Returning to the office like it’s 2019?

Returning to the office after COVID-19

Large global events tend to accelerate developing societal norms. In our case, the pandemic accelerated the norm of remote work. It did so in a jarring manner that required rapid adjustment, creativity, and leadership. However, in many cases, the adjustment to a virtual work environment was not meant to be permanent. Organizations are now facing the challenge of navigating the task of returning to an office environment (however that may look).

This return-to-office initiative requires special considerations in the realm of culture, people strategy, and leadership. Safety is obviously a top priority, and combining this with the logistics of returning to an in-person work environment can tend to dominate the planning process. However, leaders should complement this planning with a thoughtful people strategy to manage the cultural impact inherent to such a monumental shift back to the office. There will also be several unique elements to the “new normal” that must be factored into planning and the new people strategy.

Our new approach to work will likely entail a hybrid model that combines both in-person office work with remote work. Some teams may find themselves in the office every day, some may periodically come in, and some may never return to the office. A leadership challenge associated with this varied approach to work is ensuring fairness across the board. For example, two team members in the same role may be viewed differently for opportunities and promotions if one is remote and the other is frequently in the office. We’ve seen how well employees can function in a remote environment, but how do you control for the “in-person bias” when determining how to allocate promotions and opportunities? How can you mitigate the effects of remote workers being naturally excluded from those crucial informal collaborations that team members have in the office? These are just a few questions leaders should be considering when planning for the return to work. Failure to adequately account for these human factors can result in a degraded company culture, siloed work, and ultimately higher turnover.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

There are certain ways to mitigate the risk these human factors pose to a company’s return to an in-person work environment (however that may look). For example, establishing a generous timeline is important to the process. Studies have shown how humans are notoriously bad at estimating timelines, and it’s important to incorporate a patience factor to reduce the friction and stress teams may feel when returning to the office. Establishing a flexible process is also important for companies that have several locations to consider in their plan. To be successful, this must also be coupled with empowering leadership at the lowest levels. Combining flexible return-to-office policies and procedures with supporting local leadership in building their own implementation plans can reduce turnover, bolster morale, and potentially uncover unique solutions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The transition back to an in-person work environment will look different for every organization. What is not different is how we should treat our people who have been through so much already. If you would like to learn more about managing your transition or incorporating human-centered design into your plan for a new normal, we’re here to help. This is our bread and butter, and we’re fired up about it. Contact me – james.oflaherty@gothamculture.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Accelerating the Impact of New Government Leaders

Navigating leadership changes can be a difficult challenge for teams and organizations. New relationships, new ways of working, and shifts in strategic priorities can derail even the most successful teams. And with many organizations already struggling to meet performance expectations, it is imperative that leaders quickly make an impact on key mission priorities. So, how can new leaders more quickly assimilate?

Formal New Leader Assimilation

Most existing new leader assimilation processes trace their roots to original research conducted by John Gabarro first published in 1985. Gabarro studied the succession of 14 general managers to understand the challenges of taking charge of a new organization. Using longitudinal studies and historical case reviews, Gabarro examined successions covering:

  • Functional and general managers
  • Organizations ranging in annual sales from $1.2 million to $3 billion,
  • Turnarounds and normal situations
  • Successions that failed as well as those that succeeded.

In Gabarro’s work, he found that it typically takes 13 to 18 months of learning before a new leadership is ready to significantly impact the organization. Given the amount of time and resources invested in finding and placing a new leader, waiting a year or more to see a return on that investment is a daunting proposition for most organizations. As such it is no surprise that Gabarro’s work spawned tremendous interest in finding ways to significantly reduce that timeline. Read More…

Webinar Download: Tips for Solving People-Related Issues

People-Related Issues

Did you know? Senior leaders spend 61% of their time solving people-related issues.

Imagine the impact you could have on your client’s business if you resolved these challenges. In this recorded webinar, we discuss HOW you can advise on talent and strategy to bring value to your engagements.

Learn from Tim Bowden, Partner at gothamCulture and Russ Thomas, Regional Director of Partnerships at The Predictive Index:

  • Practical tips for diagnosing people problems
  • How to use people data to drive solutions
  • How to align your client’s talent to their strategy
  • Lessons from the field

Access the webinar recording here.

A Study in the Art of Servant Leadership

“Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.”

“Employ your Marines in accordance with their capabilities.”

These are two leadership principles the Marine Corps instills into its leaders at all levels, regardless of rank or seniority. These principles are taken seriously, as they can mean the difference between mission success and failure, life and death. Despite the stakes being different in the business world, these two concepts are vital to a leader’s success and, more importantly, that of their subordinates.

In our technologically infused, fast-paced world of business, the speed and amount of information available to us is unprecedented. Transactions now move faster, decisions are made quicker, and we’re able to collaborate and complete tasks more rapidly. However, leaders have largely missed one important side effect that can degrade the performance of their teams. Behavioral scientists call it the cognitive load, and it takes a toll on our teams more than we realize.

Simply put, the cognitive load is the mental “work” needed for any thought or action. Every task, conversation, email, project, meeting, etc. has a cognitive load price tag, and we all have a different capacity for what we can take on. This is why we spend hours refining our presentations to our leadership – there’s just too much information for them to consider and they want you to reduce the cognitive load required to make a decision.

Read More…

Is Your Business Working on Purpose?

By Shawn Parr, Guvner and CEO of Bulldog Drummond

When I misbehaved as a young lad, my mother was the one who almost always reprimanded me. After lecturing me on the rights and wrongs, she’d ask, “Did you do that on purpose, son?” and then hand out the punishment. My actions were almost always spontaneous episodes of teenage stupidity—not premeditated acts of dissent. While I was definitely a rebellious teenager, my mother’s inquisition always made me think about my actions, and to this day, “Are you doing that on purpose?” is a question I ask myself regularly about my impact on others.

Purpose and people are the new frontier.
For most businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage is their people—and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand. People who turn up to work each day and aren’t actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their purpose don’t operate at their full potential. People who find their reason for being, who uncover their purpose and connect with it passionately, become more engaged and significantly more effective at work and in life because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define their purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve “people” engagement and, therefore, overall business performance.

Companies that find their purpose are no different when they define or rediscover their reason for being. Working closely with executive teams at large corporations to reposition and refresh their brands, we encounter many who ask for our guidance to explore and define their purpose. This is not just vision and mission work, it is deep strategic work that can impact every facet of a business, both inside and outside of a company. Read More…

How People Analytics Informs HR Strategy

People Analytics

Let’s face it- technology has our brains inundated with unprecedented amounts of information. As a result, we’ve developed countless platforms and pieces of technology infrastructure that keep us organized, efficient, and profitable. The advent of technology in the business world combined with its future potential makes this an exciting time for us all. Technology can rapidly access troves of data in seconds, enabling us to make decisions that are much more informed than those of yesteryear. However, we should think of these technological capabilities as tools to help us make more informed decisions, not as mechanisms to make decisions for us. Although this advice can be applied in several domains, it’s no more relevant than in the world of people analytics.

So what is “People analytics”?

People analytics, in layman’s terms, refers to the analytical method used to make decisions about human resources and human capital in an organization. People analytics informs HR strategy, hiring/downsizing efforts, and selecting the right candidates (to name a few). Fortunately, we’ve developed technological platforms that can assess and analyze certain variables to “predict” an employee’s success in his/her role. This can be done through simple correlation tables, more complex regression models, or even through advanced predictive modeling. Regardless of the method of analysis, organizations want to know they’re hiring the right person for the right role. They also want to know how to keep these people while understanding what contributes to longer tenure, or on the flip side – higher turnover.

Read More…

How Great Leaders Manage Underperforming Teams

How Great Leaders Manage Underperforming Teams

Congratulations! You’ve earned a reputation as a highly effective leader. Now, your organization has thanked you by giving you a challenging new assignment that no one else can seem to figure out.

You’ve been assigned to lead a team that has a track record for underperforming, and it’s your mission to get things turned around.

Some may view this as being punished for a job well done. Others may take this as a true leadership challenge. An opportunity to have real impact on themselves, their team and their organization.

Whether you view it as a positive or negative, however, your job is to make it happen. So where do you start? Here are a few ideas to help design your approach to transforming this team from underperformers to superstars. Read More…

What Sports Can Teach Us About Building Better Teams

What Sports Can Teach Us About Building Better Teams

According to the Corporate Learning Factbook 2015, U.S. corporations reported a 10% increase in training expenditures last year, to $1,004 per employee. Included in this expenditure number is training in team building.

Given these huge sums of money that companies sink into team building exercises every year, why do these trainings have such difficulty sustaining effective outcomes? The answer may lie in the fact that team building and team training cannot be seen as a one-size-fits-all proposition. They must be specially tailored to fit the kind of team you are a part of. Instead of simply throwing money at more training, leaders of these organizations should be asking, “how can I tell what kind of team I’m on?” and “how can I build my team accordingly?”

Read More…

5 Ways to Align Your Organizational Strategy and Culture

align strategy and culture

2015: A new year. A fresh start. The perfect time to review this past year, set new goals, and determine where you want your company to head this year. It’s time to take control of what this New Year will bring by aligning your company culture and organizational strategy.

I have previously explored how your business has its own culture, which infiltrates every aspect from leadership decision-making down to daily processes. And, when partnered with strategy, this culture propels businesses to high performance.

Understanding, and more importantly, developing that 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.

How to Ensure That Your Strategy and Culture Align

1. Take a look at who we are as leaders.

An organization’s long term success relies heavily on leadership, its ability to embody/implement your company culture and to lead the company toward its strategic goals. Key leadership, those that set the tone for the strategy and culture of the organization, must understand their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders along with those of the entire leadership team. Without this insight, the implementation of organizational strategy will be stifled, starting at the top, from the beginning. Assessing your leadership is an important step in developing and realizing your strategic plan while creating an atmosphere where people want to work, succeed, and stay.

2. Gain a realistic view of your organization.

Just as we need to assess the leadership of an organization, leadership must assess the organizational maturity as well as the process maturity of a company. Evaluating where your organization stands and understanding its current state offers perspective of its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. It provides a view of what your company can realistically handle and allows you to build your plan around that knowledge.

3. Plan where you are headed and how you will get there.

Developing your strategy will guide your company in reaching its ultimate goals and objectives. Take the time to develop organizational priorities, themes, and accountability as well as a process to manage those priorities.

4. What if?

Once you have some your strategies developed, test them out. Create a series of “What If?” scenarios to get a feel for how well your strategic plans are suited to real life situations. Are your plans realistic? Or are they lofty goals which do not truly guide your business? Risk management and scenario methodologies can help you create a more concrete, reliable plan to lead your organization toward your goals. Use this information to re-work and tweak your strategic plan, then test again.

5. Manage and sustain your progress!

It’s great to pull all these pieces of the puzzle together, but you need to plan how you will keep them all afloat. More importantly, you must then follow through. Keep tabs on how you are managing performance, communications, personnel, resources and all the moving parts that make your company tick. Assess, plan, re-assess, plan again… Once you have the taken those first steps in getting your company headed in the right direction, you won’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you do a self-check. You can compare where you are to your baseline and goals to see how you measure up.

Your strategy and culture are yours to develop. Create the company you want through a clearly defined culture and a solid strategy for getting there. If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at our services, and talk to us about how Strategy and Culture go hand in hand.