From Toxic to Terrific: A Story of Change
A Consulting Company Case Study
In late 2019, a coaching client referred me to the CEO of a boutique consulting firm in South Africa. The CEO’s style of leadership – collaborative and diplomatic – was at odds with members of his management team. They harboured desires for a more ‘command and control’ style. As a result, he stepped away from being hands-on in the business and they, with their ego-infused take-charge style, drove the business successfully, but at the expense of healthy internal relationships amongst the leadership team and in the company more generally.
This client’s teams functioned in a 1990s style competitive, dog-eat-dog environment, sharing very little knowledge and resources, ultimately resulting in siloed structure with virtually non-existent communication across those silos. Despite having hard-working and dedicated team members, very few of them knew their colleagues personally and the idea of sharing work innovations, experience or learnings was anathema.
Recently, the CEO became aware of two major concerns that put the business at risk. Firstly, there was a risk of the old guard retiring leaving the business exposed both from a client and internal perspective as there were few succession plans in place. Secondly, the fiefdom culture that they had created, and which had evolved in the absence of the CEO’s active engagement, was not a culture compatible with successful contemporary businesses.
New behaviours and habits would be required as the foundation from which to build a new healthy, highly collaborative and high-performance team, behaviours that were actively discouraged before. To do this everyone had to understand the role they would play in designing their situation and environment in which such change could take hold.
The first step was for each leadership team member to take the Change Craft High Performance Team Survey.
This assessment assesses the functionality and accountability of teams. Based on the findings, team leaders are able to identify areas for improvement as they create a team that works harmoniously towards the company’s vision, and to the benefit of each other and the business.
The assessment identifies the areas on which to go to work to enhance team performance. It helps leaders better understand the process, and the emotional and engagement health of their team. The scores describe the relative strengths of the team in a range of contexts, including individual behaviours and the processes that support them. It also guides the team to leverage good habits, create new helpful behaviours and extinguish outdated and harmful habits.
Here is how we classify the overall score from the assessment:
Teams are evaluated for 20 different habits and behaviours that are critical in highly accountable and adaptive teams. Through the coaching we provided, the CEO painstakingly crafted a change strategy that would lead the team from a toxic to a terrific culture and asked us to assist with the implementation of it.
“A Team of Rivals”
This is how the team described itself on the precipice of change. Through a series of in-person interviews, profiling, and the assessment, followed by four two-hour virtual workshop sessions, the team began transitioning toward “A Team of Allies”. After completing the workshops, their goals were to:
- Take on the world while having your teammates at your back
- Embrace transparency and authenticity
- Review and revise the company vision
- Establish and practice new processes and procedures
- Understand HOW to design the culture in which they wanted to work
- Take responsibility for their actions and performance
- Forge stronger bonds between team members.
At Change Craft, we know that leaders cannot expect people to change if the company itself does not create the conditions for change. The work we did with them included training on how to design for change by examining the four contexts in which we live our lives:
- The Self – our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and values
- The Social context – our relationships and social contagion
- The Systems Context – permission, rules, regulations, procedures and policies
- The Context of Space – choice architecture and our physical and virtual environment
With this knowledge they were able to master and influence positive change across the organization.
Today the team understands that behavior change and healthy habit adoption is a marathon and not a ‘once and done’. Their journey continues, we look with delight as they practice their newly adopted habits and move inexorably towards a high-performance culture.