Building a “Boston Strong” Resilient Culture in Your Organization

Building a "Boston Strong" Resilient Culture in Your Organization

With a global focus on the 2014 Boston Marathon, we take time to remember those impacted by the events of the 2013 Marathon.  It is important to always remember the countless examples of courage, support, and life-saving heroics.

One example of the many organizations providing support at the 2013 Marathon was the American Red Cross.   As soon as the devastating events occurred at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, the Red Cross was able to instantly convert some of their standard runner first aid stations used for the race into triage centers to support those impacted.  The courage demonstrated by individuals, first responder organizations, and the immediate aid from groups like the American Red Cross is a testimony to the importance of resilience in any situation.  Resilience at both the individual and organizational level is vital in times of crisis.

Focus on Resiliency as a Key Culture Attribute

The quick response by the American Red Cross at the 2013 Boston Marathon is indicative of an organization built on resilience.  However, the specific culture attribute of resilience requires a very concerted effort.  Organizational resilience has been fostered and constantly tested over time at the Red Cross.

Like many organizations impacted by the 2008 financial meltdown, the American Red Cross was faced with significant financial issues which required the organization to work through several tough decisions. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, CEO Gail McGovern shared how the Red Cross was faced with a major operating deficit in her first month at the non-profit.  The senior leadership team created an initial restructuring plan and felt confident that the Board of Directors would approve the strategy.

After a passionate discussion with the Board, senior leadership decided to take a much more inclusive, collaborative, and trust-building approach to the restructuring.  An updated draft plan was distributed to the entire American Red Cross organization as well as many volunteers.  This collaborative approach, which provided opportunities for new ideas from a variety of stakeholders as well as better clarity about the dire need for change, helped build the acceptance and resilience required for a successful yet very emotional restructuring process.  McGovern summarized some of her own key learnings from the turnaround by saying “Did my leadership team show any special brilliance? No – we proved we’d been listening and our amazing Red Crossers, who care so deeply about our humanitarian mission, were willing to accept some difficult changes to save this American treasure.”

The strength and resiliency of the American Red Cross culture has been demonstrated many times since the 2008 financial crisis and continues today.  Resiliency is vital for any organization and cannot be created overnight.   A “Boston Strong” culture is something that all groups need to aspire to as a way to ensure the mission of the organization is delivered even in the face of significant challenges or crisis.

Key Points to Consider

Building and maintaining a resilient culture requires a concerted effort and provides the strong foundation that an organization needs when faced with major challenges.

  1. A resilient culture can help organizations successfully navigate through a major change or crisis.
  2. Leaders need to be willing to truly listen and perhaps modify their approach in order to help facilitate successful change and build resiliency.
  3. Employees should be encouraged to foster resilience and communicate the positive impact of resilience on the culture.

How resilient is your organization and what challenges need to be proactively addressed?  What first steps can be taken to build resiliency in individuals, teams, or organizations?>

Creating a Work Culture for All Generations

Creating a Work Culture for All Generations

During his many years of working with groups around the world, Stephen R. Covey (best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) had the incredible opportunity to personally observe how organizations best leverage the unique contributions of everyone in the workforce, regardless of their age, generation or style.  After studying a wide-range of diverse groups including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Grameen Bank, and global organizations like Marriott Hotels International, Covey found that an important step in building and sustaining long-term results required the thoughtful process of creating guiding principles.  These principles provide organizations and all employees with a baseline which provides clarity around performance and results.

More than a decade before all of today’s popular press stories on the problems created by the “different” work styles of each generation, Covey focused on the importance of setting guiding principles and clear expectations as the foundation for any organizational culture.  This culture foundation, with a clear understanding of expected behaviors for all employees and groups, is quite often overlooked by many organizations.  Typically, culture is an afterthought as organizations progress from their initial period as a start-up and into the growth and maturity phases.  Some organizations see the value in communicating clear guiding principles.  The Container Store’s Seven Foundation Principles is an excellent example since each principle, like “1 Great Person = 3 Good People,” includes a specific written explanation and a supporting video.  Another example is Hubspot’s Culture Code.

Workplace Culture Alignment is Essential

In order to maximize the efforts of each generation in today’s global workplace, it is imperative that the true culture of any organization actually recognizes and rewards the efforts from all levels of employees and stakeholders.    It is essential to make an objective review of the existing culture in an organization.  This type of review will highlight areas in which performance priorities and actual workplace behaviors are not aligned.  For example, some organizations have a stated goal to provide customer service to a variety of consumer generations but do not have any way to ensure customer support teams contain a diverse mix of generations or understand differences among consumer generations.  One approach that can be easily applied in any organization is the use of a “Culture Alignment Roadmap”.   In this example, the Culture Alignment Roadmap serves as a way to specifically focus on areas that may require a shift in company policies, goals, measures, communication, rewards or employee behaviors to better maximize the active participation of each generation in the workplace.

Now is the Time to Engage Each Generation in Your Organization

A truly inclusive workplace culture, based on guiding principles which ensure each generation is highly engaged, will help produce the results every organization (be it a start-up, family-owned business, multinational, or NGO) needs to deliver long-term results.  The ongoing challenges of our global economy, combined with shifting demographics in the workforce require a proactive way of thinking about how every generation needs to work together in all of our organizations.  Rather than complaining about how each generation in the workplace or each work sub-group seems to be so different and problematic, now is the time to leverage the energy and integrate the combined talents and strengths across each group.

Starbucks is an excellent example of an organization that embraces diversity and inclusion and being a responsible company to foster a deep sense of purpose that appeals across generations.  Many other organizations are now starting to use a variety of approaches to better focus on the positive capabilities of each generation and harness a plethora of talent to better optimize results.

Taking Action

What obstacles currently stand in your way to leverage your own unique contributions in your organization and what are some actions you can take today to ensure you make a positive impact?

What ideas or suggestions do you have to build a culture that engages and optimizes the energy of each generational member in your workforce?