Background

One of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world (in 66 countries). Having an effective corporate culture is crucial to their ability to attract, hire, and train the best people in the industry.

One of their priorities is to have the “healthiest human system” as the centre of their plans to reinvigorate the company. It is a concept the company has kept intentionally vague because they want managers to interpret the system themselves.

One manager said he understood it as a challenge for the bank to focus on its people, to be more open, transparent and meritocratic, and to create a sense of purpose and energy to drive strategy.

The new focus shouldn’t be only on the financial aspect but also on people sustainability.

Executives felt, that with a better sense of each other, they would all benefit from a healthier work environment where they could trust and rely on their coworkers, which would lead to even more effective and productive work.

Problem

The leadership team, although successful and prolific, felt disconnected from other leaders in the bank. Although they are working side by side, there was a feeling that the context or the tools to work with one another best, to build trust, to have a sense of partnership and a feeling of connection, were missing.

In our initial survey before the workshop they all say the same thing. Although they enjoy an atmosphere that is nice and polite, they realize that they don’t know each other personally, they don’t connect at a deep level. The focus tends to be on each’s own area and not on the collective. If troubles or difficulties arise, there is no certainty that they will have each other’s back. They don’t have the context or the tools to work with to get to know each other and to build trust.

In this environment of decency and civility, difficult conversations are avoided.

One of the top executives, takes tough exchanges that happen within a group “offline” - meaning that these conversations need to be handled one on one.


Approach

To engage with one another to find mutuality and commonality. To brainstorm together to revitalize both the company and the way they show up at work.

An important discussion around a shared understanding of values. How does the company want the people at the bank to function. There is an important discussion needed around a shared understanding of values:

  • “How do we show up?”

  • “What does showing up mean to you?”

  • “What does showing up mean to us?”

Most people felt ready for these conversations and a deep search. They were excited about how the culture is changing, and how people’s voices are being heard.

Our photo workshop was an opportunity to address a working environment suffering from social isolation by building community. Seeing each other with dignity, respect, and appreciation. I wanted to instill a sense of “Radical Mutuality” meaning, “We don’t do things for people. We don’t do things to people. We do things with people.”

Even though all these participants (executives) knew of each other, I wanted to bring a deeper seeing, understanding, and appreciation of one another. I wanted to allow each to show up in a personal and open manner.

Leaders’ Quest, my partner in this workshop, and I needed to create an environment that allowed for the discomfort of tough conversations and disagreements to be processed. This would help with breakthroughs and take the group to the next level.