Organizational culture isn’t just a hot topic–it’s an untapped asset and potential liability for all businesses. And yet, for all its potential to make or break, few know how to manage cultures with proficiency. In her newly released book, Culture Your Culture: Innovating Experiences @Work, Karen Jaw-Madson provides the much needed, step-by-step, “how-to” for designing, implementing and sustaining culture. Karen is principal of Co.-Design of Work Experience where she focuses on culture and organizational change.
We recently had the opportunity to ask Karen some of our own questions.
A 2015 survey from Columbia Business School and Duke University found that out of almost 2,000 CEOs and CFOs, 90% said corporate culture was important, but only 15% felt that their culture was where it needed to be.
Would you give a quick synopsis of DOWE? What is it and how does it work?
Design of Work Experience (DOWE) is a concept and methodology that partners employees and their employer to co-create, implement, and sustain culture. DOWE is comprised of four main components: the combination of DESIGN and CHANGE processes enabled by leveraging and building CAPABILITY and ENGAGEMENT throughout. When you dig deeper, the process is further segmented into 5 phases: UNDERSTAND, CREATE & LEARN, DECIDE, PLAN, and IMPLEMENT. All the phases are organized as a series of iterative learning loops, each with its own specific set of activities.
4 Components of DOWE
Is there one of the four components of DOWE that is more difficult than the others?
The difficulty (or ease) with any aspect of the DOWE process would depend on the individual organization–their current strengths and capabilities, as well as their current context. For example, a company used to constant change may find the change process more familiar than one that has not experienced a lot of change. Another may be dealing with apathy, so engagement may be a challenge, and so on and so forth.
Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?
Yes, of course. Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.
The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability. Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission. He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed. He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).
That statement struck me as extremely important. Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that. The power of it is immeasurable. That is what visionary leadership can do. It can unleash the power of the workforce.
Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.
A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state. It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be. That feels very risky for leaders. It is stepping out of the norm. There are certain things they will need to do. In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs. They must:
Build connectedness, and
Shape the culture.
What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision?
How we work is changing. Technology is ushering in new possibilities. New generations enter the workforce with different expectations. With all the changes in play, there are some things that stay the same: the desire for fulfillment and purpose, the need to balance the professional with the personal.
Mason Donovan tackles these challenges in his new book, The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce. Mason is managing partner at The Dagoba Group, a New England-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. I had the opportunity to ask him about the changing nature of work, including generational changes, balance, mindfulness, and inclusion efforts.
Success Tip: Balance improves your relationships, satisfaction and productivity.
Is work-life balance possible? Why is it so important?
Work-life balance is possible. There are a lot of gurus out there that say it is not in order to capture your attention in this crowded field. Emphasis is on the word balance. If you ever walked on a high beam or anything else in which you needed to physically balance yourself, you most likely fell off a few times. Your balance will fall off to one side or the other. It is important that you anticipate for these moments of imbalance, so you have a plan to get up.
Achieving balance will make you more productive in and out of the workplace. It will enrich your relationships and allow you to achieve greater satisfaction in life.
“Alignment of purpose allows for the elimination of distractions.” -Mason Donovan
In the book, I tell the story of executives on an interpersonal retreat climbing a mountain. Their primary purpose was to reach the summit without talking about business. The objective was for them to get to know each other better personally and share an accomplishment. Without spoiling the story, their original goal is interrupted because they lost their purpose.
In order to know where you are going in life, it is important to understand why you are going there. Work-life balance is no exception. Only a handful of people actually stop and reflect on why they get up every day to spend the majority of their waking life in an organization. When that somewhat simple-but-necessary reflection does not take place, you will default to acquiring things and making money, which almost inevitably leads to the golden handcuffs phenomenon. You work more because you have to make more money. You make more money so you can acquire things that require you to work more.
There has been a societal shift in why individuals engage in work. Part of that shift is due to generational changes, while for others it was their awakening due to the Great Recession. Aligning your personal purpose in life with your work and organizational purpose will help you eliminate all of the noise that does not fit that purpose. Balance comes from awareness. In The Golden Apple, I provide simple exercises to not only develop, but also align your purpose at each level.
What are you finding in terms of generational changes? What are the new generations demanding at work? What’s the best way for current leaders to respond?
It is important to note that we are all unique individuals but are influenced by our shared group memberships such as our generation. Clumping everyone together and solely defining them by generational attitudes can overgeneralize any particular person. It is helpful to understand the influence of generational membership, which will give you a starting point when discovering their individuality.
Each generational cohort has a defining moment in the shaping of their shared psyche. When it comes to employment, for Generation X it was the broken promise of the organizational loyalty which fostered the cradle to grave jobs their parents subscribed to. Millennials were highly influenced by the Great Recession which ushered in massive layoffs, foreclosures and lowered career expectations. These defining moments create a collective influence on how cohorts view the work-life equation.
PwC’s NextGen study uncovered a generational shift when it came to work and personal engagement for their Millennial population. Uncovering this shift was important to them since by the year 2020, they expect that fully 80% of their employees will be Millennials. In short they found this group was far less likely to give up their personal life today for the prospect of a partnership down the road. The value structure was shifting more towards experiences than acquiring things.
Interesting to note is how this new value structure is also being reflected in Baby Boomers. The Great Recession robbed them of the ability to retire early as they saw their investments fail. It required them to reassess what they valued in life: time or things. Most have decided to choose to have life experiences in the time they have remaining. Downsizing acquisitions and upsizing experiences has become the trend for this generation.
Leaders need to better understand the value they offer to their current and future employees. By integrating work-life balance into their overall package, they will increase engagement and retention. They should look at this challenge through a holistic lens so they do not perceive it simply as a specific generational or gender issue. Policies and practices should be geared towards an inclusive solution that impacts the overall workforce.
Study: long working hours made 58% more irritable and over 25% depressed.
We’ve all seen it. Questionable decisions, made in a corporate office, are rolled out. No one questions the corporate mandate. Sure, some may grumble or may complain about the stupidity of something, but little is done. No one is listening anyway, especially to the employees who are just told to hit their numbers.
“Engagement is being totally present.” -Steven D. Goldstein
Steven Goldstein was an executive at Sears when he visited a store in Florida. His question Why Are There Snowblowers in Miami?, is now the title of his book and is a wakeup call to leaders. Engaging with employees and customers in the right way will help organizations make better decisions.
Steve has held executive positions with leading global brands including American Express (Chairman & CEO of American Express Bank), Sears (President of Sears Credit), Citigroup and others. He also has advised numerous CEOs on how to improve performance.
“Leaders connect by interacting authentically with employees, not by dictating to them.” -Steven D. Goldstein
The story is such a compelling example that I have to ask you to start with it. Tell us about the title of the book and how it impacted your leadership thinking.
Twenty years ago, while I was President of the Sears Credit Card business, I happened to be in Miami in February to make a speech. As I always did, I visited the local store – to have a look around, talk to employees and see what we could do for them to help improve sales. When I walked into the lawn and garden department, my eyes were immediately drawn to four shiny red snowblowers. I found a salesman and asked him, “Why are there snowblowers in Miami?”
On my flight back to Chicago, I started to think about all of the other “snowblower” stories I had come across in my career, and it struck me as a perfect metaphor for what is wrong in business. Since then, my experience in leading, advising and investing in companies convinced me that there had to be a way to attack this.
“Maintaining the status quo keeps you from achieving your full potential.” -Steven D. Goldstein
I tend to question everything. If someone tells me, “That’s the way it’s always been done,” I will challenge that process. Because what I have found is that with many leaders, there is a gravitational bias towards the status quo. And while it’s not likely to get you into trouble, simply maintaining the status quo will keep you from achieving your full potential.
I began codifying the approaches, principles and practices I was using and realized it would be great if I could share this learning with other leaders so that they could improve the performance in their own organizations. So I began writing this book, and I thought this was the only title that made sense.
Most recently, I have been giving speeches about these principles and working with several leadership teams to teach them how to make this part of their daily diet. It is resonating extremely well.
“A company is only good as the people it keeps.” -Mary Kay Ash
How do leaders best adopt an outsider’s perspective — especially if they have been at an organization for many years?
For many leaders, this is not easy to do. If you are a consultant or a private equity investor, you look at a business as an enterprise consisting of assets that generate cash flow, which in turn generates attractive returns to shareholders. Through that aperture, you want to identify those areas where changes, improvement and new directions can be made to enhance value. You are consciously looking for those nuggets.
For many leaders, those nuggets are hiding in plain sight. Leaders must first accept that adopting an “outside in” perspective is critical to finding this gold. I’m currently Chairman of a private equity-owned company, and recently the leadership team was in a brainstorming session to explore new opportunities and approaches as well as to consider whether our existing business model needed changes. After discussing many good ideas, someone asked, “Will our PE owners be OK with this? I’m not sure they will.” My answer to him was, “They are looking to us to present them with a plan that makes sense, and if it does, they will say thank you.”
Like most things, leaders must accept the fact that their views are colored, even distorted, by their history with the company – and that this skewed perspective limits the possibilities they are able to see. They have to be willing to take the first step, as with any program that induces change. I tell leaders to take a long walk, forget everything they know about their business, come back into the building as if it were the first time and just start asking questions. While it may sound somewhat silly, it actually creates some discomfort; more importantly, it generates excitement about this exploration possibly leading them in new directions. I myself question everything: Why do we do it that way? What does that mean? What other options have you explored? Do you have the right players in each position? This “fresh eyes” approach is one of my five principles of engagement and is essential for generating any real, positive change.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
This is a guest post by Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. Lee is a leadership advisor and author of 12 popular leadership books. This article is based on his bestselling book Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees.
In today’s hyper-competitive market, creating sticky customer relationships is paramount.
After all, keeping existing customers is five times less expensive than finding new ones. That’s good business in anyone’s book.
Traditional competitive factors like product design, technology and distribution channels are harder to sustain in a super-fast, mega-networked world. In fact, the good old “Four P’s of Marketing” – product, price, promotion and placement – are having much less impact for companies competing in today’s marketplace. A fifth “P” – people – has become an increasingly important competitive factor.
Consider this: About 70% of customers’ buying decisions are based on positive human interactions with sales staff. Add to this the fact that 83% of the U.S. gross domestic product comes from services and information which are created and delivered by people. The bottom line is that people buy from people, not companies. So, your people – and the performance they deliver – are the defining competitive advantage for your organization.
The Anatomy of Passionate Performance
Think of the times you’ve gone shopping or to a restaurant and dealt with service people who were visibly excited to be in their jobs and to be serving you. Their words jumped out of their hearts rather than being regurgitated from a script. They probably surprised you with the extra effort and thoughtfulness they put toward satisfying your particular needs or questions – and they actually seemed happy to do it!
70% of customers’ buying decisions are based on positive human interactions with sales staff.
Now, consider how you felt when you left these establishments. Did you buy more than you had planned? Were you likely to return? Did you recommend these businesses to friends? You probably answered “Yes” to at least one of these questions. That’s the beginning of a value chain that starts with engaged employees.
When people are engaged in their work and feel a deep connection to it, they deliver Passionate Performance. Passionate Performance creates satisfied customers, and ultimately, value for the organization.