Don’t Crash Your Culture: Survive & Thrive

By:  Bonnie Hagemann, CEO, Executive Development Associates, Inc. 


Don’t Crash Your Culture & ThriveThis morning I received a call from a long-time friend who does business development for another organization. He sounded stressed, and I soon found out why. He said, “if I don’t put some serious numbers on the board in the next 30 days, I am out of a job.”  

I know it’s a stressful time, and I realize that what he said is likely true, but that will not help him sell, and he will remember that when the chips were down, the leaders of his company did not take ownership and lead the team through; instead they put pressure on the team to save the company.   

Imagine how his sales calls will go. When the pressure on a salesperson is heavy, even if he or she is fairly talented with emotional control, there is just something in the air that lets the buyer know that this person is a little too desperate to get a sale. The pressure steals their confidence. 

This is just one example of how leaders can crash their culture during difficult times. In fact, one of the fastest ways to lose the faith of your employees is to work really hard to create a compelling and engaging culture when times are good and then to throw it all out of the window when things are not going as well. 

Perhaps you’ve been working to shape your culture in a way that advances your strategy. You’ve been getting employees engaged, trying to empower and develop your talent. Perhaps you’ve spent time telling your employees that they matter, and you want them to feel like an important part of achieving your vision and strategy. If so – great job! That’s exactly the right thing to do, especially for today’s workforce.  If you want the best talent, they have to want to come and give their all, so it’s important not to lose your valuable work while adjusting for the impact of COVID-19. Even if you have to lay off employees, it’s possible to do so in a way that doesn’t crash your culture. 


What Can You Do? 

Here are some things you can do as a leader: 

  1. Demonstrate Confidence. Show the employees that as the leader you own this problem, but you will need their help and that you are working with a team to make organizational adaptations.  In other words, take charge and guide them through this. Uncertainty makes people flounder, so the more you can take the leadership reigns, the better. 
  2. Continuous Communication. Share as much as you can about what you are planning for the company. If you can, share high level budgets, staying power, timeline for adaptations, etc. 
  3. Maintain Integrity. Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep such as “we will not have layoffs.”  No one knows how long this will last and even the wealthiest companies can’t last forever without income. You can say that it is your intent to not have layoffs. 
  4. A Higher Cause. Don’t put pressure on the employees to save the company. For critical businesses currently operating during the crisis, appeal to the greater good in serving our basic infrastructure. For those at home, tell them thank you for protecting their loved ones. They are likely already having great anxiety about their future and adding pressure will not decrease anxiety. 
  5. Keep the Culture Intact. Continue to do some version, even if its modified, of the efforts you have been making to shape your vision and company’s culture in a positive way.  For engagement, set up communication channels and communicate clearly and with some inspiration, positive plans and fun thrown in to help everyone through. 

A couple of years ago I did a TEDx talk about Leading through the Fog on how to lead others through a VUCA (Volatile/Uncertain/Complex /Ambiguous) environment.  If it’s ever been foggy in the business landscape, it’s now.  Here is a link to the talk if you want to check it out:  


How can EDA help? 

Some of our clients are experiencing high stress in their workplace and others are experiencing a need for layoffs soon.  We are actively helping in these transitions, and we can help you and your team with these immediate needs.

Regardless of which transition situation you are in, EDA has solutions through our Leadership and Transition Center.  Contact us to help at 1-866393-2338. 

The EDA Leadership and Transition Center offers: 

  • Transition packages starting at $500 per person 
  • Crisis Leadership Coaching for individuals and groups 
  • 100% virtual or onsite one-on-one and small group meeting options 
  • Value-based pricing for virtual, technology-enabled options 

EDA has been your trusted talent partner for 38 years. We always work with you to provide the highest quality and to tie everything we do to the vision and strategy of your organization.  

We want to ensure that when all of this passes, you still have a strong and healthy culture and for any employees who must be transitioned during this time, that we help you take care of them in a way that makes them happy to stay connected with you for potential return or referrals at a later date.

Leadership is our life’s work. We live it, we research it, and we help others reach their full leadership potential.  Let us bring our decades of experience in to help your leaders navigate the shifting landscape.  

Contact our team today for further details on pricing and customization. We are ready and equipped to help your organization and its leaders weather this storm. We look forward to partnering with you. 


About the Author:  

Bonnie Hagemann is the CEO of Executive Development Associates. She has over 16 years of experience successfully leading consulting firms through times of rapid growth and acquisitions as well as economic downturn and downsizing, in addition to 26+ years of experience coaching, educating and developing leaders. 

Hagemann is a highly sought Executive Coach for CEOs and C-Suite Leaders, as well as a trusted advisor to members of the board. To date, Hagemann has provided coaching for over 240 leaders, including 14 CEOs. Most of her coaching clients receive a promotion, a better position and/or an increase in salary during or upon completion of the coaching process. 

Bonnie has over 40 published works including a book on the shifting workforce demographics and their impact on leadership entitled Decades of Differences. Her newest book, Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce, was published in May 2017. 

She leads research initiatives and publishes results in the areas of Trends in Executive Development, Executive Coaching and High Potential Development.