workplace culture

The joy of my work is having great conversations with outstanding leaders in progressive organizations.  The cultures they create are evident immediately.  In a digital era, many people are searching for meaningful work or feeling disconnected, or unappreciated at work.  The most stimulating, engaging cultures are created with intention.  Make no mistake; leaders whose names are recognized and admired have created cultures that engage both the hearts and minds of their people.  They know that without empathy every other aspect of their businesses will not thrive. 

The world may be seen as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  And yet enlightened leaders can inspire others to create a shared vision.  This doesn’t happen without empathy, trust and courage.  This is the way the CEO of LinkedIN, Jeff Weiner put it; “The strongest people I know are the most compassionate. True unconditional compassion requires almost super human strength and self-confidence."

To empathize and have compassion for our teams we have to listen.  Listening to understand will engage our teams, allow us to understand and learn what is required to co-create our purpose in an organization.  Listening is a simple way to demonstrate that people matter.  We all need to feel we make a difference.  Meaningful work satisfies that need.  If we feel that our thoughts and feelings matter, in short, that we matter, engagement at work is a given.  Here are some of the ways that successful organizations like Google, Apple, Amazon or LinkedIN, have engaged their people and created thriving cultures:


Bringing compassion into all of our interactions means that we care about another person’s point of view.  We feel empathy and want to understand their thoughts and feelings.  James R. Doty, MD is a neurosurgeon, author and instructor at Stanford University. He has discovered that, “Compassion is an instinct, possibly our most innate.  Our brains are wired with a desire to help each other.” If we need teams to collaborate and engage to innovate and grow the businesses of the future, we need to make the workplace safe to innovate. When people feel safe to experiment, fail without judgement, try again and create new ideas, products and procedures, we all win.

One of Google’s values is “we want to work with great people”.   When you think about what great people you know, the words, trust, and empathy and compassion probably apply.


By core values I mean the values we see demonstrated in the culture.  People that walk the talk rather than relying on a list posted in an office.  When I first started my business, I was often sitting in the office of a CEO and the Vision or Missions might be on a plaque on the wall.  When I asked about them, so many people with big titles had a hard time naming those values, that I stopped putting them in that position.  I learned that the corporate culture becomes obvious as you work with the team.  What is rewarded?  What is punished? 

Here are some of the core values within high performance cultures: Apple; “new ideas come from diverse ways of seeing things; self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to make the change.”  At Virgin, while the words, helping to create a better world move across the screen, the values are respectful and supportive are woven into the culture and the web site. One of Amazon’s stated values is to “earn trust” which is fundamental to all relationships.


Co-creation means that we have created a result together.  Collaboration implies the same thing with the difference being that you may have to compromise your point of view to collaborate.  When we co-create, you are welcome to voice my perspective and the group may choose another direction, which you agree to support.  Apple states it as “deep collaboration”.  Uber states one of its values as “principled confrontation.” One of the stated values at LinkedIN is that “relationships matter”. The way each of these companies achieve their impressive results matters.


Authentic leadership courses, articles and books are everywhere.  Brene Brown wrote a New York Times bestselling book called Daring Greatly.  She describes authenticity as letting go of what people think.  The book illustrates how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.  We all have a need to feel connected and engaged with others.  At the root of all relationships is trust.  Listening, being present, honest, providing context to eliminate fear and telling people where they stand are all part of authentic leadership.  All of this requires courage.  Courage is not an absence of fear.  It means that being who we really are is more important than playing it safe. All of us thrive in environments that allow or even encourage us to be courageous.  We need empathetic leaders who listen and inspire us to engage. We need to contribute, to feel we matter to thrive. 

Great people thrive in great cultures.  When our hearts are engaged through empathy and compassion, we invest our time and energy in the project, team and company.  When we feel we matter, we give our best.  We always need to engage our minds, but how many times have you heard someone say, “my heart wasn’t in it?”  This is why the famous quote by Peter Drucker; “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. We need a strategy and a vision.  However, to create world class cultures we need to engage the hearts and minds of humans.


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