How Your Building should be Building Your Culture

Posted by on Apr, Wed, 2019 in My work | 0 comments

Article was written by Carol Ring

Office Building

When we talk about culture we often refer to how work gets done. Today, I’d like to explore where that work gets done.

Does your office building provide amazing support or is it just a contained place to congregate?

Whenever I think about culture and the physical workspace, I recall the time I attended a Board meeting in Toronto. It was being held at the new offices of Corus Entertainment on the waterfront. I hopped out of the taxi and there before me was an eight-story, all glass building. The automatic sliding doors opened into a tall, bright space where you could see right through to Lake Ontario at the back of the building. A small information desk welcomed me. A quick check-in resulted in an “ambassador” greeting me and guiding me to the glass-enclosed meeting room.

When I returned to my own office, the contrast couldn’t have been more different. The entrance way was confined with swipe card required turnstiles and a formal security sign-in desk. There were floors and floors of cubicles and vault-like meeting rooms. It was definitely designed to maximize density. Not that one office was better than the other, but the “feel”, the message about the culture was poles apart.

The Workplace Fundamentals

When taking your physical workspace into consideration there are two aspects that must be considered. The first is to account for the different types of work our employees engage in every day. The second is how to translate the core of your culture into the elements of the furniture, walls, and flooring.

Four types of work mode:

  1. Focus: Basex, an American research firm, indicates that the average employee spends 28% of their time dealing with interruptions. And yet, these same employees recorded that 58% of their work requires them to individually focus for long periods of time. Large open spaces just aren’t conducive for maximizing outputs for this type of work. Consider incorporating small cubbies with sound absorbing acoustic furniture and “quiet” zones that allow employees to focus and get absorbed in their work.
  2. Collaboration: The whole idea behind the open office concept was to increase collaboration and team alignment. However, since employees don’t spend 100% of their time collaborating, does it really make sense to lock them into this kind of environment for 100% of their workday? Creating spaces where people can authentically come together, with readily available technology that supports brainstorming, will generate better group efforts. Consider appropriate spaces for small group work which can easily be augmented for bigger teams.
  3. Learning: In today’s Knowledge Economy professional development is key. This development can be delivered in a town hall group setting or through self-study, or any other training delivery method in between. Having an adaptable space that can be set up as a classroom or comfortable informal learning pods encourages employees to engage in learning opportunities.
  4. Socialization: The pressure at work can be intense. In order to be most productive, employees need to take breaks and regenerate. I love Dr. Posner’s analogy of high performing hockey teams. Each player takes a 30-second shift and then returns to the bench to rest. There are intermissions between periods, days between games, and finally a long break before the next season. How can you create spaces that will encourage employees to take a rest from work and either engage in solitary walks in nature or socialize with co-workers? One way to do this is to use a mix of bar top tables, diner-style booths, or casual occasional table with couches and chairs. It’s about creating the neighborhood Starbucks experience.

Incorporating Culture into the Physical Space

The best office designers spend time researching their client’s culture. Is family important? If so, how do we build that family feel into the furniture elements? Is innovation critical? How do we use colour, texture, and layout to inspire invention?

How is your building working for you? Corus says their building has, “revolutionized how Corus delivers its technical product and at the same time the building has transformed the way the Corus’ team works.”

About our Guest Blogger:
Carol Ring, FCPA FCMA is the Founder and President of The Culture Connection. For over 25 years, Carol had the privilege of working for companies including Ultramar, Coca-Cola and Rogers Communications. Her high-performance corporate results earned her recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.  Today, as a certified culture consultant, Carol is obsessed with creating workplaces that move employees from passive passengers to passionate partners.
Carol offers culture-specific assessments, leadership workshops and training, and conference keynotes.  Clients who work with Carol experience reduced employee turnover, improved productivity and better bottom line results.
She is the author of IGNITE Your Culture – 6 Steps to Fuel Your People, Profits and Potential and Awakening the Workplace. Learn more about Carol at


Overwhelm vs. Acceptance & Self-Compassion

Posted by on Apr, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

Sea stones at sunset


We all have had those days and weeks where we wonder what more can possibly happen and we sink into overwhelm.

That was me last week, feeling a little under the weather, not sleeping well and had two close family members hospitalized. At first, I fought being overwhelmed and it wasn’t until I decided to fully accept where I was at and use self-compassion that I was able to shift into calm, functioning mode again.

It’s funny, as I write this I think to myself, that doesn’t sound like a lot – yet it was at the time. It’s so easy to jump into judgment when these things happen to us or someone else.

Tip on how to get out of overwhelm:

  1. Acknowledge what you are really experiencing. Don’t minimize it, don’t try to push through.
  2. Take time out to determine what you personally need right now.
  3. Ask for help – whether it’s helping to complete tasks, emotional support, or something else, ask for what you need.
  4. Practice self-compassion! Treat yourself like you would treat a best friend (or even better).
  5. What can you reasonably take off your load? I pushed out a couple of deadlines, made some changes to my blog schedule and took some much needed time off.
  6. Engage in self-nurturing behaviours. Take a walk, have a healthy meal, a hot bath or whatever nurtures you.
  7. Breathe. Slow down and simply breathe. This too shall pass.

When in overwhelm, our bodies produce a great deal of adrenalin and it taxes our system – often resulting in getting physically ill. So taking time to relax, refresh and replenish ourselves – both physically and emotionally is vital.

Self-care is important to maintain your mental health. You deserve it. Your team deserves it.

Lessons About Conflict from the Beautiful Jack Pine Tree

Posted by on Mar, Wed, 2019 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

Jack Pine March 20


The beautiful Jack Pine tree of northern Canada has become famous by the hands of Canadian Painter, Tom Thomson.

What you may not know about the Jack Pine tree is that it is very resistant to many forces in nature. It can flourish in harsh conditions and grows in colder climates. Yet, it requires challenging conditions of significant heat to open the pine cone and release its seed. In fact, it experiences rebirth after forest fires – nature’s conflict – as many seeds are released. In other words, through embracing conflict, the Jack Pine thrives.

Like the Jack Pine, teams need to embrace conflict to be successful. I suppose if we gave a human voice to a Jack Pine tree, it might say that it feared being destroyed by fire; yet it is the very thing that can ensure its survival. After all, it’s estimated that conflict costs Canadian organizations over $16.1 Billion per year!

Team members avoid conflict for a multitude of reasons that in their fear-based position make sense, and; in reality, create even more difficulty and strife for them.

Leaders need to learn how to embrace healthy conflict themselves. Many leaders fear conflict might rage like a forest fire and tend to squelch it. Other leaders charge into conflict like a raging fire and also tend to silence the voice of the team. It’s time for Conflict 2.0.

In my work as a Team Dynamics Specialist, it has become crystal clear to me that conflict is the solution. It is merely individuals having different points of view. All are valid, and need to be listened to, and enveloped in curiosity. Simply because within those differences lies the seeds of growth.

If we assumed that all parties in a discussion had important and useful input that when shared and explored could result in even better results would that not reduce the irrational fears that teams typically bring to conflict?

It is high time to explore the conflict in your team and to reap the benefits of that growth through exploring the differences with respect, honour, and curiosity.

To begin the process, it is very helpful to have a coach to lead the way to enable a new culture around differences and to explore the hidden “seeds” of opportunity that your team has been holding in.

Trust or No Trust?

Posted by on Mar, Wed, 2019 in Communication, Leadership | 0 comments

March 6th

When I begin to work with clients, it is common to find challenges with trust. Many teams have conflict and difficulty because there is little, or at times, no trust in one another. When this happens, it’s important to get assistance right away to rebuild the trust.

Let’s look at TRUST bit by bit:

T is for Transparency. Leaders that share freely and openly what is happening throughout the agency with others build trust. The old style of management was to hold the information and only share it as needed. High trust environments require sufficient trust from leaders to communicate the information in a timely and clear manner. Consider a regular e-newsletter or meeting to share upcoming changes in team, funding and other news, while ensuring every team member has the same access to the information across the organization.

R is for Relationships. The quality of your relationships with partner agencies, funders, team members and clients highly impacts your level of success. Ensuring that you are respectful, honest, using candor and listening to deeper issues, build trust in relationships. Leaders who have positive relationships built on consistency, collaboration and congruency will build trust with employees. Ensure you are consistent with what you say you will do, act in the same manner you wish your employees to and ensure that you are holding both yourself and your team members accountable.

U is for Understanding. Make the investment to fully appreciate what your staff is experiencing in terms of successes and challenges in their work. By fully understanding their world, you can ensure that policies and procedures serve both your team and your clients’ needs. When you don’t understand another individual’s perspective, ask open-ended questions that you don’t know the answer to. Also, regularly ask yourself what your assumptions are in the moment and ask questions with genuine curiosity to ensure you have a thorough understanding of the other person’s perspective.

S is for Shared Success. Creating a clear vision of shared success is important to bring your Mission Statement to life every day. Uncover potential barriers to good work and seek creative solutions to resolve them. Don’t just see these comments as complaints but instead, investigate to understand and then seek solutions. Make time to celebrate your successes with one another and as an agency as a means to build momentum, so that your shared vision comes to life. Begin each supervision meeting, or team meeting, with a check in where individuals can share their biggest win or challenge they want help with. Celebrate those wins! And make time to brainstorm solutions to those challenges.

T is for Team. Creating teams based on mutual respect, communication, and fair treatment is needed for trust. Holding individuals accountable even when it is difficult is important. Without accountability, trust is broken. If some individuals are allowed to engage in behaviour that is less than the definition of shared success, then other team members will eventually resent it and often conflict results. By upholding team expectations in this way, team members will trust that you have their best interests at heart and will give more discretionary effort.

When trust is lacking in an organization, there will be more conflict and a lack of appropriate accountability. However, with higher trust comes increased staff engagement, reduced turnover and deeper dedication to your organization!

If you are struggling with T-R-U-S-T in your organization, let’s have a conversation and start to turn it around today.

Are you Building Capacity or Micro-Managing Your Team Members?

Posted by on Feb, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments


Getting a promotion to a management position comes with both perks and challenges. The increase in income is always welcome, and shifting out of your comfort zone of competence is part of the transition as well.

One of my clients really struggled with Managers who had not shifted from a front-line perspective to leadership strategy thinking. The challenge was each time that a client was in crisis, a Manager would step in and work through the situation, not with her direct reports, but directly with the client.

This has a plethora of challenges with it. For one, it gave a strong message to front-line staff that they were not trusted to, nor seen as competent to work through the situation. Secondly, there was no opportunity to increase staff capacity for future situations that might arise. And, finally, her behaviour of taking over role modeled enabling vs. empowering others, thus creating dependency on her to fix any crisis.

When we dug deeper into the situation, we learned that this pattern of behaviour filled a need in this Manager that was not being met as part of her Manager’s role. She was a very skilled specialist at front-line crisis work and gained much satisfaction from assisting clients. Her long-term pattern of behaviour left her Director questioning if she was suitable as a Manager, or would be best to find work elsewhere with client work.

As individuals shift roles, with new and different responsibilities, it is equally important to shift their mindset! So if you have a manager who is struggling, it’s time to do the following:

  1. As an Executive Director or senior leader, ask yourself if you are engaging in micro-managing activities. Be thoroughly honest with yourself. It can be helpful to ask for direct feedback from your team members. If you get feedback that you are it’s time to review what is motivating you and shift your mindset. Working with a coach who specializes in leadership and team dynamics can be invaluable in this process.
  2. Once you have looked in your “own backyard”, it’s time to the take next step in the organization. Have a coaching meeting with the individual to help them to work through the impact of their behaviour. It is likely that they are blind to their behaviour and impact of it. This is your opportunity to build up their leadership capacity! Start by asking open-ended questions about what their hopes were from the situation. (Hint: every micro-manager that I have coached started out with a response like, ”I was saving time,” and the all famous, “I don’t have time to micro-manage”).
  3. Sample questions might include: How do you think your choice to do the direct line work impacted your direct reports? What message might they have received by observing you? (Hint: Look for both positive outcomes and challenges here). What needs in you did this fill? How might you increase capacity building the next time a similar situation arises?
  4. Be transparent with them. Let them know the challenges you had in switching roles and the steps that helped you in doing so. This will help to normalize their challenge. Then spend the time to explore the long term implications of micro-managing. It’s time to coach this person to build their leadership capacity.

Be a role model through your leadership style and coaching. This will build the capacity you desire in your managers and create leaders!

Never Reprimand an Employee

Posted by on Feb, Wed, 2019 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

February 6 - never reprimand (2)

During a coaching session with an inexperienced Executive Director, the advice she had received from a Board member was to “reprimand” her employee. As a team dynamics specialist, this sent chills through me. The energy of the word “reprimand” is one of parental, power, and control. And let’s face it, who wants to be to reprimanded or controlled?

At the same time, I was reading Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and right at the chapter about shame. When we reprimand someone, we tend to shame them. And shame creates isolation and lack of team cohesion. So, if an employee is having challenges, simply hold them accountable for their behaviour.

Accountability is a process of mutual respect and encouragement. And, when done well, will enhance your relationship with the employee and build trust within your team.

Here are 5 things to consider when you need to hold a team member accountable:

  1. Make it about behaviour. Don’t fall into the vague notion of “bad attitude”, instead share the specific behaviours that create concern and how these impact your employee, team, and organization.
  2. Don’t make it about you and your personal preferences. Instead, focus on what is best for the organization as a whole.
  3. Be aware of your old wounds and personal triggers so you don’t work them out with your team. For example, if you have a tendency to feel that people are undermining you, get some coaching to work through this. Many times, when we work through our wounds, others simply show up differently.
  4. Be honest, and lean in. Don’t avoid these important conversations; instead, have so much esteem for your team member that you honour them by being respectfully honest and encouraging. After all, how can they make changes if they are not aware of what needs to change?
  5. Ask questions to understand where they were coming from. Avoid the use of “why” as it has an undertone of blame. Blame leads to shame. Instead, ask them to help you understand their rationale for their choice.

Let me be clear here, I’m not saying to ignore inappropriate or unhelpful behaviour! Instead, help them see the impact that is experienced by others when they engage in the behaviour. Help them to understand that it’s in the best interest of all (including them) to shift their behaviour.

When you regularly use these five hints, you will find better results. Shift from blame and shame (reprimand) to openness and caring (accountability). Build the trust on your team and get even greater respect from your employees.

Bonus Point: Just as you are about to go into the accountability meeting, make a list of 3 things that you appreciate about the employee. This will enable you to start the conversation from a place of caring and make it easier for the other person to hear. Through this type of honest connection, people listen better and respond more openly too!

The Real Impacts of Poor Team Dynamics

Posted by on Jan, Wed, 2019 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

13 Personality Traits of Disengaged Employee, Human Resources Co

Often reduced to petty interpersonal disagreements, poor team dynamics impact every aspect of your organization, both internal and external. As a team dynamics consultant, I’m called upon when these team dynamics are challenging.

Common symptoms of my clients at the beginning are infighting, silos, personal disagreements, high rates of sick time and staff turnover, to name a few. Yet many Executive Directors negate the seriousness of these dynamics to being just interpersonal conflict.

Let’s take one non-profit organization/client I worked with 5 years ago as an example. They had poor team dynamics, constant conflict in the organization. As a result, the internal staff did not want to come to work as they were highly stressed – many experienced burnout, and felt negative about their work.

While it had a strong impact on employees, it also had strongly impacted their reputation in the community – community members did not like the rude treatment, the judgment and negativity they experienced when interacting with employees. If you had done a Google Search on this client at the time, they received very low star reviews (about 2). Today they rate at 4.5 – the only difference is that they addressed the team dynamics and now staff wants to come to work, and are happy at work.

Their poor reputation in the community strongly impacted their ability to fundraise. This year, in a single fundraising event alone they surpassed the amount of money it took them an entire year to raise prior to our work together!

And it goes further! Unhappy employees, like unhappy customers, tend to chat whether it’s to friends or on their social media accounts. Websites like Glass Door allow individuals to rate their employer. It doesn’t take many negative reviews before your reputation as an employer is damaged.

Rest assured, your potential employees are doing an online search about your organization before applying for jobs! The challenge is that a person who would be a great team member that values the culture above other factors, will not apply for your position.

So if you are experiencing the symptoms of poor team dynamics, don’t ignore them! Let’s chat!
You can’t afford to ignore them. Let’s work together and get your organization filled with motivated, happy employees who do the extra effort for your organization! Build that positive reputation in your community!

Reflection Time: The Powerful Process for Full Potential

Posted by on Jan, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

Elegant And Stylish Bronze Vintage Sandglass With Trickling Whit
As an Executive Director, your time is at a premium. So as we begin January and enter the final quarter of your year, it is time to take a short time out for some personal reflection. While this may seem like a frivolous suggestion, it’s an opportunity for you to stop, reflect and plan the next steps for your organization’s success.

Set aside 3 hours for an offsite reflection process. Choose a time during the week when you are least likely to be interrupted. Then find a location that fits the budget of your organization, it is best if it’s not a normal meeting place as it will allow you to review things in a different light. All you need is a pen, journal/notebook and a comfortable place you can focus on that is away from your work. Shut off your cell phone and let everyone know you are unreachable for the 3 hour period.

Make or order yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee and reflect on these areas:

1.  What are the Objectives for the current year? 

In what areas are you surpassing each of your organization’s objectives, or simply meeting it or not on target to meet it? What factors are creating the successes? What are the barriers that still need to be overcome? Are these objectives still relevant to the current situation?

How are you personally leading, showing up and responding to these? How might you be even more effective in these areas?

2.  What are the Biggest Wins of the year? 

Again, what lead to these successes? What were the key components and players that enabled these outcomes to be achieved?

Next, look below the surface of this to identify the team members that played a role in getting these results. Set aside time this week to write out personal thank you cards to each person.

3.  What were our Biggest Challenges of the year?

Look at the stuck points that have arisen. What created these challenges?  Are there any over-arching themes? What do we need to find different solutions for? What can you learn from this information going forward?

4.  How might you apply the above learnings to achieve the best results for your last quarter?

5.  What do you need to stop doing to be most effective in the upcoming quarter and for the remainder of the calendar year?


During each question, think of your personal leadership, and the leadership of each level of your organization. Now, once you have your reflections, you can do a similar process in your next leadership team meeting. And then they can do the process with their team and so on.

Engaging in self-reflective practice can uncover the gems of success and the hidden barriers to reaching your agency’s potential.

Of course, if you wish that you could have an Executive Coach to facilitate this session with either you or your team, please connect with me today.

Contact me now!

Isn’t Conflict Exciting?

Posted by on Dec, Wed, 2018 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

Conflict And Solution Tex - Business Concepts

Thinking about conflict gets me energized!

Yes, you are probably thinking I’m odd right now…and let me tell you what’s happening for me. As a consultant and coach, I recognize that I have an unusual ability (perhaps it’s a gift) to hold space for healthy conflict to happen.

I’ve been doing research and a great deal of thinking about conflict. It’s very expensive to Canadian Business with an estimated cost of $161 Billion annually. Leaders avoid it, team members avoid it and a lot of needed information is left unshared. It’s an epidemic in our organizations!

Yet, so many books are written on it, Crucial Conversations, Dealing with Difficult Conversations; to name a few. What’s getting in the way of engaging in conflict or even embracing conflict?

One of the key things from my research and reflection is that we are struggling with conflict because we all believe the 160-year old definition – that conflict is a lose-win or lose-lose scenario. Carl Marx proposed that there were an inherent inequality and high potential for loss in any conflict. Yet, here we are in Canada in 2018 and the assumption is no longer accurate.

You see, using this definition, we hold back sharing honest information as our subconscious tells us we are at risk. We make an assumption and it’s below our consciousness.

We are no longer living in a landowner; servant society. In Canada, we have laws that protect employees, yet we continue to act like conflict can kill or seriously harm us.

Next time you have a conflict arise (even what’s been called a difficult conversation) ask yourself,

“Am I really at risk?”

Chances are that the risks of embracing the conversation are very low, while the benefits of exploring the differences are huge.

In my experience, as a co-worker and as a consultant, each time I have embraced conflict and had the conversation, I have ended up with a closer relationship, a better solution and getting better results.

#MeFirst Campaign – 7 Suggestions to Energize You

Posted by on Nov, Wed, 2018 in Motivation | 0 comments

Musical Puppy

It’s time to focus on self-care. I’m suggesting a #MeFirst Campaign where you begin to focus on your own needs and desires.

I’m hearing people bogged down by the recent time change, the dark mornings and generally feeling tired.  So, by fulfilling your needs to be nurtured and pampered, you’ll actually have more bandwidth to be there for your team.

So, here are 7 ways you can do some quick self-care:

  1. Take a Break – Yes, this is self-care 101 – take timeouts. Research shows that this improves your ability to think and problem solve. So, schedule 10 to 15 minute breaks into your day.
  2. Focus on YOU – What makes you feel joyful? Perhaps you can put your earbuds in and listen to your favourite tunes for 5 minutes? Or it may be a guided meditation that energizes you, whatever sounds can re-charge you, take a quick listen.
  3. Sleep – Allow yourself to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep hygiene is getting to bed at a consistent time every night so that your body has a clear rest cycle. Shut down your laptop at least 40 minutes prior to shut-eye time. Don’t listen to the evening news just before falling to sleep, but read, create a gratitude list.
  4. Have Fun! – Schedule fun and laughter for your team. How can you shift the focus on your next team meeting to share joyful moments or a funny story that they’ve experienced? Shifting up the energy of your meeting can then bring forward more creative solutions forward in the remainder of the meeting.
  5. Diet – Yes, pay attention to how you are eating. Make sure you are getting healthy meals and snacks. When you are depleted and eating sweets, your energy will plummet and leave you even more tired. Consider having protein snacks like yogurt, nuts, or even healthy fruits close at hand throughout your day.
  6. Breathe – Take time to take in some deep breaths. This can refocus and recharge your body and mind. You might even visualize yourself at your favourite spot. Mine is at the beach with warm weather and a light breeze. Ah, I’m already feeling more relaxed!
  7. Get some Exercise – Find a way to exercise that you like, whether it’s dancing to your favourite tunes, running or taking a class it doesn’t matter. And finding what you enjoy that allows you to be active is most important because you’ll have fun at the same time.

So what can you do today even if you have only 5 minutes for your #MeFirst moment? Make yourself a priority in your day and energize yourself so you can be present for yourself and your team members today.