Every independent advisory firm has a culture — the values and behaviors expected from all associated with it. But, cultivating a great company culture is anything but simple.

The new year is often when firm owners choose to make enhancements and changes to their firm culture. In doing so, leadership typically starts by putting together a list of changes they’d like to make and then implementing those changes all at once.

I think of making changes to an advisory culture as like operating on a patient. A surgeon can make changes to a patient’s heart, but doing it without killing the individual (of course) is the true challenge. To complete the analogy, operating on various parts of a patient’s body at the same time would obviously increase the risks of a bad outcome.

As you go into 2020, here are four ways to make changes to your culture, so they make a powerful difference to the health and vitality of your advisory firm in the coming year and beyond.

First, company culture is driven by core values that emphasize your company beliefs, behaviors and practices. Basically, you’re answering, “How do we act?”

When working with firms, we encourage firm owners and executives to review core values each year. Are any missing? Do they need to be clearer? Can inclusion and diversity be enhanced by tweaking core values?

Next, ask yourself and your team: If you were to enhance one part of your culture in the coming year, which aspect would it be?

When we ask our clients this question, we get a variety of answers. Some want more focused listening, sharing more gratitude for team members, accepting others’ thoughts and opinions, and being more open and vulnerable, etc.

Once you have a list of these desired behaviors, pick one and dedicate the coming year to cultivating it in your culture. For example, if you decide to focus on better listening, you can bring in outside experts and hold educational programs to help the firm build this skill.

Finally, ask yourself: How can I be a better example of the culture I want to create? As firm owners and leaders, it’s nearly impossible to create a culture on “do as I say, not as I do.”

The goal of any company culture is to nurture what you want to create. If you want greater productivity, you must demonstrate that as a leader. If you want more kindness, you must show it. The same is true for boosting innovation or expanding trust.

In 2020, as you think about how you want to enhance your culture, take one step at a time. It’s no different than when you’re building and growing a business, each small step will get you closer to the culture you want to embody.