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Culture Essentials: Clarity of Purpose, Collaborative Relationships and Life-long Learning

This week’s collection reflects an eclectic range of reading and listening over the last couple of weeks. Thematically diverse in content and sourcing, these pieces all resonated with me and with work I am doing with clients and colleagues. The Articles section delves into, what I believe to be, are defining aspects of organizational culture: clarity of purpose, collaborative relationships, clear and simple communication as well as a commitment to life-long learning. This section is anchored by a primer in what highly ineffective leadership looks like, courtesy of Bank of America’s Thomas Montag. Lots of lessons here in what not to do if you care about your people, their work and your effectiveness as a leader.

Adam Grant’s interview with John Green (author of The Fault In Our Stars, among other works) is fantastic and highlights the power of our attention and why it’s important to pay attention to our attention. As a complement to it, I have included Green’s most recent The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast. I thoroughly enjoy his work, perspective and the way he challenges my thinking on a whole array of serious and mundane topics. I am in the midst of his most recent book of essays, also titled The Anthropocene Reviewed, which I will post here when I wrap it up.

And finally, there are two different, yet complementary perspectives in the Blog section on the concept of effort, what constitutes effort and the challenge to exert effort/action rather than just bear witness to issues.

As always, happy reading and listening!


High-Performing Teams Start with a Culture of Shared Values. “In today’s disruptive marketplace, every organization needs to attract, develop, and retain talent with diverse skills and perspectives. The difference between success and failure will not be in the formulation of job descriptions and compensation packages, but in the ability to articulate a higher purpose. That begins with a clear sense of shared mission and values.”

What a Year of WFH Has Done to Our Relationships at Work. “…A culture of kindness, fun, and cooperative collaboration is just as important to the bottom line as your daily to-do list…The spontaneous, informal interactions at risk in hybrid and remote work are not distractions or unproductive. They foster the employee connections that feed productivity and innovation — these interactions are the soil in which ideas grow.”

The Surprising Power of Peer Coaching. “The process of small-group coaching can generate leadership development impacts that exceed what’s possible in one-on-one coaching. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll learn more about yourself and the organization you lead. Moreover, by asking for support from others and creating a safe place for exploration, you’ll build foundational skills for all future personal and organizational growth.”

Identify — and Hire — Lifelong Learners.Lifelong learning is now roundly considered to be an economic imperative and ‘the only sustainable competitive advantage.’ Job candidates and employees who consider, update, and improve their skills are the high performers, especially over the longer term. Pressing ourselves on the question of how we learn brings a hard, pragmatic edge to the important but nebulous notion of growth mindset.”

Building a culture of learning at work. “How leaders can create the psychological safety for people to constantly rethink what’s possible.”

Words and Phrases to Avoid in a Difficult Conversation. “…I’ve found that people often forget a critical point: When navigating a difficult conversation, you need to craft your message while keeping the other person’s feelings and opinions in mind.”

The Science of Strong Business Writing. “Whether it’s a succinct declarative statement in an email or a complex argument in a report, your own writing has the potential to light up the neural circuitry of your readers’ brains…The magic happens when prose has one or more of these characteristics: It’s simple, specific, surprising, stirring, seductive, smart, social, or story-­driven…I’ve found those eight S’s to be hallmarks of the best writing. And scientific evidence backs up their power.”

Designing Customer Journeys for the Post-Pandemic World. “…So, until larger or slower players ultimately get there, opportunities abound for more nimble companies to better align with customers’ new purposes and forge new relationships that accelerate growth and strengthen loyalty by providing them with greater confidence in a still-uncertain world.”

As techies flee Silicon Valley, Chicago is jostling to be the next unicorn machine. “Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to build the reputation of her city as a friendly place for tech talent, startups, and investment.”

A ‘Friend of Tom’ or ‘Can’t Be Bothered’: One Man’s Rules at Bank of America.Thomas K. Montag, the bank’s No. 2 executive, has long run its markets and corporate banking division with favoritism and an iron fist, employees say.”


WorkLife with Adam Grant: Taken for Granted: John Green Wants You to Pay Attention to Your Attention. “Do you pay attention to your attention? John Green is the beloved author of The Fault In Our Stars, and when he started tracking his attention, he realized he was obsessed with evaluating human progress. He decided to start rating everything—from the capacity for human wonder to Canadian geese—on a five-point scale. In this deeply thoughtful conversation with Adam, John shares what he learned from his series of Yelp-style reviews, the gift of a great book, and the unexpected life lessons found in the last lap of Mario Kart.”

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Icelandic Hot Dog Stand and Signing Your Name 250,000 Times.John Green reviews an Icelandic hot dog stand and the act of signing your name 250,000 times in a four-month period.”

TED: Essential Questions To Ask Your Future Self. “How much do you think about your future self? If your answer is not much, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to plan for a version of yourself you haven’t met yet, says psychologist Meg Jay. Sharing how to close the empathy gap between you and your future selves, she outlines courageous questions to ask about how your present and future can align, so you can begin to achieve your goals.”

Blog Posts

Effort. “Fantasy is easy and effort is punishing. Seeming is always easier than being. But what kind of life are we living if we’re not honest with ourselves? My friend once told me that there are two types of people: people who are ashamed of something and choose not to do it, and people who choose to do it anyway and just hide it. I wanted to never be the latter: someone who cares more about appearances than they care about their relationship with themselves. I don’t want to pretend like I’m too good for ugliness, for effort, when I know very well that it’s the price that unlocks everything beautiful in the world.”

Commenting vs. making. “It is, of course, much easier to complain about how things are bad rather than do anything about it, which is why people prefer to complain. 1/100th the satisfaction, but 1/1000000000000th the effort. Plus, when someone eventually fixes the problem you can pat yourself on the back for having brought attention to it. You can even complain about multiple things in the time it would’ve taken to fix one thing. If it’s that bad and it would be so easy for people to just fix it, why don’t you?”

Paul Graham: Write Simply. “…The main reason I write simply is that it offends me not to. When I write a sentence that seems too complicated, or that uses unnecessarily intellectual words, it doesn’t seem fancy to me. It seems clumsy.”

Arts, Music, Culture & Humor Corner

The French Dispatch review – Wes Anderson’s ode to print journalism is a periodic delight. Amazing visuals, lots of laughs and an A-list cast – including Bill Murray – make Anderson’s tribute to the New Yorker a real treat.”

‘Summer of Soul’: The Rapturous ‘Black Woodstock’ Buried From History for 50 Years. “In 1969, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, B.B. King, and more performed at a revolutionary musical festival in Harlem. New doc ‘Summer of Soul’ asks: How come nobody knew about it?”

The California Dream Is Dying. “The once-dynamic state is closing the door on economic opportunity.”

Your Company’s Post-Pandemic Work Policy, Explained. “A clarifying guide to what your company really thinks about remote work.”


by Rainer Maria Rilke
“You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.”

Excerpt from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan is an International Coach Federation-certified executive coach who serves as a strategic advisor, mentor and facilitator to executive leadership teams and private clients to achieve peak performance and agility resulting in sustained engagement and value. Drawing upon a career as a leader and consultant, Kevin is able to work with clients on personal and professional development, relationship optimization and team and leader dynamics. He has deep expertise and experience developing and realizing strategic vision through a relentless focus on optimized business operations. He is also skilled at building sustainable culture and workforce engagement through the power of people and organizational partnership, as well as delivering results and value with high performing teams during periods of intense change.

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