Toxic culture is bad for business

“RBS culture labelled ‘toxic’ as bosses are grilled by MPs…”

“Unilever threatens to pull advertising spend with tech giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter over toxic culture…”

“Game developer Quantic Dream accused of ‘toxic’ and ‘sexist’ working environment…”

 “Uber’s toxic corporate culture – much more than a PR problem”

You don’t have to look far to find examples of poor organisational culture having a measurable impact on performance.  Not every cultural failure hits the headlines, so how can you tell if your culture is bad for business?

Masterclasses in organisational change, executive coaching and behavioural change

Join us in London throughout 2017 to learn critical skills in organisational change, executive coaching and behavioural change.

Hot on the heels of our successful one-day BootCamps, we’re delighted to announce a series of intensive two-hour afternoon sessions covering some of the most common questions we’ve been asked.

Our MasterClasses provide an opportunity to look at specific challenges in detail and answer questions to accelerate your leadership and change projects.  Best of all, like all our public events, they’re completely FREE!

Our new schedule will cover topics such as:

  • Creating an internal coaching programme
  • Effective management and measurement of executive coaching
  • Harnessing the power of culture
  • How to create meaningful change (and ditch the ‘values’)
  • Turning leadership promises into business results
  • Getting the most from 360° assessment

For more details, and to book your free place, visit our events page.

Look forward to seeing you soon!

Mindfulness – an unhelpful cliché that misses the point

Mindfulness and the broader topic of employee well-being has swept onto the development agenda over the last couple of years.  In its wake are thousands of managers frantically trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Happier employees work harder, stay longer and deliver better results.  A study in December concluded that “Happiness seems to motivate greater effort, increasing output without affecting its quality and thus boosting productivity”.

Mindfulness, strictly speaking, is a form of meditation.  If that makes you happy then great, but recognise that the things that make others happy are many and varied.  A run in a city in the morning when the sun is coming up makes me happy.  Variety in my work and certainty about the future also makes me happy.  For an employer who gives me all three I’ll work harder and stay longer!

The issue with the ‘mindfulness’ cliché is that it risks turning employee happiness and well-being into a fad.  The most successful organisations have been investing in employee well-being for years, and they’ll continue to do so once ‘mindfulness’ disappears from the front pages of the newspapers.

The majority of organisations however will jump on the ‘mindfulness’ bandwagon, throw a bit of money at someone who will demonstrate meditation techniques, be disappointed at the results, declare it a failure and contribute to the decline of employee well-being as an area of focus.

If you really want to make the people in your team happy, try understanding what motivates them and then working with them to make practical changes to the work environment.

That’s not ‘mindfulness’, it’s good leadership.

Success requires lots of small steps in the right direction

pic1It’s been a pleasure to work with the team at Sapphire over the last 6 months.  A hugely successful design and manufacturing business, we’ve been supporting them in the building of their operating strategy and the development of clear behavioural principles that will guide their continued growth.

Earlier this month, the strategy and behavioural principles were introduced to the business as part of a team event that gave us the opportunity to use one of our favourite exercises – the Marshmallow Challenge.

Time and time again, the teams that succeed in this challenge are those that are willing to prototype, to take a small step forward, test their model and use their learnings to further improve.

pic2The lessons apply equally for the successful implementation of organisational behaviours. Organisations and the people in them don’t change overnight, but by resolutely applying the prototyping mindset, continuing to take small steps in the right direction, it won’t take Sapphire very long to become the organisation they want to be.

“Cream will rise” – how not to manage a merger

The old adage that ‘Cream rises to the top’ is absolutely correct but some organisations stretch this too far and expect this natural biological process to work as a metaphor within their business whilst providing no catalyst or enabling framework.

We were asked recently to engage with a fairly large City organisation that had recognised the changing world and sought to establish competitive advantage through the acquisition of an aligned but very different business.  The parent business was typified as “solid, dependable, mature, and risk averse” and was operating within the tail-end of its growth curve, leveraging long-held relationships to seek to extend what had been an extended period of profitability.  The acquisition was a maverick new entrant with a high focus on challenge, change and service.  It could be typified as “dynamic, aggressive, competitive, risk-taking.”

As a pairing they had a fantastic opportunity to maintain and capture market share through a diversified service offering and segmented approach and that indeed was the case for a few years until the leadership team decided that the commercial opportunities could be leveraged more effectively through a comprehensive merger.

Everything about the two businesses was different – their culture, their working practices, their strategies, their people, even their offices; so we were asked to help create an alignment strategy that would build on the best of each and propel the combined entity into a commercial and reputational position that neither could achieve independently.

Part way through this the CEO decided that managing the alignment was too complex and proposed an ‘organic merger strategy’ which in essence meant – “put the two together and the cream will rise”.  By this he meant that the best leaders would emerge and take control of the situation, driving performance and thereby saving the need for a complex change strategy.

He went ahead with this plan and lo and behold it failed magnificently with the commercial value of the combined enterprise failing to get even close to the previous individual positions and indeed significant loss of talent and revenue.

This was not the first time we had heard the tactic of “let’s just do it and I’m sure it will work out” and indeed, it was not the first time that we had seen a subsequent failure.  But why does it not work?

There are a number of reasons why the “cream rises” metaphor is unhelpful and unproductive:

  1. Organisations are not biological systems with easily definable processes and outputs – they are dynamic systems that require close attention, clear focus and catalytic leadership.
  2. People are creatures of habit and left to their own devices will do as they have done before – performance needs to be strategically aligned and operationally managed by effective leaders otherwise behaviours do not change
  3. Change needs to be carefully designed and managed otherwise people reject the change proposition and perpetuate the status quo for therein lie their comfort zones
  4. Change is difficult and leaders need to grasp this nettle and make tough decisions that provide direction, focus and opportunity for people
  5. Cultures either emerge or are created – if we allow cultures to emerge then we have to hope they are aligned to the strategy whereas if we purposefully create the culture we want the alignment is embedded and performance will flow.
  6. People need to hear from their leaders – you are there for very sound reasons and people need to hear your voice and see that your behaviours are aligned – leaving it to chance is an abrogation of your leadership responsibilities

In summary, taking a simplistic metaphor and using this to drive a complex process like organisational change is lacking in thought, in leadership and in focus.  Your people deserve better so take the time to decide what you want the future to be and then work with them to co-create it in a purposeful manner.

Be insistent about what you want, be consistent in your behaviours and be persistent until you achieve your goal.

Supporting organisational change at Air France KLM

We supported managers at one of the world’s largest airlines to better manage conversations about change.

Combining coaching techniques with skills in conducting difficult conversations, their UK management team were better equipped to help employees succeed and support their people through change.

They really enjoyed the experience as well.  Vicky Frith, Air France KLM’s Corporate Sales Manager called it “highly engaging and motivating and an excellent learning opportunity”.

Read more about our work with Air France KLM here.

Why we love to run free events

For over 3 years, we’ve been running regular Leadership BootCamps across the UK.

Our BootCamps are free events on a range of topics close to our heart such as Executive Coaching, High Performing Teams and Organisational Change.

So why do we continue to give away learning that our customers have told us regularly they’re prepared to pay for?

  1. We like meeting new people.  We love our customers (very much), but we also like meeting new people.  We’re a bunch of extroverts, so new encounters keep our energy levels high.
  2. We love our topic areas.  We’re passionate about coaching, leadership and change so that’s what our BootCamps focus on.  We love talking to people about these topics, and we love the questions and challenges they bring along to discuss.
  3. We love presenting.  A lot of our team are from learning and development backgrounds, and really get their kicks being in front of a new audience.  They say there’s nothing better than a bunch of enthusiastic participants!
  4. It helps us generate new business.  Let’s be absolutely honest, we’re not only doing this for the love!  People who meet us generally like us, and often ask us to help them with their challenges.  We’ve met a lot of new customers that way, including OCS, The Co-operative Bank and Air France KLM.

    We’re absolutely transparent about this point because it keeps us focussed on providing great learning events, rather than sneaky sales days!

Click here to explore our latest free events