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3 Steps to Become a Culture Catalyst

Cultivate Empathy
3 Steps to Become a Culture Catalyst

Since normal is co-created by every person in that culture, each person has the power to change it. Follow these three steps to be a culture catalyst!

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Step 1: Be Self-Aware

How do you think or act like today’s normal is okay? 

“Normal” is reinforced every time someone acts “appropriately” according to that norm. For example, if you’re passionate about changing sexism, consider how you (un)intentionally support it today. Every time you act appropriately, you’re reinforcing what’s normal.

To make discrimination abnormal, first look at how you’re acting or thinking in ways that uphold those issues today. You cannot force anyone else to change, but you can change yourself.

Self-awareness is a process that goes deeper and wider the more you use it. Start by asking yourself, “What makes me feel excluded? What can I do differently that would also make others feel less excluded?”

How To Be Self-Aware

Educate yourself about how today’s normal harms others, then reflect on how you might inadvertently act or think in ways that reinforce rather than dismantle it. Make reflection a reflex.

Once you know better, you can do better.


Step 2: Curiously Care

How do you expect others to reinforce today’s normal?

“Normal” is also reinforced every time you expect people unlike yourself, or Others, to act “appropriately” according to that norm. For example, if you’re passionate about changing sexism, consider how you (un)intentionally expect people from other genders, racial groups, economic classes, etc to be sexist. Every time you expect others to act appropriately, you’re reinforcing what’s normal.

When you find a person with good intentions but poor actions, explore the personal values that overlap with theirs. Look for their humanity and help them see yours, too.

How To Curiously Care

Don’t assume that any individual is part of the problem; tap into your curiosity and seek understanding of others’ perspectives to build unexpected allies.


3. Own the Change

How can you encourage your co-workers to adopt a new normal?

Research into social change reveals that it happens in our social circles first; when the people you know well adopt a new perspective, you’re more likely to change your mind about an issue. To be the change you want to see: consistently show up.

“There’s no women in sales because there’s no girls interested in sales,” said my co-worker.

“I think that’s a stereotype. Did you know that just about half of the solo entrepreneurs in the US are women? And startups founded by women are more successful than ones founded by only men? To be an entrepreneur is to be in sales. As a woman, I didn’t go into tech sales because I didn’t feel comfortable in an overly competitive space – it didn’t appeal to me personally. But I know several women in sales who are super competitive and love it. So I wonder, instead, if we can make sales appealing to less competitive people while keep sales teams successful?”

I delivered this with a calm, inviting tone so he didn’t shut down. Invite others to be self-aware and curiously care, too.

The other half of Owning the Change is to embrace Accountability. In particular, this is the behavior we see the least often but is the most crucial element in building a trusting, inclusive dynamic.

Apologies are limited to displays of regret. Accountability is a combination of regret, responsibility, and commitment. Regret your actions, be responsible for the harm you unintentionally caused, and commit to do better next time. Then actually do better next time.

How To Own The Change

Plan for success. Share your personal stories and be a bridge to others outside your ingroup. Be accountable for any harm you have caused.

Think of this as an extension of a growth mindset. You can do it! Discomfort is natural any time we are learning something new. Join a community, start a book club, get inspired…let’s get to work!

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