Step 2 for a Culture of Ownership
April 28, 2016
Step 4 for a Culture of Ownership
May 3, 2016

Culture does not change unless and until people change. More specifically, culture does not change unless and until people change ingrained habits. And quite a bit of research has shown the importance of visual cues and a visible commitment to helping people make those changes (see for example the books Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg).

What this research shows is that small, seemingly simple cues can profoundly influence how people see themselves and how they act in response to changes in self-perception. So today I’ll share three of the personal reminders that we have found to be most effective in helping people make the personal changes that perforce underlie organizational changes in culture.

The Florence Challenge Certificate of Commitment
By signing the Florence Challenge Certificate of Commitment, which can be downloaded for free at the Resources tab of, the signer is committing to be emotionally positive, self empowered, and fully engaged. When these certificates are posted in a public place, as in the pictures above, this becomes a very visible announcement of intent.

I wrote an article for the American Hospital Association publicationH&HN Daily on the three levels of accountability. Most of us associate that term with the hierarchical, command-and-control accountability of reward and punishment. But as I described in my article, cultural and personal accountability are far more powerful. Publicly posting a Certificate of Commitment is a way of holding oneself to a higher standard and simultaneously creating a peer expectation of that higher standard.

Wristbands for The Self Empowerment Pledge
The Self Empowerment Pledge features seven promises, one for each day of the week, on Responsibility, Accountability, Determination, Contribution, Resilience, Perspective, and Faith. We encourage people to make the promise every day, to share the promise in group settings, and to wear their wristbands for each day’s promise.

We have seen people make amazing, and in some cases miraculous, changes as a result of keeping those promises. One of the stories in the new book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses (on Amazon at this link) is “Promises” by Midland Memorial Hospital COO/CNO Bob Dent. It tells the story of how a registered nurse at that hospital, as a result of holding to these promises, was able to break a tenacious drug addiction that he had been able to hide from his coworkers.

Midland Memorial Hospital now offers the 21-module PledgePower course to all employees, and encourages them to go through the course with a PledgePartner as a way of holding each other accountable for keeping the promises. You can see their approach at the MMH Culture of Ownership web page at this link.

Pickle-Free Zones
The third visual cue that we have seen have a powerful effect on habits and behaviors is The Pickle Pledge to turn complaints into blessings or constructive suggestions, and to declare their workplaces to be “Pickle-Free Zones.” You can see examples of some of the fun ways that people have embraced The Pickle Challenge for Charity at this link and download the flyer at this link.

I can tell you from my own personal experience that the person who is most profoundly affected by seeing a Pickle-Free Zone door hanger on the door, or a pickle jar for “whine fines” sitting on the desk, is the person who put the sign or the jar there. Not because we are negative people, but because we have never before really paid attention to just how insidious and pernicious our negative thinking could be, and how easily it can slip into negative comments without our even being aware of it – at least until we start noticing it and fining ourselves a quarter whenever we do slip into it.

The Power of Focused Emotion
One of my favorite movies is Cool Hand Luke and one of my favorite scenes in that movie is where, having committed to eating 50 eggs and appearing about to fail at the task, his fellow inmate Dragline hollers “Get mad at them damned eggs!” That is the power of focused emotion – and the sorts of visual cues and commitments that I’ve just covered can help to focus that emotional power. You can read my more extended article about this power at this link.

Remember, culture does not change unless and until people change. And that is emotional work.

Next: Step 4 covers strategies to help people effectively confront toxic emotional negativity at work (and at home). You can see the introductory overview to this series at this link.