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Empowering Winning Workplace Cultures Heather Daigle Xu @speaktheculture

We believe in the power of culture. Culture. It shapes the way we see the world. It influences our behaviors. It drives our actions. Whether ethnic or organizational, culture is the ―software of the mind‖ that resides beneath the surface and propels us to conform. Yet, culture is fluid. It is dynamic. It can be shaped and influenced to inspire high performance. Simply put, we can capitalize on culture to advance organizational objectives. In fact, it is imperative. Infusing a powerful culture in our workplace requires planning and purposeful action. There’s no magic wand to wave. If we want to build a strong culture, we must ―speak it‖ — not only with words but also with action. Sustaining a compelling culture requires continuous initiative: designing strategic objectives that align with organizational values, disseminating compelling leadership communications, implementing processes and workflows that facilitate desired behaviors, and creating learning experiences that inspire and motivate. Speak the Culture exists to help winning workplaces craft and sustain powerful cultures that inspire employee passion and performance. I help leaders transform their visions into meaningful realities by intentionally building and reinforcing the organizational culture they desire to create. Sitting at the intersection of organizational and ethnic culture, I also help clients assess and discover the impact of ethnic culture on performance and craft organizational solutions closely align with the specific characteristics and needs of peoples across the globe.

Helping companies craft and sustain powerful cultures.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter Drucker

Driven to unleash the potential of every individual, I thrive on creating powerful culture initiatives that ensure employees are engaged, equipped and inspired to deliver to their best. In designing and executing targeted learning, collaboration and culture programs, I leverage my eight years of experience delivering talent solutions at such companies as Microsoft, Ernst & Young and Rolling Forecast Solutions. Moreover, I apply cross-cultural cultural insights from my five years spent in Shanghai, China to bring cohesion and enhance communications in global and virtual work environments. Working with senior leaders to create winning workplace cultures, I employ my talents in inquiry and assessment to identify root cause issues and opportunities for change. Versed in learning program design, employee engagement, facilitation and change management methodologies, I hold a Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change from Northwestern University and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana Tech University. I currently reside in Chicago, Illinois.

Where ideas procreate. We’ve entered into a new era. There are more low-cost communication and collaboration tools than you can count, and society as a whole is more connected than ever. This is good news for organizations as knowledge sharing and stretching beyond work silos leads to the development of innovative and promising ideas that drive businesses forward. But is your culture holding you back? Technology is simply a tool. And one, that if used alone, will fail if your culture does not support behaviors needed adoption. A wealth of opportunity is available to streamline processes, enhance workflows and increase connectivity, but within your culture lies the key to success.

video meetings microblogging

white boarding

Collaboration virtual office

Tools to facilitate.

screen sharing

project management

social recruiting presenting

Collaboration Culture to empower.

1 Foster trust. The key ingredient to knowledge sharing? Trust. Without it, employees will act in their own self interest.

4 View technology as a tool. Always remember that technology is merely a tool that should be strategically designed and governed.

2 Create shared vision & goals. Unite the entire workforce under one common mission to increase cohesion and decrease internal competition.

5 Integrate existing processes. Isolate opportunities to weave new tools into existing processes. Use them to make work easier for employees.

3 Communicate strategic intent. Explicitly outline the purpose and goal behind fueling internal collaboration. Link this to your company mission.

6 Model collaborative behaviors. As a leader, you have great influence in shaping your culture. Employee s are looking to you to take the lead.

Enhancing workplace collaboration at SnapHawk is an entrepreneurial firm that consults with clients on search engine marketing and website analytics and optimization. Neighboring Northwestern University, SnapHawk offers many opportunities for learning and growth to students in the form of internships. Being a small firm, SnapHawk found it essential to have fluid, dynamic and efficient modes of communication between staff and interns.

The Technologies A combination of collaboration tools were selected based on business needs, existing processes and opportunities for growth.

SnapHawk The Design Consulting with the Managing Director, I mapped out the roles and responsibilities of the interns. What would they be responsible for? What would they need approval for? What types of collaboration would be essential to their roles? We identified technologies that would bring both collaboration and efficiency to these critical tasks while incorporating and integrating current tools and technologies to the fullest extent possible.

Compelling communications defined the purpose and intent of each tool, conveyed the mission and culture of SnapHawk and illustrated the learning journey ahead. These materials were introduced to interns on their first day during the orientation program.

The Results Since this program was designed, more than 20 interns have contributed to the work of SnapHawk. Defining both the most powerful tools and the desired behaviors and outcomes reduced unnecessary ambiguity for new interns. Moreover, these materials inspired action that closely aligns with SnapHawk’s strategy, stimulating greater success for the company and the interns.

Your essence. Illustrated. Your culture runs deep, with many layers and assumptions hidden beneath the surface. Residing just above the surface is your corporate vision. It may not be the only layer, but it is a critical one. Well-designed vision statements can bring to rise the essence of who you are and who you want to be. They serve as a foundation for growth and a compass to steer your operations and strategic development. The trick is getting them right and effectively communicating their meaning.

Visioning Unearthing your essence.

It is vital that we move beyond trite visions, missions and values. This is not the time to slap some arbitrary words on a page and call it a day. Your espoused corporate vision should be powerful. It should reflect the best of who you are. It should help you attain the success you wish to achieve. The process employed to unearth and establish your corporate vision must be intentional, strategic and inspiring. Moreover, it is important to remember that this is the first step in a long journey of sustaining the vision, mission and values of your company.


What is good? What is working?

What behaviors will help us get there?



Who are we? What makes us different?

What does success look like? Where do we want to be?


1 Dream positive. Dream big. The path to creating a powerful vision begins with envisioning a state of success. Where do you want to be and what will success look like? What will clients say about you? How will employees feel about working there? 2 Extract the essence. Reflect the core. Synthesize your dream into the key goals, strategies and behaviors critical to success. What behaviors will get you where you want to be? Use these insights to construct a compelling vision and powerful values that will guide your path. 3 Make it vivid. Make it real. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Convey your vision not only with statements but also with metaphors, visuals and stories. Make the meaning explicit. Leave no room for misinterpretation. 4 Live it with action. Live it with words. Everything must come into alignment –strategies, processes, policies and communications. Ensure no aspects of operations undermine or contradict.

Visioning Reflecting ` your Reflecting core. your core.

Creating Corporate Vision and Values Rolling Forecast Solutions is a management consulting firm dedicated to driving strategic growth for clients through business solutions that leverage leading-edge technologies. As a small business operating primarily in the virtual world, it was critical to identify a powerful corporate vision and explicitly articulate it to its global team to foster alignment and shared goals.

The Inquiry Interviewing the company president, I conducted an assessment rooted in the Appreciative Inquiry methodology. This methodology is grounded in positive psychology principles and facilitates the elicitation of a powerful vision for the future. In response to appreciative questioning, the company president shared descriptive stories that illustrated the nuances, behaviors and values connected to his view of success.

To deliver intelligent business solutions that supply critical data to decision-makers at all levels of client organizations.

To eliminate frustration for people and businesses so they can focus on the things that truly matter.

The Discoveries Conducting a thematic analysis, I extrapolated the key elements and themes that surfaced during the assessment. It was vital that I abstract key insights to the appropriate level of detail – narrow enough to be vivid and meaningful but broad enough to cover all service lines, now and in the future. Through continued dialogue we established a strategic vision statement and set of values that could guide the company to success.

at Rolling Forecast Solutions Courage Bravery


Initiative Determination Energy


Authenticity Openness




Credibility Faith Trust

Uncertainty Exploration Discovery


Empathy Personalization Love





Devotion Dedication

The Impact The articulation of vision and values was critical in defining the direction of Rolling Forecast. However, it was just the first step in a continuous process. Rolling Forecast Solutions continues to strategically build operations to convey and facilitate these values. Everything from recruiting processes to learning programs to marketing materials are designed with the company vision, mission and values at the core. Moreover, internal workflows and processes are examined to ensure that they facilitate the desired behaviors and align with the corporate vision.

Speak the Culture  

A guide for creating and sustaining winning workplace cultures.

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