Remember back in high school when you would celebrate silly boyfriend\girlfriend anniversaries like 1 month, 2 month, our first kiss, that time you bailed me out of jail, etc.? Well, I’m now accepting gifts and flower arrangements for my 5 month anniversary at my new job.

It’s been an interesting 5 months. Sort of a roller coaster of events. What I want to concentrate on today is stimulating positive cultural change.

I’ve posted before about generational differences and how the work environment is changing\needs to change to accommodate various workers methods and attitudes. Personally, I know I have been challenged with various organizational structures in which I don’t work to my best potential, including authority hierarchies and turf wars.

My recent immersion into Lean provided a very enjoyable forum of various team members to have open and honest, and often passionate, exchanges. What resulted was invigorating to my work and sent a ripple into the existing paradigm. Some team members (including myself) provided our managers with briefings on how things were going in the meetings. Some managers interpreted the passionate exchanges as a negative. I disagree. As the facilitator, I felt that the team needed this opportunity for a safe exchange of ideas and opinions -some room to breathe. Unfortunately, the current culture is hampered by stories of fear. Fear of management retaliation for employees who express their opinions or take unilateral action. To me, the exchanges at the team meetings were refreshing expressly for there uncensored honesty in what should have been considered a safe forum.

Despite my own impatience with the pace of change, I understand that cultural shifts take time. Many people’s feelings of safety are grounded in an understanding of what they can expect day in and day out when they sit down at their desk. They look to their “managers” to provide direction and stability. What should I be doing now? How about now? They have been trained that if they step off this particular path there will be consequences to pay. Who would want to take that risk? How many of us question the reality of the consequences? Many of these are based on corporate legend and myth. I believe that the reality is much brighter than that. How about this…get rid of the paths. Create an open field. Let the participants suggest their own paths. If they are involved in providing input into where “we” are going, then they will be more likely to lead – and follow.

That means that the company needs to start telling new stories. Stories that will shift the paradigm and attract and retain a new generation of employees. Employees who have grown up with social networks that stretch beyond geographical limitations. Employees who are comfortable with collaboration, self reflection, vulnerability and looking for a work\life blending (not necessarily balance.) Employees who are not focused on climbing a corporate ladder, but in redefining what the ladder is supposed to look like.