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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Actionable insights to improve your leadership, life, and impact

In this edition of the Growth Guide, I share an actionable framework for building and maintaining a thriving organizational culture.


Culture drives performance. It supports a cohesive customer and employee experience. It’s why your best customers remain loyal. And it’s why your top performers stay. If it’s not your top priority as a leader, it should be.

Most leaders fail to maintain a thriving organizational culture because they pull only one of four levers available to them. They’re essentially driving a car with only one wheel. Of course they’re not getting anywhere.


This Growth Guide shows you exactly how to do better. A thriving culture is within your reach.

Thank you for being a valued member of my community! If you received the Growth Guide from a friend or colleague, welcome! If you like what you read, you may subscribe here

If you're ready to lead a cultural transformation in your organization, I invite you to join my Coaching Essentials for Leaders program. It kicks off in just a few weeks! 

You'll learn 12+ essential coaching skills to lead cultural transformation with confidence. These are the same skills my most successful clients have used to boost engagement, reduce attrition, and improve productivity—in just a few months. 


There are four essential steps to building and sustaining a thriving culture

Below, I provide an overview of each step. In subsequent editions of the Growth Guide, I will provide detail on common mistakes and better practices. So, I’d love to get your questions related to each of the steps (just reply to this email)!


Step 1. Set effective policy

Culture is “the way we do things” (1). So, the first step to creating a thriving culture is to define how you do things through effective policy. In this context, I’m using policy broadly to refer the structures, processes, rules, incentives, and other defining features of your organization.


By this definition, most organizations have hundreds or thousands of policies. And not all of these have a strong influence on culture. So, where should you begin?


I recommend focusing on those policies that influence 12 key attributes within your organizational system (see bolded items in the organizational systems graphic below).

In my experience, most organizations spend the bulk of their policy time on structure, incentives and rewards, and technology. Most do not spend enough time on values, power distribution, skills & abilities, and decision-making.


To sustain a thriving culture, your values are your most important policy tool. Most people struggle with feedback because they’re scared of coming across as biased. When you’re able to tie feedback to how a person uplifted or violated a value, you reduce bias. In that sense, values are the foundation for a strong performance culture.

Not all organizational values statements are created equal. Most are ineffective because they're not co-created by the organization with the end in mind. 

If you'd like create effective organizational values that drive real performance improvement, I can help. I've designed a foolproof guide to building strong organizational values. It includes definitions, examples, and a compelling activity you can run with your team (no facilitation skills required). Reply to this email if you'd like me to send you the complimentary guide! 


Step 2. Communicate expectations 

Once you’ve set policy, you must communicate it to your team. In addition to explaining the policy itself, you should also set expectations for how you all will reinforce that policy. For example:

  • How will you implement the policy?
  • What is each person or team’s responsibility in implementing and reinforcing policy?
  • How will you hold people accountable to this policy?

Most organizations do a great job communicating policy, but fail to set expectations around accountability. This makes it difficult hold everyone responsible for respecting policy, and hold leaders responsible for fairly evaluating policy.


Step 3: Uphold expectations

Most leaders stop with defining culture. They mistakenly assume that setting and communicating how things are done is enough.


It’s not enough.


When leaders fail to reinforce expectations, allowing undesirable behavior to fester, they create a toxic culture. And toxic cultures kill performance (2). A toxic culture is the single greatest predictor of attrition. It makes it hard to attract talent to replace those who leave. And it kills engagement and productivity.


Consistently upholding expectations is the key to sustaining a thriving culture. You can uphold expectations by:

  • Recognizing employees when they do things that strengthen the culture. For example, our weekly staff meetings at Coraggio would begin with Values in Action. For ~10 minutes, team members would share stories about how their colleagues brought a value to life that week, like “Katherine really hit our high bar value this week when she went above-and-beyond to polish that proposal submission.”
  • Saying something when you see behaviors that violate policies or expectations. Provide timely, direct feedback on the situation, behavior, and impact.
  • Following through on accountability expectations. When you communicate expectations (step 2), you should define how the organization will hold people accountable to those expectations. For accountability to work—and for a healthy culture to hold—you must follow through on the expectations you set. Or they become meaningless. As Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said in a recent interview:

One of the two principles we had when we started is that somebody had to be good at what they do, but no internal politics. I told everybody: You will be fired for internal politics. We don’t believe in it … And now, when we recruit people from other firms, they feel liberated. 4


Step 4. Evaluate policy

Leadership is not about perfection. You’re not going to get every policy or expectation right the first time. It’s simply not possible.


Leadership is about learning and improving. Every time you create or update a policy, set expectations upfront about how you will evaluate that policy:

  • When will you evaluate it?
  • What criteria will you use?
  • What metrics must you hit to achieve success?
  • Who will be able to provide feedback?
  • How will you use your evaluation findings to inform policy updates?

Then follow through on those expectations. Most people don’t care about perfection. They care about honest improvement.


Creating and sustaining a thriving culture may feel like an Impossible Task.


It’s not. A thriving culture is the result of consistent, sustained action to define and reinforce effective policies and expectations. And you too can create a thriving culture by following the four steps presented in this Growth Guide.

If you're passionate about sustaining healthy cultures, stay tuned. In upcoming editions of the growth guide, I will dive into common mistakes and better practices in culture building. We'll specifically dive into culture building in hybrid and remote workplaces, which I know is top of mind for many of you!

If you have culture questions you'd like me to cover or a story you'd to share, please reach out! I'd love to feature reader questions and stories in future editions. 


And if you’re feeling uncertain about where to start, reach out. I’m here to help. In just one complementary consultation, we can make a lot of progress on sharpening your strengths, opportunities, and goals. 


Opportunities to Partner

Coaching Essentials for Leaders: Coaching Essentials for Leaders is a workshop series in which you’ll master 12+ essential coaching skills to unleash the energy, creativity, and performance of you and your teamIt involves:

  • 4 experiential workshops (available à la carte)
  • In-person and virtual options
  • Group and 1:1 coaching enhancements

There are three investment options, starting at just $297. For the price of a nice evening out, you could cultivate skills to dramatically improve your leadership, life, and impact now. That’s a pretty incredible ROI. You may register here.

One-on-one and Team Coaching: If you're ready to rapidly transform your leadership, life, and impact, I'm here to guide the way. As your coach, I'll work with you (and your leadership team, if desired) to clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results with confidence, ease, and joy. If you're ready to improve your coaching skills, one-on-one and team coaching are great opportunities to do so.

Your Leadership Mindset Blueprint: What could you achieve if you felt engaged, motivated, and fulfilled--even when times are tough? How would you show-up differently for yourself, your team, and those you love if you felt calm, confident, and in control of your actions and reactions? How would it feel to navigate life with the support of someone who only has your best interests at heart, who listens without judgment, and who supports you in creating the life and legacy of your dreams? This life is possible! And it starts by shifting your mindset. This 4-hour experience will empower you to do just that with dramatic results. Read more and sign-up here.

Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 


Links to Past Editions

Here are links to the first 21 editions:

Mar 2This solvable problem costs U.S. companies $50 billion every year

Feb 23: Pour fire on the fuel of your growth journey

Feb 16: How to become a Coaching Leader

Feb 9: Coaching skills for leaders

Feb 2: The #1 investment you should make to drive outstanding performance in 2023

Jan 26: The do's and don't's of transformation leadership in 2023

Jan 19: To hire a GREAT coach/ consultant, avoid these 3 mistakes

Jan 12: Four strategies to achieve goals with greater confidence and ease

Jan 5: The secret to setting effective goals

Dec 22Glean powerful insights from 2022 w/ this 3-step reflection process

Dec 15: Nine proven strategies to eliminate stress

Dec 1: Three things you can do now to boost success in 2023

Nov 17Eight signs you've got a feedback problem & how to fix it!

Nov 10: Make performance management your unfair advantage

Oct: 1/ The four elements of a high-performing leadership team, 2/ Cultivate an empowered leadership mindset

Sep: 1/ Replan for Q4, 2/ Jumpstart growth through self-awareness, 3/ Three Qs to save you BIG in your next strategy process 

Aug: 1/ Adapt your strategy process, 2/ Support your mid-level managers, 3/ Halt your mid-career crisis

Jul: 1/ Win with values, 2/ How to get hybrid work right, 3/ Vacation like a European

Jun: 1/ The mid-year review, 2/ Sharpen your creative skills, 3/ Win through failure

May: 1/ Prepare for downturns; 2/ Better, faster decisions; 3/ Embrace difference to improve performance

Apr: 1/ The Q1 review, 2/ Prime yourself for success, 3/ Focus your innovation investments for impact


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