Culture Workshop Recap: It's All About Culture

The evolution of executive search over the last 30 years has been remarkable. John Ryan, Managing Director for TRANSEARCH Chicago and Global Practice Leader noted, “When I started in recruiting 28 years ago, it was ‘Can you do the job?’ Today, the focus is, ‘Are you the right person for our organization to do the job?’ It seems like a slight shift, but it’s actually huge. Resume bullet points are no longer the main priority – it’s leadership and culture fit”. Dr. John Burdett has been a major influencer in pushing the search business to evolve its focus on a deeper level of team and company fit, which ensures our placements are more likely to succeed in their new role. It’s a win for our clients, for our candidates, and for us as search consultants.

As part of that evolution, TRANSEARCH’s Chicago office has doubled down on its focus to identify the leader that best fits the needs and culture of the organization, and how that leader can contribute to the culture of the company. In the fall of 2017, TRANSEARCH hosted several events in Chicago with its Leadership Advisor, Dr. John O. Burdett. As an executive and as a consultant, John Burdett has worked in over 40 countries for businesses that are household names.

The jam-packed schedule started at 7:30 am, put on by The Executive’s Club of Chicago and hosted by IA Interior Architects; John Burdett led a workshop with 35 people. This breakfast session focused on how each executive could play a role in measuring and shaping the culture of their respective firms. A notable focus was on “if you aren’t managing your culture, someone else is”. To which some questions arose on how does a company know if they are, in fact, managing their culture. John Burdett replied with several examples, one being if you walk into an office and immediately know what their mission and values are. When you walk into an office is there a mission statement or values statement on the wall, does their office décor or atmosphere convey what their company does? All ways to tell if an organization is truly managing its culture.

One participant, an HR executive at a local financial services firm, noted, “Many of us believe culture is the driving force in the success of any CEO. A culture that supports and sustains a winning strategy and vision fends off mediocrity and creates the opportunity for success. John O. Burdett outlined a pragmatic approach.”

After the morning presentation, John stayed to sign copies of his book and answer any questions attendees had. He later joked, “I only saw one person sleeping! That’s pretty good for 7:30 in the morning!”
In the evening, John led a workshop called, “It’s All About Culture” at the technology incubator of Chicago, 1871. Leadership and culture are critical for any organization of any size and maturity – from startup to Fortune 100 – and John’s data-driven approach to measuring culture empowers all company leaders to take control of their organization. As an office, Chicago is celebrating its 20th anniversary since opening here in Chicago, and the entrepreneurship hub of the city made perfect sense to host the event.

Dr. Burdett was insistent, “If you aren’t measuring your culture, you aren’t managing your culture. If you aren’t managing your culture, someone else is managing it for you.” This was an area of particular interest to the crowd, especially given the data-driven nature of technology. A participant raised their hand, and explained, “This was really interesting, I didn’t think I could measure culture.”

At the height of the 1871 event, John Burdett asked an open question to the participants: “Who drives the culture into the organization?”

Faces around the room looked puzzled and quiet.

After a few moments, John interjected: “Most people, myself included many years ago, would tell you ‘Everyone!’ But that’s not accurate (or helpful). The front-line employees are where your culture manifests itself most with your customers, so middle-managers are the ones that drive culture into front-line employees. If middle-managers don’t buy in, the company doesn’t buy in.”
Interestingly, this is a similar point brought up in last year’s TRANSEARCH HR Roundtable.

After a presentation that covered insightful research on the subject, John broke the room into 5 groups of 7-8 people each. The interactive workshop involved group members identifying and discussing distinct aspects of the culture of the Chicago business community, and assessing where it is today and where it needs to be to keep pace with the changing digital landscape. John emphasized an important but often missed point: “Today is the fastest it’s ever been and the slowest it ever will be.”

Following the event at 1871, participants stayed to enjoy food and drinks and network with other members of the event. A participant commented to John, “You think you’ve heard everything there is about culture and then you come to an event like this. I’m speechless.” A few other comments throughout the event were, “One of the best presentations on culture I’ve been to” and “the diverse crowd made the event really great”. It wasn’t just a successful night for TRANSEARCH Chicago, or John Burdett, it was a successful night for everyone who attended.

John Burdett offered his listeners some lasting insights and thoughts about effective implementation that will improve even the best organizations.

Attendees were happy to be walking away with new knowledge, actionable insight for managing and measuring culture within their organizations, as well as a copy of John Burdett’s newest book, “The A-Z of Organization Culture". TRANSEARCH looks forward to facilitating future workshops, where leaders can help positively shape the future of culture and high-performing teams.

Please email sunni.campbell@transearchusa.comto purchase your own copy of, "The A-Z of Organization Culture". 

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