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Breakthrough Leadership: Shaping Company Culture

Sean Perlmutter

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In this episode, Elliot Kallen brings on Sean Perlmutter from Pivotal Twist to discuss the tapestry of leadership behind successful organizations. Discover how to embrace feedback for organizational alignment, transform employee conversations, and embrace playfulness in professional branding. Are you a C-suite looking to up your leadership skills? Tune in!

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Meet Our Guest

Sean Perlmutter

Pivotal Twist

Sean is a dynamic force driven by a simple mantra: Make Wow Happen. Blending his roles as a creative, consultant, and coach, he’s passionate about catalyzing breakthroughs that lead individuals and organizations straight to that “Wow” moment. His brainchild, Pivotal Twist, embodies this spirit. Pivotal Twist stands out by taking an artistic approach to culture-building and personal development, emphasizing key areas like leadership, communication, emotional intelligence, creativity, and mindset. Drawing inspiration from storytelling, he sees pivotal twists as game-changers, not just in tales but also in thriving organizations. 


The Vision-Mission Disconnect Story

I have a friend who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He helmed a large hedge fund company, making strategic decisions every day.

But even the most accomplished leaders recognize the need for continuous improvement. My friend brought in an outside consultant with a mission: to revamp the website, recalibrate the company culture, and implement necessary changes.

One of the first things the consultants requested was my CEO’s vision and mission statements. These were documents he had meticulously crafted, a testament to his MBA training. He had them everywhere – front and center in his office, in the executive washroom, and yes, even above his toilet bowl! His belief in them was palpable.

However, the consultants had a different approach in mind. Instead of taking his word for it, they interviewed all 35 of his employees. Their goal? To understand how well the staff could articulate the company’s vision and mission.

The results? Not even close. Most shockingly, this included his three vice presidents. They couldn’t mirror back the vision or mission he had so diligently drafted and displayed.

Embracing Feedback for Organizational Alignment

Instead of seeing the mismatch as a failure, he saw it as invaluable feedback.

The key takeaway? It’s not just about having a vision and mission. It’s about ensuring that every single person in your organization, from the top tiers to the grassroots, understands and embodies them. When individual values resonate with company values, that’s when a business truly hits its stride.

Cultivating a Culture of Shared Values

This tale is a testament to the importance of alignment in business culture. The ideal scenario is where every team member not only understands the company’s vision and mission but aligns their individual values with them. It’s only then that a business can truly be said to be moving forward in harmony.

Our main objective is to assist organizations, typically those with up to 1,000 employees, in harnessing their talent to foster growth and ensure they thrive. Our focus spans company culture, leadership development, and communication. What sets us apart is our unique approach: we view everything through the lens of storytelling. Our primary goal is to enhance talent, both on an organizational and individual level.

How Can CEOs Improve Company Culture?

The term ‘culture’ often elicits myriad definitions. Many view it as an organization’s set of values and how its employees uphold and represent these values. Others believe it’s about the communication dynamics between leadership, team members, shareholders, and the public. However, if I were to encapsulate it, I’d say company culture is ‘how we do things around here.’ It’s about the workplace vibe, whether it’s strictly professional or more relaxed and jovial.

Connecting brand identity to company culture, the importance of understanding the desired company culture as it acts as a guiding North Star. This understanding helps set in place operational activities and communication methods that reflect the company’s core values.

Implementing Effective Communication for a Stronger Culture

Effective communication plays a pivotal role. Storytelling, for instance, stands out as an invaluable tool in this realm. The way leaders interact with their management and how managers, in turn, communicate with their teams greatly influences the overall culture. The frequency of these interactions, the depth of the questions asked, and the genuine concern for employees’ personal lives can significantly shape the company’s ethos.

Touching on the emotional component of communication, the representative brings forward an often-neglected aspect: The emotional tone plays a critical role. Traditionally, the business world has shied away from delving into emotions. Yet, in today’s context, acknowledging and even celebrating employees’ emotions can pave the way for a more inclusive company culture. By ensuring employees feel safe, valued, and empowered, companies can foster an environment where everyone can deliver their best.

Embracing Playfulness in Professional Branding

In the professional realm, embracing one’s true spirit can make a difference. Playfulness, delight, and fun are foundational elements of many company brands, including my own. The decision to incorporate these values stems not just from a personal desire to make the workplace more enjoyable but also from recognizing the positive impact it has on clients. A jovial approach often accelerates improvement, ensuring tasks are tackled efficiently and effectively.

The Inevitable Law of Thirds in Perception

One concept that is especially pertinent when discussing personal branding and public perception is the Law of Thirds. According to this principle, irrespective of one’s actions or words, the audience will always be divided. Roughly:

  • A third will disagree or dislike.
  • A third will agree or like.
  • A third will remain indifferent.

Understanding this can help individuals navigate their personal and professional lives more confidently. For instance, wearing a checkered shirt might not resonate with everyone. Some might find it inappropriate, while others might appreciate the fashion choice, and a significant portion might remain indifferent. Embracing this understanding allows for greater authenticity and self-acceptance.

Tailoring Communication: Knowing Your Audience

Another crucial aspect of personal and professional interactions is the art of communication. The manner in which one interacts with, say, a company president will differ significantly from interactions with close relatives or childhood friends. These distinctions in communication are essential. Individuals naturally don a different persona, or “mask,” depending on their audience. Recognizing and adapting to this can lead to more meaningful and effective interactions.

In conclusion, it’s essential to know and understand your audience. The choice of attire, tone of voice, or even topics of conversation can differ based on the setting. Adapting appropriately ensures not only that the message is effectively conveyed but also that the individual’s authenticity shines through.

Challenges in Measuring ROI from Consultants

Engaging consultants, especially for businesses, often raises a pertinent question: How do you quantify the return on investment (ROI)? Is the intervention really making a tangible difference? When teams from organizations like Pivotal Twist step in, how do clients assess their impact?

Spectrum of Engagement: Addressing Specific Concerns

Engagements with consultants typically range across a spectrum based on the organization’s unique needs.

  • Addressing Specific Concerns: For issues like problematic team dynamics due to a manager’s short temper, solutions may involve direct coaching for the manager, team communication training, and understanding the wider organizational implications of such behaviors.
  • Comprehensive Consultations: On the opposite end, more comprehensive interventions involve understanding the organization’s overall layout. This phase diagnoses issues and checks if they align with the client’s perceptions. Post this diagnosis, a custom “white glove” service plan can be created, deciding which departments need development or what events can foster organizational cohesion.
  • Blended Learning: Combining Live Training and eLearning
  • With a plethora of training and development options available, Pivotal Twist emphasizes a blended learning approach. This strategy combines:
  • Live Training and Coaching: Direct interactions and personalized coaching sessions.
  • Asynchronous Learning: Offering e-learning modules that employees can access at their convenience, often in the form of brief missions or endeavors.

Such a dual approach helps in developing micro habits, with participants gradually improving over the course of their engagement.

Demonstrating ROI in People-centric Businesses

Demonstrating ROI in people-driven domains is inherently challenging due to the multi-dimensional nature of human behaviors. However, effective strategies to measure the impact include:

  • Interviews: Conducting interviews at the start of the engagement and recording initial perceptions and challenges.
  • Follow-Up: Post-intervention, follow-up interviews, and surveys can capture the difference in perceptions, experiences, and skill levels.

The Importance of Communication for Leadership

Consistent feedback often indicates increased confidence, better communication with superiors, and a sense of support in the workplace. Such qualitative improvements are invaluable, signaling the tangible difference consultants bring to the table, assuring clients of the value derived from their investment.

For CEOs, CFOs, VPs of HR, and other top-tier leadership roles, establishing the right emotional tenor—both personally and collectively—is crucial. But what does maintaining the correct emotional resonance within an organization entail?

Rethinking Employee Conversations

From Exit to Stay Conversations: As highlighted by organizational psychologist Adam Grant, leaders often focus on exit conversations—discussions when an employee is leaving. Instead, the emphasis should shift to ‘stay conversations’, aimed at understanding what will retain an employee.

Embracing Catharsis Conversations: Taking the ‘stay conversation’ concept further, introducing catharsis conversations can make a significant difference. Derived from theatre and storytelling, catharsis involves the emotional release of intense feelings. In a corporate context, it translates to leaders encouraging employees to freely express their emotions.

Open Communication: When employees are encouraged to share feelings of frustration, upset, or anger without repercussions, it fosters a culture of trust and psychological safety.

Acknowledging and Celebrating Emotions: Rather than shying away from negative feedback, leaders should welcome, acknowledge, and address these emotions. This proactive approach can help in devising strategies to enhance employee satisfaction and engagement.

Aiming for Positive Emotional Outcomes

The ultimate goal of maintaining a healthy emotional tenor is to foster feelings of contentment, excitement, and support among employees. The modern workforce values more than just compensation, benefits, or time off. Emotional well-being, psychological safety, effective communication, and a joyful work environment are key components of employee retention and satisfaction. 

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