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Just before Christmas, Pope Francis shocked his Vatican leadership with a blistering in-your-face indictment of the church’s leadership. In his speech, he outlined the “15 Ailments of the Curia” which specifically addressed the aberrant behaviors that he believes cause the Catholic church to lose focus on the real mission of the church. In his eyes, the culture of the Vatican bureaucracy empowered the Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests to use their careers to grab power and wealth. He spoke about their “ hypocritical double lives”, the “back-stabbing culture”, and their collective “spiritual Alzheimer’s forgetting what drew them to the priesthood in the first place”. He further stated that the organization has an “ailment of feeling immortal, immune, and even indispensable”. Another quote was “the terrorism of gossip can kill the reputation of our colleagues, and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body”. Outspoken critics of the church have commented that the previous Popes had been distracted by their personal missions and delegated the running of this enormously complex organization to Vatican lieutenants.
I am not a Catholic, so I can’t claim to understand the inner workings of the church, but I think that you will agree with me that it is incredibly rare to read about the CEO of a huge organization/empire delivering a such a powerful, violent, strongly-worded challenge like this. If this happened at Apple, Boeing, the Dallas Cowboys or Chase Manhattan Bank, the media talking-heads would be on it for weeks. Employees would be polishing up their resumes, checking job websites, and pointing fingers at others.
The news reports said that Vatican members that were present for the Pope’s seismic speech, sat stone-faced, with little applause, or affirmations. My guess is that they were boiling inside with anger and fear that they were getting called out in public, when this was clearly not the historical way to approach driving change. It will be very interesting to see how they embrace the Pope’s new behavioral expectations.
I am writing about this today because there some incredible lessons about culture and driving change for those of us that own and run a business.
Driving Change: My 3 Takeaways from the Pope’s Speech
- Don’t Underestimate the power of culture: If you aren’t defining and driving the culture in your business, someone else is and it probably isn’t the people you would choose. Your company’s culture is a living organism that needs cultivation, feeding, nurturing, and tough love. A great culture is the genesis of success and profitability. There are hundreds of examples of companies with unique business models and lousy cultures. Most have failed or are dying. Conversely, businesses with a robust culture and identity, can excel in a crowded competitive marketplace.
- Motivating people to change requires massive energy: Just describing what you want a few times, doesn’t make things happen. Most people hate change and will fight you and your new ideas & initiatives like a cornered dog. Effectively driving change involves communicating what you want and expect, clearly, overtly, and frequently. If you need your team to have a different attitude, or do different things, dancing around the issue and politely asking for their help is an anemic and ineffective way to get it done. Be bold. Be aggressive. Be the boss.
- Lead from the top and also from the roots: Pope Francis clearly led from the top, as you should. However, enlisting the influence leaders in your organization to adopt and model the new behavior is critical for successfully driving change. Just after you throw down the challenge gauntlet, gather your supporters and key people to help you make this happen within the company. When the naysayers see that their friends are adapting, they will come along for the ride.
If you would like to learn more about driving change and success in your business, please email me at dave@daveschoenbeck to get a pre-release version of my eBook “The 10 Critical Responsibilities of a Business Owner”.