Culture Clashes: Bringing in a new system

Leadership Moment: A Coach’s Scars

Dante Scarnecchia was just inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. Everyone who spoke about him – then, or at any time during his tenure – described him as one of the greatest assistant coaches (he coached the offensive line for the Patriots for two decades) ever, but there was an interesting dichotomy in their descriptions. On one hand, each talked about a kind and humble leader, who cared about them as human beings, inquiring after their families, and genuinely someone you wanted to be around. On the other hand, when coaching his players, they described someone … not at all diplomatic … who would tell you exactly how you weren’t doing your job well, as this description from Bill Belichick highlights. He carried his Marine sergeant background with him into coaching.

It’s easy to look from afar and think to yourself, I can do that, too! But the reality is that for most leaders, and most organizations, you’ll almost never be able to get the balance right. Telling someone they are a failure, even at the elite levels, rarely inspires them to do better, you’re more likely to demotivate than to inspire. A proven track record of success (Scarnecchia has five Super Bowl rings), a long-established culture, and being inside a stable organization all help contribute. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just copy a great leader – you might scar your organization badly.

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One Minute Pro Tip: Look in a Mirror

You probably have an opinion about yourself as a leader, and the efficacy of leadership skills. If your skills work, your team will probably tell you they work. That’s great! But if your skills aren’t working, especially the ones that bring trust, there is a very good chance that your team won’t tell you (“Hey boss, you suck” is a canonical career limiting move).

You need to find a mirror. If your skills are working fantastically, you can often use sustained and increasing excellence on the part of your team as a proxy measure, but that can be misleading – maybe your organization has a lot of tailwinds driving it forward, and you’re actually a drag. Find a trustable mirror – maybe an HR business partner, perhaps you have a chief of staff, or even a peer that your team might trust. Ask their opinion. Make sure your team knows that they can always direct feedback through them if they aren’t comfortable sharing it directly.


Recent Appearances

Oct 24: Techstrong TV, Optimizing Security Strategies

Future appearances

Oct 25: SIM Summit Boston, Cybersecurity Panel, Author’s Corner

Oct 27: SANS Cyber Solutions Fest, How to Size up Your Cloud Security Program

Nov 1: The Future of AppSec: From Chaos to Maturity

Nov 1: The Festival at Katz JCC, 1% Leadership

Dec 8: Cyber Security Headlines in Review

Dec 11-13: CyberMarketingCon

Leadership Q&A: Bringing in new culture

After reading the newsletter on Assimilating and Accommodating, Leader K asks, I’ve also thought a bit about how to master the art of bringing in culture from outside without it feeling to an existing team like you’re just bringing the identity of a different company to them. How do you bring about culture change when you join but adapt so it doesn’t feel like a ‘copy paste’ job?

Well, K, when you’re the one being brought in from outside – either deliberately as a change agent, or just accidentally – it’s important to recognize that people and organizations are inherently resistant to change. You’ve identified one symptom of that resistance: that anything that looks like it’s just a form is likely to get quick push back for not being adapted.

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