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Everyone from individuals to large organizations — is forced to evolve and change through the current global health pandemic. During this time, however, there are some key takeaways to consider implementing as we all collectively recover and heal. One expert has some ideas on how and what that could look like. During the most recent “Take a Moment” podcast, my co-host Nathan Bennett and I had the opportunity to have a candid conversation with Steve Chaparro, a culture design strategist. Steve uses the principles from his formal training and decades long career in architecture and mixes it with his design-thinking practice to help businesses transform their culture through collaborative design.
Define Your Culture
Having to shift employees to work remotely quite suddenly means that large enterprises and individuals at those companies must honestly look at what culture is — and what it’s meant to them. Steve notes that during times of economic and business booms, it’s not uncommon to get swept up in the excitement and routine of the excitement. But when the tides recede, shores are exposed and those “luxuries” we had are no longer available. That’s when we’re exposed to potentially bad practices. But this is the best time to define your culture. To ask and decide as a collective what the norms, behaviors, customs, do’s and don’ts are so you can emerge with a stronger sense of who you are as an organization. This, in turn, is reflected in how you show up to your customers.
While some might think that the company culture has been eliminated, Steve emphasizes there are ways to create culture — you just have to be intentional about it. For example, in the next conference call or video call, don’t just jump straight into business. Think of ways to build in a ritual or a check-in. This encourages everyone to be present, to build the trust in each other from afar and create moments of connection.
We hear it quite often: walk a mile in another’s shoes to understand that person’s perspective. Empathy is the ability to understand not only another person’s perspective but to also feel what they’re feeling. Empathy is showing humanity. A key piece of showing empathy is extending grace. Beyond biblical connotations, this means giving assistance or something toward another without expecting it back. In times of uncertainty, like we are in today, Steve highlights how empathy and extending grace can help your employees feel more connected to each other and to their organization.
Culture Evolution and Transformation
“What got you here, won’t get you there,” is a popular Marshall Goldsmith motto for leaders and businesses. It still holds true.
We’ve learned over the past few months how uncertain and complex the world is. This means best practices and organizational structures need to be flexible; they’re just as much alive as the people who are a part of them. Organizations must be nimble and adapt to these changing environments.
This also means that leaders must transition from being a cultural architect to a cultural facilitator. As leaders, they declare the spirit of the transformation and then allow the collective to continue the momentum. Enable executive and management teams, along with employees at all levels, to become involved in this new way forward. Create a collective understanding — a collective sense — and then collectively come up with ideas to prototype and test it.
“Your employees are the best subject-matter experts of your culture,” noted Steve. By harnessing that collective genius, we can unleash a great deal on the world.
Throughout the course of the conversation, one thread remained constant: human connection. Across industries and regions, we’re all human. Be truly present, work collaboratively and collectively define the experiences we want — with our customers and, more importantly, with each other.
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