Leading for Diversity Executive Leadership Retreat

Executive summary

Nowadays, in this increasingly business environment change, the organization’s culture plays a key role in its success. Indeed, an organization with a powerful corporate culture including leadership, diversity and inclusion can consistently pretend to a tremendous performance.

Besides, leaders who are able to understand the importance of the organization’s culture change while they are developing and implementing their strategy, are those who are able to achieve a substantial and long lasting performance and achieving the company’s goals. Also, the employee’s dynamic, effectiveness and efficiency are linked to the organization’s culture. It defines what employees stand for.

Therefore, most organizations need a cultural transformation program in order to gain and sustain their competitive advantage. So, through this paper we will define a cultural transformation program for an organization that we will name the “new co”.

Our approach is the following:

Diagnosis of the current culture of the organization and the leadership style

  • Brief overview of New co’s current culture
  • Top management style
  • Employees ‘s perception of the organization
  • Example of typical working place situations

Defining the main current leadership weaknesses and needs

  • program proposal:
    • Measures for top management
    • Measures for middle managers
    • Measures for employees

Put down an action plan

Our Cultural Transformation Program as Leaders for Diversity

When a new CEO is nominated, especially in a reform mission, he’s facing two big dilemmas: First to affirm his power, and second to understand the corporation in its all aspects (identity, culture, values …). The risk here is to take too much time to understand the company’s culture and be stuck on the loop, that’s why embarking in a transformation wave is highly needed.

 We were invited in this context, by the CEO in a consultant mission to diagnose an actual situation on the company and suggest a cultural transformation plan to integrate more leadership, more diversity and inclusion. The president was clear enough about his vision of this new organization; he wanted to promote innovation and agility in order to reinvent the production and collaboration systems by placing the human capital and the digital in the heart of this transformation.

            The new co’s company was ready to open up the doors for us, and the most important thing is that we had unlimited access to the information either by observing with actors or by gathering files and documents. At first, we focused our diagnosis on four main approaches:

  • Meetings: Since we had the green card, we were allowed to observe and assist all type of work meeting including management committees and crisis meeting.
  • Interviews: we have conducted many interviews in a formal and informal ways (in the corridor, on the fields …) our main objective was to understand the culture rather than to be invasive. We have interviewed all the corporation circles: top management, middle management and employees, in the headquarters and in the industrial sites
  • Surveys: in parallel, we have launched anonymous surveys to the employees about the culture of the corporation, the management and leadership style, about diversity in order to measure the perception of the employees about these aspects.
  • Shadowing: From the surveys that we have launched at all levels, some directions and production units had surprising results and aberrations. That is why we’ve decided to shadow key people from top management, middle management and employees.

From this immense human and field oriented work we have captured four main topics that required an important focus:

Conflict between generation: ancient and new employees

Since many years, the recruitment of managers has stopped, but last year with the coming of the new president, HR department have recruited a huge amount of young talents, which create a gap between generations. At that time, the new young recruits adopted the word “old school” to describe their managers. This was one of the top conclusions from our different interviews and data collected.

In the context of new co’s company, this term was polysemous, in fact, the word isn’t flattering, because, in the eyes of the new recruits; “old school” doesn’t mean the wise manager with strong experience that could guide the new generation and help them canalize their energy and potential in an appropriate way. In the opposite, he represents to them, that old minded manager that acted and reacted following old references: withdrawal, hierarchical management, inhibition of initiative, no reactivity, opacity and failure’s rationalization. And vice versa, the new generation are told to be not disciplined and extremely liberated which present a risk for the balance of the business.

            In fact, this show the importance of getting rid of the assumptions made by the two parts and, find the right balance in order to collaborate and move forward.

Lack of autonomy in decision making and liberation on energies

The survey about leadership and management style revealed important aspects of the style of management in new co’s, especially in three production units (mechanical maintenance, drilling and flotation) where the results were very surprising and doubtable about the middle management and their teams.

From the survey and from field interviews, we have observed situations related to lack of autonomy and liberation of energies in the workplace. In fact, we have noticed that employees in problem solving meeting were not allowed to propose new ideas or solutions, even worst they were not allowed to take responsibilities and make decisions for some small actions before having the confirmation of the boss.

In a nutshell, employees in some critical production units, need more autonomy in the workplace, they need to be prepared to take decisions and promote good listening and exchanging with managers. Moreover, actions must be handled at the most immediate and consistent level. That is why managers need to be field oriented, very close to their teams in order to build mutual trust.

Hierarchical organization (top down) & Information holding

From the shadowing process, we noticed that The new co’s style of management is very hierarchical, from top to down, with a structure which the power belongs to the position rather than individual, this prevent employees to have higher level of responsibility and accountability for their work, as well as co-active leadership and active listening

Furthermore, one of the attitude of this top down organization is the information holding, In industrial sites employees have difficulties finding and sharing information; especially in a context that required a solid knowledge management; This attitude is a way to gain in power and privilege and also to be protected. This attitude is represented in headquarter by the organization in silos and by the partitioning of different directions. Moreover, the lack of digital tools related to knowledge management promote highly this bad attitude.


From the process of interviews and surveys, we ‘have noticed that meritocracy affects highly the workplace conditions. Since it’s a central aspect of human resources management and represent the recognition of people and their contribution to the company’s dynamic.

In fact, we have noticed so many difficulties in this aspect, first, the concept of meritocracy is complex since it takes into consideration: engagement, effort, personal development and performance (individual and collective). The new co’s don’t have structural programs and digital tools to cover these aspects. Second, this concept of meritocracy is based on quantitative measures; it’s subject to judgment and leads to the feelings of injustice and incomprehension, for this reason it is not adopted by all managers.

Program proposal: a new culture for a new organization

As required by the organization’s CEO, the purpose of this cultural transformation program is to build an agile as well as an innovative company, able to reinvent its production and collaboration mode by placing human and digital resources at the heart of its transformation

The recommendations to reinvent the organization’s culture will rely basically on creating a new development cycle of the Group based on maximizing the value of its most strategic resources which is its human capital. This will implicate the implementation of a specific short term program.

The main goal of this short term program is creating a leadership culture aligned with the organization vision and values. Currently the company leadership is not at all aligned with its long term ambition. The choice of the hierarchical mode (top down) as the first coordination tool is the main bottleneck of the progress. In fact, the company does not facilitate the practice of the debate, especially between different hierarchical levels. Therefore, it’s important to establish spaces for dialogue and exchange between managers and their subordinates. Also, managers must learn how to be open to new thoughts, ideas and 360° feedbacks by using wisely the five dimensions of co-active leadership, listening effectively and get rid of assumptions and judgments made in the past.

This transformation is to release the energies by giving the collaborators the possibility and the right to innovate, to express themselves and to be involved in the decision-making process as well as encouraging subsidiarity. It is also about changing both paradigms and the widely held models basically based on assumptions and generating new thought patterns. The big challenge is to balance between the hierarchical decision making process (top down) and the participatory dynamic (bottom up). This will also help ease other problems currently existing within the company such as The intergenerational conflict, the resilience to change, lack of autonomy, employee disengagement.

This culture change will be a new challenge to the management staff at all levels and will help the company to be ready for the transition to the industry of the future that incorporates an enhanced digital vision.

Four technics could be implemented here to fulfill the ultimate goal which is changing the culture of the company to make it more profitable flexible and agile.

  • Co-active leadership : the dimensions of co-active leadership help us access the resources that are available all around us if we can only open our hearts to each other and to our world  (Karen Kimsey-House 2015) the co-active leadership can be applied at all levels within the company employees (top management , middle management , and  subordinates) and they all need to adopt the five dimensions according to the situation they are facing in order to overcome the challenge of top-down hierarchy decision making and generation conflicts.
  • Effective listening: Goethe said “speaking is a need , listening is an art”

Employees and leaders must all have this ability to listen carefully. They can understand and grasp all the data of a problem or the complexity of a company and the human relationships that are tied to it. Big companies should consider « humble and effective listening » as one of the key character traits required of their managers.

So, whether it’s between teammates, with customers, or suppliers, it’s mandatory to listen to each other carefully and with empathy. Do not confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy is a form of approval, a feeling, an emotion, an addiction. Empathy is a deep desire to understand, not to approve.

Taking the time to listen and to meet each other helps to establish a real relationship of trust. This is how the great leaders proceed. They seek to discover the aspirations and needs of their interlocutors. They do not like most people who, instead of listening, mobilize their minds to prepare their response, while the other speaks. When you truly focus on others, a bond is created, which makes them trust you more and therefore, inevitably, more to share with you. They are then a mine of improvement, both for yourself and for your business. This is how leadership is built.

Taking the time to listen and to meet each other helps to establish a real relationship of trust. This is how the great leaders proceed. They seek to discover the aspirations and needs of their interlocutors. They don’t do like most people who, instead of listening, mobilize their minds to prepare their response, while the other speaks. When you truly focus on others, a bond is created, which makes them trust you more and therefore, inevitably, more to share with you. They are then a mine of improvement, both for yourself and for your business. This is how leadership is built.

  • 360 feedbacks: each and every employee or manager should seek for constructive feedbacks and accept it, the most efficient and accurate one is the 360degres feedback. each middle manager or top manager will get a feedback from superiors, peers, and subordinates that can be practically applied to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace, but also serves to leverage other main competencies that manager should have such us :Communication (oral, written, relational efficiency),strategic vision (understanding of the strategic issues of the company, communication and federation of interlocutors around this vision),Management of the activity (decision making, progress monitoring, prevention of problems),Support for employees (mobilization of employees, development of employees and even interlocutors),Mutual help (team work, solidarity),Attitude to change (flexibility, innovation, reaction in unforeseen situations),Adherence to the values ​​of the company.

Proposals for top managers, middle managers, employees.

  • TOP MANAGERS: in terms of co-active leadership, they need to use wisely all the five dimensions which means develop the self-awareness and be in harmony with oneself, be ready to listen effectively, accept and welcome new ideas even if it’s coming from the bottom of the hierarchy, this will lead to create a new dynamic within the employees and move from top-down to bottom-up dimension.

The goal here is to take the top managers out of their comfort zone to the stretch zone where they can learn to harness the full potential of their employees.

New ideas could be implemented here in order to overcome the main challenges mentioned above:

  • Put on place and launch new different programs for all job levels employees. E.g yellow/green/Black belt innovation program, graduate rotational program, high potential program , Commercial international leadership program , CEO exchange program …
  • Challenge the way of work and encourage subsidiarity: meaning that decisions must be made by the closest competent team to the action.
  • Put more young highly educated people in top management rather than old baby boomer people. Young leaders will come with a new vision that is more adapted to today’s world and they would be able to understand the culture of the company and make it more modern without losing its authenticity.

These ideas will help to identify and spot the talents and the high potentials within the company. Emerging high-potentials are the future of the company. They need grooming, attention, and investment. Besides it’s mandatory to ensure they have the tools to step into higher profile leadership roles in the future.

  • Managers: top managers put on place the global vision and the major guidelines for the whole company. But it’s up to the middle management to implement it and to make sure their employees understand it and follow it. Same as top managers, middle managers should embrace themselves and adopt the same approach as their leaders in terms of co-active leadership, effective listening, decision making and seeking 360 degrees’ feedbacks.  They need to enhance their communication skills in order to understand the vision of top management and know how to communicate it to their subordinates. besides they are the ones responsible to identify high potentials among their teams. To do so they have to, first, be familiar with the talent matrix and spot the right person in the right box and then implement IDPs for their team members it will help build a mutual trust.
  • Employees: Since they are complaining about the lack of autonomy and responsibility, employees should, according to the subsidiarity plan, take the lead individually or in group, identify an issue that their business is facing, arise it to their manager and then put on place projects to handle it and solve under the supervision of their manager. The late here with be seen more as a facilitator rather than a manager. Employees also should be able not only to accept constructive feedback but also provide honest ones to their managers.  This way they will be helping their managers to help them.

Action plan

For the sake of having a more powerful and long lasting impact within our organization, the action plan below encompasses an inclusive program held over different time periods. It is designed to foster the leadership skills through specific tasks designed to each audience who will grow together. Many of the programs below require significant effort and motivation, but will for sure adjust the deficiencies in terms of developing the weakness and taking advantage of the strengths of each audience. The progress of the audience will be regularly reviewed in order to provide continuous feedback and realize the short term goals.    

Program Audience Content Duration of course Duration of program Prereq.
Co-active leadership TOP managers and Middle managers Leadership co-active program and workshop  4 days 12 months Required Reading Kimsey-House, Karen and Henry, (2015) Co-Active Leadership: 5 ways to Lead, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1st Edition ISBN-13: 978-1626564565  
Deploy 360 platform feedbacks ALL employees Training and coaching Online, every three months 6 months Platform and training
Sharing experiences with other industrial companies Managers Workshop 2 days   6 months Scheduling the meetings and defining the content of each workshop
Agile employee s Agile methodologies 5 days 18 months Materials and coachings
Effective listening program All employees How to develop active listening 2 days 18 months None  
Talent management program managers How to maintain and develop talent 3 days 6 months None
Active team building Managers with their staff Choose a subject for the event 1 day every 6 months Every year None
New Co’s University   Employees Online e-learning 3 mandatory e-learning every 3 month 18 months Laptop Headphones
Innovation All employees Collect ideas and develop the most interesting ones One idea every month 24 months Lab, Digital lab    
Live my daily work program Employees Each employee will have a day to work with their colleagues in other departments 1 day every six month 24 months  

most organizations need a cultural transformation program in order to gain and sustain their competitive advantage by focusing on their core business. So, through this paper we defined a cultural transformation program for “new co” to answer all the questions and difficulties the management and the employees are facing in their daily job life.


Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House. Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead. Paperback: Berrett-Koehler Publishers;, 2015.

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *