Our 7 Best Organizational Culture and Leadership Articles So Far

best organizational culture articles

Click this link for an updated list of our most popular organizational culture and leadership articles from 2016.

Our team of organizational culture consultants at gothamCulture love helping our clients reach their goals. But, we also know that not everyone understands where culture and leadership development fit into their current strategy.

Through our blog, we aim to educate, entertain, inform and inspire leaders like you as you begin to understand the critical importance of organizational culture in driving the performance you desire.

And over the past year, we’ve been writing a lot. Below you’ll find our 7 most popular blog posts of the year so far. We hope the articles here serve as a spark that ignites the change you need to reach your goals.

1. Time for a Change? Consider Company Culture in 2015

2015 culture change

No matter what last year means to your organization, 2015 is a brand new year, and for most companies, it means an opportunity to do things differently. You may be wondering how to reignite the flame that drove your business in the very beginning. Maybe you need that one big change that’s going to excite your team to succeed in the New Year.

Before you make any major changes to the surface of your business, like an office makeover, or a change to employee benefits, make sure it’s in the best interests of your underlying culture. Read More

2. 5 Ways to Align Your Organizational Strategy and Culture

align strategy and culture

Understanding, and more importantly, developing a high-performing culture allows you to build and achieve your strategic objectives. A well defined, established corporate culture will provide the framework for your organizational development and strategic planning. Allow this culture to guide your planning process.

Though there is no single, perfect, cookie cutter method to ensure that your culture and organizational strategy align, there are some critical pieces that should be considered. Read More

3. How Can My Company Increase Employee Engagement?

increase employee engagement

Some of the most inspiring leaders today recognize that employees are at the heart of their business. As JW Marriott said, “If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.” You’ve probably heard this before. The challenging part is getting past that theory and effectively engaging your team members in a way that drives your organization’s success. Read More

4. Redefining Business As Usual: An Introduction to Orghacking

redefine business orghacking

In recent years, the term “hacking” has grown in popularity, especially “growth hacking” within the marketing field.  Growth hacking involves using analytics to target specific consumer groups, test which messages are successful in driving viewership, and scale the most effective strategies.

This process can also be applied to implement organizational change, hence I’d like to term this alternative approach “orghacking.” Read More

5. Engaging Gen Y: Employees Are Thinking Far Beyond the Cubicle

employee engagement gen y

There’s no doubt that today’s business landscape is changing rapidly. Now is the time for organizations to consider changing their culture to support their younger team members, or risk losing them to the more forward-thinking competition.

With that in mind, below are 3 key considerations for building a company culture that engages and supports the millennial generation. Read More

6. Why Great Leaders Must Tell Better Stories

leadership storytelling

When I work inside an organization, I pay particular attention to the stories that are being told, and it doesn’t take long to pick up on things.

Each of those stories has a place, and tells a message – either of a corporate value being applied or being ignored, about the future of the organization, its past, or the leaders. Sometimes those stories serve the organization well, and other times they don’t.

Either way, stories are the DNA of culture, and they have great power to alter it. Read More

7. Budget For Culture: How Investing In Your Team Drives Results

budget for culture

As a leader, every decision you make shapes your organizational culture, and when it comes to budgeting your limited resources, these decisions send powerful messages to your people about what’s most important. After all, money doesn’t just talk — it shouts your priorities through a bullhorn. You have to make budgeting decisions that drive your business’s strategy and goals. But too often, the technical aspects of your strategy are prioritized over the most important facet of your organization’s long-term performance: the people. Read More

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What Makes a Good Manager? 5 Tips For Promoting For Success

what makes a good manager

Have you ever wondered how someone at your company ever became a manager? What is it about that person that made them stand out more than other, more qualified candidates?

Judging from the number of books, papers, and articles written on the topic, you’re not alone.

There are many reasons why so many managers never pan out in the American corporate landscape. Most companies promote based on individual performance; those who work hard get rewarded.  But, this is often an ineffective way of promoting individuals.

We may value hard work and achievement above anything else, but those skills don’t necessarily mean they know how to lead others to be successful.

So, what qualities make a good manager? And how can your organization qualify and support the right people for the job?

Here are 5 tips for finding the right management fit:

1. Find out what their goals are

Not everyone has aspirations for management, and others want to become managers for the wrong reasons. Ask your team who might want to take on those responsibilities. Then, give them a few tasks to see what their real potential is. Natural management skills are not so easy to detect, so you may be surprised to find how their additional responsibilities are handled.

If they excel in those tasks, give more and more gradually. Be sure it doesn’t overburden them while they have to do their regular job, as burnout is a risk.

2. Follow a process

Most corporations don’t have a set process of how leaders are groomed and then promoted. They choose the best ground level employees and reward their successes with a promotion. They think their work ethic will just flow over to their subordinates and everyone below them will follow the behaviors of that individual.

This is rarely the case. Many times these future leaders are not trained in how to effectively oversee a team, and it leads to conflict.

Ensure that you have a process in place to groom your employees to become better managers. This training will help prepare them for success, and cause less friction down the line.

3. Involve them in team building activities

By taking your team on a field trip and run some team building activities, you can often see those have natural abilities to lead others from the way they handle these. Look for those who are not just leading, but nurturing others and encouraging them to do better. These types tend to be the best leaders. Getting people out of their natural settings is a good way to observe their natural behaviors while giving your team a break from their daily routine.

4. How do they handle crisis

When things go wrong in your organization, who can step up and handle the pressure? One key trait of a good leader is to see how well they handle crisis. Many managers spend too much time trying to figure out who to blame or what caused the problem rather than solving it in an effective way. You want a person who can handle stress well.

5. Know when to look outside of your team

There is no perfect science for finding the right managers. In some cases, there might not even be an ideal candidate on the team. It might be best to bring in someone from outside the organization to help manage it. It’s easy to think that the process is personalized that you need someone from the inside or your processes are too complex to bring in a new person to manage. Though, if your process is too complex, it may be a reason in itself to get an outside opinion.

Finding the perfect manager isn’t an exact science, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some logical steps in the process. It’s important to be open with everyone and let them know when a management opportunity is open. When a manager is selected, it’s important to let everyone know why they were selected and work with the team in their transition. Following these steps will help you promote the right managers and set them up for success.

How To Help Your Employees Work Together As A Team

work together team

Guest Article Written By Amy Klimek

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. What that adage fails to elucidate is how those heads don’t always see eye to eye, choosing to bicker rather than complete the project. On the other hand, when your assigned teams are cordial to one another for the sake of formality, everyone suffers. To combat this, it’s time to help them find a better way to work together.

Stop Conflict Immediately

If two or more employees are being less than nice to one another, you need to step in and stop the action immediately. If you don’t, they’ll end up poisoning the rest of the team by involving them in their childish antics. By cutting off the fight before it really gets going, you are sending a clear message to everyone that such behavior will not be tolerated in any form. This message will also work to discourage future issues.

Find the Real Problem

Often, the reason groups don’t get along is not what everyone claims it to be. For example, the team might nag at each other, claiming they are simply tired when the real reason is they are all stressed at home and need a place to vent. By helping each person realize where their negativity is coming from, they can take steps to correct the negative impact it is having on their lives.

Build a Community

Other times, employees might not hate each other, but they might not like each other either. In such cases, it’s up to you to get each person invested in the team as a whole. This means turning their team into a community with shared values and goals. How you do this will vary based on who you work with, but some general ideas include rewarding them together, connecting them directly to one another through digital means or simply holding regular after work get-togethers to build comradery.

Choose a Great Leader

Even though various projects are team built, each team does require a leader. This leader cannot simply be good, they must be great. After all, they are charged with organizing the goals, hitting deadlines and keeping the group united. Without this, the team will easily fall apart through no fault of their own. The best leaders are both task- and relationship-oriented. This means they value both working hard and developing strong emotional ties with their peers. They are quick to adapt to almost all situations, accessing the best orientation for each event.

Exemplify Model Behavior

Though the employees are all adults, they watch what the high level executives do, mimicking the behavior in their own careers because they see it as the behavior that will get them promoted or at least lead to success. Knowing this, it is up to you to shift the upper management toward a collaborative culture that prides itself in strong group work ethic. It’s hypocritical to expect your employees to act differently than what they perceive.

Maintain Accountability

Every person in the team will have their own way of working. This will lead to minor clashes here and there but, for the most part, is not too big of an issue. It only becomes a problem when some members are perceived as lazy or obsessed. To thwart this thinking, include a clear measure of accountability. For many, that is as simple has having due dates for everyone’s projects. If certain employees fail to meet their deadlines, then they should be held accountable for their delay.

Keep Up the Feedback

Never keep your employees in the dark about how they are doing. Whether great or poorly, the better the feedback loop you have in place, the easier it will be for everyone to work together. Resentment builds up when no one is willing to say anything about a problem. By taking the lead and clearly addressing all points of contention and actively working to fix them, you create a workplace relatively free of problems. In addition, such open communication means everyone can course correct throughout the length of the project as opposed to receiving a scathing review about something no one every perceived as a problem.

Reward Good Behavior

Finally, don’t ever forget to show your gratitude for the hard work your employees put in. Though it’s not smart to throw parties every day, it is crucial to make sure your workers have time to blow off steam after a particularly stressful or large project completion. Such a practice does two crucial things. First, it keeps them invested in the company, seeing how much they are cared for. Secondly, it builds and strengthens relationships. Time spent together outside of work often works far better to build a sense of trust and understanding than any hours put in over a conference table.

Amy KlimekAmy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at Rent.com, eBay and US Interactive.

For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.

Don’t Let Your Passion And Values Erode Employee Motivation

employee motivation

As a leader, it’s your job to help employees figure out what motivates them and link it to their goals and values. But the fact is, you can’t motivate them — at least, not in the way you think — so stop trying.

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does, to discuss motivation. Her work has helped me question the long-held assumption that you can motivate people by imposing your values on them. Rather, you have to try to understand them as human beings.

Chris Cancialosi: Why does trying to motivate employees not work in an entrepreneurial environment?

Susan Fowler: Motivating others doesn’t work in any environment. People are already motivated — just not in the ways you want them to be. The key is to help people understand why they’re motivated in one way or another and help them shift those reasons if need be.

Many entrepreneurs work under one of two fatal assumptions that undermine someone’s optimal motivation:

  • People should share the same values that motivate me.
  • No one can be as optimally motivated as me because I started the company.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand that all employees can experience high levels of motivation, but it will be based on their own values and reasons. Even if employees are motivated by the same values as you, they need to feel like they’re acting from their own values, not ones imposed on them.

Cancialosi: Is there a “best” method to giving startup employees a better sense of purpose?

Fowler: Your employees are your greatest resource, so ask them, “Why are you joining this venture?” “Why do you think it’ll make a difference?” and “Why is it important to be a part of it?”

If the only reason they come up with is “for the money” or “for the upside of making a killing by being on the ground floor of a successful venture,” that’s a red flag. Those employees won’t be able to sustain the positive energy, vitality, or sense of well-being required to make it through the inevitable challenges a startup will face. This is doubly true for the entrepreneur.

Cancialosi: If your employees are already feeling alienated by your attempts to motivate them, is there a way to turn this around?

Fowler: Certainly. In my book, I touch on this topic in the story about salon owner Billy Yamaguchi. He hoped his own values and purpose would rub off on people, but when this didn’t happen, it led to frustration for everyone involved.

Now, he has motivational outlook conversations with people to help them identify their own values and sense of purpose in working for his salons. In fact, I just talked to him last week, and he’s still focusing on helping others develop their values and find their own meaning and purpose in their work.

Cancialosi: In your book, you say, “When employees thrive, leaders don’t need drive.” Can you expand on this?

Fowler: Many managers believe the only way to get results is to drive for them. But evidence points to the contrary. How do you drive for results? Create pressure. But pressure can diminish results and limit both creativity and innovation. People simply cannot sustain high-level productivity under pressure.

Your other option is to hold employees accountable, which makes a statement about trust. People want to be accountable, but there’s a big difference between being accountable and being held accountable. When your needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are satisfied, you accept responsibility and take initiative. You go the extra mile for the greatest good, and you continually learn and grow.

If leaders feel like they need to drive for results, I would ask them to question why. Is it because they’re asking people to achieve unfair goals? Is it because they haven’t shared a vision that compels people to work toward its fulfillment?  Is it because what’s being asked and employees’ values aren’t aligned?

The quote from my book, “When employees thrive, leaders don’t need drive,” might also be reversed: “When leaders drive, people will fail to thrive.”

Cancialosi: How can leaders in the startup world recognize when a more hands-on approach is necessary? Is there a way to gauge an employee’s internal drive?

Fowler: People can be driven for suboptimal reasons. Either this drive can’t be sustained or it will negatively affect their well-being over time. It’s best not to make assumptions. Rather, leaders need to have conversations with people asking questions, such as:

  • When you step back and reflect, what do you think or feel about your goals or tasks?
  • How do these tasks or goals align with your personal values?
  • How can these tasks or goals connect to your purpose?
  • What makes this project meaningful for you? What makes it not meaningful?

The leader’s involvement also depends on the person’s level of competence. If the person is new to the task and has never demonstrated competence in the past, you need to be more hands-on. But there’s no reason to be hands-on when that person has demonstrated high competence, is confident in his or her capability, and is optimally motivated.

If leaders learn to have motivational outlook conversations and provide the appropriate leadership style to give people the direction they need (when they need it), they’ll create an optimally motivated workforce that’s passionate about work. Everyday motivation is the key to long-term engagement, where everyone benefits.

Your workplace should be a safe place for people to be authentic. As a leader, it’s up to you to create an environment where your employees have a sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. When they feel like their individual values align with their work, they will be acting with a noble purpose that they personally relate to. This is the key to more healthy and sustainable motivation in your organization.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Building A Sustainable Team Starts With These 3 Foundations

team building

Creating just the right team can be difficult. And once you create one, get all the nuances just right – it’s near impossible to sustain. Yet sustaining teams is a foundational element to any successful effort, program, organization and company. Small businesses. Large businesses. All industries, around the globe.

What makes sustaining an effective team so difficult? In my experience, there are three challenges a team must be able to overcome in order to be effective. Trust is absolutely a factor. Ensuring everyone is pointed towards – and bought into(!) – a common purpose. And, staying steadfast in the face of constant change.


Trust is a topic upon which much is written. My colleague, Chris Cancialosi just wrote about building leadership based on trust. My colleague, Andrea Howe, co-authored the Fieldbook on the topic. Those are great resources, and while I wouldn’t be able to improve upon their words, the importance of trust cannot be overstated.

I’ve seen first hand that the most effective teams are those where trust is established quickly. This allows people to get past concerns related to feeling awkward or self-conscious, and get to the work. How do leaders achieve that?

  • Creating a work environment that is authentic and safe
  • Encouraging people to bring an open mind, getting past their traditional practices and biases
  • Providing people the opportunity to “get real” and enjoy each other as…people!

A Common Purpose

Aligning your team in the pursuit of a common purpose/goal/objective is a second factor. In the absence of that unified approach, the team could (most likely will) flail with no clear sense of direction, process or results. Alignment leads to effectiveness when:

  • Team members are given an opportunity to contribute to determination of the objectives and process
  • Individuals are values for their creativity and innovation
  • Collaboration is encouraged and nurtured

Adapting to Change

Every team will face change. Just as individuals do, teams struggle with handling it effectively. Those teams (and by extension the leaders and individuals within) that are resilient as they meet those changes will be best equipped to handle them. The most resilient teams (and therefore the most sustainable ones):

  • Recognize behavioral patterns and work to disrupt them
  • Tap into the viral nature of ideas and emotions in the workplace
  • Ensure individuals and teams are innovative in thinking and flexible in action

And one of the tools we bring to leaders to help create sustainable teams: improvisational comedy. Not watching it, but rather bringing teams through a series of exercises that generate trust, encourage collaboration and alignment, and develop resilience.

The best practices of improv comedy can be applied to day-to-day business situations.  Team members arm themselves with a style of thinking, listening, communicating, and collaborating that is authentic, inclusive, adaptive, and sustainable.

Cary (@thecarypaul) is a Senior Associate at gothamCulture, and the Chief Improv Officer at The Get Real Project.  Sustaining Teams is a passion of Cary’s, and he’ll be using improv comedy to support those efforts at CBODN, April 24 and 25.


Can One Dollar An Hour Buy Employee Engagement?

walmart employee engagement

You’ve heard by now that Walmart recently raised their minimum wage to at least $9/hr, and starting this time next year, that number will jump to $10/hr.

There are a lot of responses out there discussing this $1 raise. The discussion ranges from the fact that it’s still not enough to live on, to how great it is for Walmart to take this step in the right direction with other retailers following their lead.

Despite all of the PR, the real reasons behind Walmart’s move are still in question. According to the this article by Paul Krugman, the retail giant is banking on the idea that “paying workers better will lead to reduced turnover, better morale and higher productivity.”

This made us think: Can a dollar an hour buy employee engagement?

We asked our team to offer their thoughts on the matter. Here’s what they had to say:

Arthur Kim, Engagement Manager

arthur-kimWhile raising wages has an immediate increase in morale, it rarely has a lasting effect. To reduce turnover and discontent among the staff, it’s more important to create a strong corporate culture that improves everyday work life.

Chelsea Weber, OD Intern

chelsea-weberThe kind of financial stability that an extra dollar an hour might provide speaks to needs at the core of Maslow’s famous hierarchy: comfort and safety.  In other words, a wage hike speaks to a basic modern human need. Without stability, can you even think about asking employees to engage?

Yet while better pay may increase morale, simply raising wages will not produce a sustained workforce of engaged, motivated employees. Wal-Mart will have to look further.  Employees are liable to stick around if they feel motivated, satisfied, and effective at work, but those feelings rely on the development of intrinsic motivation to be sustainable.

Wal-Mart needs to ask itself: What’s going to make employees excited to come into work each day?  How will they help team members feel like they are contributing to the wider organization, like their voices are heard? How do employees see the results of their work? And how will Wal-Mart connect these answers to strategy and brand to create a feeling of authenticity for team members?

Mark Emerson, General Manager

mark-emersonI don’t think at the end of the day it will change things for Walmart. This is really a macro-economic move on their part. It’s employee retention, plain and simple.

As the largest retail employer in the country, they were forced by competitive pressures to follow other retailers (Gap, etc.) that recently announced wage increases.  The increase next year to $10/hr on average will simply keep them in line with wage pressures as the economy continues to improve.

I am willing to bet that their finance team got together, ran the numbers, and realized that $2/hour was less than the cost of current turnover and this (not any other feel-good reason) was behind the move.  The fact that they got good PR and the unions temporarily off their back is an added bonus.

There is an upside and a downside (isn’t there always?).  The upside is that Walmart, in many cases, is the largest employer in many parts of the country and their employees tend to be stuck, in that their options are extremely limited by geography and, in many cases, education. For those employees stuck at Walmart, a raise is a raise and 20% over the next two years is pretty significant.

In addition, Walmart’s raises will have an even more positive effect as this decision will force other retailers and fast food restaurants to raise their wages to stay above them. After all, people actually do say, “well, I could always work at Walmart!”

The downside is that, for many folks, they didn’t like working at Walmart before the raise, and chances are they won’t like working there after the raise.  I doubt I will visit my local Walmart and find the employees noticeably more engaged.  And with the wages rising outside of Walmart, I expect that the impact will be muted.

I can’t help always comparing them to Costco. While there are many differences that don’t allow for fair comparisons, the fact is that Costco employees feel a part of a team and are treated like team members and not parts in a machine.  It is the culture of Walmart that impedes them in being even more successful.

‘Always low prices’ is a great slogan for customers, but the dehumanizing effect it has on employees is something that Walmart is still not getting right.

Pamela Farago, OD Intern

pamela-farago“Always low prices. Always.” does not need to translate into, “Always low wages. Always.”

Wal-Mart supported this idea with its recent wage increase for a half million workers. Paying workers better has, indeed, been shown to lead to reduced turnover, better morale, and higher productivity in the workplace. The money that a company spends on a wage increase comes back to more than pay for itself in the long run.

Wage increases in the long run, however, can be both a friend and a potential adversary. What happens when the novelty of the wage increase wears off? At this point, despite being paid more, workers may revert back to their old morale and productivity levels.

This leaves not only Wal-Mart, but also all other businesses, to contend with answering the more difficult question of: how can workers be continually motivated when their wages become stagnant? While there is no answer as of yet, potential solutions may lie in a system of rewards and bonuses that workers can continually strive for, rather than a base pay increase.

Always high incentives. Always.

What Do You Think?

Have you been reading all the news about this $1 pay hike and the slew of other retailers following Walmart’s footsteps? How do you think $1 an hour really affects employee engagement levels? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Get More From Your Mind-Numbing Meetings

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.” – Dave Barry

No one likes sitting through a pointless office meeting.

Poorly run meetings can be a ball and chain to many organizations. They take up time when there’s work to be done, they’re often unproductive, and in many cases, altogether pointless. In fact, Mattel’s former CEO recently blamed meetings as the major factor behind their lack of an innovative culture.

So, the question is: Why do organizations spend so much time in formal meetings? How do they affect the engagement levels of the team? And is there a better way?

We asked our team to share their ideas and experiences around corporate meetings, and whether they can really have such a negative effect on organizational culture and employee engagement.

Anton Rius, Digital Marketing Manager

anton-riusI’ve been a part of some pretty terrible meetings. They would last for 2 or more hours, dragging on and on without ever coming to an actionable conclusion. Everyone shared ideas and participated, but no decisions were made and no tasks were assigned. I think being in a good meeting room such as conference rooms in new york, makes the ideas flow better, rather than being in a dingy old office!

That’s the big problem with meetings, in my opinion. They are often used as a way for people to discuss their goals while diffusing the ownership of the decision. Rather than empowering employees to make executive decisions about their work, meetings are used to gain collective approval from people who may not have a full understanding of the problem, or the expertise to make a good decision.

And if meetings are meant to bring people together to tackle problems quickly and collectively, then this behavior does the opposite: It slows business down to a snail’s pace.

The fact is; the average American office worker wastes a lot of time on everything other than work. Between shovels full of pointless email, office banter, the phone ringing, and all of the other distractions that happen at the office, it’s a wonder how any work actually gets done!

Adding additional, pointless meetings on top of that takes even more time away from your team members when they could be spending that time on more important tasks.

Samantha Goldman, Associate

samantha-goldmanOftentimes in organizations, meetings happen because of inertia; it’s the way it’s always been, and the people who realize they’re not productive don’t necessarily have the power to stop the meeting from happening.

In some organizations, the meetings are a remnant of the days when communication and decision-making only happened face-to-face. Today, due to technology and the faster pace of work and email/chat communication, most meetings are pointless.

But, before you decide to cancel all of your company’s meetings, take an inventory of what is actually happening in each meeting and whether some of that communication is repetitive. Maybe the communication would be better served through another channel, such as email.

Then, it’s critical to think about what actually could be happening in that face-to-face meeting instead, such as: group decision making, developing strategy, best practice sharing, highlighting work well done, gathering feedback, team trust building and/or professional development.

The key is to align the medium to the message: What do we absolutely need a meeting for, and then go from there. Make small experiments and gather feedback and see how these changes are affecting engagement levels. It’s more an art than a science, and should reflect the values of the organization and the team, the type of work you need to get done and your timeline for getting it done.

What works in one organization and department may not work in another, so be sure to constantly check in and see how it’s going.

Mark Emerson, General Manager

mark-emersonI was a consultant for a major telecom that will remain nameless, but in my opinion, the endless meetings were a complete waste of time and contributed to a total lack of execution on multiple fronts.

And the politics! Everyone and their mother had to be invited to these meetings, which meant that introductions alone took 10-15 minutes. The executives did almost all of the talking and the minions either took notes or pretended to listen while playing on their phones/laptops.

In almost all cases, these meetings involve far too many people, devolve into power plays and give a veneer to the idea that the organization is solving issues and moving forward, rather than just kaffeeklatsches.

Having said that, there have been well-organized meetings where there was a meeting coordinator. These meetings were on-topic, focused, short, and everyone walked away with actionable items with deadlines. This meant that no one was at the meeting just taking up space. In one case, the meeting organizer even dis-invited three people after the first organizational meeting because they were not given any actionable items. The following meetings were then just as productive as team members delivered and course corrections were made.

Even if these meetings were not in person, they were just as productive. In most cases there was a one-page agenda sent out beforehand, all electronics were banned, and PowerPoint presentations were limited to five slides. The coordinator captured everything and distributed the materials, making it a more free-flowing discussion that brought out great insights and ideas.

Cary Paul, Senior Associate

cary-paulOften, organizations spend so much time in formal meetings because it is comfortable. People love structure and meetings are one of the last bastions of structure in American business.

Think about children. We are always hearing that children crave discipline and structure. We never grow out of that, and meetings give us that structure.

The intent of meetings is spot-on.  Really.  While the meeting may be unnecessary, too long, structured poorly, boring, or include the wrong people – the BASIC idea behind the meeting—every meeting—is sound and justifiable:  Sharing information. Making decisions. Keeping on track. Getting new ideas. All critical functions of a company, right there in a comfortable package that everyone knows how to behave in.

And because of our hardwired need for structure, everyone knows how to behave. Meetings are muscle memory for people; they play their roles and all is well.

A lot of criticism has circulated around the engagement levels of team members due to bad meetings. While they can turn people off, meetings can have a positive effect on engagement, if done correctly.

Engagement equals action, and meetings are held when we are getting ready to act.

Is there a better way to run meetings? Absolutely. Here are a few ideas for making your meetings more productive:

  • Have everyone read their notes ahead of time, and the meeting becomes just a 20-minute decision making process. There’s less time sitting through presentations, and more time spent on productive, action-oriented activity.
  • Find new and creative ways to engage people in your meetings. Involving all the members of your team amps up the participation level and gets ideas flowing.
  • Remember: meeting planning comes from the outset. Two clear components must be determined. WHY are we having this meeting, and WHO should be there?  Every person should have a clear and distinctive role they play and a good reason to be involved, or not be there at all.

Your Turn

So, what do you think? Are meetings getting a bad rap based on a few peoples’ bad experiences? What advice can you share about creating a more engaging, actionable meeting? Remember that first impressions are a big thing, some companies may even go to the extreme and look into the Best limo service in Alexandria VA to impress potential clients! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Give Employees a Voice by Crowdsourcing Leadership Decisions

crowdsource leadership

As a leader, your title alone might lead you to falsely believe that you have all the answers. After all, others have entrusted you to direct the company, right?

In reality, no one person in a complex organization can ever see the entire picture, and when leaders default to making ill-informed decisions, they slowly etch away at dismal employee satisfaction levels. In fact, a recent survey by TINYhr found that 79 percent of employees feel marginally valued or extremely undervalued at work.

By crowdsourcing decisions in your organization, you can leverage the input, ideas, and diverse thinking of others to make healthier choices. And when both customers and employees are actively engaged, organizations experience a 240 percent rise in performance-related business outcomes, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report.

This year, I’ve made a commitment to crowdsource more of my company’s decisions. And there are plenty of reasons you should, too.

1. You overcome bias. Crowdsourcing prevents groupthink and stops leaders from buying in to their own ideas without thinking through other perspectives. By bouncing ideas off others in your organization, you can stay true to company goals and focus on broader objectives.

2. It invites better ideas. Those closest to an issue often have the best ideas for fixing it. And while most of them want to contribute to company decisions, they often don’t feel comfortable inserting themselves or know where to start. Actively involving employees, customers, and vendors in the conversation will drive better decision-making and make everyone feel connected to your company.

3. It enhances company culture. Crowdsourcing changes a leader’s role from the all-knowing seer who sends commands down the line to an approachable colleague with a robust understanding of complicated situations. This sends a message to employees that what they think matters. It encourages buy-in and creates an environment where everyone’s voice is welcome. And for companies that want to secure top Millennial talent, fostering an open and collaborative environment is a must.

4. You can meet diverse needs. Different demographic groups interact with your brand in unique ways. By crowdsourcing your decisions, you can confidently meet all of your employees’ diverse needs and avoid focusing on the expectations of a single group. This also allows you to engage stakeholders on an ongoing basis, keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers and employees.

How to Start Crowdsourcing Decisions

When you implement crowdsourcing, it’s easy to get in too deep, too quickly. Instead of jumping in with both feet, keep things simple as you try this process on for size. Experiment with methods and tech for collecting information and keeping track of it.

In our company, we start with internal “think tanks.” When we face complex problems, we bring everyone in our company together to discuss, debate, and develop options to solve them. These think tanks allow us to consider everyone’s input, but they require pulling people out of their daily tasks, so we have to use them sparingly.

With modern technology, you can quickly and easily connect with stakeholders around the world, collect and share ideas through data, and discover the most effective solutions to problems. We’re experimenting with a new software platform that lets us launch live feedback opportunities for our stakeholders so we can access input in the middle of strategic planning processes. It helps us understand which processes we need to prioritize and how to improve them.

To capitalize on the benefits of crowdsourcing, you need to lay a foundation of trust. Openly welcome input and feedback, and don’t be too quick to shoot down any idea. If you’re overly critical or unsupportive, employees will hesitate to contribute their ideas in the future.

The people affected by your decisions have a vested interest in the direction of your company. When you leverage the collective mindset of an entire organization, you ensure that everyone’s input has a meaningful impact on your choices. The possibilities are truly endless.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Engaging Gen Y: Employees Are Thinking Far Beyond The Cubicle

employee engagement gen y

The Business Manager at my last employer just celebrated her 43-year work anniversary. At 20 years old, she took an administrative job and worked her way up over the next 40 years as she gained more experience and tenure. It was her first job and she will be working there until she retires 2 years from now.

Stories like this used to be more common in the workplace. It was commonplace to get a job on the ground floor of a company, expecting that they will take care of you and your professional career while you grow with them. You were expected to work your way up the ladder to a middle management position, then the corner office; all the while building your pension so you can finally escape the cubicle on your 65th birthday.

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How Can My Company Increase Employee Engagement?

Some of the most inspiring leaders today recognize that employees are at the heart of their business. As JW Marriott said, “If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.” You’ve probably heard this before. The challenging part is getting past that theory and effectively engaging your team members in a way that drives your organization’s success.

How do you proactively address and overcome the challenge of increasing employee engagement? We asked our team to share their thoughts:

Samantha Goldman, Associate

samantha-goldmanThere’s no one-size fits all solution to increase “employee engagement.” It’s crucial to take stock of what your organizational values are, what you want your “Employer Branding” to be and how it aligns with your external brand. Then, think about what kind of talent you want to attract and how you can do that in the competitive marketplace you’re in.

You might realize you need to offer more perks like flexible work hours, or you might need to provide more leadership development opportunities internally. To get you started, you can take a look at your top performers and ask them what engages them most about working at your company, and what they’d like to see more of, and go from there.

It’s also important to consider the difference between employee happiness and employee engagement, as they are often confused. While the benefits you offer may keep your employees happy, engaged employees will go above and beyond for the company and its success.

Bradford Blevins, Partner

brad-blevinsEngagement from employees first starts with Leadership defining and embodying a culture of camaraderie about and around what the firm stands for and how things get done. We at gothamCulture focus on commitment, integrity and maniacal pursuit of excellence.  You can feel it and see it in how the Partners speak to clients, how project scope and product/service quality is assessed, and in the high performance expectations set upon each member of the firm, at every level, from Intern to Sr. Associate to Partner.

Healthy competition is key to finding the best solution, or most unique impactful new model of work.  This type of performance competition aligns with gothamCulture’s core value of maniacal pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence that we embody can be rewarded and encouraged through verbal recognition and praise for new unique solutions that are used on client projects as a better way of doing business.

Healthy competition promotes new ideas, which promotes energized eagerness by staff to design and implement their concepts, which leads to a feeling of higher purpose and accomplishment within the organization, and ultimately, client and firm success.  It’s a win-win.

Employee engagement also comes fromhaving Defined Roles & Responsibilities (to some extent) along with the ability to have dedicated time to think/brainstorm and design, not just get tasks done.

In our consulting world here at gothamCulture, our staff feel more engaged if they have the time to take one of their concepts and collaborate with their colleagues to implement them. The concepts move through a life cycle of:  design-test-pilot-share-learn-redesign-test-pilot-share-confirm-implement. We ensure this time and life cycle is built in to the sometimes overly demanding schedules of client facing work.

Ultimately, it ensures better service and products, promotes innovation, and ensures our team is engaged in the success of the organization.

Mark Emerson, General Manager

mark-emersonThere’s value in a lot of smaller, non-financial benefits that add up to the overall culture of caring about employees. Focus on dollars and pretty soon that’s all your employees will care about.

One huge benefit we share at gothamCulture is our incredible flexibility. We give our team ownership of their own schedule and getting the work done. To support this flexibility, we have an unlimited vacation policy, and a bonus structure to make sure they’re motivated to work hard.

Benefits to the personal and professional growth of employees are some of the most underutilized by companies today. Let’s face it; most employees are really just preparing for our next job, so the focus for most employers should be how to make the relationship as productive and satisfying for both parties while it lasts.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon are held up as having these fantastic benefits, but they are grounded in the idea that they want to keep their employees working.  They will gladly feed you, do your dry cleaning, wash your car, build a gym, take care of your kids, and a hundred other things as long as you stay focused and work!  When you have that many employees, getting them to save even an hour a week on all those small little tasks adds up to thousands of hours gained back and being productive.

At the end of the day, I believe that employees want to be a part of an organization that values their input and time and respects their personal life requirements.  A company does this with benefits like flexible time, modeling work/life balance, treating employees like adults, and sitting down with them to map out their plan for personal growth.

Above all, I think it is communication in both directions that helps build that relationship.  It goes a long way when employees can see their thoughts and actions have meaning within their organization.

Empowering Your People

True engagement begins from the heart of your business and works it’s way out through your people and their behaviors. Your employees want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. And it’s up to you as a leader to equip them with the right tools to empower their success.

It starts with your core values as a compass to guide your strategy. Empower your employees by sharing your values and purpose. Allow them to collaborate with you in a way that supports their own personal growth, so they feel fulfilled in their daily work. This is the foundation for employee engagement.