Join me and my guest Phil Gafka, of LEAP Coaching, as we focus on the critical role of enhancing organizational culture for an organization’s success. Phil emphasizes the need to define not only what an organization’s culture should be but also the behaviors and methods to nurture it. Listen as he provides practical strategies for leaders to initiate culture transformation, including insights on teamwork’s core role in shaping culture. He also guides leaders on prioritizing and integrating core values into their decision-making processes.
Gain a comprehensive understanding of culture enhancement and the crucial role of leadership in this process through Phil’s thought-provoking insights and experiences.
About the Guest:
Phil Gafka is a recognized leadership speaker, executive coach, and business consultant.
Capitalizing on his experience as CEO of two successful companies and developing leadership performance at a variety of corporate levels, as a Certified Business Coach, Phil focuses on Executive Coaching, Leadership Development and Strategic Business Planning and Culture Development. He develops leaders, from managers.
Phil has spoken to a wide range of organizations ranging from Audi, Jackson National Life Insurance, and the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
His first book is entitled “Hole-In-One Leadership – 9 Secrets to Mastering the Game of Leadership Greatness” and was published in 2019.
About the Host:
Amy L. Riley is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant. She has over 2 decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte and Barclays.
As a trusted leadership coach and consultant, Amy has worked with hundreds of leaders one-on-one, and thousands more as part of a group, to fully step into their leadership, create amazing teams and achieve extraordinary results.
Amy’s most popular keynote speeches are:
- The Courage of a Leader: The Power of a Leadership Legacy
- The Courage of a Leader: Create a Competitive Advantage with Sustainable, Results-Producing Cross-System Collaboration
- The Courage of a Leader: Accelerate Trust with Your Team, Customers and Community
- The Courage of a Leader: How to Build a Happy and Successful Hybrid Team
Her new book is a #1 international best-seller and is entitled, The Courage of a Leader: How to Inspire, Engage and Get Extraordinary Results.
Resource mentioned in the episode
The Inspire Your Team assessment (the courage assessment): https://courageofaleader.com/inspireyourteam/
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Teaser for next episode
Tune in next for The San Diego Airport Culture Factor: the New Process for Trust, Growth and Expansion with my guest, Kimberly Becker, the President and CEO of the San Diego International Airport.
My guest today is Phil Gafka. He's a leadership speaker, executive coach and business consultant. Today we tap into his experience with culture development, we talk about how do you get started defining your culture? How do you define cultural values? And why is this all so important? I'm glad you're here to learn from Phil.Amy Riley:
Welcome to the Courage of a Leader podcast. This is where you hear real life stories of top leaders achieving extraordinary results. And you get practical advice and techniques, you can immediately apply for your own success. This is where you will get inspired. And take bold, courageous action. I am so glad you can join us. I'm your host, Amy Riley. Now, are you ready to step into the full power of your leadership and achieve the results you care about most? Let's ignite the courage of a leader.Amy Riley:
So I'm so glad that you're here with me today on the courage of the leader podcast. I know that one of your many talents, and part of the work you do with your clients is helping them to enhance and develop their culture. Why is that a focus of your work? Why is that important? What are your clients getting out of that work?Phil Gafka:
Well, hey, first of all, thank you. It's lovely to be here spending some time with you. And you know, it's the background I hear now. Is in the wholesale distribution side. Yeah. And we just called on other businesses and you start to see why does business a always do well? And why does business be always struggled? And you start to see what are those foundational elements that are are not in place, then the most successful organizations that I've seen, are those that are really clear on to where they're going vision and how they're going to get their culture. And the ones that, you know, the the quote by one of the management gurus is culture eats strategy for breakfast.Amy Riley:
I was thinking of that as your time. Yeah, A versus B. Yeah.Phil Gafka:
And it's so true, you could have the best plan, you could have the best vision if you don't have a culture to support it. And I don't have very many guarantees, but I have this one, you'll never get there. Recently, I had a half day workshop with a group of 50 attorneys. And they had all come from larger firms, because they left toxic and by now, as they grew multiple cities, multiple surgeries, some of that toxicity was starting to leech him to the organization. And they had never sat down as a group to really get serious about. So we took them morning and narrow down what were the most important components to them have a successful culture? That's like, oh, yeah, this is great. We're in Sydney, we have this big whiteboard going, said fine. Now come and sign your name up here. That this is what you're going to do. Now. This is what you're going to live by. It's like, oh, I have to commit. Yes, each one of you needs to come up with silence. Now he went around the room and said, Okay, based upon this discussion, starting right now, what are you gonna do different? And we logged all of those comments, and all of those observations that people made, because it's not just talking about, you know, call, it's like, you walk into organizations and you see, you know, they'll tell you over big family here. Really, then why is there a revolving door? Why are you not getting targets? Because you're saying a and doing b. And my goal with clients is to get them talk in walk on a parallel line.Amy Riley:
Yes. Which requires translating the cultural values, what you say are the most successful components of your culture, into mindsets you engage in into behaviors that you engage in on a day to day basis, the importance of your question, what would you do differently? Yes, how is this gonna show up? Day to day,Phil Gafka:
so there was a city ration with one of the major partners who was not at the meeting, and I knew from other conversations that that was not a real good situation, okay. And I followed up with the main partner a week and a half later. And well went around noon so that they would even do, he said, I know what I need to do without spelling it out, and I could see a few heads bobbing. And I called a week and a half later. And it's it wasn't a real, fun conversation, because the day before he had left that other part, ah, but again, quoting up if this is the way you're going to deal you can't just talk it. Because one thing is I try to impress upon clients is, you know, if you can find over us. But culture is really what you tolerate, will Allah? Yes. So you've identified it all and put the fancy words up on the wall, and you can recite them and everybody knows now. But if it really boils down to where you live, and that's the serious part of the organizations that do it. The level of engagement for that group of people goes way, way up. Yeah, I've worked with a number of clients over the years. And everybody needs to hide, right? I mean, it's your hearing, see it with your everybody's looking for people. That it's not just people that have skill. Adequate will? Do they fit your culture?Amy Riley:
Yeah. Do they align with your core values? Yeah, very critical. Oh, this really showing up and a conversation I was having with a leader earlier today, like the tolerating and the allowing, is going on. Right? And she's, she's nice, right? She doesn't want to be too harsh. But what is the impact on the group right on the work? So Phil, you told us I love this, about having all of those attorneys in the room sign the most successful components of their culture, and identify what they'll do differently? I'd like to ask you the opposite question. How do these conversations get started? Because I feel like so many leaders get overwhelmed about this. Yeah, I don't know what we're totally clear on our vision. Yeah, I'm not sure that we're totally clear on what makes our culture effective. What we want our culture to look and feel like, how do we get started? was the beginning of that meeting lookPhil Gafka:
like? You already hit the nail on the head. They say I'm not sure. I was brought into a firm was working to a couple other people, I kind of finagle the audience with the CEO. So let me ask you a question. So they've heard about you that if you see a new employee, you see an intern, you go pull up a chair, and you go talk with him. And then I've heard about your CFO, and I know why you brought him in. But your CFO, his first words, on Monday morning is, where's my report? So if I walk around this is I'm going to break a coaching room and ask you to Park West. If I walk around and ask people, what's the culture around here? How many different answers am I going to get? And part two? How many answers should I get? And he takes out his little notebook and starts making notes. You know, that's the thing about the culture, you should be and your people should be very clear. Yeah. Then when you take it down into an organization, you have to bring it down and have conversation with everybody at every level. So they can get an understanding of what it needs to them at their level. So they can play along. You just give them the will. Here's what we've come up with that it's numbers one through five. And that's fine. But if you don't explain how you got and work them again, it's like you got to the dictionary what we used to go to, but you're gonna see, you know, 234, or five definitions for the word? Yes. Well, we need one. And then a group of 50 people, we can have 50 variations of a core value we need knowing that we agree this is how we defineAmy Riley:
right? What do we mean when we say teamwork? Yes. And I'm hearing you say conversations with everybody. Right? And, and in big organizations, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting 2500 people in the same conversation or 50,000, or whatever it is, but you're bringing people together. What do you see what does it mean to you? How does this translate to your day to day, right? Okay. This is what we mean by teamwork. How do you demonstrate that in your interactions given your job responsibilities? Well, IPhil Gafka:
mean, what the same thing applies, Amy, to the vision. Yep, if you want them to buy into that as well, if you want them to engage, you got to again, bring it down to their level, and work with a 500 person, county government years ago. And in so called Vision Statement, which was to love because they had too many coordinates to the audit to get those little birds. You know, maximize resource, which is fine for the executive director. That's money. That's people that's buildings. Yep. Yep, bought the lowest level person in the organization. And so we did, we had those conversations with those people talked about their job and how it fits in. And then they understood that they could take Process One, two, and three, and combine those into one instead of three. Now they understand maximizing resources, then we're resource where we brought it down to their level. So they said, Oh, okay, now I get it. Now, I think what?Amy Riley:
Yes, we've already said so many great things. Phil, let me tell the listeners a little bit more about you. Phil Gafka, is a recognized leadership speaker, executive coach and business consultant, capitalizing on his experience as CEO of two successful companies. And as a certified business coach. Phil focuses on executive coaching, leadership development and strategic business planning and culture development. As we are talking about today, Phil has spoken to a wide range of organizations ranging from Audie Jackson national life insurance and the National Kitchen and Bath Association. His first book is entitled Hole in One Leadership: Nine Secrets to Mastering the Game of Leadership Greatness that was published back in 2019. And he is now working on the next book. So the first book covers the front nine of the golf course, if you will. And now he's working on the back nine, transitioning to that next part of your leadership journey. Glad to have you here. Phil, you've already said so many great things about prioritizing our cultural values. So if you're just alluding to it, you have 50 people with 50 different answers, right? And sometimes when we start to talk about what do we want our culture to look like? We want it to be this and then and this and that, and this and that. How do you get leadership groups? How do you get employees in organizations to prioritize?Phil Gafka:
You're basically serving the root of what's important to you. Yeah, we have fortunately a very large whiteboard. And we wrote down everything. We had 60, some will call them core value. That's great. I said, Okay, you know, What's everyone's heard?Amy Riley:
That's great. Yeah.Phil Gafka:
I said, Okay, now we're doing just memorize these. What do you know, then the next part of the process is I just pick on people in the crowd, say, okay, maybe pick any two on the board. And let's decide between those two, which is the more important of the two. Okay. And some are very easy. And then we take the next person say, Okay, we'll get to, then we're crossing one off each time. Okay, the first couple of releases that we get into interesting discussions, which is that to their point of now they start finding what they need by those terms, via this conversation of this core value versus this core.Amy Riley:
Okay, now, yeah, we're finding out what did they mean by teamwork? What did they mean by collaboration? Okay, teamwork is actually speaking more to us. We're gonna cross this one out. Yes. Okay. Then wePhil Gafka:
do this, until we took it down to what turned out to be the Elite Eight, because it's kind of that NCAA March Madness process, you just bracketing down. So you get to your winners,Amy Riley:
okay. Get to the finals. Yeah.Phil Gafka:
All I'm doing is facilitating, it's their conversation. They're talking to one another. And then we vote and majority will eventually be whittled this down to the most important things. Now, what's, what's interesting is the things that we're crossing off, don't go away. Yeah, it's just being replaced by something that's more important. Because you can't tell a new employee or an existing of what yours are 67 core values.Amy Riley:
I mean, even with aid, we we had this exploration that with a leadership development group, in a program I'm reading not too long ago. Oh, they have, they call them something different. But you know, they're their core organizational values, and they can come into conflict with one another very easily. There could be quality versus teamwork or inclusive liveness versus responsiveness and, okay, in different situations, where is it important to wait one more than the other? Or how can you bring both together in the best way? It can getPhil Gafka:
tricky. You know, you work with clients on that, the way you use the vision statement, in your core values. These are your North snarks when, when there is a situation, now we're going to use the things we found that does this decision, does this action support? Or not? This like, oh, no, no. And that's really when you start to use these tools that you've put in place, you know, companies that are entrepreneur, that's like always, there's always another sign. Yeah, let's go chase this. Yeah. Does the shiny object support the vision of where this organization wants to go? Yes. Yes, it does. And there's probably a good chance you should do if it doesn't have a good chance, you should not be wasting your time on that shiny out in the same room for those four values, do you violate yours? Or not? Yes or No, some of these are really simple answers may not make me comfortable answers were pretty simple answer. Yeah. SoAmy Riley:
I'm feeling like there is the getting really clear about what are our prioritize core cultural values? And then there's Okay, don't take that pretty package and put it on a shelf? How do we use it for guidance? How do we use it for decision making? Are we talking about this in our team meetings and our one on one touch bases? And how we're going to do work? When we're improving processes? Right, we're tying it to the values and the companies that do it. Well, it gets embedded in the wedge and in their processes.Phil Gafka:
And it's not about accountability. Yeah, I mean, it seems But that's only part of the process. You know, you calling me out and saying, Hey, Phil, you know, I think you've crossed the line, you're that's you holding me accountable? The place you want to get to ownership? hold yourself accountable. What do you do with no buddies? Are you doing the right thing? Yeah. And when you get to that place, it's a beautiful mark. Really.Amy Riley:
Right. And knowing that you have this ownership, and you're doing what you know, to do, throughout your days, as any employee in that company to live the cultural values, and you had an exchange with someone else, and you didn't feel like teamwork was present in that. Call that out? Right, like, I'm not feeling teamwork right now. Right? How can we do this differently?Phil Gafka:
You felt powerful? You know, those are the organizations that just always do better. In a perfect situation. There's no perfect now, but it's about that true commitment. And being really honest, and living what you said you were going to, and there's no one, there's no one set of core values. Yeah, you know, it's the warden that works for that organization that they're going to commit to, and they're going to go, IAmy Riley:
don't know if this is the best time, but this is popping into my head right now, Phil, I have a business partner that that says, We don't like to say, practice makes perfect. We like to say practice makes permanent. Right? So we're not gonna live the values perfectly. We've already talked about how sometimes there's tension between now and it's in, it's hard to uphold them all to 100% or, you know, whatever that looks like. But instead you're engaging with it. And you're talking about it, and you're like, Okay, I think we can achieve this. I don't know, do we need to sacrifice a little bit here? Like, how can we possibly do this the best way that we can in this moment?Phil Gafka:
That brings up the golf ball? Because I just said, Yeah, tie golf and leadership together. But I think it was Annika Sorenstam who said we don't track this, too. We get it right. We practice too. We can't get it wrong. That's powerful tale. You know, and if you put that kind of effort in, you know, you're gonna do pretty darn well.Amy Riley:
Alright, I want to ask this question, Phil. So if a tea In leader, a mid level manager is listening to this podcast episode. And they're thinking, Well, alright, I'm not in charge of like starting this whole cascade conversation in my organization. What can they do to influence the kind of culture that they said they and they know their team wants to have?Phil Gafka:
Great questions. I'll give you an example. I worked with an organization 50 people a interview with everybody in the organization, okay. And then they had their leadership team get together, we started working on their culture. During the process, I got a call from two of their, you know, higher level people that they had been talking to go, you know, we want to have this conversation, we don't think that the people at the very top are really buying it. And I said, so what? I said, What are you doing? You can't control what those people are. But in your level, in your Plex, what are you doing? Don't shirk off that responsibility? Leaders go first. Let me know, don't think that was the answer they were expecting. But that's when I work with clients, I talk in terms of multi directional leadership. You know, he had an org chart people that are underneath you, there was a certain style, or level of leadership. But it's also different than what you do at appear live. And it's also very different from what you do leading up the lab. But if the earlier that is your job, you have to go first, it's like when a CEO, you see the news item or the CEO is going to retire. And then in the same article, they will these are the two or three people that are the heir apparent. How do you get on that list? I'm sure that those error parents aren't waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Ah,Amy Riley:
yeah. Did you send their influence they're notPhil Gafka:
doing it. And that's the point. If you want to if you're going to assume that role of leader then assume that own it. what leadership isAmy Riley:
needed here? How can you with your strengths and skills and approach and experience put it in? So I'm hearing us use your influence toPhil Gafka:
learn how to use you? You know, the tough part is, you know, if you're going up the ladder, it's not really easy to tell you, you know, Boss, you're doing this all wrong. Let me tell you how to do this. But that's probably not gonna get a warm reception. Yeah, but I think as people learn the power of a really good, provocative question, the kind of question that you kind of want to say it on your way out the door, because you don't want an answer. You just want to plant the seed, you want the other person walking away going, I gotta think about think for a minute. You want somebody to reframe their thinking? And the way you do that, I think, is asking a really good question.Amy Riley:
And if you've got a team, right, if, if there are employees that are reporting directly to you, are you gonna launch those conversations around? Hey, these are organizational values? Or what do we want to be our departments values and how to demonstrate those day to day and get engaged in creating the kind of culture that you know is gonna allow you to get to your vision, right, what your what your group needs to accomplish?Phil Gafka:
Oh, I love it. Phil, you've said so many great things today. Let me recap some of these so that listeners have got them foundational elements, where are we going? The vision? And then the how do we get there? Which is the culture? And you want to have conversations with everybody about what are our most successful cultural components, and get down to the level where everybody sees how it applies to their job? How do I have that line of sight? How do I impact the vision? And how do I demonstrate the cultural values every day? I circled this over here in my notes, Phil's like, what do you tolerate, and allow a great inquiry for every leader out there? Are we calling out are we doing something about those behaviors that aren't aligned with the culture that we want? And you're winning the culture game when people have ownership? Right there really feeling that ownership? It's embedded in your processes in your language day to day and every leader out there? will have this this This challenge this invitation leaders go first, how can you use your influence? Ask the provocative questions. Right, translate those values into your day to day operations. Any final words? Phil, so much great stuff you've shared with us already.Phil Gafka:
I mentioned to you earlier in our other conversation, I've got a couple of speaking engagements coming up in the fall. And I found a good close. Okay. And the clauses you asked the audience, what's the difference between a good general and a great, man? good general rule sets char. And the great general says, Follow me. As leaders go through howAmy Riley:
I'm going to charge come along. Thank you so much for your time today. Phil, appreciate you being on the podcast.Phil Gafka:
Gave me thank you for the opportunity. always a joy to chat with you, young lady. Thank you very much.Amy Riley:
Yes, I feel the same. Thanks, Phil.Amy Riley:
Thank you for listening to the Courage of a Leader podcast. If you'd like to further explore this episode's topic, please reach out to me through the courage of a leader website at www.courageofaleader.com. I'd love to hear from you. Please take the time to leave a review on iTunes. That helps us expand our reach and get more people fully stepping into their leadership potential. Until next time, be bold and be brave because you've got the Courage of a Leader.