Archives for October 2014

Leadership Sustainability: A Framework to Sustain Culture Shifts

Organizations that seek to create and sustain culture shifts must do more than train leaders to lead and manage in new ways. They must also be effective in developing people at all levels of the organization to sustain these culture shifts. Leading, developing and managing people in real time is critical for the long-term success of culture shifts.

This type of human development is complex. It must be aligned with the strategic priorities of the organization yet have meaning and relevance not just for leaders but for everyone if it is to be sustainable over time. Change must be adopted at all levels of the organization and incorporated into the core of thinking and behavior in the organization. As a result, we need to look at leadership development differently in terms of how we learn, transmit knowledge, develop skills and how we measure and evaluate it.

My company, Patwell Consulting, has been developing and implementing large scale, complex leadership development programs for over three decades. Based on years of research and practice in large organizations, I have created unique design elements in my programs aimed at sustainable leadership that focuses on helping leaders to play an active role in leading change, transmitting their knowledge, and dealing with business challenges. These elements that I will discuss, go far beyond the classroom to engage people at all levels and achieve results that embed and sustain culture shifts in organizations.

This article synthesizes my experiences in developing a Sustainable Leadership Development Framework. This framework moves through four stages that help build and ground the implementation of an organization’s leadership development strategy through a vision and strategic steps that result in lasting organizational culture shifts. Examples of wise practices will be given to highlight the key concepts of this framework so that you too can use these strategies to increase the potential of leadership sustainability in your organization.

Download PDF: Leadership Sustainability: A Framework to Sustain Culture Shifts

The Case for Change at Humber College: The HRMS Innovation Project

Humber CollegeOrganizational change is a constant challenge today and plays a significant role for organizational leadership in institutions of higher education. On a daily basis organizations are challenged to improve their business performance, and take on new and exciting projects, often as a result of a change in strategy or to increase business effectiveness.

Over the past two years Humber College has undergone significant change towards being strategically positioned as the leader in Polytechnic education in Ontario.  In September 2013 Humber launched a revitalized brand to support student success.

In supporting Humber’s value of innovation, Human Resources Services over the next year and a half, will undertake a transformational change initiative to our HR systems most notably with the design and implementation of a new Human Resources Management System (HRMS) technology business platform for managing our HR processes.

Download PDF: The Case for Change at Humber College: The HRMS Innovation Project

The Coaching ‘Explosion’: Exploring the Growing Field of Coaching, and the Value it Brings to HR

Have you ever wondered why the field of coaching is growing so fast? Although it has been around for ages, it is currently enjoying a worldwide surge in popularity, on both the professional and personal fronts. So how do we explain this sudden craze?

The value of coaching has never been in doubt as, over the centuries, it has more than proven itself. The difference is that now, more people “get it” and understand how to use it effectively.

Coaching has always been a cornerstone of development, when seeking to turn novices into qualified practitioners. One such system is apprenticeship, first developed in the Middle Ages: “A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour, in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Most apprentices aspired to becoming master craftsmen on completion of their contract (usually a term of seven years), but a significant proportion would never acquire their own workshop.”1

The objective was, not only to transfer knowledge, but to enhance know-how (requiring extensive practice), and sharpen judgment (requiring judicious coaching). For instance, chefs need not only to know a recipe; they must be able to successfully make it, so that it turns out perfect… every time. This implies in-depth knowledge of ingredients’ properties, and mastery of cooking techniques.

Although the apprenticeship system started in trades, it is also used in credentialed professions, such as accounting, law, medicine, and dentistry, where students complete internships to ensure their proficiency in execution.

Today, coaching is not limited to trades and certified professions. It is widely used in workplaces, as employers appreciate its value for development, performance improvement, career progression, and transition support. However, this wasn’t always the case: initially, coaching was unfortunately used for remedial purposes, the last stop before termination for poor performers. As a result, it got a bad reputation, as did the coaches. Fortunately, the marketplace now understands that coaching is not a magical “quick fix”, but a partnership for growth, which requires time and commitment from all parties.

Likewise, the number of individuals hiring personal coaches has skyrocketed, making it a common practice. People find coaching helps them reach their goals, improve themselves, achieve greater fulfillment, and enhance their creativity.

To summarize, coaching is all about optimizing the two Ps: Performance and Potential, a satisfying and worthwhile endeavour for individuals and for organizations.

Origins of Coaching

The English term coach refers to a medium of transport, such as a carriage. The practice of using the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University to refer to a tutor who carries a student through an exam.2 Coaching thus describes the process to “transport people from where they are, to where they want to be”.3 The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.4

Coaching is now a way of life in sports and arts, where success primarily depends on how talent performs. As a result, athletes and artists benefit from considerable coaching in order to reach their full potential. Athletes might be coached by nutritionists, sports psychologists and fitness trainers; and actors, by vocal, movement and dialect coaches. For example, a gifted tennis player like Eugénie Bouchard received more attention, and at an earlier age than others less gifted.5

The greater the talent, the more focus it gets. It’s not about compensating for deficiencies, but achieving mastery. For instance, when Benedict Cumberbatch was a boy, his drama teacher, Martin Tyrell, called him “the best schoolboy actor he had ever worked with.”6 During his formative years, Benedict’s extraordinary talent received special attention from the UK’s acting development system, eventually turning him into the best actor of his generation.7

Unfortunately, this talent/focus principle is not as well understood in other sectors, where the emphasis is often on improving poor performers, which is a frustrating endeavour for all involved.

American educational psychologist Donald Clifton conducted several studies of top performers beginning in the 1960s. He observed that “people with strong talent in a specific activity can quickly achieve the equivalent of 7/10 performance. They can then build on these strengths to embark on the exponential climb to reaching 10/10”.8

As a result, he challenged the deficit model of development which paid lip service to people’s strengths, focusing instead on deficiencies. Clifton came to the following conclusions:

  • “People’s greatest room for growth is in the area of their strengths. Therefore, ‘investing’ in your top talents will pay off greater dividends than investing in average or minimal ones: people can only excel by maximizing their strengths.
  • This doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses… But ‘weakness fixing’ is about damage control, not development… Damage control can prevent failure, but it will never elevate anyone to excellence…”9

This led to the world-renowned Strengths Finder10 system, based on this simple approach:

Strengths Finder system


Identifying talent and investing in its development will result in building a solid strength which will lead to consistent performance. Think Sidney Crosby!!! Coaching works best when developing talent and potential, but not so well when compensating for deficiencies, although it does help.

Not surprisingly, the field of coaching exploded once this connection became explicit. Therefore, coaching’s expansion is firmly anchored in the “early 1970s Human Potential Movement,11 based on cultivating extraordinary potential which lies largely untapped in most people. Fully actualized potential enables individuals, not only to experience an exceptional quality life, but to make important contributions, assisting others and society to release their own potential. Since the mid-1990s, coaching has developed into an independent discipline. Professional Associations such as The International Coach Federation12 in North America, and The European Coaching and Mentoring Council13 have established credentialing standards.”14

Coaching and HR

HR Professionals have been coaching, formally or informally, since the dawn of the profession. Today, coaching is increasingly viewed as a desirable HR skill set for several reasons:

  • Employees frequently seek HR coaching to find a way forward with various issues: solving a problem, advancing their career, enhancing their skills, gaining confidence, navigating transitions, resolving conflicts, getting unstuck, etc.
  • Managers also seek HR coaching to better manage performance and develop potential. For instance, preparing for a coaching session with an employee. This involves growing coaching capability, scenario planning, and rehearsing for the session.
  • Finally, HR pros are frequently involved in performance management interventions which require solid coaching skills.

Other factors contribute to fueling the coaching “burning platform” in the workplace:

  • Enhancing leadership capacity for both designated and distributed leaders before baby boomers exit the workplace. This has produced significant growth in leadership coaching of all stripes: executive, peer, top down, bottom up, and team. For instance, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)15 fosters community coaching amongst its members. It is a key factor in their considerable success.
  • Dealing with the VUCA world. The US military created this acronym to describe the world of the 21st century: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.16 This fast moving environment requires agile organizations populated with employees who can make the right decisions at the level where action occurs. Coaching is a great tool to build this capacity.
  • Peer coaching is becoming increasingly popular in both formal and informal iterations. For instance, it is widely used by police forces to provide development and support. Cops Coach17 offers a framework which has proven very beneficial in this line of work where emergencies, crises and violence and disasters occur every day.


HR Professionals are pivotal in making coaching a way of life and a culture in their organizations, to increase agility, innovation, resilience and success.

Here is some food for thought from Brainy Quote:18

  • “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage“. Jack Welsh
  • “At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.” Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Every successful organization has to make the transition from a world defined primarily by repetition, to one primarily defined by change. This is the biggest transformation in the structure of how humans work together since the Agricultural Revolution.” Bill Drayton

Queen’s IRC has introduced a Coaching Skills program, which offers hands-on learning opportunities to develop and implement coaching skills for a range of situations in the workplace. Participants will explore several methodologies and their impact, and learn how to apply proven models to facilitate conversation and improve performance at all organizational levels.


About the Author

Francoise Morissette, Queen's IRC Facilitator
Françoise Morissette has been a facilitator at Queen’s IRC since 1994, and was made a Fellow in 2006. She played a key role in developing and implementing the Queen’s IRC’s Organizational Development curriculum intended for OD practitioners, and teaches on the OD Foundations and Coaching Skills programs. As a consultant, Françoise is a major contributor to the field of Organizational Development, with a major emphasis on leadership. Using a range of interventions, she helps individuals, organizations and communities enhance their leadership capacity. She regularly presents at major conferences in both official languages, both in Canada and abroad. She is the co-author of Made in Canada Leadership, a book that is the product of a large scale research project, focusing on leadership excellence and development.





1 accessed October 2014.

2 accessed October 2014.

3 ibid

4 ibid

5 accessed October 2014.

6 accessed October 2014.

7 ibid

8 accessed October 2014.

9 ibid

10 accessed October 2014.

11 accessed October 2014.

12 October 2014.

13 accessed October 2014.

14 accessed October 2014.

15 accessed October 2014.

16,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity accessed October 2014.

17 accessed October 2014.

18 accessed October 2014.

5 Steps to Build Trust and Change the Culture in an Organization

How do you change the culture in a workplace where workers don’t trust the leaders, where employees are not engaged, and where people just don’t care about doing their jobs? A few months ago, I was speaking to a group of senior leaders and the topic of changing culture and increasing employee engagement came up. The conversation started innocuously, with a comment like, “There’s too many potholes in the road and you can’t get people, whose job it is to fill potholes, to care.”

“Why do you think that the workers don’t care?” I asked.  “How does management behave?” We had talked earlier about the importance of mission, vision, values and behaviours – and the one we didn’t get to was behaviours. Every organization has a mission and a vision, and most of us have values like honesty and integrity. But often in the workplace, what you actually see demonstrated is dishonesty and lack of integrity.  Is it any wonder why the employees are not engaged?

As our conversation continued, there was disbelief that it was possible to change a culture, particularly from one very senior person who works in the public sector. She was fascinated. She said, “Can you really change a culture?”

“Of course you can!” I said.  Everyone else chimed in, saying, “You can’t do that in our organization because there’s such a low level of trust in management and in the leadership.”

This conversation led me to develop the new Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program. Here are 5 ways to implement a culture change, build trust and increase employee engagement in your workplace.

1. Cultural Change Needs to Start at the Top

In organizations with low levels of trust, what often happens is middle management has given up. They don’t know what to do, or their senior leaders are not supporting them. You must have the support from senior leaders to make a culture change.

Top management– the president, director, whoever is the head honcho or honchess – has to come out and say, “We know how things have been around here. We’ve heard from you in the surveys that you don’t trust us. We acknowledge that you have said this.” Top management needs to tell the employees what they’re willing to change, and what they’re going to change, and what that looks like.

2. Identify and Change the Behaviours

Making a cultural change has to start with the behaviours. As a manager in an organization where you have a history of poor performance, you may have four people who know how to do a job, but only two of them are doing it well. If you need something done, who do you give it to? Do you give it to the one that’s doing it well or to the one who avoids the work? It’s the same as having a child – you tell them to take out the garbage and they deliberately spill it all over the ground so you don’t ask them to do it again. Often employees can be like that. Unfortunately if you let the kid get away with spilling garbage on the ground, then the person who doesn’t spill the garbage gets the extra work. Eventually what happens is you totally overload the people who are capable and willing. They become unhappy and dissatisfied because they’re seeing what they think is the other people getting away with something.

Getting people to work in a positive and constructive way to make cultural change happen takes time. You have to be consistent, and firm, and you have to keep moving in the same direction. As a senior leader in a new organization, someone challenged my authority right at the beginning of my term about an important change announced in a meeting.  “No, I won’t,” that person said to me, in a room full of people. If I had let that go, then the other employees would have heard, “It’s okay to say no.” Instead, I said, “Yes, you are going to do this, but this isn’t the place for us to have that conversation.” Despite the fact it wasn’t on the agenda for that meeting, I took the time to explain the progressive discipline that would happen when someone says no to a legitimate work request from their manager. “This is what we’re going to do from now on. I’m not going to allow work refusals.” Unless you’re asking them to do something that’s illegal, immoral or unsafe, for work that is reasonably in their current job, they cannot refuse. That was fundamental and I could not let it pass.

Can we change culture? Yes. Can you do it quickly? No.

3. Don’t be Afraid to have Difficult Conversations

Lots of managers don’t know how to have a difficult conversation with an employee. And they’re unwilling to have those conversations. I’ve talked with people in organizations who just put up with incompetence because it was so difficult to manage people to leave. They’re unwilling to sit down with somebody and say, “I’m not satisfied with what you’re doing. Here’s the standard, here’s the expectation, and here’s what you’re doing.” It’s a hard conversation.

In one of my roles, I went to my leader and said, “I have people here who need to go.” He said, “We can’t. These people have been here for 15 years, we have a moral obligation to keep them.” But we don’t.

4. Lead by example

Sometimes we have to admit publicly that we’re wrong. If you as a leader can admit publicly that you’ve made a mistake and you’re wrong, it actually gives permission to everybody else to do the same. We all make mistakes. Did you do it deliberately? Did you do it because you wanted to come in in the morning and you really wanted to screw things up? It’s unlikely that you did. Instead, let’s understand why you made that mistake, and how we can stop that from happening in the future and move on. The alternative is a culture of punishment: “You screwed up. We’re going to make sure everybody knows what you did, and you’re stupid.” How many of us have worked in places like that? You go back to your office and you slam the door, and you bang a few things around, and you think terrible things about the organization. At lunch you go and you talk to your friends and you say, “You know what he said to me?” What’s happened to your productivity for the next month?

5. Motivate and Empower Employees to Build Relationships and Trust

There are many different ways to manage. My way is, I trust you. I trust you until you give me reason not to, and then I ask you about it. Trust has to be given, so as a leader I have to give you my trust, to earn your trust. I have to risk it first.

I believe that it is not possible for me to motivate you. All I can do is lower the barriers to you motivating yourself, or raise the opportunities for you to motivate yourself – but I cannot motivate you.  There are people who have a different belief system, who believe that if they get the whip out, that’s motivation. I do believe there have to be consequences, but I think that there also have to be opportunities.

It’s better if you extend trust and let people police themselves. “Here’s what needs to get done, you’ve got the tools that you need to do it, here’s a reasonable length of time to get it done, is that a problem?” “No.” “Okay. If you have a problem let me know. Don’t let it get to the end and it not being done without you telling me. But other than that, do it, and I’ll stay out of the way.”

To empower people, you can push decision-making as far down the organization as you can, and give people some accountability over what they do and how they do it. I am clear about what I want as an end-result, but I shouldn’t need to tell my employee in excruciating detail how to do their job. I don’t have the knowledge to do that, and it would be a mistake for me to try. The end result is important. How you get it from here to there, that’s really up to you to do it in an efficient way.

Many organizations struggle with low levels of employee engagement and trust. Changing the culture in a workplace and rebuilding trust takes time. Our new one-day Building Trust in the Workplace program will show you how to identify the reasons behind low trust levels, understand different types of behaviour in the workplace, and transform organizational culture to foster a more transparent and positive environment.

About the Author

Paul Juniper, Director, Queen's IRC

Paul Juniper MA, Geography (York); CHRP; SPHR; Honourary Life Member, HRPA) became the sixth Director of Queen’s University IRC in 2006. Paul is a leading and respected figure in Canada’s HR community, with over 30 years of experience in human resources and association leadership. Paul is particularly sought for his views on the future of the human resources profession. He speaks regularly at national and international conferences on trends in human resources, and the ways in which individuals and their organizations can continue to raise the bar on HR. Paul developed and designed the IRC’s Advanced HR programming to meet the increasingly complex professional development needs of HR practitioners. He teaches on Queen’s IRC’s Advanced HR, Strategic Workforce Planning, Linking HR Strategy to Business Strategy, and Building Trust in the Workplace programs. His research focuses on the state of the HR profession both in Canada and around the globe.

An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean

Queen’s IRC has begun to develop a strong working relationship with the HR community in the Caribbean. Partnerships with the Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados and the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in Trinidad and Tobago have allowed the IRC to bring its unique brand of programming to practitioners from almost a dozen Caribbean nations. Building partnerships such as these are critical to understanding the innovations and challenges in the global HR community. They have also allowed Queen’s IRC to extend our research beyond Canadian borders.

This report summarizes and analyzes the results of a survey of HR practitioners from the Caribbean conducted in 2012. The survey is a key component of the IRC’s commitment to engaging with international practitioner communities. More specifically, the results of the survey provide insight into several key aspects of Caribbean HR practitioners’ working lives. These include the demographic characteristics of practitioners, their roles and responsibilities, the nature of the organizations for which they work, their education and career development, the knowledge and skills required to thrive in the Caribbean, and of course, their perspectives on important issues, innovations and challenges in the HR profession today. The information in this report provides an important foundation to track ongoing trends and innovations in the Caribbean HR community and serves as a useful comparator when combined with recent (and forthcoming) surveys of Canadian HR practitioners.

Download PDF: An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean (2012)

Learning the Art of Painting the HR Landscape

It’s Saturday morning in cottage country. You’re hugging a cup of coffee on the porch. The mist is just clearing from the lake. The view from the deck is stunning. The geese are feeding at the shoreline. A hawk circles above the pines in the distance. Waves lap the deck, reminding you that you promised your cousin a kayaking lesson later this morning. He’s coming with your Aunt Sally on the train as part of the adventure. Aunt Sally recently discovered plein art painting. “Bring the SUV to the station,” she said. “I have the easel.”

Your mind is on the meeting you were invited to in ten days with the Director of Really Big Stuff. Your assignment: present your thoughts on the two-year view of the strategic people project that became your task when you accepted your new role as business unit support human resources leader for your division. It’s big and you’re just getting your head around it.

“Keep it simple,” her executive assistant said. “She doesn’t want to know about the trees, just the forest. I’ve seen her chew others up when they start talking about the trees. She doesn’t have time for the trees. She takes care of the forest and lets those taking care of the trees do their job. Sorry about the metaphor, but I wanted to give you a head’s up.”

“Wow,” you think. “The forest. Not the trees. Every presentation I made in my last role was all about the trees. My manager wanted the details. He wanted to know that I had a firm grasp of everything and had tied it all up in a nice, neat package. My team members wanted the same thing – to know that I had their back and they could see it in the spreadsheets I’d prepared.”

“How the heck do I approach this?” you think. “I’ve got twenty minutes to cover my thoughts on a two-year seriously strategic project?” Then you remember the Queen’s IRC Advanced HR course your new manager had asked you to attend when you accepted the role in the business unit. At the time it was still pretty new, and frankly, slightly overwhelming to make the transition from subject matter expert to business unit support leader. You remember something from that session about turning the curve on the way to the next level and how things at the next level require a different kind of thinking.

Download PDF: Learning the Art of Painting the HR Landscape

Designing for Collaboration

Collaboration is emerging as a core organizational competence, and indeed an imperative, in today’s interconnected work context.  Despite the need, collaborative results often fall short of the intended ideals.  A large body of research suggests that while collaboration may be necessary, it is not easy (Bryson, Crosby & Stone, Rhoten, 2003; 2006; Suddaby, Hardy, & Huy, 2011).  Failed collaborative efforts have led academics to point to the many sources of collaborative inertia; organizational elements that act as barriers to collaboration.  What if, instead of attempting to overcome elements of inertia, we shift our efforts to designing holistic systems that enable collaboration?  Below, I argue that collaboration is a design challenge.  To enable more fruitful collaboration in our organizations, we need to design for it.

Download PDF: Designing for Collaboration

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