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.

The Holy Grail - finally an effective way to measure culture change with an added bonus!

quest for the holy grail.jpg

As we all know, company culture is currently a hot topic and there’s widespread agreement from CEOs and Boards (92%) that investing in culture has improved their organisation’s financial performance*.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of companies on their culture transformation programmes and the one thing that they all had in common was the frustration felt at not being able to accurately measure success along the way.  In a lot of cases complex measurements were put in place, albeit with the best intent, but which fell far short in accuracy and caused a lot of discontent and conflict internally.

There were several reasons why I was attracted to becoming a Barrett Culture Transformation Tools Practitioner recently.  Not only do I value Richard Barrett’s core model, the Seven Levels of Consciousness Model, is cleverly mapped to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and was developed to give a better understanding into people’s motivations, but the quick-to-complete Culture Values Assessment delivers an insightful report that subsequently acts as a benchmark to measure against – in my opinion the Holy Grail!

What’s also powerful is the fact that this Cultural Values Assessment is completed by colleagues across the organisation. Not only do colleagues therefore feel involved and respected, but they are the ones that know the company inside out, where it currently stands from a culture perspective - warts and all - and what they feel it would take for it to become a high performing entity.   For those at the top of the tree who don’t necessarily have a finger on the pulse of internal organisational sentiment, this gives invaluable understanding and something concrete to act and focus on.

Organisations don’t transform, people do. The annual culture assessment allows companies to determine the personal needs of their colleagues and monitor the extent to which they feel aligned with the culture (values) and the extent in which they feel on track (vision alignment).  Together with the level of Cultural Entropy (dysfunction and limiting core values) and Health, these indicators enable the company to assess the level of colleague engagement and the relevant levers that need to be pulled in direct response to the employee feedback.

At a time when company culture is so crucial to bottom line success, the Culture Capitaliser Phase 1 and 2 approach I’ve created can hugely move the dial.  The high level outline of the programme you’ll see on my website and can be tailored, but the model and assessment report bring a much more robust framework to follow.  Do get in touch if you want to find out more or take a look at my website here.

*Culture and Boards at a glance (Ernst & Young 2016)

Two exceptional women stood out last month for me and one was a bit of a surprise….

Jacinda Ardern.jpg

Two exceptional women stood out for me last month….

Having recently watched A Star in Born, her Oscars’ acceptance speech and a short video at Yale, I’ve totally changed my mind about Lady Gaga.  A few months ago I would have called you ‘gaga’ if you’d said I’d become a fan of Lady Gaga but this Lady is worth listening to as she’s one smart cookie.

There are a couple of things that she says that really resonate.   ‘If you have a dream, fight for it”, she continued “There’s a discipline for passion.”  I’ve never heard that latter expression before and it’s so wise.  In her powerful acceptance speech, she shares and reminds us that success comes down to smart work and refusing to give up on what’s most important to you.

If you have time to watch the short clip of her at Yale, she also talks about nearly giving up music a few years ago as she felt “overworked and that her passion and creativity was taking a backseat because of it.” Time and time again in the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of overworking, becoming burnt out and resentful and when I talk to clients and friends, particularly, women, there seems to be a pattern here.

 Lady Gaga goes onto to say “Regaining self-awareness is an act of uncovering your own personal narrative. What you stand for, where you’re going and why anyone else should follow.”  She added “Part of my identity is saying no now.”  It’s not that she’s being difficult here, but she realised that she was getting passed from pillar to post, doing too much and doing things that didn’t sit well with her and it was sucking away her passion and creativity. She advises the students “Know who you are and then choose what you want to do.”  She’s right we all have a choice.

It doesn’t matter what you do and where you work, but staying true to your core values, embracing what you’re passionate about, knowing you have a choice and not being overworked, will ensure that you continue to shine at your brightest.

The other phenomenal lady that stood out to me in March from a leadership and communication perspective - and I’m sure you won’t be surprised at this - is Jacinda Ardern, the PM of New Zealand. 

She not only voiced a nation’s grief, she led with empathy, she united people and avoided language of division, she galvanised the community and she communicated quickly, consistently, acting with good intent and with pace, with gun reforms announced two days after the terrorist attack.  For me she is a fantastic force for good and at a time when there’s a lack of trust and truth in what we hear, she has it in spades.  She’s not only competent and prepared but she’s has huge integrity and purpose and that’s why when Arden talks, people listen.

So two different leadership styles, both fantastic communicators, with strong beliefs and who have a great following. What are your core values and what kind of leader and communication style do you have or want to aspire to?