In the world of care—be it in schools, hospitals, or nursing homes —real success goes beyond the basic duties we perform. It’s also about the well-being of the caregivers themselves. For you, leading such a distinguished institution, it’s crystal clear: You’re here to nurture a culture of dedication, excellence, and positivity among your staff. But let’s face it, the past few years have tossed us into uncharted waters. The post-pandemic era has left many feeling burned out, less driven, and disconnected.

The core of your institution beats with the passion and dedication of your team, who came aboard inspired by the noble goal of serving others, not just hitting business targets.

In our recent webinar, “Beyond Burnout: The Blueprint for Transformative Culture”, we explored how to kickstart change, enrich your culture, and boost the morale of your team, even when times are tough.

Here at Axialent, we stand by the conscious business approach. This model intersects caregiving with the deep levels of human connection and kindness. In a conscious business, the goal isn’t just about making money—it’s also about the well-being of everyone involved. This includes your employees, the people you serve, and the larger community. Caregivers, mostly driven by values of empathy and kindness, are dedicated to caring for others yet often feel neglected. Conscious Business practices teach caregivers to know themselves better and be resilient, which helps them deal with their complex roles in a sustainable way. By bringing these principles into their work, caregivers can create an environment that focuses on the complete well-being of those they look after, although not at the expense of their own.

“Easier said than done,” you might say. How do we strike the balance between the business side of things and taking care of our caregivers’ well-being? With the constant push to do more with less, we run the risk of thinking that doing ‘more’ is the same as doing ‘better.’ This dilemma points to an urgent need for solutions that get to the heart of burnout and lack of drive while also rekindling the inner fire and commitment within your team.

Our approach is tailored; we get that caregivers face unique challenges. We know that their well-being can’t be the object of quick fixes. It needs a whole-person approach that is rooted in a culture of empathy, support, and self-care within the organization. By truly embracing the idea of caring for caregivers, institutions can create an environment where staff feel valued, respected, and in control. This fosters a stronger sense of belonging and purpose among caregivers, reigniting their spirits and dedication.

Investing in the well-being of caregivers isn’t just good for them—it’s smart for the institution too. By looking after the mental, emotional, and physical health of caregivers, organizations build a foundation for lasting success. This isn’t merely about lessening burnout or upping productivity; it’s about cultivating a culture where caregivers don’t just get by—they thrive. This empowers the institution to live out its mission with true integrity.

In conclusion, taking care of our caregivers is essential, now more than ever. It’s not just about the numbers; it’s about creating a supportive community where everyone can do their best work. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it. Let’s build a culture that looks after those who look after us all.

Because when our caregivers succeed, so do we.

In a rapidly evolving business environment, characterized by constant changes and growth challenges, corporate culture emerges as a crucial pillar for the survival and prosperity of organizations. This global phenomenon not only affects large corporations but also startups and medium-sized enterprises. This article explores the nature of corporate culture, its economic impact, and its influence on business performance, offering a comprehensive perspective on its role in the modern era.

Corporate culture transcends a set of written values; it represents the soul of the company. It is the complex fabric of beliefs, behaviors, symbols, and systems that dictate how employees interact and make decisions. It is essential for navigating a disruptive business world, where only 23% of executives acknowledge that they can effectively manage cultural changes to align them with the business. Symbols in the form of rituals and myths, observable behaviors, and underlying systems define the unique character of each organization. This intangible yet powerful component is what drives companies to overcome obstacles and achieve their strategic goals.

To illustrate the economic impact of corporate culture with concrete data, we can consider, according to a survey by the Korn Ferry Institute, that between 30% and 50% of an organization’s market value can be directly attributed to its culture. This shows us that culture is not only a key strategic differentiator but also a considerable and compelling economic asset.

Furthermore, a recent study has revealed the power of a single cultural attribute, such as recognition, in the economic performance of a company. If the number of employees perceiving recognition as an essential attribute of their work environment were doubled:

  • a 9% improvement in productivity,
  • a 22% decrease in safety incidents,
  • and a 22% reduction in absenteeism would be observed.

This translates to $92 million in productivity gains and millions more in savings due to decreased incidents and unscheduled absences.

Other studies also emphasize that companies prioritizing culture and investment in their employees can grow sales and margins up to twice as much as those that do not.

The economic influence of a strong corporate culture is undeniable. Another comprehensive study has shown that companies with strong cultures aligned with their strategy have significantly better financial performance.

A longitudinal analysis of 25 companies over 11 years revealed that organizations with adaptive and aligned cultures experienced a 682% increase in revenue, compared to a 166% increase in companies without such alignment. Additionally, in the realm of mergers and acquisitions, an aligned culture is a critical factor for success, with executives willing to abandon deals if the culture is incompatible or reduce the purchase value by up to 30%.

These data underscore the power of culture as a driver of growth and sustainability. Likewise, a strong culture positively impacts employee retention and satisfaction, customer loyalty, and the innovative capacity of the company, creating an ecosystem where all aspects of the business nurture and strengthen each other.

  • A well-defined and executed corporate culture becomes a key strategic differentiator. In the current competitive landscape, where the pace of change is staggering, a culture that supports and embraces this change is vital. This is a key aspect that companies should not overlook if they seek not only to survive but also to thrive in the modern business landscape.
  • Effective culture management can and should be a strategic initiative to generate more economic value and ensure a prosperous future.
  • Companies that prioritize a culture of innovation and adaptability tend to outperform their competitors in terms of agility and ability to respond to market changes.

Additionally, culture directly affects operational efficiency, decision-making, and strategy implementation. A culture that supports and embraces change is vital. Culture thus becomes the central axis for strategy execution, the development of new products, and expansion into new markets.

It is more than a strategic component; it is the heart that drives success in a competitive and disruptive world. With economic importance clearly established and tangible impacts on business performance, it becomes evident that deliberate actions to foster a strong culture are essential.

The remaining questions are: Is your organization prepared to transform its culture and move towards a prosperous future? And in addition to this, it is worth questioning how much economic value we are leaving on the table by not strengthening the culture to achieve unbeatable results.

In summary: The best business we can invest in is our corporate culture consciously.

Stefaan van Hooydonk, Founder of The Global Curiosity Institute, sat down with Axialent‘s Anabel Dumlao and internationally experienced CHRO Niklas Lindholm to explore how curiosity in leadership creates successful cultures. In this talk, they explored a variety of topics relating to curiosity in the workplace including leadership, high performance, and culture.  

The Case for Curiosity 

It is no longer a well-kept secret that mindset shifts that tap into curiosity, such as from a knower to a learner mindset, are particularly effective in the business world of today. According to the Harvard Business Review: “New research reveals that fostering curiosity has a wide range of benefits for organizations, leaders, and employees.” These benefits include:

  • Fewer decision-making errors. 
  • More innovation and positive changes in both creative and noncreative jobs. 
  • Reduced group conflict. 
  • More open communication and better team performance. 

Stefaan spoke about the correlation between curiosity and leadership. Curiosity is often taken for granted, but extremely important strategically. Often, companies start on a high note and are innovative, but after a while, if they have experienced success, they become less curious and take things for granted.

They think they are in control, and start to operate more or less on autopilot and copy the formulas for success that worked in the past. Companies like Blockbuster, Toys R Us, and Kodak are all examples of companies that were trying very hard to replicate the past – and were not ready when their industries changed. 

The question then arises, do organizations kill curiosity themselves? As start-ups maybe not, but once they scale, it seems so. According to research by the Global curiosity institute: 

  • Leaders are twice as ready to say their organization supports curiosity in comparison to the people who report to them 
  • After 3 years in the same role, the curiosity of an employee diminishes 
  • Middle-level managers are about four times less positive about curiosity compared to team leads or senior executives 
  • 24% of people regularly feel less curious at work 
Curious Leaders Create Successful Cultures

Learning about Curiosity 

Depending on the company and its culture, there can be a little more attraction or distraction related to curiosity. Before the 1950s, curiosity had a very negative connotation. It was only later that curiosity was linked to science, discovery, and exploration. Stefaan’s definition of curiosity is: “Curiosity is the mindset to challenge the status quo, explore, discover, and learn.” It may take time for people to be encouraged to think about how much it is a good versus a negative thing.  

Dimensions for curiosity include:  

  • Cognitive curiosity – “the world” – (resulting in innovation and creativity) 
  • Interpersonal curiosity – “others” – (leading to empathy) 
  • Intrapersonal curiosity – “ourselves” – (igniting resilience and self-awareness) 

Stefaan explained that the opposite of curiosity is conformity, which is always a base position. Conformity “tries to keep us in the status quo, and prefers a comfortable past over an uncertain future”. The predictability makes us feel good and gives us a sense of being in control.

This is not to say that it is unnecessary. Individuals and companies do need a sense of predictability. It becomes a danger, however, when we start losing awareness of conformity and don’t marry it with curiosity. The ideal situation is somewhere in the middle allowing for both.

Curiosity in a Fast-Changing Business World 

The case has become clearer out of COVID. We are realizing that some of the ideas we had are not relevant anymore, or are only partially relevant. Curiosity is especially important nowadays because company environments are changing all the time. 

While 90% of leaders now believe investing in curiosity is worthwhile, in practice, 50% say spending time focusing on curiosity could distract from priorities. Leadership is an important activator for curiosity in teams. Often, managers don’t realize the shadow they cast on the team. Poor leaders stifle curiosity, but great leaders who are intentionally curious uplift the team by encouraging them to follow their own behaviors.  

One simple way to increase curiosity is to ask for reverse feedback. According to a study by the Global Curiosity institute, 23% of first-line people managers ask subordinates how they are doing themselves while only 46% of middle managers do. 

Reverse feedback is a beautiful gift for a manager to give to themselves. Asking the open question of “how am I doing?” can be frightening. The more a manager says he or she does not know, the more respect they get. In many cultures, the idea is that being paid more means you must have more of the answers. You don’t have to. Inviting the team to come up with a solution together empowers them.  

Companies that embrace a culture of openness are outperforming their peers (ex. Microsoft). They transformed their culture through: 

  • A focus on workplace curiosity 
  • Switching from a culture of “know it all” to “learn it all” 
  • A willingness to embrace a growth mindset and explore biases 
  • Nonviolent communication 

Many other companies are also embedding curiosity at the level of corporate values as a guiding principle. For example:

  • Pepsi: Project marketplace inviting employees to apply to join limited-time projects in other departments.
  • McKinsey & Company: focus on the value of “Obligation to dissent” for all their employees.
  • Xicato: sales teams are incentivized to sell new products with a higher commission, enabling them to look for new markets.
  • Google: With the “20% project”, Google is allowing employees to spend 20% of their time working on passion projects to keep the spirit of innovation alive.
  • Fiskars: Leadership development is primarily structured around self-exploration of one’s own purpose and clarification of one’s individual values.
Curious Leaders Create Successful Cultures

Fostering Curiosity in Individuals, Teams, and Organizations

Stefaan described the difference between A-players and B-players, and how it actually pertains to curiosity. A-players harbor intentional curiosity. These are people who don’t necessarily need training because they are always ahead of the game. They learn and read more, have humility, and are not afraid to not “know” and to seek knowledge. They don’t just learn in their own specialty area but expand to grow in other intersectional areas. 

B-players want to learn and grow but have lost something along the way in their childhood or work that has stopped them from continuing to learn. Managers say they want A-players, but a lot of times they settle for B-players and don’t want people who stick out their necks and challenge the status quo. Other managers really welcome such employees. Curious organizations need curious employees.

Niklas spoke to the importance of creating a psychologically safe environment in order to have a curious organization or team. People need to feel that there are safe spaces for them to express ideas, and to fail. This requires a level of inclusive leadership.  

Dictatorial leaders will not allow new ideas. At the heart of inclusive leadership is coaching, which is very connected to curiosity. Coaching facilitates getting the right questions on the table.  

He also shared that it is important as a company from the onset to have curiosity embedded into its strategy, mission, purpose, and values. This will remind employees to stay curious, and connect curiosity to all the activities that are happening. It is extremely important to stay transparent in order to spark interest and adoption of the plans. 

It may be helpful to rank values according to which ones are actually being lived by. Curiosity might actually be the lowest if companies have the greatest difficulty delivering on it. Once awareness is there, figure out what you can do about it. Brainstorming techniques to increase curiosity don’t take a long time. You don’t have to go to the forest to have new ideas — it can be as simple as a 60–90-minute exercise. 

Ultimately, Niklas shared that exploration is one of the best outcomes of curiosity. This pertains to the external culture, where people are exploring and understanding what’s happening outside with the market and customers. It is important to put emphasis on the external world. Companies that are too internally focused start dying.  

Anabel spoke to symbols in culture, and how important they can be in highlighting what is important and valued in an organization. When it comes to curiosity, do leaders dedicate time toward it? If it’s not on their agenda, it is telling the message that leadership doesn’t truly value it. It also shows through role modeling – do managers listen to fix or to learn? Do people come out of meetings with leaders alive and energized, or is it the other way around?

Increasing Curiosity 

Curiosity can be baselined and treated scientifically. We are starting to see companies that are measuring and realizing where they actually are by being intentional about curiosity.

3 concepts to embrace to get better at curiosity:

  • Awareness – how aware are you of how you are showing up as a leader? 
  • Intentionality – in adopting and inviting curiosity 
  • Measurement – there are now a number of assessment tools that you can explore

The Global Curiosity Institute scored several multinational companies on 9 dimensions of environmental curiosity, and their research shed light on aspects where there is still room for improvement. The top 3 distractors below are where companies wanting to remove limiting barriers to curiosity should focus their enhancement efforts.

Curious Leaders Create Successful Cultures

Top 3 distractors from curiosity: 

  • Internal processes and practices 
  • Innovation mindset (including acceptance of failure) 
  • Culture of openness 

Curiosity is a powerful concept that has, in a way, molded humanity’s path through innovation and industrial revolutions. To learn more about this concept, watch the entire webinar below or get in touch with our experts.

I have a dream, and its name is Conscious Kids! And I want us to dream together. With my colleagues at Axialent, I work with great business and people leaders around the world. Fundamentally, we help build conscious cultures and coach leaders to successfully run conscious businesses. I love what I do. I really do it out of passion, and I am rewarded by the outstanding impact this work has on individuals and organizations. And yet, I feel there is so much more that can be done to foster consciousness in our ecosystems. 

A few months ago, at an Axialent Board meeting in Barcelona, I had some sort of revelation: we could also support the leaders of tomorrow – our kids! This revelation made me feel 30 years younger, made my eyes shine, and filled me with renewed energy…and a new sense of noble purpose. I began my work toward this by preparing a series of videos where I addressed what conscious kids means concretely, how we could impact kids around the world, and how to make this revelation real.  

conscious kids

When discussing “kids”, I am referring to potentially three different groups: children ages 7-12, teenagers 13-17, and those preparing to enter their adult and professional life. 

In the first phase of these videos, I addressed the what (help kids raise their consciousness so that they are the owners of their lives), the why (our kids’ freedom of mind is at risk), and the how (to raise our kids’ consciousness and be the owners of their future).  

The what of conscious kids is the DNA so to speak. It is helping kids to become: 

  • The player, rather than the victim of their life 
  • A learner, rather than a typical teenager pretending to know everything 
  • A master of their emotions, rather than being controlled by them 
  • Someone who thinks for themselves, rather than just as they are told to think 
  • Someone who speaks their truth constructively without the fear of avoiding confrontation or conflict and without disrespecting the opinions of others. 

The why of conscious kids is somewhat obvious, yet under-addressed. Kids are facing many challenges today for which they are not prepared. There are more and more challenges coming up that nobody but themselves will have to manage individually and collectively.

As adults, we don’t yet know the solutions to the unique challenges they will face. But it is our job to prepare and empower them. As I see it, our children are endangered by three key phenomena:  

  • Social networks, which are based on algorithms that create circular thinking. Social networks do not only tell us what to think but also unconsciously how to think and what relationships to have or not to have with others. These are all the opposite of critical thinking, and of thinking for oneself.   
  • A dramatic polarization of opinions towards the extremes, which divides people within the same family, community, and country in an increasingly violent and lack of respect for others ‘world. Kids need to discover and master polarity thinking that is not taught at school. 
  • The meteoric arrival of the metaverse will immerse us — our kids first — in a world of virtual and augmented realities. Once again, for the better and for the worse. The metaverse, together with artificial intelligence and transhumanism, is revamping the notion of life and of WHO we are. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists have already evidenced how virtual worlds in some video games are leading our kids to face serious risks of loss of identity, confusion about reality, and what the sense of life is — not to mention the risks of manipulation and brainwashing in virtual reality worlds. The metaverse could also be a world of opportunities for the best — if we infuse it with consciousness and mindfulness.  

One thing for example that is of major concern, I think, is the relationship our kids should consciously build with their AI avatar(s): The avatar is their self-representation / projection in the virtual worlds. We need to help them decide and define how this avatar could be their own hero: a hero who can help them become the best version of themselves in real life, and NOT a confusing chimera of someone they are not and should never be. 

My fourth video on conscious kids was a very early reflection on how we can help kids raise their consciousness and be the owners of their life and future. A couple of possibilities include:  

  • A community-based learning & development program where kids will learn from each other, from their parents, from teachers, psychologists, therapists, and pediatricians, from their sports coach, from universities, from corporate foundations, and from all kinds of educational governmental agencies and NGOs — with the support of high-tech companies through strategic alliances. 
  • Gamification — through the investigation of how kids of different ages learn, providing video games, sports, art, and/or physical projects that are tailored to raising consciousness. 

Our aim is to become a marketplace and connector, leveraging the ecosystem of private and public initiatives around the world for raising our kids’ mindfulness, and their ability to make this world a better place for them and for others. 

Take a look at my series of videos about Conscious Kids:

Watch my entire series of videos about Conscious Kids!

At this stage I have three key inferences to be validated or not as we are confronted by realities in our experience: 

  • The ways kids learn and develop are obviously different from how we structure L&D programs for adults — and the way kids will learn & develop in the coming years and decades will be completely different from what it is today. Their world is changing dramatically at a pace that we adults might not even be able to imagine. 
  • Kids and their education are our future: I don’t know how yet, but I intuit that the kids themselves will be the masters of this game. They will tell us, we will learn from them, and they will make us grow. We will not be the teachers — just enablers, facilitators, and coaches. What a shift of paradigm in our education approach!  
  • Likewise, with AI and the metaverse we really need to figure out how together, kids and adults, we will shape the world and the life we want. 

The next step in this exciting journey is to develop the how suite further. Stay tuned for further videos in our next phase, towards the end of the year. I am looking forward to this journey ahead, and hope you are with us! 

Many organizations have identified the need to drive culture change to adapt to evolving business needs and strategies and new ways of working and retaining talent. The need is clear, and the desire is there. So, what gets in the way of actual change happening?

Most culture change efforts start with a lot of energy but quickly lose steam.  We start seeing the tell-tale signs that we’re not moving forward:

  • Senior leaders dedicate less time and focus
  • Culture activities get cancelled or postponed
  • Initiatives are superficial and there’s no real effort to change mindsets and behaviors that get in the way
  • Focus is on storytelling, but not on “story doing”

As time goes on, it gets difficult to remember why we were doing this to begin with. Because we don’t know what got us here, we wonder, can we really change? We start focusing on all the reasons why we can’t change instead of what we are missing by not changing — what other possibilities could exist.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a shock to the system, a call to consciousness to make us focus back on culture – an incident that publicly exposes detrimental behaviors permeating the company and tarnishes the brand, talented people leaving due to burnout and disengagement, crippling bureaucracy or missed growth opportunities.

If you are a leader or culture champion, you may be wondering: How can we jumpstart the culture change? How can we spark renewed enthusiasm and support? Instead of looking for a recipe for success, we encourage you to address the challenge with curiosity, one conversation at a time.  Contemplate who you need support from to reenergize the process and how you can best engage them in discussing the following questions:

  • Who is in? Who is indifferent? Who is out? Why is that the case?
  • Are we clear on why culture matters to our business?
  • Are we aligned on what needs to change about the way we do things today?
  • What is holding us back from making the necessary shifts?
  • How can we quickly demonstrate that things are changing?
  • As leaders, how do we need to change to ourselves?
  • What commitments are we willing to make?
  • What support do we need to fulfill those commitments?

Conventional wisdom is that change takes time; in reality, what it takes is intention and practice.  Culture changes one conversation at a time.  If your culture journey is stuck, jumpstart it by creating a safe space to discuss the questions above constructively.  It may sound counterintuitive, but instead of doing more and going fast, it may be better to focus on less and take time to reflect.  Don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen in the first conversation. Change requires intention, inspiration, a simple plan, and practice.

No one would argue that work landscape has changed significantly in the last years due to covid-19.
According to a Mercer report, 71% of employers said last year they were going to adopt a hybrid model. And, an Accenture report noted that hybrid workforce models are embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies.
Although there is no exact definition and it can vary according to each organization, hybrid work is understood as the possibility of alternating (fixed or flex way) working from home, from a remote location and a central hub or office.
While there are many advantages for organizations and employees in adopting a hybrid model, it needs to be planned and consciously managed to offset some of the disadvantages hybrid work has revealed in the past years. Let´s look at the main drawbacks people have expressed after forcefully adopting this new way of working.

  1. It diffuses Human Connection: although technology platforms and collaboration tools have taken a quantum leap facilitating access to virtual experiences, human connection and sense of belonging have been diluted. In a virtual configuration, we tend to jump from meeting to meeting focusing on the task and results while investing little time on hanging out and mingling. Some people tend to experience weariness, loneliness, and disconnection.
  2. If not carefully planned, cross group collaboration can drop dramatically, and organizations might become more siloed: some organizations are already reporting an impact on sharing collective wisdom and innovating. Although spending face to face time is a possibility, it´s not always assigned to becoming more collaborative.
  3. Remote vs On Site Mindset: There are different shared beliefs by remote workers vs on site workers. Often people working from home can feel their career development is being impacted due to a lack of connection with their peers and/or leaders. We sometimes tend to believe we need to be “visible” to be considered by people who have decision making power in our careers. This might drive some additional tension to the implementation of the working model.

Human connection and sense of belonging are key to create a trusted environment and develop a high-performance culture.
So how can we as leaders, foster belonging in a hybrid environment?

  1. Make face-to-face time count: no virtual experience can replace the physical connection, so plan and invest purposefully your time together — it´s precious and needs to be taken care of. Building and growing your “WE” into trusting and collaborative relationships is the best use of your time. Plan for formal and informal gatherings to strengthen your bonds and get to know each other.
  2. Get to know your people — plan for 1:1s: We all come from different places, are immersed in different contexts, and have different needs. Let´s not approach our teams with a “one size fits all mindset”; ask your team what they need to feel more connected with you, the team, and the organization in this configuration. Make connection and sense of belonging part of your ongoing conversations and periodically assess with each team member their level of connection.
  3. Encourage mentoring / peer sessions: Developing a mentoring program creates a safe container for people to come together and share own experiences, wants, and needs. People feel heard while being challenged to adopt new mindsets. Mentoring has proven to be a great mechanism to help people grow in all 3 dimensions (I / WE / IT).
  4. During hybrid meetings, start with remote workers: Hybrid meetings can be messy and ineffective; it´s harder for remote workers to follow through and for onsite workers to be mindful of those who are accessing virtually. Before starting the meeting make sure you have the right technology in place so everyone can clearly hear the conversation that will take place in the room and in each virtual space. During the meeting periodically pause and check with the team how are they experiencing the meeting. Make sure you always give priority to remote workers to voice their opinion first without being overran by others. Setting clear ground rules is key for leading effective meetings.
  5. Foster vulnerability & authenticity: showing up and being seen as who we truly are with our own strengths and opportunities bring us together. Embracing others without judegment and with compassion creates an inclusive culture. As leaders, we have a key responsibility in role model an inclusive leadership inviting others to do the same.

Implementing a successful hybrid work model requires more than ever creating an inclusive environment where people feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging.
It´s not about making the model itself work, it is about consciously managing our culture and creating the right conditions to enable people develop to their full potential in any given working environment.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is one of the top trends that is shaping organizations in 2022 and beyond.1 Best practices in DEI have been talked about for decades, but how much change have we actually seen? Recent surveys have shown that we still have a gap in turning intention into impact.  According to a recent study, four in five (80 percent) of senior leaders think that their actions show that they are genuinely committed to greater DEI, while only three in five (58 percent) individual contributors say the same.2
Much of the traditional DEI efforts have been centered on corporate messaging on the company’s commitment to DEI, implementing HR policies to attract, retain and promote diverse employees, tracking DEI-related data and conducting mandatory training for managers to promote awareness of unconscious biases. These top-down and HR-driven actions are important, but not sufficient. In many cases, what organizations see as DEI challenges are underlying organizational cultural problems manifesting themselves as DEI issues.3
For example, the global pandemic has shown us that we need to think beyond traditional definitions of DEI and help people in organizations have more authentic conversations and conscious interactions. These day-to-day interactions are greatly influenced by the unwritten values and behavioral norms which guide the way we approach our work, interact with others and solve problems. In other words: the company culture.
For example, consider the impact that the following culture norms could have on team members feeling included, heard, and valued:

  • We are expected to come to our bosses with only good news
  • We shame people for making mistakes
  • We have a bias for action and value quick consensus over constructive debate
  • It’s not ok to disagree with others in a meeting
  • We only share business performance information on a need-to-know basis

Culture norms like this exist in every organization. They guide and regulate what is acceptable behavior in a group. The problem is that in many cases, these norms were not consciously defined in the first place, and we may not even be aware that they exist —they are “just the way we do things around here.” To drive culture change, the first step is to identify and name these unwritten norms, and discuss what may be driving them and whether they may be helping or hindering our journey to be a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace.
This process will be more effective if leaders work on adopting a learner mindset. When we shift to a learner mindset, we actively treat our views and opinions as our subjective interpretation, acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers and that there are multiple perspectives. This creates a positive snowball effect – we can better uncover and understand the culture norms that may be holding us back, benefit from the perspectives and ideas of others to drive the culture shifts, and visibly role model inclusive leadership behaviors.
A learner mindset also helps us to acknowledge that we will never be ‘done’ when it comes to understanding the context and experiences of others. By entering a space of humility and being willing to be vulnerable, we can better invite others to also be vulnerable and to openly share how they feel. This creates psychological safety: a space where people feel free to fail, to say ‘I don’t know’, to admit their mistakes and to be vulnerable about their feelings and experiences. It also encourages people to share their ideas, challenge others, raise issues and constructively disagree. Creating this safe space is the most important first step to creating a culture that truly values DEI.
This is an invitation to pause and reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in the last couple of years and to encourage ourselves, our leaders, and our employees to consider:

  • How can we facilitate more constructive and honest dialogues around what we need to change to drive representation and belonging?
  • Where are the gaps in our own cultures and behaviors?
  • What are the best experiments we’ve seen or experienced to drive a more constructive and inclusive culture? Why did they work? How can we refine and replicate those actions in other parts of our organization?

Creating a constructive culture that fosters DEI is a journey that will never end. Once you become more aware, you realize that there is much more to learn, unlearn, explore and do. We need to treat change as an ongoing process and experiment; not trying to get things perfect but working with conscious intention on making things better each day.
 
 

111 Trends that Will Shape Work in 2022 and Beyond (hbr.org)
22022 employee experience trends // Qualtrics
3 The limits of “Cultures for…” the latest or most urgent organizational problems (humansynergistics.com)

When we were kids, we learned so many things from having zero knowledge about them. For example, how to speak our own native language (and then others’), names to call people and things by, who are adults and who are children, what is an animal, the good and the bad, the why of everything 😉 and the list goes on.
Learning these things was a joy. We actually enjoyed the process of going from zero to then being the holder of some information that was going to help us process our experiences in the world. We were hungry to learn more and more and had thousands of questions about everything. We already practiced the 5+ why’s, often annoying our parents.
We loved to learn and to grow, and the changes that learning brought to our lives were for the most part welcomed. The big question is: what happened when we became adults that change became so stressful and anxiety generating? Why did learning and growing and getting out of our comfort zone become something to avoid?
The answer is, we probably learned something we didn’t realize when we were kids: that society didn’t always reward changing. Change became synonymous with risk, fear, and unsafety. Learning something new and growing did not always mean that there was no risk in doing so. If you made a mistake on the way to learning, there could be consequences for that. As a result, we became “knowers” who don’t admit what they don’t know. We started to take less risks, and to become more comfortable and bound by some secure circumstances and certainties we created for ourselves. Within these boundaries, we would generally repeat similar cycles but not truly seek transformative growth or change.
The trouble is less risk-taking leads to less innovation and growth. In order to enable a culture of innovation and growth, we must be willing to inspire and encourage a safe culture of risk-taking. The agile methodology to this is to take a lot of chances, and to make quick, limited impact mistakes. By testing things again and again, you then know what you can continuously improve. This environment mimics the type of circumstances we had as children. Knowing that we can be wrong, that we can make a mistake is a characteristic of psychological safety. Feeling psychologically safe allows us to feel confident in taking risks, managing, and mitigating them, and ultimately learning and growing from what did and didn’t work. We take away the fear of what might go wrong and switch our mindset to one of — even if something does go wrong, that’s good because now I know what to work on.
What is working against this approach is that many aspects of leadership in our current world are based on fear. The predominating leadership style is arguably still one of carrots and sticks: of control, domination, power dynamics, and inducing fear in the direction of some desirable carrot (monetary, title, status, etc). On the bright side, there are many organizations that are now progressing along the curve to being more psychologically safe.
As kids we were vulnerable and innocent, something we were not allowed to be as adults. This is a big mistake that agile organizations in a VUCA world are changing with an intentional culture made of vulnerability-based trust, benefit of the doubt, open-authentic communication and learner mindsets. Particularly high-tech companies, startups, and Fintech companies have created a system of prototyping, testing, and rapid iteration. The smallest companies are starting to eat up what were once the biggest ones through rapid growth and innovation. Key to this is culture and conscious leadership.
The question now is, how can you promote a culture of psychological safety this year — in your family, community, team, and workplace? By inducing a safe environment where people can tap into the child-like play and curiosity they once had, you may likely begin to see outsized results in learning, development, and growth.
Good news: we will finally reverse the course of time and rejuvenate ;-)!

Not long ago I posted a series of myths and realities about Agile on my LinkedIn account. While many in the business world talk about Agile ways of working, how accurate is the information we think we know? Are you confusing an Agile myth with reality? In June, I shared an article on the Agile Mindset and what a person needs to truly be agile. I would like to follow up by sharing my top 6 Agile myths:
agile myths debunked
 

MYTH #1: AGILE IS A SET OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORKS

REALITY: Agile is primarily a culture, a way of thinking and acting.

  • The biggest and most common mistake and the reason that many fail at implementing Agile in organizations comes from focusing on the DOING Agile without working on the BEING Agile.
  • Implementing Scrum, Design Thinking, Hackathons, Lean, Kanban and other Agile frameworks will not be sufficient to be Agile.

 

MYTH #2: LEADERS ARE NOT NEEDED IN AGILE

REALITY: True…and false.

  • Agile needs leaders, but not where they might usually spend their time and energy.
  • Their role is to drive and foster the appropriate ecosystem and culture. They must genuinely inspire themselves first and then their people with a compelling Purpose, Vision, and Strategy that can guide decisions and actions. This is not a minor role. An Agile organization could not exist without these leaders.
  • In Agile, coaching leaders to empower their people by decentralizing decisions, control, and accountability to the point closest to action.
  • To put it in other terms, leaders move from the pilot seat to the co-pilot one.
  • Top management is often unconsciously the main barrier or intentionally the key enabler of BEING Agile more than being directly involved in Agile projects.

 

Myth #3: AGILE IS BETTER AND FASTER. Its role is to increase the speed of decisions and actions.

REALITY: Speed of decision and action is part of a predefined daily and weekly planning but is not a goal. Value delivery to customers comes before timing.
 

Myth #4: AGILE IS ABOUT PRODUCING MORE, QUICKER, AND CHEAPER

REALITY: Big mistake. Agile optimizes value delivery and customer satisfaction first, not just productivity and efficiency.
 

Myth #5: AGILE IS PERMANENT INSTABILITY MANAGEMENT

REALITY: Agile’s pre-defined cadence and framework are highly predictable. You know in real-time how the team is tracking against objectives with daily baby steps, one at a time, with clear objectives. This approach makes manageable permanent changes and instability with iterative adaptations, learning and improving from mistakes/successes with clear metrics from customer feedback.
 

Myth #6:  WE DON’T NEED AGILE COACHES. Agile Coach = Scrum Master

REALITY: Agile is about people before processes and the Agile Coach is here to help the team adopt effective mindsets and behaviors individually and as a team: Agile is a way of thinking, acting, and interacting.

  • The functions of a Scrum Master are to carry out all those projects that use a Scrum methodology from the elaboration of the product backlog, sprint backlog, the sprint itself, and the burndown of the tasks carried out and everything that remains pending.

 

Conclusion

Agile does not have to be a buzzword. It is what you need it to be. don’t copy/paste what others do. Find what works in your organization. BE the agility you want to see in your organization: Agile is not a destination it is a mindset and a way of working together.

For most executives we know, embarking on a transformation journey at the helm of an organization is thrilling. It’s nothing short of an adrenaline rush, like the climbing expedition we’ve been comparing it to over the last few weeks. However, journeys come to an end, and life -as well as business- goes on. Business as usual, they say. At the foot of the mountain, the heroes of the hike blend with ordinary folks and continue onward. That part of the story typically gets left out of the books because… who wants to hear about the ‘normal’? We revive that story here, in the final article of the series, The Next Normal of a New CEO.
In the first article, we laid out a roadmap for the first 100 days of a CEO and the ‘new’ leadership team that results from that appointment (from A to B in the illustration above). We continued with a second article where we explained the focus of the team’s next 100 days in its safe descent back to base camp (from B to C). We finish the series with the ‘next normal’ of this team (‘new normal’ sounds too definitive for a VUCA world).
The Next Normal of a New CEOBeginnings, or new beginnings, are exciting. They create momentum, but it’s a hard job to keep the flame alive. If the leadership team does an excellent job with the four D’s mentioned in article two, there’s a higher chance that the flame will last longer. However, they will need a sustainable fuel source for that flame because eventually, it will die out. No matter how well-intended the leaders are, their behaviors are not enough to consolidate an evolving or transforming culture. Culture needs to be hinged on systems to endure.
 

Systems and Symbols

What are systems? For us, systems are to the organization what behaviors are to individuals. They are the workflows, procedures, policies, practices (you name it) that shape collective actions. As such, they can be powerful symbols of what the company values, regardless of the words on their posters.
An example of the power of systems and symbols is how top leadership deals with ‘airtime’. What they spend time on, or whom they spend time with, sends a loud message to the organization. Take one of our clients. They decided to end their hierarchical, command-and-control leadership style because their business strategy called for swifter moves that they believed would happen with more autonomous, empowered, and customer-centric teams.
Their leadership manifesto called for them to be ‘servant leaders’. Some took on the challenge of transforming their mindsets and behaviors to become that type of leader. However, their meeting protocols remained unchanged. Front-line employees were still called to provide status updates to top leadership, which meant taking an elevator to the ‘noble’ floor, projecting the same lifeless PPTs as always, as if they were making a case in front of a tribunal waiting for the verdict.
The culture only started shifting when the executives brought the change to another level. No more status updates at the top of the high-rise corporate headquarters. They systematically took the same elevator down, attended the forums where teams did the actual work and asked questions when their turn came. Their leadership manifesto got grounded in their collective rituals, which had a compounding effect on their behaviors.
 

The Road Ahead

Other systems and symbols in an organization are how the budget is allocated (what do they spend their money on?), whom they hire, who gets promoted, what gets celebrated and punished, and how they reward and discipline. These are the infrastructure on which the leaders keep traveling when they return from their climbing expedition. They arrive eager to reach milestones on their ongoing journey toward long-term, sustainable success in the form of robust business results, healthy relationships, and personal fulfillment. Excellent leadership teams realize that:

    1. The road ahead is full of curves. They will arrive at crossroads where the tools they gathered on their way to the peak will come in handy. The good news is that, after a climb, a curvy road pales in comparison.
    2. They can’t let their guard down. Continuing to measure how the team is doing on their levels of trust, conflict management, commitment, accountability, and results is paramount for them to keep working out where they are weaker. No matter how well they’re doing, they know that the moment they quit going to the gym, they’ll get out of shape. Staying at the top of their game is a life-long sport.
    3. They need to get rid of the inappropriate infrastructure that slows their momentum, sometimes to a halt.
    4. They found their fuel – a healthy fuel that keeps the fire (the one they kindled at the fireside chat at base camp) burning and lighting the way. Holding on to their purpose, their true North, they move not for themselves, but for something that transcends them.
    5. There is a legacy to leave behind, and they have decided what they want that to be.

We hope you enjoyed the journey alongside this new CEO and leadership team. Let us know in the comments which part of the journey you found most helpful for your own!