• Matt Black

4 Phrases Leaders Use That Prove Your Organization Needs a Culture Change

It doesn’t always take mass layoffs or well-publicized dysfunction to understand that organizational culture change is necessary.

Some companies just don’t get it.

Whether it’s in the actions they take or the words they speak, an organization’s culture makes itself known pretty quickly. You don’t need the highest EQ on the planet to determine whether or not you fit as an employee.

If you hear any of the following 4 phrases (or even variations of them) from your leaders, it may be time for an personnel overhaul or a change of scenery:

1. Well, this is the way we’ve always done it…”

Tell me…

What would happen if an NFL team refused to adapt to the size and speed of today’s game, and wore equipment from 50 years ago? I think the answer’s obvious, but in case you aren’t convinced, there’s this:


You got it. Complete and utter destruction. But that’s exactly how ineffective habits, stubbornness and an unwillingness to evolve affect an organization’s ability to compete in the social age.

Chances are the way you’ve always done things isn’t relevant anymore. To take it a step further, despite our best efforts to map out organizational strategies or forecast sales, business needs change on an hourly basis.

Complacency kills. I suggest your organization needs to start (and never stop) looking for new ways to get things done.

2. I don’t have time for this…”


Kimmel should have made time for Matt Damon, dammit!

All kidding aside (FYI, that’s a running joke between Jimmy and his producers – not a repeated snub), effective leaders know that making time for engagement with their people isn’t a choice.

It’s a non-negotiable.

For leaders, a huge part of creating an organization that people genuinely care about comes from building genuine relationships. Whether it’s employees, colleagues, clients, partners – being there for others is the only way to foster accountability and advocacy.

If you approach your leaders for guidance and they don’t have time for you, it’s time for you to start looking elsewhere. Being comfortable speaking with key decision makers at your organization is critical to feeling like a valued contributor.

3.It is what it is…”

Regardless of context or circumstance, having no answer is never an answer.

Leaders have to find a way, even when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious one. It just isn’t good enough to settle, especially when it comes to your people.


If the tiny puppy in this clip adopted that type of mindset, I know for a fact it would have gone hungry. Instead, it found a way to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

I guess the analogy that makes the most sense in relation to our canine friends from the clip above is the young, plucky startup vs. the older, larger corporation. While the bigger dog never gives up, he relies on the same strategies as he approaches the bowl of food, never really adapting his tactics. And instead of looking at the bigger dog and thinking, “well I’ll never fend him off,” the small puppy stands his ground and refuses to shrug his shoulders and settle on “it is what it is.”

If your leaders aren’t hungry, trust me, someone else is.

4.I don’t make the rules…”

Then break them. Or at least re-write them… like some of these people:


Great leaders recognize out-dated policies and strive to remove obstacles that prevent their people from achieving intended results.

Plain and simple, your organization needs to recognize that like anything, rules have to go with the flow. If leadership is content to rest on their laurels and refuses to examine the guidelines by which everyone uses to get things done, I point to a lack of knowledge or confidence.

It’s an easy cop out to stick to the script – just because something isn’t allowed today doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tomorrow. The real-time demands of the most important people an organization relies on are ever-changing, as should rules.

Are there any words or phrases that jump out at you which indicate a culture change is necessary? What is your formula for an ideal organizational culture? Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto