As the former director of culture activation at WestJet, Pam August knows firsthand the power of culture in enabling strategic success, especially in today’s work climate.
Pam worked with WestJet for 14 years before becoming a consultant for high-performance organizations around the world. She helps her clients build authentic company cultures through aligning brand promise (external experience) with employee experience (internal experience).
A new speaker to our roster, Pam joined us for a virtual speaker visit to share insight into the culture building process.
Lead Culture by Design Not Default
Culture change starts with curiosity, Pam said. Leaders need to be curious about what already lives within an organization, and identify the smallest, fewest things that need to change while building on what’s working.
Leaders can do this, Pam said, by constantly being curious — ask questions, observe, listen, and respond on an ongoing basis.
It starts by asking everyone within the company (top, middle, and bottom) a core set of questions; questions that help people look forward.
- How has our industry changed because we exist? What’s our impact?
- What makes us unique?
- What’s new and exciting?
- What are the stories that people will tell about us?
A lot of culture-building centres around stories, Pam said, and the surfacing themes that come from these stories. By asking these core questions, leaders can learn what the organization looks like when it’s at its best, and how it feels for those who are a part of it.
Through working with dozens of companies, including WestJet, Pam has found that there is much more alignment in what people want and their intent, top to bottom, than there is misalignment.
“The real work is getting clear on what’s already there,” Pam said, “and then identifying what is the core that we will activate and integrate into everything. Because culture is not a thing, it’s the way and the why we do everything.”
Learn more in the video below:
COVID-Era Company Culture
Culture is more than picnics, ping pong, potlucks, and parties, Pam said. Although the way we come together is an enactment of a company’s culture, she added.
The organizations that excel in building a culture recognize what culture is and what it isn’t. They are very clear on who they want to be as an organization, what matters most, and what actions they take to demonstrate that, both when employees are together and apart.
The pandemic re-defined how we work. Right now, companies are asking themselves, “do we bring people back to the office?” But really, what they should be asking, Pam said, is “when and why are we bringing people back to the office?”
There needs to be intention behind that action of bringing people to the office. Define what the purpose is, what rituals and routines you can put in place to encourage it, and what visual cues you will use to show that this isn’t just business as usual — there is a purpose behind gathering.
“Whatever it is you’re designing for your teams and your organizations, you need to be intentional about why you are doing this — not only from a rational perspective but from a meaning perspective — and how do we do it in a way that really signals what matters to us as an organization.”
Hear more from Pam in the video below:
Visionary, purpose-driven leaders recognize that there is untapped potential in their organizations. Through her high-energy keynotes, Pam August helps leaders and their teams unlock this potential for greater performance and impact.
Interested in learning more about Pam and what she can bring to your event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].