Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted November 05 2015.


A few years ago I wrote a scholarly paper on culture. The intent of the research was to define culture as how people live inside an organization.  My research produced 149 definitions of culture.  I imagine there are more than 149 definitions. The definition of culture was not what I was learning; my learning was deeper. I’ll come back to that later.

First, let’s turn to the term “engagement.”  Many of my clients conduct employee satisfaction surveys or culture assessments. Satisfaction and happiness do not necessarily mean the employee is engaged.

Employees can be happy at work because of the social network or a decent paycheck. Game rooms, ping pong, or pool tables may contribute to employee happiness. Happiness is different than employee engagement and yet can be connected to employee engagement if other organization practices are relevant and meaningful.

Employee satisfaction surveys can be misleading and often the bar is set too low. Employees may be satisfied with a 9 to 5 work schedule and not complain. Satisfaction does not necessarily mean the employee will put in extra effort, creatively problem solve, or think outside of the box.  Think about it – two people in a personal or professional relationship can say they are “satisfied” and yet, over time, miss opportunities to be deeply connected and committed.

Engagement raises the bar to an employee’s emotional commitment demonstrated by words and actions on behalf of the organization. Engaged employees adopt an organizing principle to do what is right at any time. They readily put in the effort to move a product or service out to the members and do so without complaint. Engaged branch personnel behave in a way that demonstrates care and commitment to the members’ financial health. Engaged executives have open conversations with direct reports about what is important to them and related to the organization. Engaged employees proactively explore more productive and efficient ways to serve and keep margins intact. Bottom line, engaged employees put their heart into their commitment to the organization.

Culture – that word again – is directly related to employee engagement. Culture is in every organization. Culture formation needs intentionality and purpose, or it creates an unexpected and unwanted culture. It is clear to me that the culture of an organization starts with the board of directors and the executive team being in alignment about performance metrics and employee engagement.

Departments and functional areas each have a culture. Those in roles of leadership have the responsibility to demonstrate values through their behaviors to create and sustain an open culture of inclusivity and accountability. Departments with a culture of engagement produce high standards of service, which leads to member satisfaction and organization sustainability.

What would be different if each department or function manager performance rating included a narrative on how they create a culture of engagement? What would be different if others described you as the best person to work for because of your inclusivity, openness, and observable commitment to the success of each employee?

My recommendation is to reflect on how you create a culture of engagement and ask others for their feedback. Plan a series of department or organization meetings with your team, openly discuss the culture, intentionally define the desired culture, and adopt the practice to make that culture a reality.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC

Pros and Cons of Remote Work

Pros and Cons of Remote Work

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted November 2, 2015.


Remote working is an ideal way to be sure you are hiring the best possible talent, recruiting talent from competitors, reducing relocation expenses, and minimizing the impact of a job change on an employee’s family. Mergers, acquisitions, merging up, or takeovers require the industry to rethink the office as the standard corporate meeting place.

Work without Walls is a Microsoft white paper that states, “62 percent of employees believe their productivity increases when they work remotely . . .” Conversely, only 15 percent say their company’s support remote working.  There is a definite gap to discuss.

Remote employees have many opportunities to increase productivity. These same employees worry that bosses lose confidence in the employee’s ability to effectively perform as a fully engaged employee if not physically present in the office space.

Following are some pros and cons to remote working. Then I discuss one of the biggest challenges I have seen in the industry regarding the C-Suite and remote working.


  1. Increased focus: Employees experience minimal in-office distractions and can devote required attention to projects and initiatives.
  2. More productive time: No commute, or transitioning between environments.  The hour to get ready and commute is directed toward project management or team conversations.
  3. Flexibility for working parents: More family and work time increases the quality of life for employees and their families.
  4. Increased diversity of talent recruitment: The organization has increased access to high-quality employees when the requirement to work within the organization’s walls is removed or minimized.
  5. Circadian rhythm in alignment with productive time: Some people are more productive at 4:30 in the morning and others at 9:00 a.m. Do the work when your circadian rhythm is at its peak.
  6. Ease and Agility: The remote worker reports more ease in their day that enhances their agility and flexibility in delivering on work commitments.
  7. Office space reallocated: Organizations with tight office space may not need to expand, thereby reducing facility expenses. One client set up hoteling offices for visiting remote workers.  The hoteling office has Internet access, desk, lamp, and often four walls for privacy.  They are intended for temporary short-term use, two to four hours, typically, and less than a day.


  1. Ideas suffer from lack of feedback and brainstorming. Innovation is not time-bound to a clock, and when employees only have an hour here or there scheduled for brainstorming, the process can lose its energetic excitement.  People who aren’t around each other long enough don’t collaborate on ideas naturally.
  2. Relationship building suffers: Positive relationships come about in different ways. Some need to be in the same space for long periods of time to build a particular quality of rapport. Others can get there over the phone or through video chat.
  3. Cyber security: The IT department needs to make sure this is well managed and monitored.
  4. Workaholics have no respite: Those with work as the priority in life need to set boundaries to ensure their nutrition, exercise, and family relationships are strong.
  5. Impact on the family: Be in conversation with your family to set appropriate boundaries for your time and workspace. My home workspace has an outside entrance; my conversations are private, and I am not distracted by home noise and activities during my work hours.
  6. Feeling of isolation – not being in the casual and spur of the moment conversations: You and your employer need to be clear on practices of inclusivity, sharing successes, and a social network at work.
  7. Decrease in the monitoring of others: If you work remotely more than in the office, be clear on how you monitor your team and what support is needed to ensure success.

Remote Work Challenge
Organizations with a high performing C-Suite* team have more success with working remotely. If your C-Suite operates more in functional units rather than as an executive team, remote working is problematic.

Too often I have seen breakdowns in organizations in which the C-Suite is in conflict and there is a noticeable lack of coordination, collaboration, and communication. Executive teams with high trust and mutual respect and commitment don’t happen by accident.  A high-caliber team that operates as one did the work, often with an external facilitator, to create a positive sense of value as a team.

Remote working needs to be secondary to the C-Suite operating in trust. I believe both are doable with the right conditions of success and practices.

*C-Suite:  Denotes executives with a chief title, or highest functional level of responsibility, such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operations officer, chief marketing officer, etc.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC


Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

CONFUSING LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP: What Really Is Strategic Leadership?

The strategic planning cycle is in full swing this fall, which has me thinking about what makes strategic planning successful and what is missing when the process and outcome feel less than inspiring. Bear with me while I share some theoretical-practical perspectives.

My intention is to create space in the strategic planning domain for strategic thinking and strategic leadership, which are two of four critical components for an inspiring process that creates sustainable value.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership can be difficult to describe because it is highly complex and complicated. A successful strategic leader utilizes microscopic perceptions to transfer to or create macroscopic expectations. These perceptions and expectations require exploration and assessment of the current and future environments and the nature and force of these environments as well as knowledge of the required competencies for success.

Beyond the competencies, and often the most elusive, is ensuring all those responsible for the strategic success have the same commitment with the same degree of relevant focus and energy. Participants can say they are on board with the new strategic organization paradigm yet have difficulty shifting away from being highly tactical or operational.

Strategic Planning

A function of strategic leadership is to create a plan of action to fulfill regarding a quintessential advantage, risk, or challenge to an individual, team, board, or organization. To do so requires in-depth, long-range planning, the most profound and complex decisions, and leaders with the highest conceptual ability to manipulate microperceptions with a macroscopic vision with quality, desired expectations, which may or may not be obvious at the start of the process.

Strategic Thinking: The Most Difficult Part of Strategic Planning

Connecting the means to an end (vision) is the strategic plan. The level of strategic thinking required for a successful strategic plan is complex. The thinking, in a group or team, includes characteristics of uncertainty, ambiguity, complexity, and even volatility in data and knowledge amid the diversity of personalities, desires, and even personal agendas. Staying in the game, sorting out relevant data and knowledge, and listening to and acknowledging diverse perspectives are attributes of strategic thinking.

Strategic Environment

The strategic environment is everywhere in and around the organization. Internally, it is the culture, climate, project management, leadership styles, and identity of those in roles of strategic, operational, and tactical leadership. The internal strategic environment includes understanding internal processes, competencies, and people to effectively deploy resources to leverage competitive value. Externally, it is the organization’s reputation, political state, economic and world markets, competitive forces, and more. It is how the external environment perceives and responds to the organization’s competitive value, its leaders, and its products and services. The external environment is both current and future—today and all possibilities for tomorrow.

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Tactical and Operational Leadership

Let’s put tactical and operational leadership into perspective.

Tactical Leadership addresses with the here and now, with short-term decisions and risk management for immediate gains, and is highly transactional in nature.

Operational Leadership is about building the structures and systems that allow the strategic leader’s vision and objectives to become realities. The operational leader inspires the transactional leaders to be engaged and high performing and creates the systems to support the values of the organization and encourage a culture with value related congruent behavior patterns.

Moving Forward

Strategic planning requires strategic thinking and strategic leadership. The best strategic plan requires exemplary strategic leadership. How are strategic leaders noticed in the strategic planning and thinking process?

They are intentional, bigger-picture leaders who deal in the theoretical, visionary, hypothetical, and strategies.

They have a solid vision of the future and how the organization will work in the future.

They set the vision and direction for the organization, utilizing corporate-level strategy, competitive edge and relevant strategy, positioning, and offensive and defensive maneuvers.

The Big Question

Who are the strategic leaders in your organization, and are they fully leveraged in the strategic thinking process “to create a dynamic strategic plan for the organization’s success regarding its quintessential advantage, risk, or challenge? If the answer to this question is anything other than a resounding YES, then include the development of such compelling leaders as a strategic initiative.

Career Failure: Repeat Offenders or Singular Episodic Event?

Career Failure: Repeat Offenders or Singular Episodic Event?

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted September 25, 2015.By: 

Career failure has many twists and turns that can cause each of us to go into a deep reflective space. Questions you ask might include:

Did I make the wrong employer choice?
What did I miss in the interview?
Would I be more successful with a different boss?
Can I pick my board of directors next time?
Should I have listened more?
Should I have been clearer in defining expectations?
How would an executive coach help?
Why was I such a jerk?
I deserved that promotion. Why did she get it?
What if I had fired that executive who caused the original problem?
I worked so hard . . . Why?
Will anyone ever hire me again?

It is often easy to blame someone else for a failure in our career, using the Blame Game rational. The more difficult and effective approach is to look in the mirror for what we missed, took advantage of, did not prepare for, and mismanaged relationships. There are two sides to the coin.

Career failures often come about because of mismanaged and miscommunicated expectations. Your manager has expectations that were not clearly understood by you and, an outcome is a lack of performance ending in job loss, a hoped for lost promotion or reassignment.

Five tips to managing career success include:

Monthly check-ins proactively managed by you
Check in with your supervisor, and peers, once a month and find out how you are doing from their perspective. You may think everything is perfect, and yet, they perceive a misalignment in expectations and performance. Ask questions such as: How am I doing? From your perspective what is working? What needs more attention? If you had to choose today, would you still hire me? Be open to listening, not being defensive. Thank the speaker for their assessment and, if appropriate and relevant, ask for more details on the components of success.

Write your resume for three to five years in the future
What new responsibilities, achievements, accomplishments are on your resume in the future? How is your current career aligned with that vision of the future? What resources do you need?  Who supports our success that has a say in resource allocation?

Engage in Executive Coaching
Converse with your manager about the advantage of engaging with a certified leadership/executive coach. A coach sees your blind spots, helps you craft your career and appropriately challenges you in ways that peers or your supervisor are not able.

Participate in a 360° leadership assessment
It provides direct and honest feedback that your peers and supervisors may not be equipped to do so in person.  Work with your coach to review and make meaning of the results.

Commit to advancing your leadership presence
At this stage in your career it is not your intellect or expertise that gets you promoted or in trouble; it is how you lead. Leadership presence is 93% of why others follow you! Hence, a compelling reason to get the help that is not successfully derived from a leadership book or PowerPoint. Learning new practices of self-awareness can support you with new leadership practices that result in a successful career.

What tips do you have for Career Success?

Deedee Myers


Yes is the Same as No!

Yes is the Same as No!

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted September 17, 2015.


You Do Have a Choice in Work-Life Balance

Work-life conflicts are present for many of us as we move through life in the two major roles of work and home. Child labor was a primary concern that stemmed from the industrial revolution and, in some countries today, is still an issue. Today, even in our affluence, increasingly excessive demands of work are impacting and creating stress in our home. Let’s face it; the greater stress is at work, the more we need to have quality attention on our relationships with ourselves and others.  Relationship disaster is a sure thing when something doesn’t give, or an intentional change is not made to ease the increasing burden of work-life stress.

Pressures at work intensified over the past years, even with advances in technology that initially were thought to ease our lives. As early as 25 years ago, the potential issues of job loss due to adopting information technology was a frequent concern blasted in the media. The reality is technology has intensified stress at work and, for many of us, has some minor or major impact at home. I notice the:

  • need for speed and success measured by speed keeps staff employed;
  • quality customer service processes require constant access to service providers or customers complain;
  • ongoing cyber security upheavals;
  • instant gratification needs by society; and overall
  • increased proportion of high-speed work by humans has increased

An Overwhelming Situation
Last week, I went to curriculum night for 5 of my children, each of whom has 7 periods for a total of 35 teachers to visit in a two-hour period. The kids were so excited about me going to their classrooms and meeting ALL their teachers. My chest started to tighten with a sense of being overwhelmed as they stood, with smiling expectant faces, each with a sheaf of papers detailing their schedules waving in front of my face. The truth was I had flown all night trying to get home from a challenging client situation and had a total of 4 flights either cancelled or delayed and all I wanted to be was a couch potato for an hour or two.  The tension between work and personal commitments was very present and this situation had potential disaster written all over it.

I put on my coaching hat because that is my job and asked myself: “To what do you want to say yes? Then, to what do you need to say no?” My chest relaxed, my breath moved through me more readily, and I felt more settled and ready. After coming back to center, the kids and I partnered for success. Each child selected their two favorite teachers and we placed all the schedules on the kitchen table to explore possibilities. The end result was a two-hour schedule that was doable! Long story short, I was able to personally meet all their top two choices and more.

What worked in this situation? I said yes to a centering practice and two hours of teacher visits, asked for support from the kids as stakeholders, and said no to a total of 35 classroom visits and a tight chest with limited breath. Curriculum night was enjoyable and since then, I have emailed and talked with all the other teachers at a more relaxed pace.

Types of Work-Life
Work life and home life are a popular research topic by social scientists, with varying thoughts of what balance in life means. Balance comes in different shapes and flavors. I believe in momentary balance followed by choice. However, knowing we each have a choice whether or not to be stressed many times escapes our attention. Stress spins us and we forget to center.

Understanding where we fall within the framework of the work-life challenge is helpful to increase our self-awareness and good choices in terms of saying YES or NO.  Five work-life frameworks are:

  1. Segmentation model: Work life and home life are two distinct domains, not integrated.
  2. Spillover: One domain can influence the other domain.
  3. Compensation: What lacks in one domain is compensated for in another.
  4. Instrumental: Activities in one influence success in the other.
  5. Conflict: High demands precipitate conflict in both domains and produce overload and potential burnout for the individual.

Making Sense of Work-Life Balance
However you center, do that for 10-15 minutes. Review the 5 models of work-life balance. Using a blank sheet of paper, take a pencil and draw a line down the middle. Label the first column Yes and the second No. Start notating your choices. In the Yes column you might notice you say Yes to checking email 7 days a week, working long days, and overcommitting. You may say Yes to being tired and grumpy at home. The No column may have you saying No to quality weekends and evenings with your family, a doable workday, and more. You get the picture.

Next, start over with a clean sheet of paper and the same two columns. Add a date on the top that represents by when you will have intentionally made your Yes and No choices. For example, by October 1st, you will say Yes to being in more positive relationships at home and No to extra work projects.

Sometimes we do not know what we are declining until we take the time to understand what our conditioned actions are producing. You do have the choice to have meaningful work-life conversations at work, home, and more importantly with yourself. So, get out your paper and pencil.

Deedee Myers, PhD


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