Culture Change – Slow Down to Go Fast

StrategyDriven Article |Workplace Culture|Culture Change – Slow Down to Go Fast

When my children were taking violin lessons and were given a new piece to learn, they would start from the beginning and race through the song at breakneck speed. One day, their teacher offered an insight that radically altered how they were able to progress. He told them that if they wanted to play fast, they would first have to practice slow. Similarly, taking the time to slow down and plan improvements to workplace culture also produces more effective results down the line.

Workplace culture isn’t something you can instantly fix, swap out, or quickly reboot. It’s not like a used car you can trade in when it no longer runs smoothly. Culture change requires culture work – and success necessitates effort and attention. Rather than being daunted by this task, we need to take a breath, slow down, and intentionally chart our course forward.

We recently worked with an organization who took the advice to slow down and take the time to invest in their long-term workplace culture to heart. Their decision was precipitated by a harassment complaint that revealed many layers of dysfunction – they could no longer ignore the impact their unhealthy culture was having.

Management was distant and unaware of the tension between employees, staff turnover was high, valued customers were leaving, and the human resources department admitted they were overwhelmed with the flood of complaints. The task of improving their workplace seemed enormous, but they decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Senior management started by doing a cultural assessment and mapping out a plan. They began with a number of simple fixes to jumpstart the process. They revamped their respectful workplace policy, as well as held a training day for all staff to inform them of the current cultural assessment. Supervisors and management began joining employees in the common area during breaks.

To begin the long-term work of culture change, the organization initiated dialogue with staff and instituted weekly check-ins. They also revamped their performance management process to include a quarterly focus on employees’ goals, and provided all supervisors with training on conflict resolution and how to give effective feedback. These, along with a number of other changes, started to slowly shift their workplace culture in the right direction.

Now several months into the process, they are beginning to see the positive results! Staff are happier and more engaged, which has led to better productivity and an improvement in the quality of work being done. Their human resources department feels supported by management, and complaints have dropped as supervisors gain confidence in their ability to coach and support employees.
This organization realized that it would take time to replace the unhealthy culture with a healthy one, and that it couldn’t happen all at once. As a result of their patient and intentional work, they have seen a slow but marked improvement in their culture.

Culture is often so ingrained that people take it for granted. When we recognize that there are long-standing issues that we need to address, the work ahead can feel overwhelming, but culture won’t be improved with one-off initiatives like taco Tuesday or yearly surveys. Culture develops over time, and therefore takes time to change. Taking small steps to create a culture that will become the new standard may feel like slow work, but the rewards of a healthier culture are more than worth the wait.




How will you do in a Job search?

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Abstract: This article is the first in a series that explores the critical success factors of being successful in a competitive recruitment process.  Getting a ‘gig’ as an interim requires essentially the same method as landing a permanent job.  The primary difference is that the cycle time from initial contact to the decision on a potential interim engagement is much faster than it is when a permanent candidate is under consideration.  The articles on this topic are focused on helping the reader improve their probability of success in fiercely competitive recruitment, and all recruitments are competitive.

I have been involved with a lot of recruiting, and it is impressive that not only are individuals with executive talent significantly different, but their job seeking abilities are equally disparate.  In some cases, it is disheartening to witness how poorly some of these ‘professionals’ are prepared to compete head’s up in a talent search.  There have been cases where I knew a candidate and knew them to be much better than they came across in interviews.

I place most of the blame for poor job seeking performance at the feet of the incumbents, but I have been equally disappointed at how poorly some executive recruiters AKA headhunters prepare their recommended candidates to be successful in a competitive executive search AKA a beauty pageant.

In many respects, a search is a beauty pageant, hence the name.  All too frequently, the candidate selected is the one that is most charismatic to the decision maker(s) and not necessarily the best credentialed, experienced or qualified.  Sometimes personal biases, ulterior motives or politics influence executive search outcomes.  I believe that one of the reasons that some executives do so poorly in searches is that job hustling is not something they regularly do so their interviewing skills and other skills necessary to advance in a search are not well developed and practiced.  Getting yourself hired is a much more intense, skill dependent process than I believe many candidates appreciate.  This is especially true if you harbor disdain for selling.

Time after time, I have participated in executive recruitment where unprepared candidates spent the majority of their time just being themselves and treating their interview (at-bat) as a casual encounter like you would expect in a bar.  Zig Ziglar and others argue that most everything in life amounts to selling.  Like any other skill, the skill of selling (yourself) requires study, practice, and development if it is to be executed successfully.   Candidates that come up short in these competitions frequently blame recruiters or hiring decision makers instead of taking a look into their mirror.

If there was ever a time that your success selling is critical, it is when you are trying to sell strangers on the concept that hiring you will advance their personal and corporate objectives.  It is hard to tell where the adage came from, but sources suggest that people buy for only two reasons; solutions to problems or good feelings.  If you intend to successfully convince the hiring decision maker that you are the correct choice among a strong field of competitors, to which of their motivations do you want to appeal?  If you do not believe that a hiring decision maker is choosing the candidate, they feel will best make their life easier or themselves more successful, you are naive.  What do you do when you are the decision maker on a recruitment?

Some hiring decision makers are not very sophisticated, and as I have facilitated searches, I have observed them making bizarre, irrational or emotional decisions when choosing a candidate from a search pool.  For example, I witnessed a C-Suite candidate getting ruled out of a search because his wife had a visible tattoo on her leg.  Others are more deliberate and analytical, and they will make a more objective, reasoned decision.  What kind of decision maker are you up against?  How can you tell?   Of course, this assumes you ever make it past step one.

Executive recruitment, especially a retained search is like a funnel or a pyramid.  The recruiter starts with a large number of applications from initial sourcing and gets down to less than ten that are presented to the client.  If the initial sourcing turns up 300 potential candidates which is common and you put your pony into the show, you have about a 10% chance of getting to a phone interview with the recruiter and then about a 30% chance of getting an interview with the hiring decision-maker.  The cumulative probability that any candidate will make it to an in-person interview in a hospital is around 3% or less.  Everything being equal (which is never the case), your probability of being selected after an in-person interview is about 20% to 30% making your overall probability of being hired in any particular search at around 1% or less.  The question is, what do you need to do to raise your game to come across as a better alternative than 99% of the competitors you will be up against in your next search?  There are at least four candidate controllable areas that could make the difference the next time you decide to pursue an opportunity inside or outside your current situation.

Qualification for the job

While it should be rote to assume that a candidate in a search is appropriately qualified, that is often not the case.  If you are not qualified and you know it, save yourself and the recruiter some time, don’t waste it by applying for a job you cannot win.  Qualifications include education, experience, relevance to the situation and credentialing.  It is too late to start working on any of these requirements when you become aware of an opportunity.  In other words, if you desire career advancement, start preparing yourself NOW.  If you wait until opportunities present themselves, you are late before the process even begins.

Resume or CV

Your resume is arguably the essential tool needed to get a job.  Your resume is you and speaks for you in those critical first seconds when the appeal of your CV or lack thereof gets you ruled in or out of the first round of consideration.  I have read sources that say that you are lucky if your CV spends thirty seconds in front of a reader before a decision occurs as to whether or not the candidate moves forward.  I have been in this situation when a net is cast, and before you know it, there are hundreds of CVs to review for a position.  After the first twenty or so, the review process speeds up dramatically.  Developing a winning resume is beyond the scope of this article, but you should not underestimate the power of your CV to move you forward or get you eliminated from a search – long before you ever have a chance to speak for yourself.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions or interim services.  I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations.  Some of my feedback is coming from people that are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries..

If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, you can reach me at


CEOs shouldn’t pick their replacements

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While CEOs may be intimately familiar with their companies, their opinion should take a backseat to the organization’s board of directors, according to Stanford (Calif.) University business school professor David Larcker, PhD, and researcher Brian Tayan.

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, the authors note that while it was once general practice for CEOs to pick their successors, changes to corporate governance in recent years have shifted the balance of power to a company’s “independent, professional, outside directors.”

The authors claim that allowing a company’s CEO outsize influence on the hiring of their successor is a mistake because the CEO may not have the right perspective on evaluating candidates and may intentionally or unintentionally control the information presented to the board about candidates, shaping the board’s decision about those individuals.

“At the end of a long career, many CEOs are concerned about their legacy. This can bias them toward favoring candidates who will guide the company in the same direction — and in the same manner — that they themselves led it,” they write.

Instead, the authors argue that a company’s board should be responsible for the final hiring decision and use the CEO’s input to help come to that conclusion.

“Hiring the CEO is a fiduciary duty. The board owes it to the shareholders … to get it right. A subcommittee of independent directors with previous experience in succession at other companies should manage the process, with an open invitation to all board members to participate. If the board doesn’t have depth of experience in place, it can bring in an outside adviser to help,” they write.

To access the full report, click here.


Are healthcare jobs safe from AI? More so than many might think

No occupation will be unaffected by the technology, but healthcare will be affected less than other industries, owing much to its inherent complexity

Across the country and across industries, workers are nervous that automation and artificial intelligence will eventually take over their jobs. For some, those fears may be grounded in reality.

Healthcare, however, looks like it will be largely safe from that trend, a new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program finds.

Examining a chunk of time from the 1980s to 2016, the piece tracks the historical evolution of the technology and uses those findings to project forward to 2030.

The verdict? AI will replace jobs in various industries, but not so much in healthcare.


AI is projected to be an increasingly common form of automation, and the report claims the effects should be manageable in the aggregate labor market. Uncertainty remains, of course, and the effects will vary greatly — across geography, demographics and occupations.

Overall, though, only about 25 percent of U.S. jobs are at a high risk of replacement by automation. That translates to about 36 million jobs, based on 2016 data.

A higher percentage, 36 percent, are at medium risk (52 million jobs) while the largest group is the low-risk group, at 39 percent (57 million jobs).

Most of healthcare belongs in the medium-to-low categories, largely driven by the complexity of healthcare jobs. Still, the risk varies wildly. Medical assistants have what the report calls “automation potential” of 54 percent, but home health aids have just an 8 percent automation potential. Registered nurses sit somewhere in between, at 54 percent.

For healthcare support occupations, the number is closer to 49 percent; healthcare practitioners and technical jobs have 33 percent automation potential.


The report emphasizes that while some occupations will be safer from automation than others, no industry will be unaffected totally. Mundane tasks will be the most vulnerable.

Fortunately for those in the industry, there’s little in healthcare that’s mundane. AI and machine learning algorithms tend to rely on large quantities of data to be effective, and that data needs human hands to collect it and human eyes to analyze it.

And since AI in healthcare is currently utilized mainly to aggregate and organize data — looking for trends and patterns and making recommendations — a human component is very much needed, an opinion shared by several experts, who point out that empathy are reasoning skills are required in the field.