Yes we really LOVE our clients! The Magic of Partnership and how we are learning to co-create it

culture Sep 17, 2019

As external culture and leadership guides and educators, at the core of our work with our partners is a shared intention to create a more adaptive organisation for the benefit of people and our planet.

At Adaptive Cultures, we continue to reflect on the difference between moderate and extraordinary success in our partnerships with organisations. While there are, of course, a multitude of factors, a typical pattern is the quality of our partnership.

Some of the factors that we’ve identified that consistently enable extraordinary outcomes are:

  • A shared purpose and paradigm we are working from
  • Mutual respect, honesty and trust
  • Shared responsibility and accountability

These may not be surprising, and we can look to how to create these from a rational frame of reference, and yet in our experience, it is not the cognitive approach to partnership that makes the most significant difference– the magic is in the quality and power of love in the partnership.

A loving partnership is not often the term you would use to describe the relationship an external advisor might have with their internal partner however in the spirit of honesty, that is the quality we perceive makes all the difference.

Love helps human beings to transcend ego and self-interest for something more significant, it brings out extraordinary effort and qualities of being, and it demands a higher level of mutual openness and accountability.  Love becomes a conduit for the transfer of knowledge as it opens people up to each other and the world around in a very different way to cognitive curiosity.

While it goes against a lot of general business advice – we don’t tend to approach our clients for testimonials and referrals; however, in responding to some recent prospective clients requests, we did.   What a fantastic exercise in feeling the love!

While much of the references from our clients focussed on the work we did with them and the outcomes achieved, we enjoyed hearing about how our clients had experienced us and share some small excerpts with you here:

“I would strongly recommend Adaptive Cultures in partnering with teams and organisations where the leadership shift required is transformational, rather than incremental; where the problem statement/s is/are adaptive and complex rather than simple.  The teams approach is holistic and ‘hands-on’ which is exactly what is needed to assist with the hard, but necessary work of changing cultures in our rapidly changing industries and workforces.”

“Adaptive Cultures goes beyond the slogans and generic descriptions of ‘culture’ and provides a meaningful (and accessible) framework for leaders to better diagnose cultural shortcomings/strengths and implement interventions that will have the greatest positive impact on organisational success.  This is a unique difference in approach to other culture methodologies I have encountered.”

“The Adaptive Cultures approach does not just provide a unique lens into culture (as described above) it also challenges leaders to immediately implement interventions or tests/challenges to improve their leadership and their team’s culture.”

“Adaptive Cultures approach is pragmatic, caring and commercial – Alison has the empathy and understanding to appreciate the adaptive challenges facing leaders in our industry. However, she is fiercely outcome orientated and provides the necessary challenge and feedback to ensure that leaders are held accountable for the commitments and promises made in service of one another and the organisation.”

“I have worked with a number of people over many years involved in organisational development and culture change/transformation; I have to say that Alison was absolutely inspiring, refreshing and had an energy level and ability to engage the team like I have not seen before.”

“Because Adaptive Cultures is boutique, it provides intimate, nimble and tailored responses.  I always feel like we are getting the best of what’s on offer from them – as opposed to the feeling I’m left with dealing with some larger consulting firms who tend to provide cookie-cutter solutions.  The larger firms completely miss the level, complexity and depth of inner culture work.  Adaptive Cultures have done the inner work themselves.  It’s not intellectualised, but a lived and felt experience.  And it shows in how they deal with you with deep insights and practical advice – you know they have been there before.”

“Adaptive Cultures helped us transform our culture, from the leadership team (supporting us to collectively evolve our thinking, behaviours and ways of working) down to every person in the organisation.  They effectively partnered and collaborated with us to identify gaps in our approach, supporting our initiatives, challenging our thinking and helping our culture transformation to be sustainable- and we all developed as leaders.   The psychological depth of Adaptive Cultures approaches successfully guided us in addressing every aspect of our culture.”

“Andrew has expanded our perspectives, challenged our thinking and helped many of our senior leaders to significantly evolve our leadership style. He demonstrates a genuine care and interest in us and is able to ‘meet us where we’re at’. This, combined with his deep knowledge and experience and his humble approachable style, makes him credible and compelling as he engages with our people.”

“One aspect of the Adaptive Cultures approach that we particularly appreciate is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ culture, rather that different cultures serve different contexts and strategies. This has been helpful in not ‘making the past wrong’ for our people, whilst still clearly demonstrating the need to evolve.

Adaptive Cultures have helped us to see clearly that our culture work needs to be long-term and systemic; and have proactively sought to build our internal capability to carry that forward, without building an ongoing reliance on them.”

“Partnering with Adaptive Cultures has been very empowering for me as I have grown my own capacity to lead, design interventions and build out our strategy. Alison and Andrew are a pleasure to work with, always generous with their time. Their insights lead to a way forward without being prescriptive but seeking to support the path we choose to take and resourcefully working with whatever situations emerge.”

And yet, we also reflected that this was not always the case.  When it isn’t, it is more often than not the times that we do not have the opportunity to support our client’s success in the way we would like. While we do our best to be non-attached in our work, this can be disappointing and sometimes demoralising as we put so much care into our work.

While we tend to exercise discernment in who we work with, we realised that at times, we have entered into engagements where we are treated more as suppliers or providers than mutual partners. At these times, we have not adequately challenged or set boundaries with our clients.  As we become clearer about what enables success and one of the pivotal aspects of this is the quality of our partnership, we are asking the question:

If love really is what makes the difference, how can we be more intentional about enabling this?

While love and the trust that can more easily give rise to it, can take time to bring into focus and to be realised, we can agree principles and agreements that are more likely to support the blossoming and deepening of love.

The following template is one we have started to adapt and work through with our clients prior to engaging with them:

We are genuine strategic partners in your cultural transformation.  We are educators, advisors and partners.

 In entering into a partnership, we agree to:

  1. View the organisation as a living system with the capacity to make a positive contribution to the other systems it is connected to or embedded in.
  2. Align to a shared purpose that will guide decision making and actions throughout the partnership
  3. Foster mutual respect. We respect that internal partners are likely to have a greater understanding of industry, context, people and organisation. As external guides, we are likely to bring greater insight in the work of how to enable cultural evolution to support systemic transformation.  We commit to a partnership of mutual learning.
  4. Share ownership, responsibility and accountability. These are key principles that enable partnership rather than a transactional “service provider” relationship. We own the outcomes together.
  5. Open transparent communication is essential to enable shared ownership and trust. Owning success and learnings, ongoing reflection, challenging ideas and sharing perspectives in an authentic way helps us to learn and grow together
  6. External orientation (to the benefits to community, customer and the future of the society and industry) generates momentum for cultural evolution. Too much internal orientation (doing business with ourselves) can impede this; therefore, all internal initiatives are led with broader impacts in mind. Organisations that embody this principle typically build a much greater level of trust with external stakeholders such as regulators and community, which paradoxically leads to better business outcomes.
  7. Fully commit. Ad-hoc or half-hearted attempts at cultural evolution don’t work. In working together, we commit to going “all-in” and staying with the work through the challenges and moments of breakthrough or inspiration.
  8. Deep listening and seeking to understand before being understood. We will respectfully inquire and challenge to enable better outcomes.  We commit to receiving challenge with positive intent and the opportunity to evolve our perspectives through partnership.
  9. Investment in worldview and mindset shifts beyond “sheep dipping” mindset programs and PR campaigns is essential, and this takes time and financial investment. Long term research studies support the impact of taking this element of cultural evolution seriously.
  10. Involvement of executive leaders and Board that goes beyond oversight or talking the talk is essential. Through our research, the most successful culture transformations engage the leaders and the Board as they embody the aspirational culture

We would love to hear your thoughts on the above.  Is there anything you would change or add? How do you go about enabling positive partnerships either internal to your organisation or as an external guide or enabler?

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