My first pair of pants were my brother’s snow pants; big puffy snow pants with elastic suspenders. They were huge on me but warm in midwestern winters and a lot better than tights. A culture shift had happened during my mother’s lifetime and many women wore pants. I remember it being a big deal when I wore my first pair of pants and certainly jumped on board to the pants for girls culture shift.
Fast forward to life in California as an adult. One day, I went directly from work to the trail wearing a skirt. I headed out for a 7 mile hike where I’d usually wear pants. I now know why Utilikits, Seattle WA, advertises: “We Sell Freedom…We are committed to pioneering a comfortable alternative to trousers …” And a StumpTown Kilts, Portland, OR testimonial states “(my kilt) gave me a freedom I have never felt before.” Are we in the midst of another culture shift?
My one day hike in a skirt, led me to a 3 month culture shift experiment. What if I wore a skirt hiking for all my hikes?
It started as an experiment and now I’m a convert. I’m not judging pants or yoga pants, people should wear whatever they like. Yet, I have to say for me, a skirt is great. It’s got great movement, easy for trail pit stops, and when the day warms up, I’m not hot. Add a pair of knee leggings and I’m pretty warm most hikes.
I realized how hard culture shift can be when I started getting some comments and looks. In organizations we often talk about culture change and culture shift. Leaders often feel it needs to go faster. In my little experiment, I found it’s much harder and slower to shift culture than you think.
The first thing I noticed was that many women on the trail gave me a double take. I got a couple of eye rolls, some questioning looks, and even pairs of women commenting to each other on my style (or lack of style). Then a couple of weeks ago something shifted. Maybe I was wearing my skirts with more confidence. A couple of women passed me and then stopped, turned back and said..”we love your skirt, total woman power”. Wow, Woman Power! Who knew? Then this week, a woman sized me up, started to continue her walk and turned back to me and said..”that is so cool that you hike in a skirt”.
I know a lot of women don’t want to hike in skirts and that’s great. And, I know some men are now hiking in skirts/kilts. In the British Isles, people have been hiking in kilts for generations. Makes you wonder…What is required for a culture shift?
Step back and think about a culture shift experiment for yourself.
- What’s one area where you are willing to try a culture shift experiment?
- What data will you collect to notice the reaction to the shift?
- How will you know if it’s a shift worth making?
- What can you learn from a small culture shift experiment?
To answer my experiment questions:
What’s one area where you are willing to try a culture shift experiment? A skirt was worth a try as it seemed so much more comfortable than pants. I now prefer hiking in skirts.
What data will you collect to notice the reaction to the shift? Eye rolls, passing judging comments, snickers, empowering comments (women power). And I never expected anyone to comment on my clothes.
How will you know if it’s a shift worth making? I’ve been a little cold some days and wanted pants in the first hour of a hike. Yet, overall, I love the freedom from skirts. As the day warms up I’m perfectly comfortable. I think I’ll stick with this culture shift experiment in California. In fact, I’m planning on a 20 mile hike in a skirt to support the Bay Ridge Trail.
What can you learn from a small culture shift experiment? As a leadership coach, I have to remember to move slowly on culture shift initiatives. It takes time, it takes patience and most of all it takes a listening ear and a curious eye to see if there is readiness for the shift.
What’s the culture shift experiment you want to try? How will it help you think more deeply about the challenges of leading culture change.
*Note to self…remember to ask my brother about where he keeps his snow pants for cold hiking days.