Ushering Leadership Development into the 21st Century

In our increasingly complex and disruptive world, we need to be able to adapt and navigate the waters of adaptive change. This means we need to rethink how we define and develop leaders.

Brené Brown recently completed a 7-year study of leadership and organizational culture. She asked over 150 global C-suite leaders what needs to change for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment. The one common answer was: We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

This white paper redefines how we look at leadership and offers insight for what it actually takes to develop EVERYONE to show up as a brave leader and how to leverage that to create more courageous workplaces.

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Realities of Building a Thriving Organization Whitepaper

This white paper features interviews with three exceptional professionals who are immersed in Paradigm Pioneering work. Learn what it's really like to do the work necessary to build a thriving organization and benefit from their wisdom.

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Watch our Webinar: Building Thriving Workplaces that Are Ready for 2018 and Beyond

There is a revolution already in progress in the business world – one where enlightened leaders recognize what it means to thrive in today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, and create the conditions for success. As the authors of the book Firms of Endearment say, cutting-edge organizations

Are fueled by passion and purpose, not cash. They earn large profits by helping all their stakeholders thrive: customers, investors, employees, partners, communities and society.

The implications for all professionals who want to positively impact change and the entire employee experience are vast. Whether your focus is human resources, learning & development, leadership or employee wellbeing, tremendous opportunities exist to better align with this revolution. In this webinar, Dr. Rosie Ward and Dr. Jon Robison review the science on this changing business landscape. Incorporating story, professional experience and research, they provide a practical, science-based framework for understanding and addressing the needs of organizations and employees in this VUCA world.

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Free Resource: Leveraging The Fusion to Create Thriving Organizations

As claims of health care cost savings are proven false and resistance to the “Wellness or Else” model grows, many organizational leaders and wellness professionals recognize the need for a new approach to organizational and employee wellbeing. Support for one such New Paradigm approach, called The Fusion, is growing. Professionals who wish to lead the shift toward The Fusion within their circle of influence must be skilled at effectively communicating these New Paradigm messages. This eBook summarizes the core messages of The Fusion and provides strategies for combining evidence and powerful questions into meaningful conversations that will help transform the organizational and employee wellbeing landscape.

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A 3-Question Litmus Test For Organizational and Employee Wellbeing Initiatives

Business is booming for well being at the workplace. Organizations are jumping on the Wellness Provisions of the Affordable Care ACT to the tune of an estimated at 8 billion dollars a year. Unfortunately, as one health care expert wrote in Forbes;

“This rapid escalation in employer investment has spawned a “Wild West” kind of market for wellness and disease management, with thousands of vendors overwhelming employers, often touting exaggerated claims of effectiveness.”

So, how can leaders make sense out of and evaluate the bevy of proposed initiatives with which they are being constantly bombarded. Certainly, the literature in terms of the documented efficacy of a proposed intervention can be a valuable source of information. For example, weight loss programs, contests and competitions are among the most common of employee well being initiatives. Yet we have 30 years of consistent, definitive research that clearly demonstrates that none of these initiatives result in sustained weight loss for any but a small minority of participants and the rest gain back all or more than all of their original lost weight. The resulting weight cycling can actually make people’s health worse.

Unfortunately, most leaders have neither the time nor the inclination to research each and every proposed initiative being offered by vendors and consultants. Fortunately, in our experience there is a relatively simple, science-based, 3-question litmus test that can go a long way towards determining whether an initiative is worthy of consideration. The test revolves around 3 well known concepts, autonomy, mastery and purpose – defined below:

  • Autonomy (employees being able to think and do for themselves)
  • Mastery (employees having opportunities to learn and grow, and become highly skilled)
  • Purpose (employees feeling their work is meaningful and connected to a greater purpose)

Let’s take a closer look at these concepts and see why they are so critical to organizational and employee well being:


The word comes from the ancient Greek – auto meaning “self” and nomos meaning “law” – so literally  – one who gives himself one’s own law. Human autonomy flows from the desire and ability to direct our own lives. At the most basic level it is about having freedom from external control or influence. In fact, autonomy is considered by psychologists to be one of the 3 (and perhaps the most important) innate human psychological needs.

Decades of research from all over the world clearly demonstrate that autonomy and human health are inextricably interconnected. As leading expert on population healthMichael Marmot writes:

 “Autonomy – how much you control your own life – and the opportunities you have for full social engagement and participation, are crucial for health, well-being and longevity.”

In terms of organizational well being and worker productivity, the research conclusions are strikingly similar.  In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink demonstrates quite conclusively that companies who offer employees greater autonomy, sometimes in radical doses, outperform their competitors.(1) And similarly, employees who work in jobs with high demands and little autonomy suffer from a litany of health maladies from heart disease to depression.

Highly successful companies have cultures that promote employee autonomy. Research demonstrates that such organizations grow 4 times faster and have 3 times less turnover.

  • Fed-Ex Days, originally started by the Australian software company Atlassian give employees 24 hours to work on projects of their own choosing resulting in some amazing outcomes. Why Fed-Ex Days? Because the products need to be “delivered” over night!
  • In Results-Only Work Environments (ROWES) employees are evaluated solely on how well they perform, not on how many hours they spend at their workstations.
  • Increasing numbers of companies are moving towards self-management, in which front line employees (nurses, machine operators, teachers, etc.) hold all the decision making power; from budgets, to hiring and firing, to establishing decision making guidelines to calling meetings. From manufacturing to healthcare, these companies are dominating their respective industries


Research has also shown that the desire for mastery, the urge to overcome intellectual challenge and to get better at our chosen occupation, may be one of the best predictors of productivity at the workplace. When people have a high level of personal mastery, they are more committed to their organizations and take more initiative.(2)

Providing ongoing on the job training is one of the important ways that organizations provide opportunities for mastery for their employees. The Container Store is an example of an organization that takes mastery seriously. The company is constantly at or near the top of Fortune’s annual list of best places to work. While the average company in the retailing sector provides 7 hours of training in the first year for new employees, The Container Store provides 263 hours of training in the first year!

Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) take the mastery concept to an entirely new level. These companies nurture a culture that puts the inextricable interdependence of business and personal development front and center for every employee, every day. The goal is to help employees reach higher levels of adult development, the gradual evolution of people’s meaning making systems and psychological capabilities. For these companies:

“A deliberately developmental culture is rooted in the unshakable belief that business can be an ideal context for people’s growth evolution and flourishing – and that suchpersonal development may be the secret weapon for business success in the future.” (3).

Here are just a few examples of the truly amazing ways DDOs  are prioritizing employee development.

  • The underlying organizational purpose at Decurion (L.A based company involved with movie exhibition real estate and senior living) is “to create places for people to flourish.”
  • At Connecticut based Bridgewater, the most successful Hedge Fund in the world, the heart of the culture is “radical truth” and “radical transparency.” All meetings are taped and available for anyone to listen to. And if your name comes up in a meeting to which you were not invited you will be notified and invited to listen to what was said about you.
  • E-commerce tech company Next Jump has an explicit no firing policy; a firm commitment to support and help develop employees in good times and bad. The underlying dedication to personal growth is clear. “We’ve engineered tools and programs that foster a culture of leadership and growth. Our goal is for each Next Jumper to lead a successful life, both at work and at home.”
  • In all three companies, once you can perform your role well, it means that your job is not “stretching” you enough and it is probably time for a new role and new challenges. And at all three companies, all employees at every level of the organization are taught, as part of their job, procedures and practices to help them evaluate their interactions with each other – something that happens on a regular basis, many times every working day.


The Gallup Organization has identified five essential elements of employee well being:career, social, financial, physical and community, with career well being – liking what you do every day and having meaning and purpose in your work and your life – being the most impactful.

And according to the findings of the “The Energy Project” multi-year research involving more than 14,000 global respondents in more than 24 industries;

“No single factor in our study comes close to influencing people’s job satisfaction and likelihood to stay at an organization as much as the sense that their work gives them a sense of meaning and purpose.”

The Firms of Endearment (FOEs) are 28 widely loved companies that have as their underlying fundamental goal – maximizing purpose – not profits. You will recognize the names of many including Southwest Airlines, UPS, Tata, Costco, Panera, Google, and The Container Store. In the words of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey:

“To tap this deep wellspring of human motivation, companies need to shift from profit maximization to purpose maximization. By recognizing and responding to the hunger for meaning that is quintessential to the human condition, companies can unlock vast sources of passion, commitment, creativity, and energy that lie largely dormant in their team members and other stakeholders. Purpose-driven motivation is intrinsic motivation and is far more effective and powerful than extrinsic financial incentives.”

So, how do these “purpose driven” companies do in their respective fields? The FOEs have outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times and the Good to Great Companies by 6 times over a period of 15 years. (4)

Take Home: Applying the Test

How can this test be applied in your organization? As a start, try asking these questions about any proposed initiative for organizational or employee wellbeing:

  • Will this initiative promote or inhibit employee autonomy?
  • Will this initiative increase or decrease opportunities for employee mastery?
  • Will this initiative enhance or detract from employee’s feeling that their work is meaningful and/or connected to a greater purpose?

Go ahead and give this litmus test a try in your organization. Let us know how it turns out. Jon and Rosie at Salveopartners. 

Additional References:

  1. Daniel Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York. Riverhead Books, 2009.
  2. Peter M. Senge. “The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization.” New York: Doubleday, 2006.
  3. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Harvard Business Review Press, Boston Mass. 2016
  4. Sisodia, Wolfe & Sheth. Firms of Endearment: How World-Class companies Profit from Passion and Purpose. New Jersey. Pearson Education, 2014

This post first appeared on LinkedIn in 2016

Important but Uncommon Ways to Cultivate Happy, Thriving Employees (for Lasting Organizational Change) Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we covered how to assess and address employee attitudes at work and ways to change corporate language to support employee and organizational wellbeing. Here, we explore another uncommon way to cultivate employee happiness: supporting Intrinsic thinking.

Research over the past two decades has conclusively demonstrated that to cultivate happy and thriving employees and to leverage sustainable change, organizations must foster self-leadership and emphasize intrinsic motivation (where people can find meaning and enjoyment in their work). Personal autonomy and happiness are inextricably interconnected.

An individual’s values and thoughts are what guide intrinsic motivation, so it makes sense to support the skills that can help a person influence and manage his or her thoughts in constructive ways.

The “Best” Way to Think

Organizations can create an environment that fosters intrinsic motivation by actually helping employees become “better” thinkers! In the 1960s, in collaboration with colleagues at MIT, Robert S. Hartman developedThe Hartman Value Profile (HVP), which measures the hierarchy of values that undergird thinking patterns and how these values translate into personal choice. This might sound a little “fluffy,” but values thinking is based in hard science, and it can be measured and changed. Essentially, the HVP is a mathematical assessment of thinking patterns.

Hartman identified three dimensions of valuing or thinking that guide our choices: Systemic (S), Extrinsic (E), and Intrinsic (I). Here’s a brief overview:

• S = Systemic thinking values abstract concepts and ideas. It manifests as black/white and either/or thinking, and is associated with preconceived ideas about how things should be.

For example, if we over-value others via Systemic thinking, we may have an idea of how things should go with a project at work, but then when the unpredictability of life happens and throws us a curveball, we’re likely to get frustrated and jump to blame.

• E = Extrinsic thinking values function. As a result, Extrinsic thinking relies on labels, categories, and achievements and treats people more like things – as if they were replicable and predictable.

For example, if we over-value others through Extrinsic thinking, we may only express appreciation when people do what they are supposed to (e.g., meet a health status measure, complete a project or task like we would, etc.), and we will likely resort to behavior modification to try to “get” them to behave in a desired way.

• I = Intrinsic thinking values the uniqueness of individuals. It takes into account not only what is seen and ideas about what is seen, but it also recognizes that there is far more going on than meets the eye. It also affirms the inherent value in other people simply because they exist. This kind of thinking takes a bit longer to activate than both Systemic and Extrinsic thinking and requires a short mental pause.

Hartman’s research clearly demonstrated that, although all three dimensions of valuing/thinking are necessary, the optimal hierarchy is Intrinsic>Extrinsic>Systemic (I>E>S). In simple terms, this means that the most constructive thinking occurs when we value people more than things, and when we value things more than mere ideas of things or people. (Read this article for an in-depth discussion of these types of thinking.)

Cultivating a different outcome: Help your employees become better thinkers

Unfortunately, organizations often take a backwards approach, unintentionally fostering an S>E>I thinking hierarchy, where leaders over-value employees based on preconceived ideas about what they “should” be doing, or based on employees’ function or behaviors.

Practicing Intrinsic thinking on your own will provide the encouragement and opportunity for leaders and employees to do the same. Here are some practical ways you can begin:

• Practice Pausing. A person’s first thought usually stems from deeply rooted, habitual thinking (i.e., Systemic thinking) and is typically limited. Pausing just a few seconds before acting creates space for Intrinsic thinking, greater self-awareness and the ability to make more thoughtful choices. For example, an employee is facing a problem and comes to you for help. Your first thought (S>E>I) would likely be to answer in a way that would help fix the situation. Pausing in that moment can help you recognize that by instead asking your employee questions, you are actually supporting that person’s autonomy and mastery. After a mental pause, your next action is different. Asking a question like “What solution would you recommend, based on your experience?” not only takes the pressure off from you, but it also creates the conditions for your employee to grow and leverage intrinsic motivation (and by extension, happiness).

• Recover from Perfectionism. Engaging in S>E>I thinking means striving for some ideal of perfection — and when “perfect” doesn’t happen, people get frustrated with themselves and others. In fact, perfectionism is a key characteristic of a fixed mindset, which hinders people from success. Focusing less on an ideal result and instead embracing the journey will build resiliency and a growth mindset — which is correlated with success! Recovering from perfectionism helps create the conditions for ongoing personal growth and development, and also sends the powerful message to others that they can let go of perfection as well.

• Challenge your Fixed Mindset (S>E>I Thinking). A fixed mindset (based in S>E>I thinking) is powerful: the “shoulds” and ideas about who you think people are come from deep-seated personal beliefs about risk, failure, and fear of being judged. Such thinking prevails, even when you know these fears and beliefs are illogical. One of the best ways to challenge this kind of thinking is to take an action that makes you uncomfortable (something that you feel you “shouldn’t” do, which may provoke a visceral reaction at the thought of doing it), but feels doable.

For example, if you avoid trying new things because you are afraid of being judged or viewed as “imperfect,” try intentionally putting yourself into a situation where you can’t be good or perfect — and encourage others to do the same. For example, if you have no rhythm, take a dance class. If you can’t carry a tune, sing karaoke somewhere. As silly as these suggestions seem, they can do wonders to help develop agrowth mindset (aligned with I>E>S thinking). When you challenge your fixed mindset, you realize that the horrible result you’ve imagined didn’t occur, and you are able to disable the dominance of your fixed mindset, which leaves space for Intrinsic thinking to emerge.

• Invest in Intrinsic Coaching® Development. Intrinsic Coaching® is the only methodology to date that has been shown (measured by the HVP) to increase individuals’ Intrinsic thinking patterns and help them create the conditions to elicit I>E>S in others. People who have completed this program report a shift in how they view other people, resulting in less frustration with others, fewer negative consequences of stress, and higher job satisfaction. Consider Intrinsic Coaching® as part of your organization’s training and development to ensure that you are able to support better thinking in the workplace.

We all have an innate desire to be recognized, seen, and valued for who we are as individuals – and just because we are at the office doesn’t mean this powerful need goes away. Cultivating a workplace culture where leaders and employees are able to replace dysfunctional thought patterns with Intrinsic thinking that values people for who they are will not only foster employee happiness but will ultimately improve both individual and organizational performance.1

Read Part 1 of this article for more ideas about how to support employee happiness; learn more about the benefits of intrinsic thinking here.

Curious about the happiness of your employees? Take our Free Manager’s Audit to get a pulse on your employee and organizational health in under 3 minutes!


  1. The Arbinger Institute (2010). Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Important but Uncommon Ways to Cultivate Happy, Thriving Employees (for Lasting Organizational Change) Part 1

In order to improve organizational wellbeing and employee engagement, leaders and employees may be asked to do things differently. However, people are typically not provided the development needed to support sustainable change. In fact, although many organizations have increased attention on employee engagement, research shows that it hasn’t improved much over the last decade.1 For lasting organizational change, focus on creating the conditions in which change can happen; a key component is supporting employees so that they can thrive.

A “thriving employee” is happy, energized, and engaged at work — and organizations with thriving employees will experience profound benefits. According to a 2012 Harvard Business Review study, across industries and job types, thriving employees:

  • demonstrate 16% better overall performance (reported by their managers) and 125% less burnout (self-reported) than their peers.
  • are 32% more committed to their organization.
  • are 46% more satisfied with their jobs.
  • miss fewer days of work.
  • report significantly fewer doctor visits.

Strategies for Success

Consider implementing these strategies to develop a workplace culture that supports happy, thriving employees:

  1. Take employee happiness seriously.

Recent research indicates that employee happiness is an important predictor of business performance. In addition to boosting employee engagement, employees who are happy produce more than unhappy ones over the long term.

Happiness is a variable that can change often, so it is important to get a pulse on employee happiness levels frequently to identify and address any problems early. Some companies use smartphone apps that provide managers a daily update on employee happiness. A simple way to gauge employee happiness is to ask employees to drop a green, yellow, or red chip into a transparent container at the end of the day (or week) to indicate how they felt about work during that time; this exercise offers insight into how employees are feeling with a quick glance.

It’s important to go beyond simply gauging employee happiness; you also need to address trends toward unhappiness before it becomes a widespread problem. Everybody is allowed to have a bad day now and again, but if you notice that more and more employees are unhappy for more and more of the time, it’s time to take action. An obvious way to find out what factors may be contributing to employee unhappiness is to ask employees directly. However, if your workplace is suffering from low morale, it’s possible that employees won’t feel comfortable sharing and you’ll need to assess potential contributing factors on your own. For example, are there any work-related requirements that have been recently implemented? A slew of people quitting or layoffs? A big project that might be causing employees stress and pressure to put in extra hours?

To get a jump-start on addressing employee happiness, consider these tips for how to help employees love coming into work.

  1. Change corporate language.

We know that human beings aren’t machines who can produce specific outcomes in predicable ways. Yet many organizations continue to communicate about employee and organizational wellbeing from this outdated perspective, based on a 17th-century scientific worldview that conceptualizes the universe and all of its components as machines.

Words have the power to shape the way people think and feel. Let employees know they are valued by communicating to them in a way that supports an updated worldview, which reflects the realities of our non-linear, non-mechanistic, holistic world. To best support thriving employees, move away from any corporate language that focuses on patriarchal, mechanistic, reductionist language.

For example, instead of using language about:

•  “participation,” focus on engagement
• “productivity,” talk about creating the conditions that allow people to do their best work
•  “wellness,” focus on holistic wellbeing
•  “human resources” or “human capital,” discuss human partners, people, or employees
“motivating” people, shift your focus to how your organization can support people to grow and develop
•  “personal responsibility,” explore the connection and relationships involved with both employee and organizational wellbeing.

Changing the way you communicate will send your employees the message that you value them as whole, autonomous human beings who have more to offer than simply completing a function at work. This will not only support employee happiness and engagement, but also improve organizational health and provide a foundation from which to make positive, lasting change.

In Part 2, we discuss an important third way to cultivate thriving, happy employees: supporting different and “better” ways of thinking.


  1. Gostick, A. & Elton, C. (2012). All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results. New York: Free Press.

What Every HR and Wellbeing Professional Needs to Consider to Support a Thriving Workplace Culture

Our world is fundamentally different today than it was just a few short years ago. Consequently, the “rules of engagement” are changing for organizations. Workplace culture not only shapes the quality of the entire employee experience, it is also your brand in the marketplace. Now more than ever, here is why it is critical to rethink the importance of culture and how you are creating the conditions for both organizational and employee wellbeing to thrive.

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report:

  • 83% of organizations are seriously worried about their leadership pipelines.
  • Globally, retention and engagement are the No. 2 issue facing HR professionals, creating a new focus on employee wellbeing and happiness.
  • “The Overwhelmed Employee” is one of the biggest challenges in business due to employees feeling like they are flooded with demands 24×7.1

These concerns did not happen overnight. Chances are there has been subtle feedback along the way indicating organizations should start paying closer attention to both organizational and employee wellbeing. However, once these trends are identified as a concern, too often HR and wellbeing professionals succumb to the temptation to use “quick fix” solutions to try to address them; they end up looking for a technical fix for what is really an adaptive challenge, resulting in less-than-desirable outcomes.

The Parable of the Boiling Frog

Renowned organizational and leadership consultant Peter Senge describes one of the “learning disabilities” organizations have with “the parable of the boiled frog.” If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will instantly scramble and try to escape. If you put it in a pot of room-temperature water it will stay put. Then as you gradually increase water temperature, the frog will adjust until it eventually becomes increasingly groggy, won’t be able to climb out of the pot, and eventually dies. The frog is hard-wired to sense threats to its survival based on sudden changes, not slow, gradual ones.2

In that respect, businesses are like frogs; they don’t pay attention to slow, gradual processes and feedback, and instead wait until they are in hot water. This frequently results in making rash decisions and wasting resources on hopeful “quick fix” solutions — which almost never work and frequently backfire (enter the recent push for outcomes-based wellness incentive programs to address the “sudden emergency” of rising healthcare costs). Organizations need to learn to slow down and pay attention to the subtle feedback as well as the dramatic 2 — and use that feedback to guide a thoughtful approach to improving workplace culture.

Feedback in the Age of Transparency

With the increasing transparency of the state of workplace culture, it’s becoming more difficult for organizations to hide their dysfunction. More than 46% of candidates use some sort of career website such as Glassdoor, CareerBliss, LinkedIn and others to learn more about what it’s really like to work at a potential future employer.3

Robert Hohman, the founder and CEO of Glassdoor, stated in late 2014 that “The knowledge of what it is like to be working for a company cannot be hidden. It will be known.” So those organizations struggling with poor organizational health and culture will also struggle to hire and keep top talent in the increasingly competitive marketplace. 3

So what is your employment brand? Not the image your PR folks have created but your true employment brand that walks home every night and talks to neighbors, friends, and strangers on social media. What do your employees say about your organization? Employee engagement and your employment brand are synonymous, so it’s important to pay attention to how your organization is perceived by potential job candidates, customers, and really all stakeholders.4

What we know from companies like the highly successful Firms of Endearment such as Whole Foods, FedEx,Google, Costco, Starbucks, Panera, Walt Disney, Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, TOMS and New Balance, (to name a few) is that focusing on the long-term (versus scrambling to put out short-term fires) and ensuring all stakeholders (employees included) have their needs met yields great financial success. These widely loved companies outperformed the S&P 500 by more than an 8-to-1 ratio and also outperformed the Good to Greatcompanies by a 3-to-1 ratio over a 10-year period.5 And because of their widely loved culture and employment brand, people are knocking down their doors to try to work there.

Using Feedback to Improve Your Workplace Culture

With the world becoming increasingly transparent, how can you effectively use both the subtle and dramatic feedback to help improve your workplace culture? By first gaining a holistic perspective of the current state of both organizational and employee wellbeing (which can be done by deploying our Thriving Workplace Culture Survey™) and then being transparent about the feedback and including ALL employees in the planning process. Yes, this is not a typo; I do mean “ALL” employees.

What we know from research on Fair Process is that people care about the decisions their organizational leaders make, but employees care even more about the process that was used along the way.

  • They want to know their voice was heard and their feedback was considered, even if the feedback was rejected and not used.
  • Employees will commit to a manager’s decision (even one they disagree with) if they believe the process used to make the decision was fair.
  • Employees are most likely to trust and cooperate freely with systems when Fair Process is observed.
  • Fair Process is not decision by consensus; it gives every idea a chance, but it’s the merit of the ideas (not consensus) that guides the decision making.6

Using this approach profoundly influences attitudes and behaviors and is critical to high performance. It responds to a basic human need to be valued as human beings and not as “human capital,” “personnel,” or “human assets.” Being valued in this way builds trust and commitment — which leads to voluntary cooperation; and voluntary cooperation drives performance where people will go above and beyond the call of duty to share their knowledge and creativity. However, when employees do not feel valued or heard, they tend to not trust the decisions made by leaders. And when employees don’t trust managers, engagement drops.

So, although it may initially seem cumbersome, involving all employees in the planning process for improving organizational and employee wellbeing is critical to addressing the top concerns and challenges business are currently facing. It can’t just be managers sitting in a room creating plans for improving business operations that ignore employee wellbeing; and it can’t be a wellness committee sitting in a room creating plans for employee wellbeing initiatives without considering the business challenges or involving the people whom they are trying to support.

Organizational leadership consultant and guru Margaret Wheatley states that people only support what they’ve helped to create. Therefore, strategic planning needs to evolve and be more about building collective wisdom.

“I want to use the time formerly spent on detailed planning and analysis to create the organizational conditions for people to set a clear intent, to agree on how they are going to work together, and then practice to become better observers, learners and colleagues as they co-create with their environment.” 7 (p. 46)

And chances are that the more you include employees in the process of creating meaningful change within your organization that enhances and improves the employee experience, the more your cultural brand’s reputation will also improve. But how do you do that?

Fusing Organizational and Employee Wellbeing to Guide Culture Transformation

In our book, “How to Create a Thriving Culture at Work, Featuring the 7 Points of Transformation,” we outline in detail how to leverage the collective wisdom of all employees and engage them in the process of building a thriving workplace culture. But to not leave you hanging, the Reader’s Digest version is here for how to leverage the principles of Fair Process and start to gather meaningful feedback to create a shared vision for your organization. Here are some questions to ask everyone, to provide valuable insight and guide your culture journey:

  • Fast-forward to five years from now. If our organization has a thriving culture — where people love coming to work, feel valued and supported in all areas of wellbeing, and the organization is strong and growing, how might life look differently on a daily basis?
  • What will tell us that we have created a culture where both organizational and employee wellbeing thrive?
  • What behaviors will we see that are consistent with our company values?
  • What behaviors will we see that are consistent with our desired culture?
  • What behaviors might we see that will hurt our desired culture?
  • What practices do we need to keep doing to allow people to be their best?
  • What practices do we need to stop doing to allow people to be their best?
  • How do we want to hold one another accountable for intentionally fostering our desired culture?
  • How will we know we’re moving in the right direction?

By including ALL employees in the process of creating the conditions for both organizational and employee wellbeing to thrive, you will be able to more effectively improve and maintain your cultural brand and reap the benefits as a high-performing organization.


  1. Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st-Century Workforce, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin By Deloitte, Deloitte University Press, April 2014.
  1. Peter M. Senge (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday.
  1. “The Future of Business: Human Resources. How HR Leaders are Reinventing Their Roles and Transforming Business.” Report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (2014).
  1. Josh Bersin (January 2015). Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World. Bersin by Deloitte/Deloitte Consulting.
  1. Sisodia, R., Wolfe,D. & Sheth, J. (2014). Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies PROFIT from Passion and Purpose. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
  1. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne (Jan. 2003). Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy, Harvard Business Review.
  1. Margaret J. Wheatley (1999). Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.