Monday, October 17, 2022

Culture Starts at the Top - But All Employees Shape It

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Shani Magosky from New York, and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership, onboarding, corporate culture, and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

After many years of diverse leadership experience across multiple industries, Shani Magosky started her leadership development consulting and executive coaching practice, The LeaderShift Project. Having worked for venerable institutions and unknown startups, in a range of economies from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory, and senior leader roles, Shani's broad experience enables her to help executives and teams achieve "BHAGs" (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) at a wide range of Fortune 500 and private companies, startups, universities, trade groups, and nonprofits. In addition, Shani designs and facilitates breakthrough team coaching and other highly interactive workshops that are relevant, fun, and memorable so learning has the best chance of being retained and applied on the job. She is also the author of The Better Boss Blueprint and host of The LeaderShifter Show podcast. In her free time, Shani can be found rock climbing, mid-vinyasa at her favorite yoga studio, hurtling down black diamond slopes, riding her Harley, or watching college football.

QUESTION: You wrote an e-book about hiring in the post-pandemic era. Can you briefly explain what led you to write the e-book, and also share some of the highlights?

(Check out the e-book at this link:

SHANI MAGOSKY: I observed that many of my clients and other employers were having difficulty finding qualified candidates. According to a ManpowerGroup survey, 69% of U.S. employers are struggling to fill jobs. In 2010, it was only 14%. Of course, this dynamic relates to the "Great Resignation," but it’s broader than that. Company culture also plays a huge role in attracting and retaining top talent.

The e-book was created to help organizations take steps to make changes within. A few tips focus on nontraditional ways to find more candidates and how to identify "good clay" talent with transferable skills. But most of what I offered was advice on how to adjust internal hiring practices.

To clarify further, I envision "good clay" talent as individuals who share an organization's values and are passionate about an org's products and services. It is easy to "shape" these people into acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in their new roles. Some of their qualities might include: high emotional intelligence, innovative thinking and creativity, sincere motivation, the desire to learn continuously, and a growth mindset.

QUESTION: How can all members of the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
SHANI MAGOSKY: The employee experience (EX) doesn’t start with onboarding; rather, it starts the moment a candidate reads a job description because it is emblematic of the culture. Culture starts at the top, so the C-Suite is responsible for cultivating culture and brand, both internally and externally.

Executives should ensure that they hire the right Human Resources leaders who will carry out the mandates for an EX that aligns with a culture and brand. I have seen too many otherwise great companies with CHROs who do more harm than good for the culture, and that is ultimately the CEO who is responsible for tolerating that.

The onboarding process should not only feature relevant and high-quality training, but also pay equal attention to integrating new hires into the team to build meaningful connections with their colleagues from the start.

All employees, not just people leaders, should be held accountable for creating a positive corporate culture. The cost of turnover is high and almost always underestimated because people don’t consider the costs that are more difficult to quantify, such as, the opportunity cost associated with a vacant role and damage done to customer relationships.

A sense of belonging, authentic connections, trust, and alignment with the company's mission, values, and culture are the primary drivers of employee engagement and retention.

TWEET THIS: Culture starts at the top, so the C-Suite is responsible for cultivating culture and brand, both internally and externally. ~@leadershiftproj #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: All employees, not just people leaders, should be held accountable for creating a positive corporate culture. ~@leadershiftproj #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Many years ago, I had a boss who told me "to lower (my) expectations" when it came to the employees who reported to me. How would you have responded in that situation?
SHANI MAGOSKY: Leaders need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they play (or not) in setting their team members up for success. Leaders should coach their teams instead of simply teaching and directing. Coaching unlocks potential that no amount of knowledge ever will. Coaching empowers people to solve their own problems, make better decisions, shift their mindsets and habits, and contributes to ongoing career development. Coaching is what supports talent in important areas that can not be taught or demanded.

It's not always easy to be a coach, especially if one is trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped. Effective leaders must ultimately recognize when a person may not be the right fit. Paraphrasing from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, we must have the right people in the right seats on the right bus.

Besides, how does that reflect on a leader if they have low expectations? On top of that perception problem, a toxic environment is created for the high performing members of a team when consistently low performers aren’t managed out.

TWEET THIS: Leaders should coach their teams instead of simply teaching and directing. ~@leadershiftproj #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: We must have the right people in the right seats on the right bus. ~Jim Collins via @leadershiftproj #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any five leaders from history or corporate America, who would you choose and why?
SHANI MAGOSKY: Here are my five:
(1) My grandfather Simon died before I was born, and I’m named for him. Everyone who knew him tells me what an incredible man he was. Smart, loving, funny, great son/father/friend/doctor. He served our country in WWII operating on soldiers in flight who might not make it to a military hospital alive. He was a badass, and I’m so sorry I never got to meet or get to know him.
(2) Elon Musk - no brainer; no explanation needed!
(3) Deputy Director of DARPA - I’m inspired and grateful for the innovative technologies they’ve developed not only for national security but also for organizations and the world. I use their acronym VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) with leaders all the time to describe the business climate in which they operate in today.
(4) Michelle Obama - I admire her so much not only for how she represented the role of First Lady but also how she put her family first while living in the White House when it was not easy to do. She describes in her book about telling the Secret Service they needed to figure out how the Obama girls could still do play dates at friends’ homes. And she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
(5) Ronald Regan - to learn first hand about the end of the Cold War.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
SHANI MAGOSKY: I have to admit that I both agree and disagree with this quote. Leaders should block and tackle for others. Their position in the organization allows them to mitigate or remove bottlenecks and/or barriers to success so individuals and teams can reach their goals.

However, sometimes, employees should navigate these situations for themselves in order to learn and grow. Rather than blocking, tackling, and giving all the answers, help people come up with their own solutions when such circumstances arise (this goes back to coaching). If part of the solution entails a leader stepping in to block/tackle, then do it. But don’t assume it’s necessary all the time because it could thwart their development and be disempowering.

My thanks to Shani for sharing her leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey, MBA.

Connect with Shani on these links:
Company Website:
Instagram: https://www.instagramcom/theleadershiftproject/
LinkedIn-Shani’s Profile:
LinkedIn-The LeaderShift Project Company Page:
YouTube Channel:

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