“Digital Transformation” is the buzzword of the century, but how do you make it work with a diverse team and keep them aligned with your company culture?
That’s what Delilah Alvarado and I discussed in episode four of Building An Agile Future: A Modern Digital Leaders Interview Series.
Delilah is the go-to person to ask about “culture.” With a background that includes serving as a senior training instructor at the United States Air Force Airman Leadership School, program manager at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a space camp ambassador at Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, she has all the credentials to back it up.
And if that wasn't enough, Delilah has also served as a Leadership Coach at Nexus Transformation Coaching, runs her own consulting business, Delilah Alvarado Consulting, and currently serves as a culture and engagement specialist at Northstrat.
During our conversation, we tackled a variety of topics—everything from culture theater and why digital transformation isn't just a “one-person job” to connecting behavior with values, how to conquer pesky culture hurdles, and more.
Here’s what Delilah had to say.
HOW DELILAH DEFINES CULTURE
Any organization can say they have the “best culture,” but the true test is living up to that claim.
Delilah argues that culture should be more than just words on a page. To put it another way, there must be a connection between stated values and behavior.
“I've worked with a variety of teams, and no matter who I work with, it always goes back to the same questions: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? And is there a tieback to the value system? That tie between behaviors and values is kind of the heart of culture,” she says.
Couldn’t agree more. When a company's culture and values are in sync and reflected in the actions of its employees, it's like a well-oiled machine running smoothly toward success. But if there's misalignment? Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
So how do we ensure company culture is aligned with behaviors? Delilah broke it down into three parts:
→ Establish a shared mindset
→ Clearly define “culture”—what it looks like and what it means
→ Make “culture” tangible, that is, make it more than a series of words on a page
BIGGEST LESSONS ABOUT CULTURE
We need “people leaders,” not just “job” leaders.
You are in the right place when you are in a company that values diversity, encourages innovation, and supports the sharing of ideas.
As a culture and engagement specialist, Delilah values diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and believes these qualities can bring fresh perspectives and drive growth.
She also believes that anyone can be a leader, regardless of their official title, and encourages people to lead, especially if they have relevant experience or expertise.
“We need ‘people leaders’ too, not just job leaders or skill leaders. Some situations call for ordinary people to become leaders and help us along the way,” she says.
“Maybe they've got the right energy or vernaculars that we need,” she says. “Or maybe they just get us as a person because they’ve had a personal situation we relate to.”
Delilah values being reliable, supportive, and present for others, but she also emphasizes the need to establish healthy boundaries to preserve one's well-being and prevent burnout.
As she says, “There are some of us who strive to be that consistent, stable person, but there also has to be a healthy boundary around that—around being that person who always has the light on and is always ready to be there for you.”
Couldn’t agree more.
“Culture theater” is a real thing, and companies should be more aware of it.
How often have you heard someone claim their company's culture and values are important, only to see little evidence of it in practice?
According to Delilah, behavior must reflect values and culture. Or, as she puts it, “Before we take inventory of the aspiration of culture and the things we're going to talk about, we need to ensure there is a relationship happening behind the behaviors and values we declare.”
She even has a term for when company behavior doesn’t reflect its stated values: Culture theater. To avoid committing culture theatre, organizations must “back up what we declare,” she says. Why? “So we don't just think, talk, and post about it, but instead act on it.”
In other words, walk the talk.
BIGGEST LESSONS ABOUT TRANSFORMING COMPANIES DIGITALLY
Digital transformation impacts everything, including the way you think.
To Delilah, digital transformation isn't just about updating technology; it's also about changing the way you think.
“Digital transformation also impacts teams, how we communicate, what tools we're going to be using, and what our hardships are. It actually changes our hardships,” she says.
Anyone at any time can act as a leader.
According to Delilah, anyone has the potential to be a leader at any time.
“I believe organizations have a responsibility to challenge and encourage every single person—from the executive to the intern—to lead us in our transformation, whether digital or otherwise,” she says.
“Formal, informal, new, old, whatever it is, it's everyone's responsibility to help the organization transform.”
WHAT DO INNOVATION, TRANSFORMATION, AND MODERNIZATION MEAN TO DELILAH
To Delilah, innovation can be broken down into a simple formula:
Collaboration + Imagination = Innovation.
“To innovate, we must have collaboration and imagination,” she said. More specifically, organizations must create spaces that nurture investment, creativity, and collaboration.
How? It starts with strong relationships—that will determine a team member’s willingness to share and be vulnerable.
Being innovative has little to do with fancy tech and everything to do with people coming together to share new ideas and build strong relationships. It's about being vulnerable and taking risks to bring something new and better into the world. That's what innovation means to Delilah.
Thank you for a fantastic conversation, Delilah!