Is It Time To Revisit Your Organisations Values?

The organisation that got us here won't get us to where we need to be. The environment, and social and corporate governance (ESG) on their own demand new ways to think and act. Factor in the urgent need for diversity and inclusion, a whole generation who are disenfranchised economically, the combined and unrelenting forces of digitalisation, talent shortages, remote employment, market entrants that reinvent the sector, the avalanche of disruptive technology that lies just around the corner, and we have little choice but to uncover new ways to organise.

The organisational shift demanded falls firmly within the realm of the organisation's culture. Culture is a system. Systems thinking means striving to understand the relationship between each element. And this is where the organisation's values make their entrance. Values are a loadstone, a core/central element in culture that brace (link) the other elements; in particular, the four central pillars of organisation culture: purpose, diversity/inclusion, brand and speed.

Insights from "Is It Time To Revisit Your Organisations Values?". Download your copy today https://www.transearch.com/orxestra/downloads


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Does Your Team Regularly Have A Vibrant Culture Conversation?

Culture is the often overlooked, all-pervasive, enterprise-wide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains. It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context.

Cultural pillars and organisational values

Where many teams struggle is that they either take a simplistic approach or don't know how to have a rich and vibrant culture conversation. Culture is managed from the outside-in but demands leadership from the inside-out. There are four essential, supporting pillars of culture:

  1. Mission (why do we do what we do?)
  2. Diversity (diversity fuels innovation)
  3. Brand (why buy from us?)
  4. Speed (Focus – Anticipation – Simplicity – Technology)

The four pillars act like the foundation of a house. If they are poorly constructed nothing will stand for very long. And miss one out – or any of the other building blocks of culture covered in the next paragraphs for that matter – and constantly recycling the past is the best that can be hoped for.

Those four pillars are braced by the organisation's values. An organisation without values is a ship without a rudder. Values give people permission to act. The values represent the CEO's and top team's leadership point of view. Co-creating the values – involving as many people as possible in drawing up the values – sounds like a good idea but there is a reason the expression "a camel is a horse designed by a committee" came into being.

Ask, involve, confer and listen but don't abdicate. That said, the organisation's values must hold meaning for all of the stakeholders, especially the customer. It should be added that in a multicultural environment the term "values" comes with a good deal of baggage. "Why is the organisation telling me what my values should be? That's very personal?" The confusion between organisation and personal values is overcome if we think of the organisation's values as "guiding principles".

The four pillars, when married to the organisation's values, frame the context – the cultural canvas if you like. The most forceful elements on that canvas being:

Bringing culture to life

Bringing the intended culture to life means also working on:

  • structure;
  • core processes;
  • the nature and degree of freedom to act (how decisions get made and who makes them); and
  • how people learn (learning how to learn, speed of learning).

Meanwhile, if the "culture anchors" don't "introduce" the culture the organisation needs … stasis is assured. Leaders who stumble tend to focus on the drivers without, at the same time, addressing the cultural anchors:

  • mindset,
  • behaviour at the top of the house,
  • letting go of, as appropriate, past history,
  • myth,
  • language,
  • metaphor,
  • symbolism and
  • storytelling.

A cultural anchor is so called because it describes behaviour that, unless reframed with tomorrow in mind, puts a brake on progress like an anchor thrown from the back of a car. Addressing the white space on the organisation chart – the informal organisation – completes the picture. That white space isn't a vacuum, it's full of noise; a cacophony of often confused and conflicting babble … that you need on your side. If you don't manage the informal organisation it will manage you!

Your Organisation's Story

All of the elements described come together to shape the organisation's story. You are your story. Culture is story and story is culture! We are the storytelling apes. Story touches a part of the brain that nothing else can. Customers don't buy your product … they buy your story. They buy why you do what you do.

When top talent is evermore difficult to find and attract – as it is – a winning story is essential. Talent isn't attracted to your balance sheet; they want to join your firm because they love your story. And they stay – not because they swoon over your strategy – but because they are a happy captive of your culture.

It's not enough to have a great story – you need to know how to share it. A great story has five parts:

  1. Why do we do what we do?
  2. Where are we heading?
  3. What do we believe in?
  4. What makes us special?
  5. How does what we do make a difference in people's lives?

Recognising that millennials and iGen employees will soon be the bulk of your workforce – make sure that number includes giving back, building community and the environment.

When the road ahead is uncertain, speed of learning becomes the ultimate competitive advantage. Best practice (improved on), listening, story, symbolism, creative tension, a great question, challenging the status quo, risk, leadership reach, comfort with ambiguity, coaching, catching people doing it right, reflection and language become the oxygen upon which learning how to learn thrives.

What we observe shapes what we do. Until we listen to others – really listen – we can't listen to ourselves. The stories we share influence how we think. A compelling symbol cuts through the clutter. A great question makes people think slower … in order that they can act faster. When the status quo remains undisturbed … opportunity remains unfulfilled. When we coach others we tap into the best of who we are. In affirming others we give them permission to act. Wisdom is insight tempered by experience. Without reflection there is no learning. Language isn't important; it's everything. We navigate "what's possible" through metaphor. Same old language, same old behaviour!

Culture Imperative

Culture is a system. If you leave something out expect unintended consequences. Do you separate from the organisation those who don't live the values? Are language, imagery, metaphor, story and symbolism central to how your team seeks to create tomorrow today? In difficult times, how people learn is more important than what they learn.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture" by John O. Burdett, Orxestra Inc., © 2018.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams
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Leadership, as it must be, is strategic. It's to step back, see the big picture and, to the extent possible, create tomorrow in the room, today. Covid is but one piece of a chaotic and ever changing political, economic, societal, business and interconnected leadership puzzle. At the centre of all of this is 'the team' … a basic and fundamental blueprint for organisational and personal success.

What follows is intended as a practical guide for:

  1. Setting the scene for a virtual team.
  2. A new or established leader who needs to take the team to the next level.
  3. The executive who feels that, as the organisation navigates the turbulent waters of change, the team is losing its impact.
  4. The HR executive, division head or external recruitment specialist (e.g., the executive search consultant) who, in orchestrating team fit, needs to understand the team they are hiring into.
  5. A manager or external resource faced with the challenge of coaching the team.

Read "Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams" leadership insights

The Way of the Dolphin Webinar by John O. Burdett

In a post COVID world, organisational agility isn't something that is a 'nice to have.' It becomes more imperative as we realise the next Black Swan event might be just around the corner. Agility must be embedded into every aspect of the organisation's culture and must be integral to the organisation's design. It should be evident in the organisation's value proposition and must be evident in every customer touchpoint.

More than anything, agility is a way to think, it's a mindset, and as such, without 'leadership' you still don't have much. The type of leadership required exudes, encompasses, encourages, and expresses agility in everything the leader does. Which leads us to the 'The Way of the Dolphin'.

Leading the webinar is John O. Burdett, who has worked in over 40 countries as an executive and as a consultant for businesses that are household names. He has worked on, and continues to work on, leadership development and organisation culture, for some of the world's largest corporations. John has published 14 best-selling books on leadership, many of which can be downloaded from all the major online bookstores or by contacting your local TRANSEARCH office for a copy.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Leading In A Business World Full Of Distractions

High performing executives often lament that there are only 24 hours in a day. That's because they're extremely engaged with their business and devoting time, energy and focus to the most critical decisions.

For the rest, their worry about getting things done is borne of their almost constant distraction by things of little import to their employer's business objectives.

In the first case, high performing executives are actively managing their time and attention and aligning both to strategic outcomes. Yet in a world teeming with distractions - from social media and new technology to colleagues with little emotional intelligence - insulating oneself from the noise is no easy task.

Global leaders have to block out those things that would distract them from essential priorities, even at the expense of possible misperceptions. Top managers must at the same time build trust with peers and subordinates but also impart the kind of operational separation that will enable these managers to apply their best effort to strategic issues.

When time seems to be moving faster than ever, no one can afford to waste time. Cutting distractions must become an imperative for leaders and their followers. Alas, too many managers will succumb to the distractions that, on a daily basis, drain them of their intellectual potential and energy and sap their performance. After all, it's really easy to fall into this trap.

At the end of the day, leaders must proactively manage their time, attention and behaviour around what matters most. In today's business world, this amounts to a constant battle - but one that must be waged.

For superior leaders, getting the job done right isn't only a matter of asking oneself, "Are we doing things right?" but also, "Are we doing the right things?" Doing those 'right things' requires us to manage around the distractions.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

It's Lonely at the Top - Coaching The CEO

Coaching Where Excellence Is The Benchmark Of Success

A study by Stanford Graduate School, co-authored by Stephen Miles and David Larcker, suggests that only about one-third of CEOs receive formal coaching. Meanwhile, half of senior managers operate without external coaching support. The same study, paradoxically, suggested that nearly 100% of those same leaders (CEOs and senior managers) said that they would like to be coached.

A wish isn't an action; saying isn't doing; and desire isn't delivery. Confidentiality, the time available, "if it ain't broke …", "what would I really gain", and "I'm getting all the coaching I need inside the business" loom large among the reasons why coaching at the top gets set aside. Although quickly eroding, the stigma of "needing to be coached" still concerns some. "I didn't realise that the CEO had problems."

In virtually every other form of endeavour where excellence is the benchmark of success, coaching is a given. No one even makes it to the Olympics, let alone medals, without a great coach. Paradoxically, that same executive who pushes coaching aside for the activity where they make a living will gladly pay for support in improving their golf swing.

Performance And Developmental Coaching

It is not at all unusual for top executives to be so dialled-in to the results and share price that they overlook how impactful their everyday behaviour is. A friendly smile and addressing employees by name go a long way. Take also the example of coaching as a company-wide intervention. No matter how much time and money is invested with middle managers, if coaching isn't evident at the top much of that investment is lost.

There is the Board of course. Although it is changing, all too often the Board, including the Human Resource committee, focuses on issues that directly impact the balance sheet and/or the investment community (financing, strategy, results, compensation, benefits, succession). Day-to-day executive behaviour is often too far removed for directors to be able to interpret how the business is impacted. Remedial coaching for a CEO who isn't meeting the numbers is, of course, a different matter.

It doesn't help that the conversation at the top around issues such as succession and leadership development – issues of genuine importance to the Board – are dominated by the organisation's strategic imperatives. Important as "the plan" is, in a turbulent and uncertain world, strategy is, at best, a work in progress.

Here it should be emphasised that there is a big difference between performance and developmental coaching. The former is about enhancing performance in the role as it is today. The latter implies developing the skills and capability needed several years out. The short-term nature of the capital markets puts an emphasis on today's performance. A smart executive understands that success is a marathon … not a 100-yard dash. Here today … gone tomorrow isn't much of a plan!

The Coaching Conversation

There is a case to be made that CEOs often sidestep coaching because they don't fully understand how coaching will benefit them. Two points are significant here:

  1. Every coaching conversation is different and the approach needs to reflect the needs of the individual being coached.
  2. Coaching at the top is not the same as coaching in the middle of the organisation.

The time span of discretion (how far one looks into the future), the balance between strategic and operational actions, the degree of complexity, the need to spend far more time managing from the outside-in and even the language used becomes more complex and/or is reframed, the higher in the organisation you go. These are not small shifts of behaviour.

Insights from "Coaching the CEO".

Ongoing talent development is crucial to maintain a competitive advantage over one's competition. TRANSEARCH's leadership consulting solutions are delivered by highly experienced professionals who have access to research-based intellectual property, methodologies and cutting-edge tools.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Succession Imperative

If you don't have the leadership you need, regardless of what else works, you still don't have much. As for a crisis, it might not - as has often been suggested - create leaders but it lets you know about the capability of the ones you have.

The leadership challenge describes a talent management system with a good many moving parts:

  • The capacity to attract talent
  • The talent acquisition process
  • Executive integration
  • Performance management
  • Leadership development
  • Building great teams
  • Traditional and tech-enabled teaching/training
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Expediting the organisation's diversity and inclusion goals

And at the centre of that system, the straw that stirs the drink? The organisation's approach to succession. If talent management is the vehicle that supports business longevity, succession - an often misconceived, misaligned and misunderstood process - is its engine. It is a critical investment that you cannot afford to get wrong.

The narrative around succession is, invariably, drawn to big jobs with big companies. The reality is that every poor succession decision destroys value. In family businesses this is especially the case. Unfortunately, the evidence demonstrates that organisations don't exactly excel at succession.

Ultimately, the true measure of a leader isn't what they achieve while in office - it's what they leave behind. That even after the heaviest storm … you can still clearly see their footprints in the sand.

Insights from "It's Time To Rethink Succession".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Direction - The DNA Of A Great Team

Striving to create a great team isn't simply to end up with a nice, bright, shiny and highly admired group of people. The only reason for building a great team - the utility implied - is to better facilitate tomorrow's winning value proposition, create value, bring about change and retain talent. Anything less is to shortchange everyone involved. Results and relationships are the central tenets in a series of synergistic sub-processes that move from Direction, to Development, to Delivery and, eventually, to Decline. As it moves through each of the building blocks, a great team leans heavily on these DNA markers.

In this article we explore "Direction".

A compelling purpose

The team's purpose is obviously drawn out of the organisation's purpose. Purpose should answer two questions - one, essentially, a subtext of the other:

1) Why do we do what we do?
2) How does what we do make a difference in the world?

With a big enough "why" ordinary people can, and do, achieve the extraordinary. Ask yourself:

  • Does the "why" have real emotional impact … both within the business and with customers? Does it inspire people?
  • In what ways does the purpose give team members a deeper sense of meaning?
  • What unanswered questions does the purpose raise?

The right leader

To lead is to be the first one to smile and the last one to speak. Those who excel as leaders blend courtesy, compassion and comfort with ambiguity into an in-the-moment presence. Peter Drucker referred to courtesy as "the lubricant of leadership". There is no such thing as a leaderless team. Lack of a leader runs the risk of introducing the wrong leadership. That said, as the team matures, there are times when the leader has to follow and members of the team are asked to lead. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a clear leader? Are they the right leader? Who should the leader be? In the case of an outgoing leader, what was their most significant contribution?
  • Does the team leader live the organisation's values every day in every way? How do they deal with those who don't always live the values?
  • What is the team leader's leadership point of view?
  • In the way they lead, do they deliver leadership "balance"?
  • In the absence of an appointed leader, who takes the lead?
  • How does the team leader deal with conflict? What conflict will a future leader need to deal with?
  • How are rivalries dealt with?
  • How much freedom to act do team members have? How much freedom to act should they have?
  • How does the team leader delegate?

The right strategy

The strategy describes "what" needs to be achieved. The organisation's values outline "how". Ask yourself:

  • Is the long-term direction for the team clear? Is it congruent with the strategy of key teams one level up?
  • Are the delivery assumptions built into the strategy consistent with the organisation's values?
  • Does the strategy contain within it messaging that reinforces the culture the organisation needs to create?
  • In what ways does the strategy balance the short and the long term?
  • Who, if anybody, on the team disagrees with the agreed strategy? How have they been given a voice?

The right people

Whom you hire and/or promote dictates what's possible. The default selection process in most organisations is skewed towards hiring the "best" person. Great teams are built on finding the "right" person. Based on the situation, the right candidate will be someone who can grow and continue to grow in the role, who adds to the team beyond the horizons of the functional role and who is a natural fit with the leadership development agenda offered within the organisation. If you can't attract top talent, you can't hire top talent. Top performers are drawn to an organisation with a great story. Ask yourself:

  • With the agreed strategy in mind, do those on the team have the basic talent needed to thrive? What's missing … as a team … and/or on an individual basis?
  • Is the behaviour of those on the team aligned with the culture the organisation - and by implication - the team need to create?
  • Is there an obvious successor to the leader? How has the potential success of that individual been validated? What development steps are under way?
  • How does the team add someone new? Is that approach effective?
  • Are those who make recruitment decisions fully trained in interviewing?

Insights from "Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

FOCUS and the Power of Paradox
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For someone in a leadership role, 'focus' is dynamic. It's recognising that even a small act can cast a long shadow. For those with a strategic mandate, focus has to address both the here and now and look to the horizon. It is about initiating action, but also ensuring that the way forward supports the culture the organisation needs to create. Focus, for the business leader, thus, becomes a way to think and act.

Download "FOCUS and the Power of Paradox" today.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

What Turmoil in European Football Taught Us About Stakeholder Capital

Occasionally, something enters the public discourse that represents a unique teaching moment. The turbulent events in April 2021, focusing on the English Premier League, provided such an opportunity. What we witnessed was an unforgettable series of actions that opened a window on a poorly understood concept – "stakeholder capital".

Kick-off

It all kicked off when the football (soccer) scene across Europe was thrown into turmoil. On April 18th, twelve of the biggest and wealthiest clubs in Europe (six from the English Premier League) announced that they had formed their own league (modelled on the NFL in the US).

Their goal? The opportunity to increase shareholder value. A move that would, literally, have amounted to billions of euros for each of the "chosen" clubs. As for the turmoil, a closed league – no promotion or relegation – of elite clubs would have inevitably destroyed the inherent competitiveness of the other major football leagues across Europe. Amongst the English clubs that would have been pushed towards insolvency are those with working class roots that go back to the early days of organised football in the nineteenth century.

J. P. Morgan secured the financing for the new league to the tune of £4.6b. Amazon, it was reputed, was in line to sign them up for broadcast rights. To the rest of world football the surprise move was presented as an arrogant fait accompli. A done deal!

Half time

Before the ink was dry on their agreement, however, the so-called "super league" was issued a red card. The unanticipated backlash from all of the other stakeholders – players, managers, fans, government, media, the press, etc. – was so great that the new league was carried off on a stretcher within 48 hours. Apart from having to give up the potential long-term gain, the twelve clubs involved reputedly (collectively) lost an immediate investment of 150 million euros.

Stakeholder value, as represented by the many, totally overwhelmed the financial opportunity being pursued by the powerful and uncaring few.
 
The Liverpool owner was forced to make a groveling video apologising personally to the fans for his lack of judgement. It's not very often we see billionaires admitting that they scored an own goal. A key figure in the breakaway league – the Chief Executive of Manchester United – announced his resignation. Others in the conspiracy (the Real Madrid President for example) decided to look beyond the negative banner headlines, ignore the thousands of protesting fans, push aside the wide-spread accusations of naked greed and perpetuate the view that they did it for the "good of the game".

If I could offer such individuals any advice it would be to avoid a night out in the north of England any time in the next decade or so.

Final score

As an aside, the "collapse" the failed owners facilitated endorses a leadership competency that should not be underestimated - "cultural reach".

No matter how well-honed a leader's instinct to financial opportunity, failing to fully understand the cultural setting the business operates in can only be described as "an act of crass mismanagement". After three years of planning in secret, that the owners would make this move in the midst of a pandemic is further proof that someone's cultural antenna needs a little tuning.

What can the rest of us learn from this? Apart from the need for transparency and empathy in the midst of a crisis, know that no matter how skilled or aggressive you may be success is, ultimately, about knowing how to read the game.

The company's footprint on the environment matters. Diversity and inclusion are central to how you build great teams. Talent vote with their feet. Reputation in the public domain is hard won and easily lost. Add the need to move decision-making as close to the customer as possible, the proliferation of choice, the expansion of Gig employment that COVID has brought about (work from anywhere), word-of-mouth marketing and the influence of social media to the mix and one starts to understand the ways in which the locus of power is moving from the shareholder (20th century) to a much wider range of stakeholder groups (21st century).

That companies quoted on the London stock exchange now must report (under corporate law) both "the employee voice" and "organisation culture" is a further indication that the times they are a changin'. Tomorrow will be different. Thought leadership is to help light the way.

Key questions

  1. Diversity and inclusion. Because aspects of "diversity" are clearly apparent, organisations are, invariably, fully aware of their ongoing progress (or lack of). "Inclusion" is far less obvious. Does your organisation's strategic agenda embrace an approach to inclusion as it applies to all of the stakeholders?
  2. Cultural reach. Are talent management decisions - hiring, promotion, succession, leadership development, coaching - informed by the organisation culture needed to bring tomorrow's business model to life? In that you can't manage what you don't measure, this implies measuring both the culture you have and the culture you need.
  3. Leadership capability. Is the talent, capability, experience and mindset displayed by the current Board of Directors congruent with the emerging organisation, technology, market and societal challenges your business faces?

Article by John O. Burdett, Orxestra Inc., © 2021. John is the founder of Orxestra Inc. and strategic partner to TRANSEARCH International. For more on leadership philosophy in the 21st century download "Leadership, Learning and Agility: the WAY OF THE DOLPHIN". It is a complimentary download from the TRANSEARCH website.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Coming Down the Mountain: Coming Out Of This Crisis Stronger

Breakthrough technology, uncertainty and the unprecedented and ever-increasing speed of change demand an organisation that is a fit for the challenges of the 21st century. We are describing not just a better, but a very different kind of way to operate. An organisation built to change; one where disruption, agility and speed of learning dominate the leadership conversation.

Which brings us to the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis has three stages. Stage one: acceptance. Stage two: survival. Stage three: growth. And the winners will be? Those who come out of this crisis stronger.

Amid the veritable avalanche of "me too" advice on how to get through this crisis it is easy to overlook two central questions:

  1. "How will your business come out of this stronger?"
  2. "As a leader, how will you personally come out of this stronger?"

"Part One: Coming Down the Mountain" looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

Download your complementary copy today »


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.