align thoughts, words and actions in order to influence whenever and wherever necessary
- Think systemically and are able to develop a powerful network of other influencers, both inside and outside of the organisation
Social and culture influencers are not necessarily formal leaders or influencers in an organisation. Bias can often enter into the selection of people to be involved in culture work. These biases are often towards those who “are good corporate citizens” or the loudest voice in the room. We recommend clients also look to the mavericks, challengers and the quieter influencers in the system if you wish to generate energy for evolution.
In traditional organisations with a legacy of hierarchical leadership, it is essential to engage the following stakeholders as cultural influencers:
- The Executive Team and Board
- Members of the leadership community
- People in specific change or transformational roles including People and Culture, Change and Business improvement specialists
- A cross-functional and cross-hierarchical working group who have a specific mandate to help evolve the organisational culture
The following questions can help you to identify potential cultural influencers:
- Where are change and evolution already happening? Who in the organisation is already challenging the current culture by embodying attributes of the aspirational culture?
- Who are already embodying the ideal attributes of social influencers and cultural carriers, as described above?
- Who knows who these cultural influencers are? How much scope do these influencers need to have to shape the future culture?
- What external networks can be called on to enable external insights, partnering and provocation?
- Who are the external stakeholders (regulators, governing bodies such as Boards or Councils, consumer advocates, etc.) that currently influence culture, for better or worse? Who from within the organisation is already working meaningfully with these external stakeholders?
To enable the conditions for social influence to be most effective, consider the following questions:
- Which projects or customers could benefit from the energy and ideas of people to evolve the culture and organisation?
- Given current organisational defence routines, what is the best way to set up groups of cultural influencers that can move the strategy forward? And, at the same time, compassionately disrupt these routines?
- Where are the seeds of evolution growing in your organisation? What or who could enable these seeds to spread?
- What are the broader systemic imperatives that make cultural evolution essential? For example, how do organisational purpose, emerging customer needs, regulatory disruption or industry disruption influence the cultural aspiration? Who could be advocates for the cultural aspiration necessary to respond to each of these challenges?
At Adaptive Cultures, we believe that cultural transformation almost always requires a combination of:
- a wise and trusted external partner,
- a broad network of like-minded culture leaders and practitioners, and
- deep capacity across an organisation.
We actively partner with our clients to build the capacity of social influencers and cultural carriers to enable ongoing evolution. We also actively support a community of cultural leaders and practitioners who can leverage each other’s collective wisdom and aspiration.
If you are interested in being part of the Adaptive Cultures Community or bringing these ideas to your organisation, you might like to apply for our next Adaptive Cultures Practitioner Accreditation
You might also find it valuable to join our online community. Here, you can gain access to a network of higher purpose-oriented leaders and practitioners, making a difference in their worlds. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend monthly webinars on topics relating to evolving organisations, leadership and culture and to contribute your knowledge.