If you are a new leader, how quickly can you create cultural change? My old answer had always been that it takes time. The new leader would have to lay foundations, communicate norms and embed expectations. The process would take some time.
I think I was wrong.
The man himself, Kris Dunn, wrote an article a while back about how new leaders use corporate bounties in turnarounds. For the last five years, my beloved St. Louis Rams have been atrocious. 80 times during those five years, a leader lined them up in the locker room, ran them on the practice field and tried to instill in them a winning culture.
65 of those 80 times, the Rams lost, usually by a lot. They hired and fired three head coaches.
Enter new coach Jeff Fisher. Check KD’s assertion that he placed a corporate bounty on the players by hiring Courtland Finnegan, a borderline dirty player:
…The smart new corporate leader puts EVERYONE on notice by sponsoring a hire that will shake up the stale culture. By doing this, the leader tells everyone what’s required to stay.
Example of hiring a change agent: I’m a St. Louis Rams fan. The Rams have sucked for a while, and this year they hired a great coach – Jeff Fisher (former Titans coach) who’s got a reputation for fielding teams that play hard and are borderline dirty.
So when he landed in St. Louis, Fisher put an indirect bounty on the entire current roster by signing one of his former Titans players – a wild card named
Courtland Finnagan. The bounty – “play this hard and this on the edge, or you’re not long for this location” is used often in corporate America in change situations.
As usual, KD was right. At the beginning of this season, Fisher had already turned over 60% of the players from last year. Fisher sent a message. Check the article after the Rams second game this year, titled Rams Fostering a Darker Identity:
From 1999 through 2001…the Rams were accused of being a soft, pretty, finesse team that preferred flag football over tackle football…many years later, it's strange to see the Rams being portrayed as NFL bad boys. Talk about a dramatic change in identity…Finnegan was Fisher's first free-agent signing, and that's no coincidence. Say hello to the new Rams… They are nothing like the feckless Rams of 2007-2011 who lost 65 of 80 games as the league's resident patsies. When Fisher took over, he had to transform this team's personality and give it a spine. You could say that Coach is making progress
Is this good or bad? For Rams ownership, it probably depends on the results Fisher gets. If his teams play on the edge and win, then my guess is he will be just fine. If they play on the edge and lose, then all Fisher did was fire a bunch of nice losers and replace them with nasty losers. Either way, though, he has instilled a new identity in the group in a short time. Whether you agree with his tactics or not, he has quickly made his mark as a leader.