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Nov. 25, 2021

110 How to Ignite Your Organization’s Culture with Jason Richmond | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

110 How to Ignite Your Organization’s Culture with Jason Richmond | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Jason Richmond. Jason is the president, CEO, and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes. Jason Richmond is the author of Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth and his most recent book Culture Ignited: Five Disciplines for Adaptive Leadership. In addition to speaking about the importance of organizational culture, Jason Richmond shared specific actions leaders can take to ignite their team's culture.  

Some Highlights:

- Jason Richmond on how leaders can assess the strengths and weaknesses of their organizational culture. 

- Jason explains adaptive leadership and why it matters in today's organizations.

- How to connect trust and authenticity to create the right culture for your organization.

- Jason Richmond on the role performance management plays in organizational culture.

- Jason on the best practices for building capabilities and developing talent in the organization.

Also mentioned:

- Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership - book by Edward Morrison, Scott Hutcheson, Janyce Fadden, Elizabeth Nilsen, Nancy Franklin

- Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility -book by Myles Ogilvie, Simon Rohrer, and Zsolt Berend

Connect with Jason Richmond:

Jason Richmond at Ideal Outcome

Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth

Culture Ignited: 5 Disciplines for Adaptive Leadership

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan Tavakoli:
Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Jason Richmond. Jason is the president CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes. He's also author of Culture Spark: Five steps to ignite and sustain organizational growth and his most recent book Culture Ignited: Five disciplines for adaptive leadership.

We spend most of our time talking about the importance of culture and how to have a better culture within our teams and organizations. Really enjoyed this conversation, as I have seen Jason lead his own organization with a great culture, and support other organizations in having great cultures too.

I also really enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com, there's a microphone icon on Partnering Leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast, that way you'll be sure to be notified of new releases, Tuesdays with magnificent change-makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region and Thursdays with global thought leaders, primarily leadership book authors, like Jason, and finally, those of you that enjoy these on apple, leave a rating and review when you get a chance that way you will help more people find and benefit from the conversations.

Now, here is Jason Richmond.

Jason Richmond, my friend. Welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Jason Richmond:
Thank you Mahan I was excited. I can't tell you how excited I here to be with you and your listeners and I appreciate connecting today.

Mahan Tavakoli:
You have written a couple of books. I've also known you professionally for more than a dozen years. So one of the things I love about you, Jason, is that you don't only talk about culture. You practice it including with your team. But before we get to a conversation around culture, Jason, would love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person and leader you've become.

Jason Richmond:
I grew up in the Midwest. so I grew up in a small rural community in the state of Iowa. And I talk about this often with people how our upbringing really shapes the type of leader, the type of individual, the type of teammate you become. And I think it's my opinion one of the most deep rooted things for my upbringing is my own personal values that I live by, in regards to treating people with respect being authentic in our actions, taking responsibility for who you are and what you do. And one of the key values I think is just the core work ethic.

Behind your profession to be the best you can be at what you do. And those are really some of the things with my upbringing and the way I was raised. And I reflect on even back to my childhood, growing up in Iowa.

Mahan Tavakoli:
So Jason that work ethic was a part of how you grew up, what was the first job that you got and how did that work ethic start from that childhood?

Jason Richmond:
I started a newspaper route in my town when I was seven years old. And I did not get rid of that newspaper until after I graduated from high school.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
So you started making money real early.

Jason Richmond: 
It was a life forming experience. Just to have that responsibility for such a young age and to take it upon yourself, and it was a commitment, like I said from seven years old until graduation high school I carried through on that.

Mahan Tavakoli:
Jason, you've written a lot about culture. Your have just written your second book. Your first one was culture spark. This one is culture, ignited: Five disciplines for adaptive leadership. Before we get to some of the insights you share in the book. Culture is one of those words that is repeatedly used in almost every executive and CEO says culture eats strategy for breakfast.

However, there has been very little progress with respect to culture. Why another book on culture?

Jason Richmond:
My first book and even my second book is really a resource guide Mahan for any manager, leader, division, to take up and take actionable applicable tools that address people challenges, business challenges that relate to people. Other book on culture, because I think culture is the one thing that really makes a difference. There's a lot of organizations out there that can have the same kind of business model, the same kind of business strategy, the same focus on the same business metrics and any company, your competitors, yes they probably do the same thing as you do, but if you do culture nobody can emulate, no one can do it exactly how you do it.

And it can be a differentiator if put on the priority list and made as important as your business strategy, your sales goals, your sales strategies, your manufacturing strategies, and such.

Mahan Tavakoli:
And Jason one of the frustrations that I have is that I know most leaders nod and agree with those statements. However, believe that they have great culture in their organizations. So as a guide to leaders and as an author on culture books, how do you coach and guide leaders to become more aware of the strengths and the weaknesses of the current culture, as they try to create the kind of culture that you recommend in the book.

Jason Richmond:
Part of our processes, the second step is to diagnose your existing culture and Mahan, I was working with a group just a couple months ago. It had a team of eight executives CEO, COO, so forth the executive team and we met for 45 minutes in a room to talk about culture and alignment of culture. And in that meeting all eight of them was on the same page, same rally cry, but then I broke it down and I went and had individual half hour meetings with each individuals. Guess how many different perceptions I've got when I asked them, describe your current culture. It was eight.

Again, when they're all together, they're aligned, they know what they want their culture to be. But even from that top level, they all perceive their culture to be different. And all of them have that perceptions without doing any tangible, really diagnosing and listening and hearing from the workforce, from the individual contributors, from those frontline leaders.

And I challenge any leader organization, to open up your culture conversations to everybody in the organization at all levels. Cross-functionally and get a really clear picture of what you're working with and see if it is, aligned or disaligned with what you want your culture to really be.

Mahan Tavakoli:
And that is, I've also find Jason the hardest step in that, again, it's easy to read and to nod and to agree with the importance of culture, but really showing vulnerability and being willing to listen and being willing to open up and assess your own organizational culture takes a lot of courage.

Jason Richmond:
Yeah, one of the framing questions I always use in my conversations around culture as if you don't deliberately do anything different. If you just let your culture evolve the way it is, what are the potential negative business impacts to that? And really give people time to think and ponder and think big picture. And I say long-term could be three months, could be six months on the potential pitfalls or impact that it could create if we don't take deliberate actions. And that does, create some aha moments among individuals.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
And it does also take a lot of, again, vulnerability and a willingness for leaders to be vulnerable in assessing that. You also use the term adaptive leadership. What is adaptive leadership?

Jason Richmond:
Our world is different today than it was two years ago, obviously. And the new book around the five disciplines about adaptive leadership is really leadership styles and behaviors on how to adapt to very rapid change and new realities, if you will. And we talk about in culture ignited, Five of those.

We talk about five disciplines for leaders to be adaptive. And the first one talks about the inspiration and the communication of a shared purpose. The, why are we in business? Why are you here? And really celebrating that shared purpose. The second one is trust and authenticity.

The third one is really focus or hone in on how you're measured managing performance. From a leader's perspective, how are you continually developing your talent is the fourth one. And the fifth discipline then is to create a sense of belonging within your organizations, your teams, through diversity inclusion and basically those disciplines were created as a follow-up to culture spark.

Cause the last step in our culture evolution model is sustained. And these five disciplines for your leadership teams will help you sustain that culture evolution.

Mahan Tavakoli:
Yeah, I would love to touch on each one of those briefly, Jason there's been a lot of conversation around purpose, especially over the past couple of years as Simon Sinek's talk, start with your why was popular many years back, but now all organizations and even teams have purpose statements. So they believe that they share a purpose.

What do you see that the effective teams and organizations do in truly having a shared purpose? Not just a statement of a shared purpose.

Jason Richmond:
One, I think they have a strong sense of empathy for each other and for everyone's current situation. Earlier this week I was in a conversation with a leader about the great resignation going on. People leaving their employment for other opportunities. And I like the term and I agree with the term, but I also like to refer to it as re-prioritization.

If they took a look and tried to rank their priorities today versus two years ago, they'd be quite different. And from a leadership standpoint, from a team member, I think it's important for individuals to understand what those prioritizations are and to have the empathy in your behaviors to work together in a team environment. And I think that defined, shared purpose. Really understanding individual priorities and not just my task priorities or my job requirement priorities, but my life priorities.

And unless you're a type of a leader or a manager is going to get to that level to really understand your employees, you will be challenged by having a true aligned purpose of why you exist. Why my people are here?

Mahan Tavakoli:
And that also connects well, Jason, with building trust and authenticity, which are really important, including to organizational culture. How do you believe trust and authenticity connects to creating a right culture for organization?

Jason Richmond:
If your employees, if your team members, if your group doesn't have a level of trust in what you're doing, and where you're going, and why you're doing it, it's very much like what's in it for me? Through our communication, we need to communicate in a way of why it's important for individuals within my organization to strive, to get behind.

That creates a level of trust. That creates a level of authenticity. Sharing, the reasons behind the direction and those things. You build trust and authenticity through empathy. Again, what I talked about earlier, I'm a big believer that we're building trust and authenticity by understanding individual situations and having flexibility in our Workday, in our work life. Flexibility now is probably on the top of so much higher on the priority list than what it was maybe three years ago. And I also think you build trust and authenticity by really reaching out to people in new ways. New communication tools, a new cadence of your meetings, new meeting involvements, the way we work on a daily basis now has to be evaluated and take a look at.

Those types of changes, process changes, interactions with employees is the way we build long lasting trust and make sure we come across as an authentic leader.

Mahan Tavakoli:
So Jason, how do you coach and guide the leaders that you and your team work with to help them understand that there is room for improvement on trust and authenticity and that empathy, because those are pretty emotional, hard to grasp issues. It's hard to tell a leader that your team doesn't trust you, or you need to be more authentic.

How do you go about doing that for leaders?

Jason Richmond:
Most of what we do is remotely. We do a lot of one-on-one I would say executive leadership consulting, and talking about this, but when we go in and work with a group of leaders, and it's my opinion that the frontline leader of an organization is the kingpin of culture because they're the voice piece right there, the mouthpiece to send messages up and to clearly communicate what's going on in the organization and they're the communication vehicle to go down into the individual contributor ranks.

So when we work with a group of leaders or managers we really have to demonstrate what we're preaching and be transparent and be open. We talk about leadership, blind spots a lot. And one of the biggest leadership blind spots we come across Mahan right now is leadership. And it's a roadblock. It's not a deliberate blind spot, but it's there. And we really stress the fact that we're working with an organization in a hierarchical type of organization a lot of leaders and executives and managers went up the corporate ladder because they strive right on their own individual performance, their individual contribution.

Today's world. If I'm a people leader, I'm not necessarily getting measured on my own personal contributions, I'm being held accountable for my team, my business, my department's contributions, and that's a different mindset. And those are the types of things we really focus on when we're working with leaders in an organization.

Mahan Tavakoli:
Yeah, and I love the title of a book by Ryan holiday. Ego is the enemy. And in what you talk about with respect to culture Jason, whether it is the empathy to have shared purpose or the ability to build that trust and authenticity, ego is the enemy. So the leaders that have the biggest blind spots are the ones that have the biggest ego and are the least willing to get feedback and coaching on how to reduce the blind spots and generate greater trust.

Jason Richmond: 
And it's not flicking the switch. You're not just going to turn a light on. It's a long-term journey. It's a relationship. It's a coach, it's a mentor. Anyone in an organization can benefit from an outside development plan, a focus, a mentor, a sponsor an outside voice, if you will.

And that's what we stress.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
And you also mentioned that performance management is an element of organizational culture.

Jason Richmond: 
One is just how we're managing and leading our people's goals, our performance goals and our metrics. And we're seeing a big trend. And we're a big believer that not just managing the metrics, not just managing the numbers, but managing the behaviors and coaching the behaviors behind those.

Look, what's beyond, look, what's not being said, look, what's not being demonstrated, go and coach those behaviors that are needed to meet the metrics instead of having a monthly meeting or a weekly meeting and talk about our results, let's talk about and work through the behaviors that drove those results.

That's that mental shift, the new way of working. Regular and consistent feedback. We talked about performance management now and the fact that old school, you gave an evaluation to the employee, they filled it out, their manager filled it out. They got together. Once a year talked about it, but a number one through five through things, and then their compensation was adjusted accordingly.

Today, the trends and what we're seeing, it's more of a performance management system where it's a constant evolution of conversations and coaching and behaviors and build up. So at the end of the year, it's just a summary of what we've accomplished and what we've been talking about for that year.

And I also believe in regards to performance management is the level of preparedness. I think with remote workforces hybrid workforces you need to be measuring and coaching on how prepared your employees are. And that goes all the way from team meetings, executive briefings, reporting, reporting up their presentations, their communication styles, reward, and recognize the level of preparedness that you have your team. Prepared to do whatever they have to do. That's what we're talking about. When we're talking about performance management. Setting objectives, focus on key results and consistent follow-up.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Jason. Now that is a lot harder. And you alluded to it in a virtual and or a hybrid environment where a lot of organizations have been operating in and will continue to operate that giving a feedback is no longer a natural people bumping into each other and giving additional feedback to the formal meetings, it needs to be planned. And then the coaching of the behaviors. So what are some best practices with respect to how to do that? In a virtual and hybrid environment.

Jason Richmond: 
I think you need to be deliberate about talking to your employees, more often than what you typically were used to you need to block that time. You need to put that in there. You need to make that conscious effort to have those one-on-one conversations with your direct reports. And I also think you need to raise your level of recognition.

And take the responsibility of elevating your team to the rest of the organization than you've ever done before. Individuals working in a brick and mortar building, there all the time often got seen by a whole bunch of other people working in hybrid and remote workforces or shared space, community spaces, that type of stuff, individuals, sometime aren't as seen by as many.

And leader's responsibility is to make sure that presence is known to elevate that team's awareness to elevate their contributions to the organization. And that's a new leadership skill that needs to be put in play.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Additionally, you mentioned for the leaders themselves building their capabilities and then developing talent. That is one of the areas that since the beginning of a pandemic has taken a big hit, there have been opportunities online for people taking courses and everything else, but at least the organizations I'm familiar with that has really suffered developing talent intentionally. What are your thoughts on what are best practices with respect to developing both building capability and developing talent.

Jason Richmond: 
I'm a big believer in the statement that business today needs to see themselves to see itself as a social enterprise. In our developing our talent, developing our people, I really think we of course we got to focus on revenue, growth and profit and all those types of things, but we also need to make sure that our employees and our workforce realizes that we're supporting their environment, the entire network, the community, the workplace itself. Learning and development, developing your talent is ultimately the organization's responsibility.

They need to invest in their people. They need to be able to develop their skills their job skills, but I think there's a stronger need for soft skill development today than there ever has been before. The ability to communicate, the ability to have empathy, the ability to listen. And I think we really need to focus more on the individual now more than any to keep them engaged, to retain your top talent, do attract new talent and that there has been a sense of belonging that is probably decreased with a remote or hybrid, and I think it's the leadership responsibility to bring that belonging back into the fold.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Jason in addition to your writing on culture in culture spark, and now culture ignited what other leadership resources do you typically find yourself recommending to leaders as they look to help build a better culture in their organizations?

Jason Richmond: 
Right now an unbelievable book that I've read and really incorporating is called a strategic doing. And I am a big believer in continuous learning. And anything I can get my hands on in regards to agility, you talked about agility earlier on the agile way of working Mahan is typically thought of as an IT methodology and it's coming out of IT is coming in to HR professionals is coming into operational executives. It's coming in to manufacturing. It's coming into at all different levels of the organization. And my own personal development and learning has been around agility and those agile methodologies and applying and implementing those into organizational leadership. And like I said, one book that I read the other day was strategic doing, which was a great book. I also really like the book "Sooner, Safer, Happier".

Those are, just a couple of books lately that I've read came across. That I would highly recommend.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Those are fantastic recommendations, Jason, you made a couple of points I wanted to underline. One is that you are also constantly reading and learning the faster pace of change and disruption requires from all of us to speed-up our learning and the faster pace of change also requires the agility that you talked about, the ability to change, but the culture that you mentioned in your books and the kind of culture you promote along with the frameworks that you provide can help organizations become truly agile.

Because at the end of the day, the competitive advantage is how agile the team and the culture of the organization is.

Jason Richmond: 
Absolutely. And I think Agility and bringing agility into our leadership behaviors, it's not a new methodology, but I think it's an expansive methodology. And I think it's becoming more organizational wide. And I think as soon as organizations adapt that methodology and our core fundamental leadership styles, they're going to strive to have that empathy, to have engaged employees, to have high performing teams and lead with agility going down through the organization.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Jason, how would you recommend for the audience? In addition to the links we put in the show notes to find out more about you, your organization and your books.

Jason Richmond: 
Yeah, I would say the best way to reach me would be go to www.idealoutcomesInc.com. That's my website information about the books, workshops, what we do, how we do it, and obviously contact email information.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Outstanding. I really appreciate the insights you've shared Jason. And as I mentioned at the very beginning, one of the things that makes you so special is that it's not just sharing insights on organizational culture. You practice these same principles with your team, which is really value add with respect to your leadership insights.

It's not just a professorial, it's a practitioner of organizational culture whose words align with his actions. So I truly appreciate you, my friend, joining me and sharing your thoughts on culture with the partnering leadership community.

Jason Richmond: 
Thank you Mahan. Like I said it was an honor. It was an honor to be asked and it's always great to spend time with you.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Thank you, Jason.