Being a culture change insider

We chat to Siobhan McHale (EGM People, Culture & Change at Dulux Group & author of The Insider's Guide to Culture Change) on what it means to be a culture change insider.

Siobhan McHale is an acclaimed culture transformation expert and global executive. She currently holds the title of Executive General Manager of People, Culture & Change at Dulux Group, the leading marketer and manufacturer of premium branded products such as Dulux, Selleys, Yates, B&D, and Cabot’s, to name a few.

She recently published her book, The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change, which walks readers through her four-step process to culture transformation.

She spent the first half of her career as a management consultant at various companies, including Pwc London and Accenture in Australia. Moving in and out of various companies helped her gain experience and brought her a lot of perspective, but she felt there was something missing as she was always coming in as an outsider.

It was at this point that she decided to “roll up her sleeves” and become and insider; working within companies as a culture change agent in HR, and then later taking her current position at Dulux Group. As an insider, she feels she can really test and adapt methodologies for fast-tracking growth at the organisation.

Role reframing

One of the ways she catalyses culture change in companies, is through role reframing. She explains how each of us wear many hats during our day (parent, spouse, sibling) and even take on many roles at work (boss, subordinate, peer), which requires shifts in our approaches and behaviour. She maintains that, in order to change the behaviours in your workplace, you don’t have to get people to change their personalities; you can reframe their role/s to shift their behaviour.

“If you can change people’s mental maps of their roles, you can get faster change with less noise.”

What is company culture?

Culture is the patterns of thinking & relating between the parts in the company, i.e. it’s at the collective level. She illustrates company culture as the dancer & the dance — the dancer is the behaviour, but the dance is the hidden patterns and rules of that behaviour.

“Culture change is leader-led.”

Siobhan realised that companies would expect her alone, as HR, to ‘change the culture’. As part of management, you can’t delegate your responsibility for leading culture change to someone else.

Culture has always been important, but has been misdefined in many parts as being about employee engagement only, yet it’s so much more. Every aspect of your business — design, manufacture, supply chain — so we have to redefine & examine culture from a commercial lens, not purely an employee lens.

This means that you need to state the business case for culture and culture change — ask the right questions to decide on what needs to be done in terms of culture change towards reaching the company’s goals (and not just ‘fluffy HR stuff’).

“Culture comes from strategy.”

Enjoy! Hit play ▶️ above to watch the interview video.
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Timestamp notes

1.09 — About Siobhan

1.55 — Why are you an insider?

5.47 — Definition of Culture in the workplace, and where’s she’s seen culture change. Case studies: Bank Australia & an infrastructure company.

11.30 — Why is culture so important right now?

12.50 — If you were to form a culture team, who should be in the team?

14.57 — How can the HR team convince the Exec team that a culture change is needed?

17.00 — An average day for Siobhan.

17.30 — Reading material: She enjoys articles LinkedIN and the Harvard Business Review.

17.48 — Fave productivity tool/software? She uses her calendar to structure her day and makes time for thinking strategically.

19.07 — How to reach Siobhan: LinkedIN, website, Twitter.

Get her book, The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change, here.

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