Expert Robert Richman Reveals The Best Way To Transform Culture

How to transform culture

We all have the potential to lend a hand in the way our collective culture is built and shaped. But in order to do so, we need to understand a little more about what culture is, how it works, and, effectively, how to transform culture.

Culture has become a popular subject in our society today, and for good reason. As globalization impacts the way we build our future communities and jobs, we’ve come to realize that now more than ever before, culture impacts what we do.

So, what is culture? And why should we change it?

Robert Richman, the public speaker, best selling author, and culture hack expert that co-created Zappos Insights, has several profound ways we can begin to take part in the evolution of our culture.

Who Is Robert Richman?

From 2009 to 2012, Robert Richman was the chief cultural strategist for Zappos. He helped create Zappos Insights, a program focused on cultivating and teaching the incredible work culture that helped Zappos reach such prominent and lasting success.

He built Zappos Insights from the small, little known website it was to a huge, multi-million dollar business with over 25,000 active students a year.

Everyone wanted to know and put into practice Robert’s innovative culture hacking insights.

He wrote The Culture Blueprint in 2014, a book that helps guide companies toward better, healthier, more productive company cultures.

Today, he tours the world as a keynote speaker at corporate events and conferences, teaching companies his culture hacking secrets.

Robert Richman is a powerful authority on the subject of shifting and manifesting better, healthier cultures, but before we explore his ideas, we must first attempt to define culture itself.

What Is Culture?

So, what is culture? It’s a big question, and understandably, it’s a got a big, difficult to grapple with answer.

If we want to define culture, we’ll need to step back from our preconceived notions, and distill the idea down to it’s most basic form.

When we define culture, we define ourselves

Culture, at its essence, is a feeling. While yes, we can also define culture as an inherent set of values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a community.

But at its core?

It’s a feeling. Culture is a feeling.

It’s that feeling you get when you step into a room or a home or a workplace and get a sense of the underlying element that connects everyone present in the space.

Whatever that feeling is, whatever sense you get from the environment, that’s often a good indicator of the culture that’s present.

This holds especially true for the workplace. And that leads us to organizational culture.

how to transform culture

What Is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the set of values, beliefs, and behaviors that belongs to a particular organized group. This group could be a sports team. It could be a family. It could be a corporation.

Organizational culture is concerned with what unites and organizes the activities of a specific group. It’s what the members of that group believe in, strive toward, and care about most. And this is often reflected in the actions and behaviors of the group.

Organizational culture is often associated with corporate culture, or work culture. We may not realize it, but the culture of our workplace has a huge impact on us, not just in the way we feel while we’re at work, but in the way we behave while we’re there, and in the way we talk about our work with others.

Robert Richman Identifies The Importance Of Work Culture

Work culture is an important component of our lives. We spend nearly 70% of our time at work. The way we feel about our workplace has a lot to do with its organizational culture, and if that culture is lacking, or broken, we feel the ill effects. We’re anxious, we’re stressed, and we’re less productive.

How can you identify if you’re working in a toxic work culture? Here are some signs to keep on the lookout for:

  • Office cliques
  • Lack of communication
  • Constant competition
  • Disorganized goal setting
  • High employee turnover
  • Gossip
  • No recognition of good work
  • Scheduling inflexibility

These are just a few indicators that you may be working in a toxic work culture.

company work culture

Robert Richman Demonstrates 3 Ways To Transform Culture

If you aren’t happy with the current culture where you work, don’t fret. Even if you’re a new hire and don’t have much clout around the office, you can still make your ideas heard, or find a way to pass these suggestions along to higher ups.

You can make an impact, no matter your position. Here are three key culture hacking suggestions from Robert Richman:

1. Shift your language

Language plays a huge role in the way we interpret the world around us. It can make a large difference in our work cultures, too.

A prime example of this? Making the shift from “I am,” to “I feel.” Saying “I am depressed,” or “I am tired,” sends an important signal to the brain, and it all starts with the words, “I am.”

The words “I am” are a statement of identity. Whatever follows these words becomes a component of who we are. So, when we say, “I am depressed,” it’s not that we’re simply feeling depressed. We encompass and become the depression itself.

Instead of saying “I am,” next time, try shifting to “I feel.” I feel isn’t a statement of identity, but it does acknowledge the state you currently occupy.

What we choose to say can have profound effects on our emotional, mental, and physical well being. When we learn to frame things in different ways with our words, we can shift the whole environment around us.

Another great example Robert Richman uses to demonstrate this is by shifting from “I feel overworked,” to “Wow, I’m very productive today.” This simple reframing can entirely shift the energy of your environment, and can help promote a healthier culture around you.

2. Commands versus invitations

Robert Richman emphasizes the importance of utilizing invitations over commands. This holds especially true in the workplace.

When we demand something of someone else, we don’t give them the opportunity to choose. We’re forcing something on them, and they in turn feel pressured to comply.

But if we shift a request from a command into an invitation, we’re giving others the space in which to make a choice.

When people feel that they’re being given a choice, they’re much more likely to follow through with what’s being requested, often returning with even better results than they would have otherwise.

This simple pivot from command to invitation can make all the difference when working with others, both in a team, and as a team leader.

3. Build a safe work environment

Having a safe environment in which to work goes far beyond simply securing the physical safety of employees.

A truly safe work environment is one in which employees also feel emotionally safe.

Safe enough that they are able to express their honest, genuine opinions about the work being done, and the execution of the company’s values and goals. A good leader is able to facilitate this through helping others feel heard and acknowledged.

When people are encouraged to speak up and contribute, the potential creative brain power in the room is exponentially multiplied!

But people won’t speak up and voice their thoughts if they don’t feel safe enough to do so.

Helping others to feel safe, respected, and heard is a huge part of building a healthier work culture.

If you would like even more advice on how to transform and grow world-class work culture, here is a talk by another expert in the field, Vishen Lakhiani:


Which of these practices might you use to improve the culture around you?

Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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