I’ve been fortunate recently to travel to Dubai and carry out phase one of my Culture Capitaliser programmes for a company based in the Middle East with ambitious growth plans and an MD who totally ‘gets’ the importance of a healthy, high-performing culture – bravo!

It was the first time I’d been back to visit since leaving 6 ½ years ago and I’d forgotten what a melting pot the place is. Diversity is such a hot topic in the UK but the diversity of Dubai can’t be beaten – the company I was with had 14 people in its senior leadership team spanning 11 different nationalities!

What’s so fantastic about this real diversity is that you continuously learn from it being privy to lots of different perspectives, attitudes and beliefs which widen your mind and expand your perspective.

Interestingly, the results of the Barrett Culture Values Assessment (CVA) that this company undertook with me showed a relatively united response and weren’t as diverse as their nationalities. ‘Accountability’ topped the tables from both a personal value and a desired organisational value, which demonstrated the strength of that desired value.

‘Accountability’ seems to span sectors and countries and in my experience tends to be the value that pops up more consistently than most. Obviously there’s two sides to the coin when it comes to accountability. There can be frustration around not feeling or being made accountable and responsible; but on the flip side there can be a feeling of other colleagues not taking accountability or responsibility.  That’s why it’s always important to dig a little deeper with assessment results and understand the sentiment and root cause that sits behind them.

Gartner’s recent research has been enlightening and it highlights three missteps that thwart culture change, ‘don’t measure culture with data alone’; ‘don’t use simple adjectives to describe culture and use language to inspire’ and ‘don’t forget to alter policies to support culture change’. I agree with all three.

The company I worked with in Dubai were in the advertising/experiential sector and as part of the designed workshop, I got them to work together to create some phenomenally inspiring values and behaviours from a design and sentiment perspective - they certainly nailed the ‘don’t use simple adjectives to describe culture and use language to inspire'. Quite something when the 'accountability' value isn't exactly inspiring and doesn't pull on the heart strings! Everyone was hugely excited to be part of this aspirational work and the results were exceptional. It’s given me food for thought for other companies I work with in the future to bring about the same type of results!

I read an interesting blog recently ‘Stop holding your team accountable and hold them capable’ which I loved. Thank you Matthew Gould!  As we all know accountability is the responsibility of an individual alone. However, the value can cause stress, fear and frustration amongst other things. It also has connotations of control and blame, and although important to get right, is uninspiring to most as mentioned above.

So how about flipping the approach and as a leader “hold your team capable” and not accountable and be responsible for enhancing their capability?  Engagement surveys and the Culture Assessment I carry out usually show the desire for self-improvement so there’s a great opportunity to champion the people around you; consciously think of how to build on their strengths; unlock how they can add value and encourage the concept of shared ownership and maximising performance. Not only is this forward-focused and creates great, positive energy, it will bring about a high-performing culture that everyone can buy into and feel proud of.

My Culture Capitaliser Model has a Capability bucket and looks at it with an all-angled lens. When most people think ‘capability’ they think about enhancing the skillset of colleagues, however it encapsulates so much more. Culture mustn’t be tinkered with but looked at as a whole system change:

  • Is the structure currently capable of enabling a high-performing culture?

  • Are the processes and systems at their most capable to maximise performance?

  • Do all people initiatives align and are they capable of recognising people who demonstrate the right values and achieve the right outcomes?

  • Are the values the right ones and capable of delivering the purpose, vision and strategy or do they need a reset?

Food for thought….if you need any help with your culture change programme and want to find out, do get in touch @ I’ll leave you with feedback from my client in Dubai which hopefully demonstrates the value I can add to your business and its performance.

Our expectations were by far exceeded with this expertly crafted intervention - comprising both top leadership and full employee workshops. The week ended on such a high note and we achieved amazing insights and shared understanding across our employee group. Thank you Joss, we have made a great start to this journey and look forward to seeing you again!










When times get tough we seek relationships that are solid.  We need to feel confident that we can trust the other party and feel they are genuinely there for us.  Trust builds relationships by allowing us to feel connected and be open and authentic.  This is true for our working relationships, as much as it is for our personal ones.  

Without trust, fear and its limiting behaviours grow and we can feel isolated, suspicious and not able to perform at our best.  When an unhealthy culture (cultural entropy) is at play, employees spend increasing amounts of their time doing unnecessary or unproductive work.  This not only leads to frustration and discontent within the ranks, but it will ultimately hit the business’ bottom line.  

Brands must gain the trust of their customers and shareholders too.  In a compelling and thought-provoking TEDtalk, Airbnb’s co-founder Joe Gebbia suggests that Airbnb’s success comes down to a well-designed reputation system that allows guests and hosts to overcome the human deep-rooted ‘stranger danger’ mentality.

He starts his story telling with his struggle to get the Airbnb concept off the ground due to a lack of trust amongst customers and investors; and then moves on to explain how the Airbnb success phenomenon has been built on designing for trust.

So what does that actually mean?  Airbnb found that if a host saw three recommendations and positive reviews about a potential visitor, then their bias and lack of trust was likely to remain. However, if a visitor managed to attract ten positive reviews, the host would put aside their social ‘stranger danger’ bias and difference and trust them.  With this invaluable knowledge, Airbnb has continued to consciously design their referral system, amongst other things, to build trust and used this as valuable currency on which to build their phenomenally successful business. 

This story is one of many in the share economy, which ultimately is a transaction with the promise of human connection.   From my experience as a specialist in building strong cultures within business, I know that trust is just as important for internal audiences too.

To enable it to work, everyone must share a part of themselves and feel a sense of belonging and connection.  When designing the Internal Communication strategy for the Co-op Bank, we landed on our team purpose ‘to connect people to our business, connect our leaders to our people and connect our people to each other’ which was ultimately to build trust and commitment.  No wonder Mr Gebbia’s talk resonated and got me contemplating!

Airbnb’s Mr Gebbia ends his talk by suggesting that homes and even cities could be designed from a place of trust.  Imagine if a company did this too?  What if business was created from a culture of trust, with strong foundations for cohesiveness and collective action?

As values are so important when it comes to developing a high-performing culture, I was intrigued to look at Airbnb’s and found I really connected with them. They’re not only simple set of values but are inspiring, inter-connected and accessible, enabling its people to easily bring them to life. Bravo Airbnb!

Capitalise’s Culture Capitaliser programme helps businesses in bringing about whole system change and helping them to deliver culture change.  It’s made up of a two-phased approach with Phase One being focused on setting strong foundations for building trust and creating collective, cohesive action that matters.

The five-step approach includes colleagues completing a Culture Values Assessment (CVA) to help paint a picture of the current culture and the desired culture that they believe will help them peak perform and be at their best and happiest. This not only provides useful information to open up insightful conversations, but also acts as a benchmark to measure against.

The next step is to help senior leadership teams create/reset their purpose, vision and values, whilst also supporting them to bring cohesion and alignment as a team – both  important factors in building an environment of trust.  The final step is helping them build a connected and consistent narrative so they can land the culture change in the most compelling and engaging way with colleagues.

Phase Two of the whole system culture change approach looks at aligning, engaging and embedding the change throughout the business.  All critical factors as without this there will be disconnect and confusion which will lead to dysfunction and frustration.

Gartner have recently carried out extensive research called ‘Three culture conversations every CEO must have with the Head of HR’ which calls out the need to alter policies and processes to align with the desired culture. What they say in this paper, I ‘align’ with completely.  For example, if you want to create a culture of collaboration, but then enforce the curve performance management system, that creates an environment in which colleagues must compete, there’s a disconnect which will breed discontentment and a lack of trust.

I’ve written a number of blogs on how to build a strong company culture, one of my particular favourites is ‘A strong company character and culture are the foundations of accelerating business growth’ so do take a look if you have the time.

Capitalise is working with a number of companies that are consciously redesigning their culture based on trust, connection and addressing what their colleagues are asking for to deliver their best selves at work.  If you’d like to find out more, do get in touch.  

Cultivating a high-performing culture that lasts

Culture session July 2019 picture - panorama (1).jpg

As some of you know who may have seen my Linkedin post last week, I carried out a ‘How to deliver a high-performing culture that lasts’ breakfast session earlier this week which was a sell-out (thank you Waddington Brown for facilitating this). 


It’s a subject I’m passionate about as it’s so important to cultivate a healthy company culture, so that business and people can flourish in the workplace and productivity and profitability prevail.


I talked about the why, what and how. My phase one tackles setting solid foundations for collective, cohesive action which includes having a bench-mark to measure success.  Phase two, which is of equal importance looks at five steps around aligning, embedding, measuring, resetting and re-engaging.


The culture session was a great success and I’ve had some fantastic feedback:

“Joss is very experienced and delivered in a very friendly way.”
“A well thought through presentation, with good introduction of concepts and practical application.
“A great start to improving positive change.”

“Very informative, lots of tools to take away and use.”
“Very thought provoking and will be taking it back.”
“Excellent event, thought provoking with lots to take away.”


We also asked the audience what the key challenges they found when considering company culture. There were a number as you can imagine and I'm sure some a lot of you recognise, including:

  • "Keeping momentum going."

  • "Continuous improvement."

  • "Embedding values and behaviours."

  • "Measurement."

  • "Commitment when a company is in survival mode."

  • "Dealing with rotten apples."

  • "Friction of culture v political/social barriers."

I’m starting to talk to a number of companies about my Culture Capitaliser model, the two phase approach and how to tackle the key challenges they have.  It’s great to see that businesses are starting to realise the need for work in this space to enhance productivity and ultimately the bottom line.  

If your business is interested in getting a clear, unbiased view of the cultural health of your business and potentially want to look at how to approach a culture change that lasts, do get in touch, I’d love to chat more.

How to capitalise in your first 100 days

Capitalise on Your First 100 days (1).png

As a leader who is new-in-role, there’s big pressure to come in and make a positive impact on the business in a relatively short space of time. If you’re new to the company as well as the role, there’s a double whammy. You’re the new kind on the block, with no (or minimum) internal relationships in place. You have a huge learning curve to get on top of and expectations are high.  When you’ve been promoted from within, you still have big mountains to climb and although the core challenges may be a little different, they can still be as daunting and keep you up at night.

As I mentioned in my previous blog , your first 100 days can positively or negatively impact your career big picture and that’s why this time is so important to get right. If you smash it, it’s likely you’ll get promoted quicker and join the leadership career fast track that brings with it numerous opportunities to grow and succeed.

The First 100 Days Capitaliser programme gives a strategic, systematic and planned framework to set you up for accelerated success. My programme is made of four aspects:

·        #prep

·        #first30

·        #first60

·        #first100

The programme’s tagline for #prep (ie. before you start your role) is ‘New Role, New Mindset’ and ultimately is about you consciously letting go of your old role, promoting yourself into the new one and visioning the type of credible leader you want to be perceived as when you nail your first 100 days.

The tagline for #first30 is ‘Accelerated Learner, Strategic Formulator’. What you’re aiming for in your first 30 days is a systematic way of learning at pace; starting to build strategic relationships by effectively stakeholder mapping; and being able to tactically and strategically formulate as you go.  It’s also the time to identify your priority areas and start to build your granular action plan.

Strategic Formulator, Tactical Deliverer is the tagline for #first60.  During the next 30 days, you’re continuing to formulate in your mind the approach to your strategy; you’re also taking all your key insights and learnings from your first 30 days to identify one, two or three quick wins you can deliver which will build your credibility and momentum.  You’ll also be evolving your action plan.

The fourth aspect of this programme is #first100 and has the tagline Strategic Deliverer. This is about you co-creating your strategy; using your strategic partnerships and relationships to ensure it is at its best; and getting the crucial buy-in you’ll need when you ultimately present it to the top team for sign off. Delivering a strategy that aligns to the organisation’s purpose, vision and strategy and demonstrates the added value that you and your team are going to make to the bigger picture, will demonstrate that you are a the right strategic, credible leader for the role.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll do a blog on each aspect of the First 100 Days Capitalise programme, to give some further guidance and insight to help you as a leader nail your first 100 days.  In the meantime, if you’d like to download the checklist, please go to my website and the freebie section.

Reboot, reset - is it time for businesses to approach things differently?


As the modern workplace requires us to keep up with the speed in which technology, processes and work capabilities are changing, perhaps it’s time for us to reboot the way we work?  We all know this isn’t an easy thing to accomplish and that people behaviour change can be the biggest challenge of all.  But what if a clear purpose (the why), strategy and vision (the what) and values (the how) were set and at the forefront of colleagues minds day-in-day out.  What then if smaller, cross-functional teams were empowered to act to find the right solutions but with a key mandate - to stay aligned to the purpose, vision and strategy and be continuously transparent in what they were doing and achieving. Could it bring about a re-energised workforce and less hierarchy?  Most definitely yes.  Could it lead to a much more productive and collaborative culture – absolutely, as long as there was alignment, empowerment and transparency.  Martin Danoesastro’s Tedtalk is worth a listen to see if some companies have made this approach work. It won’t be for every company but it could be for yours….



WHY culture is so important

Culture is the key to commitment and commitment is key to employee engagement, which leads to customer and client satisfaction. 

Fuse a strong company character and culture and a clear purpose and vision. Then focus on a great customer and employee experience and align these ingredients with all core aspects of your business, and you can develop the all-important commitment you need to accelerate business performance and success.

HOW to cultivate the right culture

There are different approaches that can be taken to changing a culture and, although the high involvement approach requires more work than the top-down limited involvement approach, it is the most effective in the long run.

It’s about listening to what colleagues on the ground have to say.  What do they think will make the company perform at its best? You can then build a desired culture around the areas that they feel need to be addressed.  Once a company has a clear indication from its colleagues of what needs to change (do read my blog to see how if you missed it), then build a programme that aligns, connects and enables the desired culture.  This takes focus, perseverance and medium-to-long-term commitment.

Organisations that are making great gains in this space are thinking longer-term (Jacob Morgan’s article is worth a read). They’re going beyond the engagement scores taken ‘in the moment’ and asking colleagues to work with them to create a place where people want, not just need to work each day.

It’s also important to remember that from a pyschological point of view, colleagues feel committed when they are able to meet their survival, safety and security needs, and their work is meaningful.  If you look at most employee surveys, you’ll see this more often than not play out in the results.   

Purpose continues to be ‘on trend’ thanks to the Millennials who are driving it. 40% of those polled by the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 believe the goal of businesses should be to ‘improve society’.  Personal alignment, Purpose and Vision Alignment, Values Alignment and Structural Alignment are key.  An integrated strategic culture approach helps to accelerate change once the purpose, vision and values have been set.  

Commitment is further boosted if Leaders treat their team members as equals, listen to what they have to say, are fair, empower and give them opportunities and challenges to grow and develop both professionally and personally.  When you get to the heart of what matters, it’s all about mutual commitment and respect which builds trust.  Trust also shows up in organisations when there is a commitment to internal cohesion – a shared purpose, vision and a shared set of values.

The Leaders as The Drivers of the culture change; The Engagers which include a strategic communication and engagement approach, together with a change champion programme and The Enablers which looks at aligning all the people initiatives, structures and processes.

If colleagues connect to the purpose, vision and values of a company, understand the direction of travel and what role they play in the delivering the bigger picture, then you’ll start to cultivate a healthy and committed environment. Making it meaningful is key. 

It’s the Leader’s role to bring this to life and inspire, connect, align and empower the colleagues in their team.  The people initiatives and processes that are brought into alignment then help to pull the levers that help support the behaviour change required to cultivate the right culture.

Organisations don’t transform, people do.




Frances Frei’s TEDTalk about ‘How to build and rebuild trust’ is a must to listen to.  She talks about how achieving it falls into three components – authenticity, rigour in logic, empathy – and if any one of those wobbles, then trust is undermined.

She shares her story about going into Uber to see if she can support them rebuild trust from within and how in some parts of the business she’s able to find highly effective fixes in the empathy area, but in other areas the mountain to climb is never ending.

I absolutely love a couple of her quotes which I wanted to share with you as they resonated with me and I’ve continued to ponder them:

  • “I believe there’s a better version of us around every corner.” How powerful is that and can you imagine if we all challenges ourselves with that day in day out.

  • “Leaders, your obligation is to set the conditions that make it safe and welcome to be authentic in the workplace, as this will achieve excellence.” No-one should feel they have to be someone or something else at work as with that comes having to spend additional wasted energy being someone else.

  • “Don’t mute yourself.” Everyone has something worthwhile to say at some point and what a waste if you don’t have the guts to share it.

Food for thought for everyone – do they resonate with you too?

In Patrick Lencioni’s two New York bestselling books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage, he says that in order to create high-performing teams and cultures, we need to be the Chief Reminder Officers or CROs. It is our job to continually create clarity and keep reminding people of our purpose, vision, who we serve and what we’re trying to achieve.

Whether you’re a business owner, in an organisation or leading a team, there are three effective strategies to help build trust and connection.

  1. Communicate effectively: You need to communicate consistently and poignantly and be clear on your key messages and call to actions.

  2. Use data and insights: Making use of the data and insights will create far more connected conversations with your teams and customers. When something is backed by actionable insights, it helps to build the confidence and trust in you as a leader.  

  3. Focus on who you’re communicating with and when: Ensure that you are strategic in what you communicate, to whom and when.  This builds relationships and trust.

Trust, so hard to build and so easy to lose……

Why it’s so important to smash your first 100 Days as a leader (including the Capitaliser Checklist)

Front cover of Kartra page for 100 Days Check List.png

Wouldn't it be valuable to have someone by your side every step of the way, helping you to be at your best and most strategic, rather than being pulled in every direction and feeling you're not accomplishing anything and time is slipping by. 

Being a success rather than a failure in your first 100 days is critical as it will impact your whole career.  It’s important to look at the bigger picture as you step into your new leadership role – smashing your first 100 days and succeeding faster than expected, will mean it’s likely you’ll get promoted quicker and remain on the leadership career fast track.

Let’s flip the coin and consider a different, less palatable scenario. If you get off to a slow start and fail to make the right impression and deliver quick wins, you seriously risk your chances of success in your new role, which can stall or reduce your future career prospects.  Seen in the bigger picture context, the importance of your first 100 days in a senior leader role cannot be underestimated.

Never has it been so important to prove yourself quickly. In the current climate, there’s huge competition, change and scrutiny, and high expectations and demands on a new-to-role leader. The pressure is on and although you have a three month ‘honeymoon’ period, once you hit your 101st day, you are expected to make a positive impact within the business – it’s a tipping point.  No-longer are you perceived as the new kid on the block, consuming value.  It’s the breakeven point at which you’re expected to start to strategically contribute and value add.

What I’ve experienced myself and heard time and again from other leaders I’ve coached, is the fact that a new-to-role leader is seen as a knight in shining armour, there to transform the relevant business area and fix all the problems and dysfunctions. What tends to happen more often than not is that leader gets inundated by requests, meetings, initiatives and projects and tends to become the fire fighter, being rushed from pillar to post and taken off strategic track. Think of the alternative, however, a focused, visionary, high-performing leader who at the end of the 100 days is perceived as credible and marked for succession and the career fast track.

My First 100 Days Capitaliser coaching programme will give you a step-by-step guide to keep you in control, highly strategic and intensely focused on what will give you the best return. Sign up on the homepage of the website and you’ll be able to download the high-level First 100 Days Capitaliser Checklist which is a snapshot of the programme.

Ambitious leaders who want to ensure success and guarantee their top talent and succession status within an organisation should take heed.