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Illustration by By Hurca! — Licensed via Adobe Stock

How do you get teams working as well as they used to? How do you deal with issues that are being amplified by virtual distance?

Your culture depends heavily on connection and collaboration. However, the COVID-19 health crisis has forced most people to work remotely without the right preparation. Business as usual is a death sentence; keeping the culture alive while working remotely requires a new approach.

1. Start by Assessing Morale And Emotions

Make it okay for your team members to express how they feel. That people continue doing their jobs doesn’t mean that they are not struggling deep inside.

It’s okay for people to feel anxious, sad, lost, afraid of uncertainty, worried about losing their jobs, or a loved one. The list goes on and on. In the past few weeks, I facilitated tens of online sessions with teams and I observed a common theme: people are grieving. …

Prioritizing is not easy — especially when you must choose between two good alternatives

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Leadership is the art of making choices. Saying ‘yes’ is easy and comfortable, but what we say ‘no’ to defines our success. Great leaders know when to make sacrifices to stay focused.

Imagine taking over a tech company that’s losing money because sales are down. Will you choose to launch more products or cut the innovation pipeline by 70%?

That’s the dilemma Steve Jobs faced when he returned to Apple in 1997. The company’s sales plummeted by 30 percent during the final quarter of 1996. Apple was on the brink of failure.

Steve Jobs would turn around the company he founded, but first, he had to make some tough choices. Jobs reduced the number of Apple products by 70 percent. Among the casualties was the Newton — a favorite of former CEO John Sculley. …

How to create a culture where anyone can belong anywhere

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Source: Gustavo Razzetti (Liberationist)

Everyone acknowledges that Airbnb has disrupted the hospitality industry. However, what makes this company so unique is its obsession with culture. Speak to any Airbnb employee about what makes the company special, and they’ll answer “the culture.”

It all started back in 2012 by the advice Peter Thiel gave the founders after investing $150M in Airbnb.

“Don’t fuck up the culture.”

Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky was caught by surprise by those words.

Thiel explained that one of the key reasons he invested in Airbnb was the culture. …

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We tend to think of disengagement as an individual problem, solvable by coaching, having the right managers, or defining engagement goals — the list goes on.

But evidence is mounting that to solve disengagement, you don’t need to fix the individual, but the culture. According to research, companies with high disengagement are 40x less likely to be considered a great place to work.

Take note: lack of participation is not an individual problem. If people aren’t speaking up, blame your company culture.

Even those who are naturally more inclined to raise ideas or ask questions may not do so if they fear being ignored or punished, research shows. …

Your values guide your life — if you know what they are.

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Pic by @clarktibbs/ Unsplash

Most people don’t know what they don’t know. Psychologists Rozenblit and Keil coined the term the illusion of explanatory depth to describe this phenomenon.

We all believe we know more (about ourselves) than we actually do.

My point is not to make you feel bad, but to invite you to reflect on what guides your life: your values. Most people are clueless about theirs. Even if you are clear on what you stand for, read on. Take a few minutes to revisit your values.

Please, know your values

We all have something that we stand for. However, most values were ‘imposed’ to us. We inherited our religion, political affiliation, our idea of building relationships -even our favorite sports team- from our parents. …

Your culture should be more than words

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Pic by @jordanmadrid / Unsplash

One of the most common misconceptions about purpose is that it’s something squishy and weak, that it’s only for lighthearted organizations. This couldn’t be further from the trust.

Being a purpose-driven organization is not about having a feel-good culture, but about solving complex problems. People want to be challenged. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Having a clear purpose comes at a price, however. …

5 methods to help teammates grow and learn

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Illustration by CurvaBezier/Licensed via Adobe Stock

Giving feedback is a gift that helps people learn and grow. When practiced as a team, it fosters collaboration — not just learning.

Collective feedback encourages people to focus on the outcomes as a team. They celebrate success and address failure as one, rather than focusing on who to reward or blame.

Here are five methods to help your team approach giving and receiving feedback as one.

1. Hold an Agile Retrospective

Regular agile retrospectives are a fast and effective way for teams to improve their performance.

An agile retrospective is a short meeting to reflect on a project. It could happen once the project is completed or after a specific stage. …

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Pic by @remiyuan/ Unsplash

The path unfolds itself.

The way of the changemaker is the most rewarding yet challenging path you can choose. The future looks bright ahead but the journey is messy and lonely.

“A change agent is a person who cannot help but to improve things. It’s like an addiction or a habit.” — Henrik Kniberg

I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of uphill battles — both as a former CEO and now as a change coach. That’s why I find it intriguing when I hear change agents complaining about how hard their job is. Especially, because that’s becoming a growing trend.

That you are in charge of driving change doesn’t give you any special privilege. It doesn’t guarantee your success either. Being a change agent is something you earn, not a title that is given by someone else. …

How to design the right change leadership team

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Picture by Randy Fath/ Unsplash @randyfath

If you want to change fast, do it alone. If you want to create long-lasting change, do it together.

Nupedia, the precursor to Wikipedia, was a failure. The organization was designed with a top-down approach. There were seven-stage review processes and endless committees.

This command-and-control culture made it impossible to do any work at Nupedia.

Jimmy Wales, the catalyst behind Wikipedia, took a different route. He understood that long-lasting change is built by a group, not by one person.

The Hidden Power of Instigators

In Wikipedia, a large team of collaborators runs the operation, not the CEO. They all change and evolve together.

By implementing an editing policy based on trust, Wales was able to build a decentralized, successful company. He created the vision and then stepped back. …

How to create a culture of constant feedback

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Photo by Lina Trochez /Unsplash

Feedback is a gift that keeps giving — it helps both the receiver and the giver grow.

Unfortunately, when practiced sporadically and without purpose, feedback makes people feel attacked rather than appreciated. It triggers adverse reactions that make our hearts pound and increases anxiety.

Ineffective feedback is a disappointing surprise, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

What gets rewarded gets repeated. When practiced frequently and well, feedback is a gift that uncovers infinite opportunities. Here are key steps to get your team started.

1. Ditch performance reviews

Assigning performance scores not only is deceiving but hinders performance rather than rewarding it.

Stack ranking was once the most destructive process inside of Microsoft. It created a culture where innovative ideas were killed quickly, and no one wanted to challenge the status quo. …

Hint: it’s about behaviors, not perks

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Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

The power of a strong workplace culture is supported both by science and intuition.

A healthy environment is easy to observe. You can quickly determine how strong company culture by observing people’s faces, body language, and behaviors.

Research shows that organizations with healthy workplace cultures overperform those with weak or toxic ones.

So, what is culture, and what makes a great one? How can you design and build something that’s both intangible and soft?

Your workplace culture is a curious beast. …

A tool to map, design, and evolve your organizational culture

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The Culture Design Canvas created by Gustavo Razzetti, Liberationist.

The Culture Design Canvas helps organizations map their culture to both provide clarity and understand the gaps between current and future states. It’s the foundation of most of the work we do at Liberationist.

Your workplace culture is the soul of your organization. Though it’s intangible and soft, it has a huge impact on how your people and business perform.

Mapping your workplace culture makes it easier for people to understand what your organization stands for. It also helps identify the gap between current and future states.

The organizational culture is dynamic, not static. The Culture Design Canvas is a flexible tool that allows capturing the different evolution of the organization’s ‘soul.’ …

Hint: skip the introspection mode.

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Picture by Alex Bertha/ Unsplash

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel.”
― John Ruskin

Late one night, a blind old man was about to go home after visiting a friend. “Please,” he said to his friend, “may I take your lantern with me?”

“Why carry a lantern?” — asked his friend. “You won’t see any better with it.”

“No, perhaps not.” — said the blind one. “But others will see me better, and not bump into me.”

So his friend gave the blind man a bamboo lantern — it had a big candle inside. …

What’s the best way: baby steps or a big bang?

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Pic by Dimon Blr/ Unsplash

There are two ways to change an organization or a team: a big bang or baby steps.

Imagine taking over a cycling team that hasn’t won an Olympic medal in almost one hundred years. Which approach would you choose?

That’s the dilemma Dave Brailsford faced in 2002 when he became the coach of the British cycling team. Not only he had to turn around a half-century Olympic draught, but also an embarrassing performance at the most prominent cycling event. No Brit had won the Tour de France, ever.

Brailsford would change Britain’s role in the cyclist history forever. His approach: go slow to go fast. …

Designing a roadmap to increase autonomy and to distribute authority in your organization.

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Image by Hurca! — Licensed via AdobeStock subscription

People don’t need to be empowered, as I explained in a previous article. They are already powerful. What people need is the autonomy and authority to make decisions.

Our brains are wired to self-direct. We don’t want to be told what to do because we want to be in control.

That’s why autonomy and distributed authority are crucial to building self-organized teams. Making smarter and faster decisions requires enabling those who are closer to the information, not to the source of power. But getting there is not easy.

Replacing a command-and-control model by a self-managed one requires intentionality, clarity, and practice. …

Your employees are already powerful.

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Illustration by Hurca! — licensed via AdobeStock

I hate the word “empowerment.”

Everyone loves to preach about the virtues of empowering employees to neutralize disengagement and lack of accountability. But, if empowerment is so magical, why is employee disengagement on the rise?

For starters, empowerment is an intrinsic state of being. It’s not something you can provide.

When employees start a new job, they are fully engaged and empowered. But, then organizations start flooding them with rules, policies, hierarchies that limit people.

Outdated workplace cultures strip power and energy away from employees (even top-performers).

People are not powerless — they don’t need to be empowered. …

Your organizational mindset makes or breaks success. Develop a good one, and it will create a positive impact across the organization.

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Image by grgroup — licensed via AdobePhoto

What your employees think is what your organization becomes.

Your organizational mindset, more than anything else, determines business success.

A mindset is a frame of mind. The sum of your team’s beliefs and thoughts shape the organizational culture. What people think about mistakes, conflict, or leadership predetermines their behavior.

Harmful mindsets stand between where you are and where you want to be. Upgrading the organizational mindset can accelerate your business transformation.

Here are five mindsets that will boost your organizational culture.

1. Appreciative Mindset:

Focus on what’s working versus what’s broken.

Most organizations approach cultural transformation with a fixer mentality. …

Overcome underlying beliefs that limit your views.

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Image by Sergey Nivens/ licensed via AdobePhoto

Success and happiness are all about mindset. What you think you become.

Your mindset doesn’t just affect how you see the world. It shapes your responses and actions even if you don’t realize it.

Developing the right mindset is crucial to succeeding in anything. Here’s how to upgrade yours.

What is a mindset?

A mindset is a frame of mind. It’s the sum of beliefs, opinions, and thoughts that you formed about the world and yourself. Think of your mindset as a lens through which you filter reality.

Our education, religion, upbringing, and experience shape our beliefs and thoughts. That’s why our mindset is a fixed state of mind — we have our mind “set.” …

Move towards your resistance instead.

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Pic by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Resistance is a mental trap.

It makes us run away from our fears. Our mind chooses certainty over the unknown. We resist what’s beyond our control.

Turning away makes us feel safe and protected. But avoiding resistance can be harmfulinaction is not a safe option.

We resist the things that we want the most. That’s a prominent human paradox. Achieving happiness intimidates most of us.

What we resist, persists. But, what we confront sets us free.

Resistance is a form of feedback. Pay attention. Resistance provides valuable data to help us get where we want.

The path of growth requires moving towards our resistance. …

Don’t punish resistance; reward participation instead.

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.”― Peter Senge

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Image by Feodora/ licensed via AdobeStock

Overcoming resistance to change is a crucial priority for senior executives. When change fails, we blame the people.

This mental model is anything but helpful.

The idea that there is resistance to change and leaders must overcome it turns employees into the problem and managers into heroes.

People don’t resist change, per se. This belief causes unproductive discussions and issues we confuse objections with a lack of collaboration.

What if we stop focusing on overcoming resistance and encourage participation instead?

People Do Not Resist Change, Per Se

Our mental models are so ingrained that we don’t realize it. …

How radical transparency about salaries can pay off.

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Pic by James Haworth/ Unsplash

How much do you make? How much do you think your colleagues make?

Most of us feel uncomfortable discussing our salaries. We are afraid to find out we are underpaid. Or worry that someone might envy that we earn more than they do.

Organizations work very hard to make salaries opaque. Some argue this helps prevent potential infights. Though many think lack of transparency gives companies the upper-hand during salary negotiations.

Secrecy not only puts employees at a huge disadvantage. …

Secrecy in business is dead. Long live a culture of transparency.

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Pic by Hurca! — licensed via AdobeStock

Trust and transparency have become popular workplace demands. People want to be aware of what is real and true.

Secrecy is dead.

The digital age has changed the levels of transparency we expect from organizations. We want our leaders to be more human, honest, and vulnerable.

A whopping 87% of employees surveyed by Slack said they hoped their next job would be transparent.

“Transparency is the ability to understand. It’s the ability to be open and honest about what we know and expect. Transparency is the new normal.” — Robert Hohman, Glassdoor co-founder.

With transparency comes tremendous responsibility. Sharing information increases engagement and collaboration. …

Hint: Have a no-asshole policy.

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Pic by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

A bad apple can spoil the barrel — unless you do something about it.

We have all worked in teams where there is one difficult person. They sabotage teamwork, drag everyone down, and get the worst out of the group.

Go to a team and ask, “Who’s the asshole?” They will all point to the same person.

The research is clear: bad apples suck our energy. They drain productivity, collaboration, and creativity.

So, why don’t companies get rid of bad apples?

The No-Asshole Rule

Bad apples come in many shapes and forms.

The New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team has a “No Dickheads” policy. It’s crucial to their winning streak — they won 87% of their international matches. …

12 facilitation tips to get teams to speak up.

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Pic by mike166146 — licensed via AdobeStock

People don’t quit jobs; they quit unsafe cultures.

Silence is a symptom that something else is going on. Lack of participation is usually not a personal thing but a cultural issue.

Building Psychological Safety and practicing Radical Candor are vital to encourage participation and honest dialogue.

But how do you break the silence cycle?

Start small. Simple, small facilitation tools can create a huge impact.

Try these 12 facilitation techniques. I’ve used them in hundreds of workshops and meetings with amazing results. See which works for you.

1. Address the source of the silence

“Silence usually means people are holding back,” says Joseph Grenny, the coauthor of Crucial Conversations

Whether people are holding their thoughts to themselves or not being appropriately encouraged, it’s up to you to understand why. …

Radical Candor made simple: an intro guide.

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Pic by evencake — licensed via AdobePhoto

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
— Harvey S. Firestone

Feedback is the best gift we can get. Without other people’s perspectives and input, we can’t uncover our blind spots and grow

Unfortunately, jerks surprise their teams but for the wrong reason. Rather than providing actionable input, employees feel confused and disappointed.

The most important thing a boss can do is to focus on guidance. To give it, encourage it, and receive it.

Radical Candor is a simple tool to ensure people receive the right kind of guidance. Honest but also human.

This post is an intro guide to Radical Candor: what is, what is not, why it matters, how to get started, and key watch-outs. …


Gustavo Razzetti

I help teams and organizations build fearless cultures. Creator of the Culture Design Canvas. Insights →

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