Culture Renovation with Kevin Oakes

By Marcel Schwantes

Kevin Oakes is an author, the CEO and co-founder of The Institute for Corporate Productivity, and is on the Board of Directors at Performativ. He has been a pioneer in the human capital field for the past 25 years and is an international keynote speaker on culture, leadership and talent management. His most recent book, Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company, is a practical guide to forging organizational cultures that re-humanize work. He joins Marcel Schwantes to discuss how to successfully facilitate culture change. According to Kevin, 85% of organizations that attempt to improve their organizational culture fail. A common misstep is that they do not acquire the cooperation of the whole organization, nor create the mentality needed to bring about a culture change. [4:54] Marcel asks Kevin how the pandemic has affected organizational cultures. “There's no escaping the reality that cultures have changed during the pandemic, and that change wasn't necessarily [started by the leaders],” he replies. “Many organizations are recognizing that we need to be a little more proactive about the culture that we want going forward.” [8:25] In every organization, there is a certain person (or people) along the chain of command that everyone goes to for information, answers and assistance. “[They are] internal rock stars that everything seems to pass through,” Kevin says. “While those people are usually invaluable to a company, they also are possibly suffering from collaborative overload.” He explains the effects of collaborative overload on the victims as well as the organization. [12:56] “For the sake of the employees’ psyches, [leaders] should settle on the communication channels that they are going to use internally,” Kevin comments. Oftentimes different departments will use different communications channels, and employees get stretched thin across many platforms because they are never sure who is going to want to communicate with them. [16:35]  Organizations with the most successful culture changes and initiatives are those who train their leaders in all five types of leadership behaviors, research shows. [21:10] Marcel asks Kevin to share tips for leaders on communicating change during times of uncertainty. Leaders need to speak up during periods of societal unrest, Kevin responds. “Internally, your workforce is going to reflect the external environment. Reinforce your values and purpose, and affirm that differences in opinions is okay as long as there is mutual respect. A team wins when it’s united.” [23:37] “[On an individual and organizational level], we listen merely to reply, not to understand,” Kevin remarks. “The first step in all of the 18 action steps [from my book] is to develop and deploy a comprehensive listening strategy.” Many executives assume they understand the culture of their organization before they attempt to change it and often make mistakes, he adds. [30:01] A lot of things try to divide us, but when we take the time to listen to each other, the divisiveness goes away, Kevin advises. He urges listeners to focus on listening to understand and not just to reply. [39:17] Resources Kevin Oakes on LinkedIn | Twitter Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company

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