Event Space

Fusion 2.0 Conference – 2018 Recap

Fusion 2.0 Event Recap

By Jen Gilhoi, SparkTrack Consulting

Bob Chapman, Truly Human Leadership

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, Inc. Magazine’s #3 CEO in the world, who leads by implementing what he calls “truly human leadership,” opened the conference with his keynote address: Building a Truly Human Workplace Where Everyone Matters. Everyone matters because everyone is someone’s precious child. A child that was raised by parents who cared for, equipped and did everything in their power to send that child into the world to succeed. Bob elaborated on this ah-ha moment, which was about connecting the idea of a father’s truthful unspoken message to his daughter’s fiancé at the altar with the idea of hiring someone and taking them into the workplace. In either case, it might have sounded something like this, “I’m entrusting my precious child to you. A child I’ve nurtured and supported. Now don’t screw it up.”

This story framed up how Bob thinks about leadership, “Leadership is a privilege, not a job,” he said. Certainly a privilege he doesn’t take lightly, as more stories throughout his session revealed. He compared the one-hour a week at church with a 40-hour work week, and concluded that yes, the workplace and a leader can have 40x the impact of a religious leader. He's taken the roles of parenting and leadership and dissected them to find that they’re pretty much identical.

The point is: Bob is profound and you should read his book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, coauthored with Fusion’s Friday keynote and the co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Raj Sisodia.

Experience Happiness

Prior to Bob’s keynote, Linda Saggau and Nancy O’Brien, co-founders of Experience Happiness, hosted a 15-minute Happiness PopUp. Linda addressed the elephant in the room: organizations have to be willing to talk about stress and burnout to implement change that increases real and lasting wellbeing in the workplace.

Attendees of the session walked away with a 30-day happiness practice guide and an invitation to follow-up with accountability in that practice. Very appropriate to start that practice right away on November 7th in honor of National Stress Awareness Day, I’d say.

Morning Sessions and Labs

Twelve morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks with programs including Busting Your Bias with Kelly Weiley to Unlock Your Inner Changemaker to Foster a Truly Human Workplace with Henry Albrecht; and Creating a People-Centric Culture with Aaron Dimmock to Having Conversations That Work: Skills in Listening for What Matters with Dr. Wendy Lynch.

Unlock Your Inner Changemaker

Henry, CEO of Limeade, a Fusion sponsor, shared his journey and the build of an emotional brand. He noted that your brand is what people say about you to others when the brand (leadership) isn’t looking. He also touched on a concept – a “bank of care” that’s about long-term investment in your employees, and practices like company-wide 10-minute collective mindfulness minutes that are mandatory and meditative.

Having Conversations That Work

Dr. Wendy Lynch, Lynch Consulting and author of Get to What Matters, walked us through the journey of a meeting and a conversation. In meetings, set a clear intention by asking what do you want for yourself? what do you want for the other person? So often we gloss over this, but know that even if you don’t set a clear intention, you have an underlying one and that can backfire. She also shared some insight that is simple, but rings true when you think about what you uncover when you dig deeper: the first thing that someone says is almost never what matters.

Am I Hungry?

The morning sessions rolled into the most mindful, healthy selection one has ever seen at a conference. Our emcee, Darryl Sellers, welcomed the group and when it was time for dessert, Michelle May of Am I Hungry? guided us through a mindful eating practice that was a challenge for those of us with a love of sweets. Sweetest takeaway?: the sense of scent plays a major role in enjoying what you’re eating and rushing through the experience is a significant missed opportunity!

The energy from lunchtime conversations and mindfulness carried over into the afternoon innovators series where each presenter did a back-to-back session. The format of the series – 30-minute sessions not associated with any particular track – gave attendees insight into leaders who have put people first.

The Innovator Series: Aduro

The Innovators Series of six included Dr. Toni Best, founder of Aduro, a Fusion sponsor, and Kristen Hadeed, Student Maid CEO and author of Permission to Screw Up. Toni shared a lesson learned about giving a product away for free, re-engineering the product to do so much more, then discovering those same clients weren’t really willing to pay for what they once got for free, no matter how enhanced. Because of their culture today, Aduro acknowledges that while they of course pay their people fairly and provide for them, their employees ultimately come for the mission, not the money.

The Innovator Series: Permission to Screw Up

In Kristen’s session she framed up the scene of her first screw-up and the starting point where she turned an exodus of 45 employees into the genesis of the culture that she’s grown into Student Maid today. She weaves in some great stories, which you can read up on in her book, and points out this particularly interesting business model of entry level work and the requirement of employee's leaving the company upon their graduation. You can bet when these young adults do move on, they’ll be seeking companies that do workplace well.

Rethinking the Role of Wellbeing for Humanized, High Performing Organizations

Next up, all Fusion attendees, aka #FusionChangeAgent(s), came together for the day’s ending keynote by Fusion and Salveo Partners co-founders Dr. Rosie Ward and Dr. Jon Robison. This duo was uplifting and inspirational to watch as they tag-teamed redefining health, wellness and wellbeing for employees and organizations.

Jon covered the biological basis of wellbeing via birds in flight, citing their need for self-determination and leadership – it’s not innate it’s learned. Successful leaders know that employee behavior and motivation cannot be forced because employees need to be intrinsically motivated and serve as the author of their own journey. In other words, offering wellbeing incentives and programs is not a healthcare cost-saving strategy.

Rosie shared her story about going from supported and human workplace behavior and treatment from her boss to a complete 180 in a workplace that had become de-humanized. She absolutely can speak to the cost of toxic workplaces and just how much wellbeing truly matters. To illustrate, the math looks like this: ENGAGED + THRIVING = WELLBEING. When this equation is working, you have employees that are:

1. 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change;

2. 37% more likely to report always recovering fully after an illness

3. 59% less likely to look to a different organization in the midst of adversity

Jon and Rosie rounded out the session with The Thriving Organization Pyramid, found in their book: How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work, another conference must-read. They shared how outdated linear models are like the illness-wellness continuum from pre-mature death to high-level wellness and ended on a thought for the future of business:

“Organizations today are judged for more than their success as a business. They’re now being held responsible for their impact on society at large.”



On the second day of Fusion 2.0, new speakers and attendees continued to fuel the conversations about humanity in the workplace. The appetite for learning and taking in information subtly shifted to connecting the dots between all of the rich content being openly shared. Many people said they felt like they found their people at Fusion.

Not surprising feedback given Fusion is two years in the making and born of intentional invites from Dr. Rosie Ward and Jon Robison, conference co-founders and Salveo Partners co-founders. They invited people they knew could offer a human, connected perspective in different disciplines including c-suite, risk and safety managers, human resources, wellbeing experts, psychologists and researchers. The invitees pretty much all showed up despite the winter in November in Minnesota factor.

Robert Kegan, An Everyone Culture

The first keynote to show up Thursday morning was Bob Kegan, a research professor at Harvard University and author of An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, his most recent award-winning book. Bob calls out corporate America, drawing our attention to the fact that nearly everyone is doing a second job no one is paying them for—namely, covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people’s impressions of them. It’s so exhausting.

He asked attendees to turn to their neighbor and share how they lean when given identifiers of arrogant or insecure. He cited examples of using these identifiers, employee errors and vulnerabilities to help organizations and their people realize their full potential. He noted that a cultural shift to a growth mindset of practicing not perfection has benefits that include chipping away at burnout. Post-keynote many were buzzing about the burnout definition Bob planted for us: Burnout isn’t about having too much to do; rather, it’s about being stuck on the same developmental level and not growing.

Morning Sessions and Labs

Twelve morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks and included Culture is the New Currency with Tamien Dysart and Vaney Hariri of Think 3D Solutions to Am I Hungry? with Michelle May; and Pulling the Future Forward with Jennifer Reecy of N2Growth to An Outward Mindset with Mitch Warner of Arbinger Institute.

Culture is the New Currency

Tamien and Vaney, co-authors of Think 3D: A Radically New Approach to Maximizing the Potential of Your Team, kicked of their session with a philosophy: A culture will emerge whether intended or not, but if it’s not one you invest in, it will certainly be the one that you pay for.

To illustrate the importance and impact of employee engagement, Think 3D Solutions co-founders Tamien and Vaney walked us through a continuum of employee engagement from 10% (passive listening), 50% (mutual dialogue), 75% (ideas into action), to 90%+ (people teach others). We also defined toxic and non-toxic work environments and how you might get to the 90%+ level of engagement. They challenged us to fill out a work pie chart demonstrating how many waking hours are devoted to work and all things work-related. Lesson observed: a toxic workday takes a long-term toll.

Make Empathy Your Super Power

The team at Adaptive Momentum – Shannon White, Charlie White and Kathy Sisson – framed their session around design thinking and focused on one specific tool, Personas. Based on audience feedback during the session we created a Persona named Mansure, a 24YO millennial whose superpower is omniscience. We detailed Mansure’s demographics, preferences and quirks so we could describe him like we’d describe a character in a novel or movie. Armed with this Persona, the session went deeper into ways this insight could create more empathy and employee engagement.

Innovator Series: NatureWorks

Feeling empowered after morning sessions, another mindful lunch and Happiness PopUps with Experience Happiness, attendees headed to their Innovator Series session of choice.

In Sarah Morari of NatureWork’s session: Fostering the Meaning of Work: How NatureWorks Energized and Aligned Its People, we got a glimpse into organization vision and values done right even while simultaneously going through a CEO transition. Sarah shared the company’s 1989 founding Persona (see Adaptive Momentum) of scrappy pioneer and how they’ve grown to be totally okay with being obsessed about science. They brought in Tim Foss of More Belief, coincidently Fusion’s Creative Director and Illustrator, to capture vision and values discussions, and worked with a linguist to keep their word choices on point.

Innovator Series: Sportech

Billy Sanderson (Sportech) and Brandyn Negri (Live Your Yes)’s session: Differentiating through Development: How Sportech Created a Thriving Culture via Their Leadership Academy, walked us through the academy’s six-year history, learning and impact. At the concept’s core is the vision of considering their role with 400 employees as transformational, not just transactional. They shared a video, their culture of attraction and their 12-month Sportech Leadership Academy (SLA), which culminates with an SLA letter jacket, a 390-page binder created in-house by Sportech and a launch pad to leadership.

Tony Horton, Creating a Safe, Resilient and Risk-competent Organization

Following afternoon sessions, Fusion attendees gathered in the Pavilion at The Depot for the keynote by Tony Horton of Real Safety and N2Growth, Creating a Safe, Resilient and Risk-competent Organization. As an Aussie with several species rising to takeover humans in his homeland (sharks, kangas, etc), Tony embraces risk and certainly isn’t sitting behind a desk in a relatively safe organization managing risk. He’s 2.4 miles underground in “The South Deep Experience,” working with 95% humidity and violence as part of the daily equation as he moves the company to zero deaths in two years.

He talked about trains, hazards, autos from ABS to seat belts, and the challenge of creating safety to the positive degree where you actually see it influencing to the negative. For example, drivers now equipped with seat belts and ABS brakes compensate for these enhanced safety features by driving faster or paying less attention. Not the desired effect we want when improving safety.

Tony posed the idea of companies and employees operating like a jaywalker in their thinking and behavior -- stealthily looking both ways, crouching down to move quickly and safely across the street – but really existing in the safer pedestrian crosswalk with safety measures in place. He closed on the note that companies can’t address risk by talking statistics.

They have to see risk in order to manage it. Then safety becomes an outcome of risk competency. If you’re not seeing it [risk], just consider it switched off.


For the Fusion 2.0 finale on day three of the conference, attendees moved from learning to connection on days one and two to emotion and action-driven on day three. People lined up at the testimonial booth, Learning Journal entries fresh in their minds, to share what exactly they planned to do with all of the inspiration and tools when they returned to their workplace as #FusionChangeAgent(s).

Even the speakers got in on the action, building on the momentum that Fusion and all of the ideas and connections need to be carried on past this inaugural conference. Many shared how this conference felt connected on a whole new level. The speakers didn’t just breeze in and out – they stayed for the learning. You could easily find yourself taking in a session with keynotes Tony Horton and Raj Sisodia learning right along next to you (true story).

Ondra Berry, Creating a Thriving Workplace Culture

If attendees came into Friday wondering how they would find the energy to process the previous two days of learning and take in more, Ondra answered them with an emphatic I will bring the energy. Ondra, Senior VP MGM Resort International, has been championing leadership, diversity and organizational change for over 25 years. He attributes his ability to success in this area to attitude. “Attitude matters. Companies are spending too much time on skill set and tool set development and very little time on heart and mind.”

Get the employee attitude right and they’ll be ambassadors who rave about your company – its product or service and the people – without prompting. To create this culture of attitude, leadership must first embrace the vision, values and daily practices set forth as their North Star.

Ondra stressed the value of making a defining moment everyday and by building this into culture. Employees seek and create a good beginning, good middle and good end to every day. Companies that do culture right tell their story well, have phenomenal on-boarding and a great system of coaching and feedback. Ondra’s enthusiasm had most of us wondering how we could sign up to be the waitress in his organization who raved about the ribs.

Morning Sessions and Labs

Six morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks and included The Art of Purposeful Leadership with Craig Neal of The Center for Purposeful Leadership, Shifting the Focus from Weight to Wellbeing with Rebecca Johnson of Vidl Solutions, Safety and Risk with Tony Horton of Real Safety, Delivering the Ultimate Employee Promise with Andrew Sykes of Habits at Work, and Unlocking Purpose at Work with Arthur Woods of Imperative.

The Art of Purposeful Leadership

In this session packed full of purposeful tools, Craig Neal, The Center for Purposeful Leadership, began with one simple idea: A purposeful leader is anyone who steps up to make a positive impact in the world. Craig and his wife and business partner, Patricia Neal, had a cadence to their sharing that made the experiences in this session delightful. In a U-shaped seating arrangement with a range of tactical items at our fingertips, the group practiced “stringing the beads,” where each person contributed their response to a prompt like what gets you excited to get out of bed every morning?

Beyond the straightforward response of, “an alarm clock,” each comment or bead, told a story about the person and at the end, a collective story of the group. Craig and Patricia walked us through The Napkin Test, by Richard Leider, an Art of Convening exercise to outline nine steps to thoughtful collaboration, and a Conversational Intelligence Assessment to rank ourselves and select one area to improve upon.

Facilitated Learning Sessions + Conference Tools

After morning sessions, the full group came back to the last of the conference’s three 40-45 minute facilitating learning sessions. Guided by the conference emcee, Darryl Sellers, each session followed a similar format. There were prompts for written thoughts and intentional time to put pen to paper with actions to take upon returning back to the workplace. The coolest part about this whole process was the attendees’ Learning Journals, created by Tim Foss of More Belief. The 100-page journals were designed with white space for notes and perforated cards to tear out and post within daily sight for action and accountability.

Raj Sisodia, The Healing Organization

Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. was nothing less than an incredible way to close the conference. Raj bookended what Bob Chapman, Raj’s Everybody Matters co-author, started as the first conference keynote on the theme of business is fundamentally about healing.

Raj put forth a call to action for businesses to take responsibility, “We are the only species that is systematically destroying our habit and we continue to allow businesses to get away with it.” He talked about the cumulative impact of toxic waste, noting that the human costs of doing business are unconscionably high. Layer business practices with the fact that 96% of senior executives experience burnout and that most Americans don’t have a cushion of more than $400 in their bank account, and you have a whole lot of hurting for the planet and people.

To understand sources of hurting and behavior in business, Raj outlined the four energies for us, which include masculine, feminine, elder and child. Each energy has a mature (positive) and hyper (negative) quality within individuals and as Raj would argue, business. A history buff, Raj walked us through how these energies show up and in particular how the hyper-masculine development of business in America is responsible for society’s suffering.

He left us with the ideas like “the cunningness of others is our greatest opportunity,” meaning that when we see businesses contributing to suffering we need to step in and address it and do better. And finally the idea that:

You can heal both the past and present in the present moment. Business is fundamentally about healing. We must exist to serve others.

-- This event recap is not inclusive of every session during the 3 day conference. It’s intended to give attendees and anyone interested some of the highlights and flavor of each day.

Workers back-to-back

Crossing the Culture Chasm

What is the Culture Chasm?

As humans, we rely on building relationships with the people around us. And since we spend so much time at work, the connections we develop with our team members and co-workers are essential to the health of the organization and its productivity.

But there are only so many people we can maintain a personal relationship with, and according to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, we hit our max when group size reaches around 150 people. Other researchers put the number at anywhere between 100 to 200.

It’s no coincidence that organizations tend to encounter challenges when they cross into this territory. Here are some of the most common complaints we hear:

“Who are these people in X office/department/country trying to tell me what to do?”

“Why do we need to take on so many of these new rules and processes?”

“How do I manage my workload with so many new requests coming my way?”

“What can I do to hold people accountable for following through when I don’t know them and don’t have any authority over them?”

“Are we losing our soul and becoming too corporate?”

In our experience at The People Piece, the vast majority of organizations are caught off guard by the Culture Chasm. Organizations tend to invest a lot of time and money developing careful plans to support growth and scaling that involve well-thought-out business models, operations plans, and org charts, but often pay precious little attention to the human element of a changing organization.

Yet despite the very real cultural challenges of scale, there are of course successful mid-size and large companies that employ far more than 100 or 200 people. They help a new animal emerge: one that requires new ways of thinking, acting, and organizing.

So what can leaders, teams, and organizations do to cross the Culture Chasm successfully? We’ve helped mid-sized companies successfully make the leap using these 6 strategies.

1. Bring Your Values to Life

Carollo Engineers knows a thing or two about longevity. As the leading US-based civil engineering firm in the water industry, it has been in business since 1933. In order to maintain organizational health and enable the organization to grow, its new CEO launched an effort to rally its 1,000 employees around a set of guiding leadership principles. We worked with the company to articulate a core set of 4 - 5 behavioral norms that embody each principle, helping to keep these values alive and at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Now, we are working to help emerging leaders develop the skills they need to put values into action.

2. Use Purpose as Fuel

Everyone wants to know that their work makes a difference. When everybody at an organization understands why what they do matters and how it fits into the bigger picture, they stay motivated and engaged. This is especially critical as companies grow, specialization increases and individual efforts can feel like a drop in the bucket.

Slack Technologies took a simple approach to keep their programmers and engineers inspired, even when they spend their days writing obscure lines of code almost no one will ever see or even know about. At their headquarters buildings in San Francisco, flat screen monitors display a rotation of tweets from happy end users. That way, Rachel may have been working half the day to fixing a tedious bug, but she understands just how important that fix was to the company and its customers.

3. Invest in Manager Development

When your company hires more people, you’re going to need to organize into more teams. And those teams need capable, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent managers.

In 2011, The People Piece developed and launched a management development program for semiconductor manufacturer Cirrus Logic, headquartered in Austin, Texas. Since then, half the company’s managers have been through the program, which helped prepare the company for tremendous growth. Over the past 7 years, Cirrus Logic has tripled in size and established a physical presence in 18 countries on 4 continents, all while maintaining its status as a Great Place to Work, and being named by Fortune magazine as a Best Workplace in Technology in 2017.

4. Help Your Leaders Become Coaches

When leaders learn how to coach others, their people feel more supported, learn valuable skills and knowledge, and develop lasting relationships—all key to preventing culture gaps at work. Mosaic, which helps make solar panel installation more financially accessible to homeowners, has recognized the importance of coaching and empowerment as the company grows expand.

We’ve partnered with Mosaic to develop a series of trainings for front line managers and senior leaders, teaching coaching tools such as deep listening and powerful questions, all with a focus on unleashing the potential, ownership, and problem-solving abilities of the organization’s nearly 200 employees. With a genuine commitment to a culture of empowerment, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone featured CEO Billy Parish in November 2017 as one of 25 people shaping the future of tech.

5. Empower the Grassroots

Three years ago, the new Vice President of Operations at Liberty Utilities in Northern California set an ambitious goal: transform the organization’s culture and quadruple its engagement scores. Leadership at the company understands that if their organization continues to grow and realize their dream of a clean energy future (the VP drives a Tesla), they would have to lay a groundwork of a healthy culture based on accountability, collaboration, and ownership. And that means getting every employee fully on board.

We’ve worked with the Liberty crew to help employees develop constructive ways to communicate and hold each other accountable. We also trained a team of employee leaders in strategies to promote accountability among their peers. By engaging everyone at all levels of the company, Liberty Utilities is reaching its engagement goals as it works for a greener future.

6. Stay Curious and Ask Questions

If you want to be better prepared to cross a Culture Chasm in your organization—or better yet, avoid one altogether—your people will need to commit to culture for the long term. Keeping purpose front and center—and empowering your managers, teaching coaching skills, and applying your company’s values—will take more than just an all-hands cheerleading session or a day-long off-site.

Crossing the Culture Chasm is a journey, and the most important journeys in life are supported by a genuine spirit of curiosity and discovery. We encourage you to keep asking questions:

  • What strengths can we leverage to cross the Culture Chasm?
  • How can we plan for people when we introduce new processes and procedures necessitated by a larger organizational size?
  • What will support people to navigate conflicts with others they don’t know personally, especially as complexity and demands continue to grow?
  • What will help keep people motivated, engaged, and on purpose when they may feel like their efforts now seem like a drop in the bucket?
  • How can we maintain our core values and the soul of who we are while also embracing the new ways of doing things that will enable us to scale successfully?

We hope that these strategies will help your people stay focused, inspired, and engaged as your organization scales. Get in touch with us to learn more about how our comprehensive, customized development programs can help your organization navigate cultural shifts and cross the Culture Chasm.

This article was originally posted on PeoplePiece.com

Misty Mountains by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

How to Uncover your Organization’s Values

This is a practical guide detailing how you can articulate your organization’s core values. This is inspired by what we did at Mosaic, and by advice and insights from friends at Delivering HappinessUncharted, and the STProject. There are great articles out there making the case for why the world needs more purpose- and values-driven organizations (and how the bottom line can benefit). This article is for those who are already bought in but need help with implementation.

Values are guidelines for behavior. If a vision statement is the “why” of an org, the values are the “how”. Ideally, values embody the vision — a vision is a description of what the organization wants the world to look like, which includes a view of how people should go about treating each other and their surroundings. Living your values is a way to enact your vision.

Values are a building block of culture; they define the mindsets and behaviors that are expected within your org (both in internal and external interactions). “Culture” is not about perks (e.g. ping-pong and kombucha), it’s about the way we treat each other, the expectations we have of our team and leaders, and the ethical lens we apply to decision-making.

Values are not created

They are uncovered by listening to how a group of people already organize themselves. Values will not be effective if they are generated behind closed doors by an executive team in isolation. I would argue that finding words that sound good, posting them up on the walls, and forgetting about them actually does more harm than good. Values need to be articulated in an inclusive way so that they can inspire and be collectively owned by everyone in the org.

Top leadership buy-in and involvement is nonetheless critical. For values to be believable, the organization needs to be willing to use them to make tough decisions. Are you willing to hire, fire, and inform strategic direction based on these values? If not, then you run the risk of creating a set of values that won’t be lived and costing the org its integrity.

Step by step guide

The below is based on how Mosaic created its values when we were ~35 people and growing. There are many good ways to do this — use the below as an inspiration rather than a set of rules.

1. Communication. The bigger the org, the more important it is to communicate consistently and transparently throughout this process. Beforehand, let everyone know why you want to spend time exploring the values that drive the organization: what benefits will this create for your team, and how will this help you achieve your vision? Make sure folks have visibility into the entire timeline, so they know when to expect results.

2. Assemble a Values-Team. Ideally, this team represents a cross-section of your organization; members should have a diversity of rank and background. Discuss the reasons for this work (come with your own reasons but also ask the group what the benefits might be for the org). You can use this group to get advice on your plan (e.g. present them with the process below, adapted to your org). Once people are aligned, prototype the process by having this team walk through a values workshop. Once you’re done, have everyone reflect on one thing that worked really well about the workshop and one thing that could have improved their experience — incorporate the feedback before rolling it out to the rest of the org.

3. Values workshops. At Mosaic, we scheduled workshops for groups of 10 people at a time to come work on our values.

  • Why. Start by talking about why defining values might be useful. It’s important to let people know that you aren’t trying to be purely aspirational; the values you eventually create should reflect strengths and patterns that already exist, not absent things that should ideally exist. Acknowledge the fact that the organization isn’t perfect, and certainly falls short of some of these values at times. The purpose of doing this exercise is to help the organization reinforce these existing values.
  • Personal reflection. Then have everyone journal exploring their own personal values. You can create any set of prompts you like here; for us, the questions prompted reflection on what a person feels is most important in their work and relationships. Examples:

Who are people you’ve admired or looked up to as role models in your life? What made you admire them?

What are examples of times you’ve felt proud of a friend, family member, or yourself? What specifically made you proud?

Think of a dilemma you’ve faced that you felt proud of you how you handled, but initially were unsure of what to do. What guided you as you navigated the situation?

  • Collective reflection. Prompt group conversation focusing on collective values that people think are represented in the org.

What’s one strength of our current culture?

(You can use similar prompts as in the personal values section, or) What do we collectively prioritize? What behaviors do we seem to value the most? What do we never do or view as unacceptable?

  • Clustering. As the group names values, have a scribe record them on a whiteboard. As more people share, you’ll be able to cluster values that are thematically related. If multiple people say the same thing, just put a checkmark by the word to indicate frequency. By the end of each workshop, you should walk away with a list of values grouped into general buckets. (If you want to invest extra time in team-building, you can now have folks share some general reflections they had from the entire exercise.)

4. Wordsmithing. After crowdsourcing buckets of values, it’s time to move into wordsmithing. It’s not effective to do this in the workshops with large groups of people; like writing poetry, everyone will have their own take, and it’s hard to craft a poem by committee. Wordsmithing the values is the responsibility of the Values Team. Choose one person in the team to be responsible for creating each new draft of the values. Understand that you can’t find the absolutely perfect words to satisfy everyone, so make sure the person doing the wordsmithing is both able to represent many voices (empathetic) and also able to let go of total control (low ego). The process goes like this:

  • Writer takes the buckets of values from the workshops and refines it to a set of a max of 10 values.
  • The V-team provides feedback on wording, making sure to call out if an important trend or value from the workshops is not being represented.
  • Writer wordsmiths again, and returns to the V-team.
  • This process may repeat a couple of times until a new version of the values is ready to be shared with the whole company. Aim to have a max of 6 values by the end of this process.
  • Here is a link to Mosaic’s values. You’ll notice that each value is accompanied by a couple of descriptive sentences. The more specific the sentences are, the easier it will be for people to engage with the values not just as abstractions but as guidelines.

5. Share the draft with everyone. Once the V-team is ready, present the latest draft to the whole company and put it up on a wall in a well-trafficked area. Place sticky notes on the wall and request that anyone write their feedback and stick it by the appropriate value. Make sure everyone knows the deadline for feedback and send reminders to ensure all the feedback gets surfaced.

6. Incorporate feedback. The V-team incorporates the remaining feedback into a final draft of the values (this may require more iterations between the writer and the team).

7. Integrate. The process of making values real takes many months of effort. At Mosaic, we spent a company offsite reviewing the final draft of our values and asked each other to think about how we hold ourselves accountable to those values. We discussed specific ways to embed values in our policies and practices, and tried to get as specific as possible when describing behaviors that would or wouldn’t be aligned with our values. The goal here is to get concrete so that people can begin to understand what these values might mean for their team or role. You also want to encourage everyone to take ownership of your culture here; invite new ideas on ways to embed and strengthen the values.

Our learnings, looking back

Making values real, like any other cultural change, takes investment and constant practice. Here are some tips:

  • Talk about them a lot. We review our values in every monthly all-hands meeting. We ask that people identify a “value of the month” that they personally want to work on, and then pair up to share that commitment.
  • We make space in all-hands (and some team) meetings for Value Shout-outs. We ask people to praise each other for living the values. This felt a little awkward at first, but soon allowed for truly moving moments.
  • Develop at least one interview question for each value and ask each candidate the same questions; this helps you check for “values-fit” and does some work to prevent the phrase “they’re not a cultural fit” being used to support unconscious biases (this is a dangerous misuse of organizational values and a topic for a different article).

Some lessons learned:

  • 8 values is too many to easily memorize. Cap your list to ~5 values.
  • During the wordsmithing process, watch out for “mash-ups”. People tend to want to avoid disappointing each other and excluding a value that sounds good, so they will mash-up slightly related values into one. Unfortunately, this ends up diluting the power of both values being combined. It’s better to have a few really potent values then a more comprehensive list of mash-ups.
  • It’s critical to hire for values-fit, especially in leadership positions. We made this an explicit part of the interview process by requiring that every candidate meet with someone from the Values team (who leverage the same list of values question), and that values interviewer had an equal say in the hiring decision as every other interviewer.
  • Owning missteps is one of the best ways to solidify values. We often see mistakes as being very costly, but they are also tremendous opportunities (that you can’t buy) to strengthen values. It’s important to step up publically and acknowledge values-missteps, and as part of a commitment to not do it again, create specific policies or practices.
  • It’s not enough to have inspiring values, good intentions and good people, you actually need to dedicate resources, time and energy to building culture. There is a momentum to business-as-usual, and your values will likely require energy from you to counteract that momentum. One of the best things to do here is to acknowledge and support culture champions. There are people in your org who will champion your values; this actually takes work on their part that is outside of their job description. Don’t let them burn out on doing too many invisible jobs: make space in their job description for this work and make sure their manager understands the value they are adding. Ask your champions what support they need, or what they think the org needs next.
  • The biggest challenge is maintaining integrity with your values when business pressure is high. Every organization needs to figure out its own ways of holding its members and leaders accountable to values. Understand that the longer you leave a leader in power who is not seen as values-aligned, the more damage you do to trust levels in the company. Set clear expectations for leaders when they join, and give them immediate feedback and support (e.g. coaching) when they are off-step here.

Signs of successful values integration:

  • Employees push back when leaders misstep. If people are willing to take the risk of speaking truth to power when values aren’t being followed, then it means they actually care about the integrity of your values. This might be painful, but push back like this can be a sign that your values are real to people.
  • I often hear interviewees mention values to me without my bringing it up first. Candidates are naturally hearing about values from other interviewers (without us training interviewers to do so).
  • We use CultureAmp to gauge employee engagement, and have customized some questions (e.g. “I see Mosaic’s values being used as guidelines when we make decisions”) to keep us moving in the right direction. We see high scores for questions like this, and use any lower scores as prompts for exploration on how we can do better. Creating some kind of regular feedback loop for culture is key.

This work is ever evolving; our culture and understanding of our values continues to change as our organization grows. Our goal is to have our values inspire our work, even as the external manifestations of our work changes.

This article was originally published on Medium.

Master the Art of Connection

The greatest asset of any company is its people. The ability to value another person’s intrinsic worth, notice and acknowledge contributions and accomplishments, and appreciate and manage diverse thoughts and perspectives is essential to every organization.

The most powerful validation you can give another human being is to care enough to step into their world and listen without giving advice, feedback, or criticism. Robert S. Hartman, Ph.D., reported that people hold back a significant portion of their cooperation and productivity until they feel valued as a human being. Dr. Hartman measured this reserve to be an average of 40% of a person’s total capacity.

The ability to look beyond our own challenging life experiences—and our negative and often destructive dialogue—and clearly see another person opens the door to rich life experiences. Understanding occurs, walls of resistance come down, huge reserves of cooperation flood out, bridges are built, wounds are healed, and relationships strengthened.

How can you actively work to tear down these walls? Start with these four steps:

  1. Notice Others

    Listen to understand and discover what is important to others. Approach the other person with an open mind and be fully engaged. See life and circumstances from their perspective. Notice a person’s performance and a job well done.

  2. See It/Say It

    When you find these nuggets—what a person is experiencing—verbalize it. How often do you see the good and relevance in another and not verbalize it, especially with those closest to you?

  3. Listen for the Doors (verbal hints about what someone is thinking)

    There are different types of doors. For example, simple statements: “I am so tired.” “I’m hanging in there.” Caustic statements are often more challenging: “That is a stupid idea.” “You never listen to me.” Rhetorical questions also offer opportunities to listen deeply: “Can’t anyone around here hear me?” “Why would you agree to do that?” The following responses to those doors can build bridges, rather than create walls.

    “Tell me more about that.”

    “Help me understand even better what you are experiencing.”

    “Are you okay?”

    “Clearly that frustrates you. Is there anything else about this that concerns you?”

  4. Step into Their World

    Leave your agenda behind and walk though their doors. Stay in their world until they know you care and want to understand their point of view. Know you cannot afford to miss this step. Doing so may result in spending endless hours in damage control.

The greatest gift we can give another person is our understanding and empathy. True leaders focus outward, making the conscious choice to connect, appreciate, and listen to others.

From “Dying for a Paycheck” to Building Thriving, Humanistic Workplaces: A Call for Courageous Leaders

Every time you turn around these days there is bleak news – about the state of our political system, healthcare, violence and increasingly dehumanized workplaces. At the same time, there is hope and a revolution in the business world that is gaining increasing momentum to restore sanity, wellbeing and honor humanity. And if we want to join the hopeful, humanistic revolution, we need more courageous leaders; I hope you’ll be one of them!

The Dark Side (aka The Bad News)

As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. Well, if the current data about the workplaces is any indication, we’ve hopefully hit the darkest. We have a humanity crisis on our hands.

  • The American Institute of Stress reports that work is a major source of stress for working adults; in fact, 80% of people report feeling stress on the job, and job stress has increased significantly over the past few years.
  • A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that approximately 30% of U.S. employees are working on weekends with approximately 25% working at night – which is a significantly higher proportion than any other countries included in the study.
  • We are painfully connected. A TechTalk survey reported that 81% of people check emails on weekends; 55% login to work after 11 p.m. and 59% check email while on vacation

Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer, argues in his new book, Dying for a Paycheck, that our “business as usual” way of operating in organizations is literally killing people:

  • The Japanese even have a word for death from overwork – Karoshi. In fact, the Workers Compensation Bureau in the Ministry of Labor compensated 812 families in 2012 who were able to show a link between overwork, illness and death – including 93 suicides; by 2015 the claims rose to 2,310.
  • China also has a word for death from overwork – Guolaosi. According to the China Youth Daily, about 600,000 people a year die from working too hard.
  • It’s gotten so bad that, in 2016, France recognized that work intrudes on non-work time and passed a law that embodies a “right to disconnect.”

Pfeffer provides compelling data to show that negative job conditions (including those described here) affect individual’s wellbeing – in particular, behaviors related to drinking, smoking, drug abuse and overeating. Toxic workplaces result in 120,000 excess deaths per year – making workplaces the 5th leading cause of death. And they account for approximately $180 billion in excess healthcare costs – accounting for approximately 8 percent of the total healthcare spend.

The answer is NOT to put in more wellness programs trying to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors. As Pfeffer says, what we need to do is

“First, Do No Harm…Stop doing the things that create toxic work environments.”

But easier said than done, right?

The Light Side (aka the Good News)

The good news is that there are an increasing number of organizations who are going against the grain; they are putting people first, making a positive social contribution AND finding great success. But it takes great courage – embracing adaptive change and shifting our mindset and paradigms. In fact, according to the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report,

“Business and HR leaders can no longer continue to operate according to old paradigms. They must now embrace new ways of thinking about their companies, their talent and their role in global social issues ”

In 2018 that has expanded further with Deloitte reporting:

“Organizations today are judged for more than their success as a business. They’re now being held responsible for their impact on society at large.”

We now have so many great examples of companies embracing the Conscious Capitalism principles of business to elevate humanity:

  • Gravity Payments recently announced that they’ve reached a milestone where the average pay is $100,00 per year; their CEO Dan Price made a bold move to drastically cut his pay to raise the minimum salary of anyone in his company to $70,000.
  • Patagonia centers everything they do around being environmentally conscious – and also supports and encourages their people to arrange their work days so they have time to surf, ski and enjoy their lives.
  • Everlane practices complete transparency on their clothing labels so you know exactly what the costs are that go into the garment; and they only use ethical factories.
  • The 28 Firms of Endearment are companies ranging in size and industry who embrace the total stakeholder approach to business – not sacrificing any one of their stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, and community/environment) for another.

The even better news is that I could go on for several more pages with more company examples – each one finding great financial success yet operating completely counter to the numbers-focused “business as usual” that’s killing people. They are elevating humanity through their business.

You may be thinking, “This is all lovely, but what does this have to do with me? …I’m not an entrepreneur…I’m just a [HR, wellness, safety, OD, etc.] person. Well, I want to suggest to you that this is the prime opportunity for us all to build community and show up as leaders – to join these other amazing leaders in restoring hope, humanity and wellbeing to our workplaces.

Developing Courageous Leaders – and Thriving Workplaces

Building thriving workplaces demands courageous leaders. And we all have the opportunity to step into being a leader. In their book, Leadership On the Line, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky suggest that the opportunity for leadership stands before us every day in various ways. And every day we must decide whether or not to put our contribution out there, or keep it to ourselves to avoid upsetting anyone. The reality is that we appear dangerous to people when we question their values, beliefs or habits; we place ourselves on the line when we tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

“To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear – their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking – with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility.”

Going against the grain of “business-as-usual” requires a great amount of new learning, engaging ourselves and others in adjusting our unrealistic expectations and promoting our resourcefulness. If not you, then who? At the end of the day, leadership is a BEHAVIOR, not a title or job function. So we can choose to stay comfortable and wait for someone else “more qualified” to “fix” the problem or we can embrace the discomfort and step into leading positive change.

Brene Brown says that “You shift a culture by creating a critical mass of courageous leaders.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’m so excited to be part of the Fusion 2.0 Conference!

So whether you work in employee wellness/wellbeing, human resources, safety/risk management, organizational effectiveness, leadership development or are a leader who wants to restore hope and humanity to the workplace, you’ll create your community so no more will anyone be dying for a paycheck.

Mental Illness

When Mental Illness Causes Toxicity in the Workplace – Accommodating to Avoid Triggers

Don’t Give Up – Work with the Employee on Needs and Expectations

John C. Maxwell, a world-renowned leadership guru said, “Leadership is the capacity to care. And in caring to liberate the ideas, energy and capacities of others.” I believe this is true, and this is why I work with people in leadership roles to help them gain the skills they need.

What does this have to do with managing a “toxic” employee? Everything!

Let’s go back to the original question that led to this blog series: What to do when one employee’s behavior is causing disruption and conflict with co-workers because of frequent emotional outbursts and failure to work cooperatively and considerately, and they say it is because of their mental illness.

The manager or supervisor’s job is to ensure that the job gets done, on time, within budget and according to the expected requirements. If you are managing a worker who has a mental illness, they may need accommodation to be able to achieve these goals.

When a worker with mental illness is seen as being disruptive, the stigma may exacerbate the behavior. The harder the situation is, the more a caring attitude is called for.

People who have mental illness may be suffering from physical or emotional pain, or both. They may feel uncertain about their circumstances or their future. They may struggle with excessive worry (a.k.a. anxiety), sadness, hopelessness, and even anger. If they are taking medication, there could be an imbalance. This can happen even when the medication was previously working.

The important thing is not to assume or guess. Care enough to ask the right questions and take the right action. It is the only way to break through the cloud of stigma and sensitivity and build trust. This will help everyone involved – even in the future. With a quarter of our population at high risk for mental illness, you need to instill trust among your team that you will be able to handle these situations.

The worker may need accommodation to help them maintain their sense of balance and security. If you are already accommodating them, then you should review the accommodation plan because it may not be appropriate. The goal of accommodation is to support the worker, so they can be as productive as possible given their state of well-being.

The needs for accommodation may vary greatly. In some cases, temporary accommodation may be needed to help the worker through a difficult time or situation (e.g. dealing with a personal situation, working through grief, medication adjustments, etc.). In others, a more permanent accommodation may help by reducing the risk of exposure to a workplace stressor that triggers a negative response, such as when the worker has suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) from a workplace or personal experience. Others may only involve implementing a procedure for early intervention if the worker begins experiencing a decline in their mental health or their ability to control their behavior.

Quick Tips to Guide You in the Right Direction

  • Think about how you will address the situation in a way that upholds, or even improves, the worker’s sense of dignity and respect. An employee who has frequent emotional outbursts likely doesn’t want to act out and may be embarrassed and sensitive afterward. They may put up a psychological wall to defend themselves, particularly if they feel resentment from others. Set up a safe place and time to have a private conversation with them.
  • If the worker is covered by a union, you should have a union representative present at the meeting. Discuss the situation and your approach with the union representative before the meeting to gain their trust and support. If there are any forms or documentation you will be suggesting, make sure you have discussed this with the representative before the meeting. You do not want to put the worker, the union representative, or yourself in an awkward position during the meeting.
  • Let the worker know you would like to talk with them about the situation and how to help make their job better for them. Let them know the intention is to help them succeed at work. Even if they have received past warnings about their behavior, as discussed in the second post in this series, they still need to know that your intention is to help them succeed at work.
  • Be prepared for an open and controlled discussion. Your focus should be on talking about the psychological demands of the job so that you can determine if there may be a need for accommodation. If the psychological demands of the job have not been previously assessed, you can take this opportunity to begin that process.
  • If there is a need for accommodation, you may be able to work something out. You need to find out what the worker’s physical, psychological, psycho-social abilities and limitations are. Do not just focus on their mental illness in isolation of the whole person. Mental illness is seldom the only condition involved. This is taking a more holistic and integrated approach. You can start by simply asking them. Note that you are not asking them for details about their health – only about their abilities and limitations with the intent of accommodation.
  • You may need to get information about the worker’s abilities and limitations from their health care provider. You should use an appropriate form and a cover letter to send with the worker to complete. Your organization may need to cover the cost.
  • Make sure to track their progress and document everything.

Originally published on Hale Health and Safety.



Good Vibes Only

Self-Acceptance for a Healthy Life

Many times, we are motivated to set a health or weight loss goal by the fact that there’s something about our current life or body that we’re unhappy with. Who hasn’t had a moment of disturbing truth in the dressing room mirror or feeling overly winded after a flight of stairs? But here’s the truth: feelings of self-criticism and shame might motivate a few workouts or “good” eating days, but they motivate many more falls off the health wagon than on.

Want to create lifelong change in your health? Come at it from a different angle: one of extreme self-acceptance, rather than self-critique. You only get one body, so you might as well love it and take wonderful care of it, in part by incorporating healthy food and fitness practices into your daily life. And here’s the bonus, self-acceptance triggers a relaxation response that can help reduce the stress and anxiety so many of us feel about trying to create new healthy habits – and we think that makes those habits even more likely to stick.

Here are a baker’s dozen (plus one!) action items for shifting into a self-acceptance mindset.

1. Set a self-acceptance intention. Before you do anything else, you have to be willing to release what might be lifelong patterns of blame, doubt and contempt. Once you decide that you’re ready to live a life of self-acceptance rather than self-loathing, you can truly begin your journey to a lasting, healthy relationship with yourself, your body and your life.

2. Stop comparing. There’s a wise saying that it’s dangerous to compare the inside of your life to the outside of someone else’s. Think about it. On the surface, we rarely present the whole truth. If you’re feeling down in the dumps and someone asks you how you are, you’re more likely to say, “Great!” than tell them how it really is. Remember that what you’re admiring from afar may not be as good, or as perfect as it seems.

3. Discover what makes you unique. Make a list of things you can do that sometimes surprise or impress other people and learn to embrace what makes you YOU.

4. Appreciate more. So often we dwell on things we don’t have, don’t think we’re capable of or don’t like about ourselves. But with a little bit of work, we can train our minds to appreciate all we are capable of. For every negative thought, write down two counter thoughts–like two things you do have for everything you don’t, or two things you love about yourself every time you get hung up on an imperfection.

5. Surround yourself with support. Distance yourself from negativity–people who put you down and don’t support your journey to self-acceptance. Begin to seek out and surround yourself with people who have positive personalities and tend to look on the bright side, including the bright side of you!

6. Rethink failure. In life, what seems like failure in the short-term can often turn out over time to be a gift of the lessons and course-corrections that make us who we are. And in the endeavor to live a healthy life, the only true failures are: (a) not to start and (b) to quit trying. Everything else isn’t failure – it’s part of the journey.

7. List your achievements. What have you done that you’re proud of? Check in with your accomplishments every so often. Sit down with a piece of paper and write down everything you’ve succeeded at recently–everything from bigger and better career moves to exercising 3 days last week like you resolved to do this year. You’ll probably surprise yourself.

8. Fast forward to the “happy.” When we’re down on ourselves, it’s easy to get into happiness-deferment mode. “I’d be so much happier if I were thinner/more beautiful/had more money/had a better job, etc.” Do this exercise: think of the people in your life or even celebrities who have the things you think you need to be happy. You won’t have to think long before you realize that none of these things, on their own, are a magic ticket to happiness. Now do this exercise: decide to feel as happy right now as you think you would be if you had all those items you thought were prerequisites to happiness. Try it! If you can do it for even a moment, you can practice doing it every day, and you will gradually learn that your little imperfections and life challenges have no power to keep you unhappy or stuck.

9. Intentionally counter negative self-talk with positive words to yourself. In front of the mirror, we often run through a little catalogue of insults to ourselves that we would never, ever say to another human being, cataloguing everything from pimples to love handles to cellulite dimples. And in the gym, forget about it – we should have done more cardio, lifted more weights, stayed longer, or come more often.

Here’s a challenge: get and stay conscious of the times you say negative things to yourself throughout the day. Every time you have such a thought, intentionally counteract it with a positive truth about yourself. Soon, instead of focusing on how little time you spent at the gym, you’ll be giving yourself kudos for showing up in the first place, and the whole thing will be much less painful.

10. Perform acts of kindness. When you sacrifice something for someone in need, whether it be time, money, personal belongings, expertise, or whatever you have to give, it’s hard not to feel good about the person you are inside.

11. Purge your life of things that trigger negative self-thoughts. Junk food, your scale, clothes that haven’t fit in months, unflattering mirrors, beauty magazines, old photos–whatever they may be, identify them and say good riddance. And yes, this might include getting rid of relationship patterns that involve criticism, put-downs or shame.

12. Treat yourself to things that make you feel good. To counter all of those items you purge, replace them with things that make you feel happy. Replace the junk food with a drawer full of fresh fruits and veggies, or your favorite green smoothie. Get off the scale and go for a walk with a friend. Trade all of those ill-fitting clothes for a dress or blazer that flatters your figure and makes you feel good. Trade those magazine subscriptions for a library card and read books that make you laugh or inspire you. These little things add up and can make a big difference in your mood.

13. Learn how to accept a compliment. When someone says something nice about you, say, “Thank you,” and give a smile. (In fact, if you want to truly boost your looks, smile more – every smiling face is beautiful if you think about it.) It’s a wonderful thing! Trusting that the great things others think and say about you are true can be a gateway to seeing those things in yourself.

14. Use your body to have active fun. Spend your spare time doing things that make you feel good physically and emotionally, like taking a long walk with your friends (canine friends count!) or trying new, active hobbies like gardening, hiking or dancing. The more you move your body and use it to enjoy the present moment, even when you’re not specifically “working out,” the easier you’ll find it is to be grateful for that body and how well it serves you – how wonderful it is to have this body that helps you access the various joys life has to offer.


Originally published on Healing Tree Health.

Coaching a team

Creating a Culture of Coaching: How to Engage, Retain and Grow Better Employees

IN MANY INDUSTRIES, COMPANIES are struggling to recruit good people and fighting even harder to retain them. What’s harder still is getting good people in, helping them grow to be even better employees, and then being the type of company that high-performing employees choose to stay at instead of going elsewhere. It’s a very real conundrum – but not an unsolvable one – that many industry leaders, including those within the construction industry, face. That’s where coaching becomes so vital to the health of an organization.

Construction companies contain, by nature, big-picture thinkers – ushering through major projects on an often national or global scale. The industry is also filled with doers and problem solvers. While the big picture is important, and getting jobs completed on time and on budget is even more important, industry leaders need to find additional solutions to address retention issues to ensure there are people to complete the work. One such solution is to create a coaching culture, and it’s just as essential as scaffolding, concrete, and hard hats. To that end, construction firms should implement – or at least consider utilizing – coaching as one of their best practices, working to engage employees, increase teamwork and, ultimately, secure retention.

Every leader should have coaching tactics in their toolbox and strive to become more coach-like, meaning instead of focusing on doing and fixing, they create a space for employees to grow and find solutions on their own. Leaders may feel like they’re coaching by giving an employee the fix, but often they’re just advancing their own personal agendas, such as a project deadline, rather than seeking the best fit or solution for the employee.

It’s a tough balance, and also a difficult concept for many leaders to put into practice, especially leaders who would rather take the frequently more comfortable and quicker route of fixing a person’s problems for them. The leader often gets a short-term high from providing the fix at the expense of the long-term growth of the employee. Personal and professional growth is a fluid and ever-changing process. Employees are continually growing, so coaching them can be a bit like trying to hit a moving target.

Understand that undertaking the coaching role must be a reciprocal process – not only must the leader recognize and be prepared for coaching opportunities, but the employee also needs to be ready and open to being coached and, in turn, accept their leader in the role of coach.

Everyone has – at one point or another – worked with someone they did not particularly like. If an employee does not have trust or respect for their leader, they likely won’t be open to accepting coaching from that individual. Once a leader has built a strong relationship with an employee, opportunities for coaching are endless. It’s important to remember that sometimes coaching is simply providing an employee with silence; a non-judgmental space to reflect on the questions they are asking in order to formulate a solution on their own without the fear of being ridiculed, or told, “you’re wrong.” It’s about creating a space for someone to think, process, and acknowledge present opportunities for growth.

The goal of coaching is to quiet the noise around an individual and create space, allowing them to see what’s right in front of them. Sometimes they discover a solution, sometimes they realize there is an underlying issue that needs to be resolved first, and sometimes they discover that they already have the answer.


 1. Become more coach-like. Coaching is difficult. It’s hard to extract oneself and not just try to fix the situation. Being a coaching leader means recognizing the differences between fixing, doing and growing. That doesn’t mean that sometimes leaders aren’t going to resolve issues. However, it’s about becoming aware of – and being prepared for – the moment when a coaching opportunity presents itself.

2. Focus on the journey. Coaching should not focus on the end game, statistics, or on corporate growth, though these may be secondary results. It’s about focusing on the individual and their journey. Embarking on the journey to become one’s best self takes courage – the courage to not only share thoughts and emotions with someone else, but to have them reflected back. Being coached is just like looking in a mirror, one that can help someone understand who they are capable of being.

3. Create relationships. Leaders shouldn’t have to seek out people to coach. Rather, they should focus on creating organic relationships where people are attracted to them and welcome a coaching relationship. One way for leaders to create relationships is to always be their most authentic self so that the people around them see consistency. It’s important to note that while a leader may be ready and willing to coach, the employee must be as well. No one should be pressured into a coaching relationship – coaching only works for someone who’s ready to reflect and take a deep look inside.


Creating a healthy coaching environment is a mutual win for both leaders and employees. Engagement and genuine teamwork are likely to increase, especially when a leader shows he or she is invested in someone else’s growth, not just in getting things done. It’s not much of a surprise that happier people are typically happier and more productive employees. The goal of coaching in the workplace is to improve relationships at work and grow employees, but it can certainly improve their personal lives as well. Bottom line? All that good will, a culture of coaching and well-adjusted employees can lead to greater retention. When a company has a workforce filled with trusted, authentic coaching relationships, employees naturally visualize their future within the company for years to come. It’s about creating a team of hard-working, sought-after people who have opportunities to work elsewhere, but because of the culture that’s been created, they choose to stay, and that’s exactly what strong and well-executed coaching can achieve.

Originally published in Constructor Magazine.

Kitten in city

Kittens, Biscuits, and Where We Live

“Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.” New England saying*.

Where I live, people are one of two things: Mainers or From Away. Even if you arrive shortly after your birth, you are forever From Away. So, with this background, I skeptically approach the latest research on the best place in America to live to increase your chances of living longer and/or healthier. Is it the place or is something more subtle at play? After all, kittens born in the oven are not biscuits!

Jane Brody’s New York Times column about this research focuses squarely on individual behaviors, what she calls “the big enchilada” – what food to eat, how much alcohol to drink, and whether to smoke. She quotes an epidemiologist who says that three-fourths of the variation in life expectancy (apparently from one state to another) is explained by those three factors.

Yet, a “good diet” (subject to widely varying opinions on the definition) does not have the same life-saving impact on each and every person. A person’s social economic status has much more influence on his body than his diet. We can’t do this experiment on people, but it’s been done on monkeys – feed a group of monkeys the very same diet and over time, the dominant female monkeys will develop significantly less coronary artery disease than the subordinate monkeys. Gee, if only those subordinate monkeys would see a nutritionist or get more exercise, they could live longer. Obviously, that is absurd.

The popularity of healthy behaviors where we live is not the crucial factor. These behaviors are sand against the tide of the context in which they occur. In other words, it’s about how people live in a community, and different states have different lifestyles. Perhaps Minnesotans live longer perhaps because there is less economic inequality, or more respect for hourly wage earners, or better access to affordable housing. All of these have vastly more impact than on health and longevity than diet.

So don’t move for the sake of being around more people who do “healthy stuff”. Move, if you must, for the sake of joining a better social environment or, better yet, try to make your home community into a better place.

Originally published on The Healthy Economy
*Just because you live here doesn’t make you one of us.

Thriving Forest

Living Organizations are Flourishing Organizations

We see all around us a call for more conscious, purposeful leadership, to find a higher purpose, to be more creative and innovative and to create organizations that are caring, engaging and flourishing. In my 40 plus years of leading organizations, sitting on boards and consulting to a wide range of organizations, I have yet to find a leader who doesn’t desire the same for their organization.

I have yet to find leaders who don’t realize that their success is tied to the success and well-being of their employees. There isn’t a leader that doesn’t dream of an organization of people who are passionate and committed to the mission, who can collaborate and collectively create the desired outcomes.

One has to step back and ask, “if the literature tells us we get better results by creating such organizations and leaders want to create such organizations, why aren’t more organization already operating this way?”

All leaders must create results. Whether you own your own company, report to an owner, a board or any other level of the organization, results are the bottom line!

For over a century, we have been operating under the principle that the best way to achieve results is to view organizations as machines that will create great outcomes if designed and optimized for efficiency. This worked for most of the 20th century.

Yet today’s environment is not like the 20th century. Our workers are better educated. We are operating in a global marketplace. Technology has changed the landscape tremendously and continues to do so. Perhaps the most significant difference is the rapid changes we find ourselves in. We are in a world that is more volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex (VUCA).

The number one focus of any leader is to create results and the most effective way of creating results, we have been taught, is to run our organizations like well-oiled machines.

Therein lies the problem.

It is not the lack of desire to create these flourishing organizations, it is the models we have for creating results that limits creativity, blocks innovation and diminishes engagement. The way we think and the language and tools we use are all about making the production machine ever more efficient. While important, efficiency has a shadow side. It seeks to minimize the messy aspects of human nature, the very source of creativity, innovation and engagement.

Machines are programmed to perform certain functions. They take a long time to reprogram for changes. Machines simply do what they are told, they do not innovate or respond to their environments. Machines are made of component parts and “parts” do not have passion for their work nor do they interact with other parts, which turns into silos.

The Living Organization®
The solution is to reframe, rethink and reorient our view of organizations as creative, living beings. They are in fact living organizations not machines of production.

Living beings are creative, highly responsive and adoptive to their environments, feel passion for what they believe in and will work tirelessly to achieve their goals. Living entities work in collaboration with other members of their ecosystem, knowing their success depends on the success of the whole ecosystem.

Shifting to this new view does not give up any of the benefits of the efficient machine paradigm. Rather it adds to and enhances it. The Living Organization® Approach incorporates the best of what we have learned about how to optimize our activities and integrates it with enhanced relationships and focused context.

It is a model that understands that the hard side of business and the soft side of business are not separate activities but an integrated path. Successful leaders know the "soft side" is a core driver of “hard side” and each are interdependent on the other.

Understanding the dynamic integration of all the forces within an organization is essential to effortlessly creating human wellbeing, flourishing organizations and extraordinary results. Just what every leader is required to do.

A living example
I have been the chairman of the Board of a number of nonprofits and learned a valuable lesson from all of them. It is best described by a meeting I was having one with the leadership, staff and volunteers of one of those nonprofits.

It was an evening meeting as most of the volunteers worked during the day. The purpose of the meeting was to simply review the progress of the organization, discuss what was working and what wasn’t as feedback to a schedule strategic planning meeting.

As I watched the interactions of the volunteers I observed a very interesting phenomenon. These volunteers had just spent a full day working at the “day job” and came in fairly exhausted. You can tell many of them felt stressed and challenged and certainly not very energized.

As they engaged in the nonprofit conversation, I saw these very same people come alive. The energy in the room was electric as they shared story upon story of their interactions with the organization and its clients.

Wow, from heavy, tired, stressed to excited, energized and passionate. What happened? Where did that energy come from?

This led to an understanding of the energy of context that brings about meaning, purpose and passion.

All day long these people worked at their jobs to produce something, and it drained them. Being a part of a machine of a machine sucks the energy out of them.

Yet when they engage with and are committed to the purpose of an organization, they become part of this living energetic being and are energized with it.

I began to ask, what if our day jobs felt more like the organizations we volunteer for? What kind of environments would that create? Engagement, commitment, passion, wellbeing – energy! That is what happens when you reframe your view of what your organization is and see it as The Living Organization.