Culture Is Your Job


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ~ Attributed to the late Peter Drucker; popularized in 2006 by Mark Fields, former CEO of Ford

A mid-level professional gave a presentation to a group of vice-presidents of the company where he works. He sprinkled in some of his trademark humor, which usually gets a positive response from his audiences and helps them connect with the real human behind his subject-matter expertise. But this time, the response was … crickets. No one even cracked a smile.

Later, one of the VPs pulled him aside to provide feedback. “Your presentation was full of great insights and information. But I don’t think the humor was necessary. Stick to facts.”

Oh, the Irony

That company’s official values and policies encourage people to “be their true self at work.” As at many organizations today, their strategy recognizes the business value of cultivating an inclusive environment and attracting diverse perspectives. But this story about the VPs seems to show that their strategy isn’t yet being lived out in their culture.

Yeah, I get it. You’re just a ______ (fill in the blank … VP, mid-level manager, individual contributor). So many factors driving corporate culture fall outside your sphere of influence.

And yet, there are six personal drivers of culture that every person in the organization can own … and in fact, do own, whether or not they realize it. Regardless of your role in the company, it’s your job to cultivate the right culture. And you have every one of these six drivers at your disposal:


The professional in this story realized that culture is his job. After listening to the feedback, he thanked the VP (after all, the well-meaning VP was practicing caring and coaching).

And then he said something like, “I’m choosing to set that feedback aside and continue being the authentic ‘me’ in that type of situation. Because I think it’s important to set an example of being our true self at work. Our company’s culture and business sustainability depend on it.”

Which of these Cs was he practicing?

By the way, all six Cs are necessary and equally important … as I’m reminded by the consequences when I fall short in any of them. In your leadership, how are you practicing all six Cs of culture?


How to Shape Your Company Culture

Culture. How we do things around here — how we treat each other, customers, and suppliers. It’s not just about communication. And yet it has everything to do with communication.


The Power of Everyday Sabbatical

Several years ago, I called to reconnect with one of my mentors from my college days at Xavier University. Early in my conversation with Gene, I mentioned that I thought I recalled reading in Xavier’s alumni magazine that he’d recently completed a one-year sabbatical. (As at most colleges and 15% of US companies, Xavier periodically provides what is essentially an extended paid vacation so that a staff member can recharge and perhaps focus on a special project, such as writing a book or learning something new. The typical sabbatical program provides 2-12 months of paid leave for every 5-7 years worked, but the details regarding length, frequency, and pay vary greatly among employers.)


Why I Added a Habit Tracker to My Productivity System

The Productive habit tracker is an app that reminds you of things you’d like to do on a regular basis. I look at it a few times each day to see if there is anything I forgot to do. Its interface makes it fun and easy. Previously, I tried putting these types of activities in other components of my productivity system, such as my daily todo list, but that had several disadvantages.

There are certain activities or disciplines I want to do on a daily or weekly basis — for the sake of my physical, mental, and family wellbeing, as well as my personal effectiveness and growth. For example, as I have gotten older, I’ve learned that I need to do daily calf stretches, or else within a couple weeks I will develop ankle pain or even plantar fasciitis.

There are four challenges that get in the way of doing these activities or disciplines:


3 Apps for Quick NY Resolutions — It’s Not Too Late to Start

Starting a new year is a great time to start healthy new habits, quit unhealthy ones, or just try something new that may improve your life’s satisfaction or effectiveness.

But it’s already more than a week into the new year. Many of us have already tried and failed on our resolutions. For many others, the holidays came and went, and life is happening so fast that we didn’t get a chance to reflect and consider what next steps could help us achieve the life we truly want.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that … somewhere. In an app store near you, there’s an app that’s a near-perfect fit for you to make that next step easier and quicker to jump start, make it more fun, and help you stick with it.


Visual Examples from O2E Brands

These fun examples of visuals to promote contests and milestones were discussed in GC35: Enhancing Millennial Performance at Work | with Aaren Terrett.













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4 Ways to Boost Benefits & Wellness Results with Behavioral Econ

Successful young business people walking together in the same diThe new book The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results by Bob Nease, PhD, is the first practical guide to help business leaders apply the principles of behavioral economics (sometimes called “Becon” for short) to workforce engagement issues.

The framework of seven strategies explained in the book is most powerful when the strategies are combined. Here is a rule of thumb for how to combine them:

1 “power” strategy + 1 or more “enhancing” strategies + uber strategy


Make Leading Easier with Behavioral Economics

two shipping company workers at container yard

The new book The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results is the first practical guide to help business leaders apply the principles of behavioral economics (sometimes called “Becon” for short) to workforce engagement issues, including wellness and benefits. Author Bob Nease, PhD, who was the chief scientist at Express Scripts for many years, provides a framework of seven strategies that have been proven to measurably improve choices and behaviors.

For benefits managers and wellness program leaders, this strategic framework offers three key advantages:

  • Effective: The most important advantage is that the strategies get significantly better results than relying solely on plan design, incentives, and participant education.
  • Voluntary rather than mandatory: By using behavioral science to “nudge” people to voluntarily make the better choice, employers can achieve results that are almost as effective as pushing them with mandatory programs — with much less noise and cost to morale.
  • Optimistic: The data shows most people want to do the right thing (see below). Using the seven strategies, you can give them the help they need to live out those good intentions. 

Behavioral Economics Strategic Framework

IntentionsMost people want to do the right thing. They just need help acting on those good intentions. ~ Bob Nease, PhD

If you are a business leader — especially a benefits manager or the leader of a wellness program — you’ve probably heard the term behavioral economics tossed around.

For the past five to 10 years, consultants and service providers have been claiming to use behavioral economics to ensure their programs will overcome the reasons why standard programs in the industry have failed to engage employees in healthier behaviors and smart-consumer choices. However, behavioral economics is a still-emerging field of science, and the only literature on the subject has been academic — not very digestible, nor useful for business leaders to apply to real-world problems.

Until now.


How to Help People Enjoy Their Life’s Work (and Stop Modern Slavery)

Modern business woman in the office with copy space

Do you know what it’s like to experience the pleasure of full engagement in your life’s work?

We all have “Monday blues” at least occasionally, and we all love to get away now and then for a vacation. But life is not complete unless we get that satisfied “high” that comes from productive work. Perhaps that satisfaction is part of your job or career, or perhaps it’s part of your hobby or volunteering efforts. Regardless, it comes down to being in the zone, when you know that your work matters and that you feel somehow rewarded for it.


The 5 Most Important Leadership Books of 2015

Jump-start your new year with the past year’s best thinking

Stack of open books on the desk in the library
So many books, so little time. If you’re like me, the number of appealing books published every year is overwhelming. These are the five books from this past year that I believe are the most important for leaders — with ideas and principles that will help take your team to the next level in 2016.

Engaging Leader™

126: Holacracy – An Agile Management System for a Rapidly Changing World | with Brian Robertson

holacracy-3dHolacracy is a fundamentally different “operating system” for organizations. Holacracy revolutionizes how a company is structured, how decisions are made, and how authority is distributed. Perhaps the best-known examples of companies who have adopted Holacracy are Zappos and David Allen Company. “No one reports to anyone anymore,” explains The Washington Post about Zappos. “Instead, employees self-manage and belong to different decision-making circles that keep the company operating.”