a publication for commissioners and professionals

Fall 2021


Karen Bengtson 
Commissioner Recruiting and Retention Chair

Making a Difference Through Change

Changing the underlying culture of any large organization requires that core values be reassessed and long-term goals redefined. It takes time. Or does it? The standard belief is that culture change takes 2–3 years. That’s one reason people are reluctant to engage in change. But we have all witnessed a recent event that caused rapid change—the COVID-19 pandemic. Although societal changes caused by COVID were the result of a catastrophic event, the pandemic demonstrated that rapid change is possible.

Before we can begin to change commissioner culture, we must first understand what our current culture really looks like and be specific about what changes we want to make. While the answers will be different for each council and district, each of us should consider following an approach that will help us clearly define the current culture, identify what needs to change and decide how to move forward.

Take a candid look at existing culture.
  • Are commissioners in your council uniform inspectors, or do they support unit leaders? 
  • Do they focus on unit operations or youth engagement? 
  • Do they reflect core values of helpfulness, responsiveness and friendliness? 

A frank assessment and collaborative discussion will provide a clearer picture of your current commissioner culture.

Clearly define ONE or TWO things that need to change.

Perhaps the way commissioners are perceived in your council needs to change. Be the Heart is an especially apt phrase to consider when recruiting someone who will be a good fit with commissioner culture. Commissioners who can role model this ideal will fast-track the change you want. Or perhaps commissioners need to Build Relationships with their assigned units. Collaborative culture is founded on open communication and trust. When commissioners unintentionally intimidate unit leaders by attending a unit meeting while decked out like a five-star general, perhaps it’s time to lose the uniform shirt and visit the unit at a campout.

Take real action: Change Lives.
  • Recruit commissioners who demonstrate values of the desired culture.
  • Create an environment in which the contributions of commissioners are valued.
  • Do the difficult work of letting go of an unproductive commissioner.
  • Lead by example. Be a champion, a role model and an influencer.
  • Be consistent and be persistent. Allowing unwanted behavior to continue indicates you aren’t serious about core values or changing culture that is not working.

Positive changes in culture can have unexpected results: the role of the commissioner becomes more attractive to other volunteers—commissioners become a friendly group of volunteers who “get stuff done.”

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” I think all commissioners would agree that positive change is worth the effort.

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