Shaping Culture
Image courtesy of Swapnll Dwivedi on Unsplash

Shaping Culture

Leaders often feel responsible for cultivating or preserving a high-performing culture, but what role does the traditional employee have in shaping culture? Too often, shaping culture is seen as an activity for the “powers that be,” and the thought is reinforced when leaders withdraw to private meeting rooms to identify goals, determine the right values for the organization, and decide what priorities and behaviors employees should follow. “Shaping culture is high-level work, and employees just need to fall in line.” 

We recognize that the last sentence sounds terrible, but it’s the sentiment that we often hear from employees who aren’t invited and empowered to be part of shaping culture. Unsurprisingly, there are significant consequences when employees don’t see the organization as theirs to shape: organizational commitment wanes and work becomes more transactional. As one battered and isolated employee said, “It’s a job; they pay me, so I go.” Why would anyone engage in work deeply when we don’t feel like our voice or thoughts matter?  

This is one of the reasons why we like Daniel Coyle’s definition of culture presented in his book “The Culture Code.”

“A set of living relationships working toward a shared goal” 

With that definition in play, it’s easier to see why great company culture is built and reinforced by engaging all people in pursuing organizational goals. Let’s explore how shaping culture becomes an activity for everyone.  

Shared Goals 

Every organization has a set of goals, which are likely articulated in its values, vision, mission, and current strategic plan. Their values reflect goals about who they want to be. Their vision reflects goals about where they want to go. The mission reflects goals about why they exist. Their current strategic plan reflects goals that will bridge the gap between where they are now and their values, vision, and mission. 

We believe a healthy process will include broad employee participation in the original articulation of these goals and periodic review of these ideas. In other words, these goals are “shared” because they are created and continually affirmed together. Similarly, when organizational interviewing processes embed discussion of these goals, they become “shared” as applicants confirm they hold beliefs that honor values, vision, and mission concepts and commit to pursuing the objectives in the strategic plan. 

Living Relationships 

But that’s not the entire story of culture. As people enter an organization and form relationships, they bring their own thoughts about what key cultural concepts mean. They begin expressing those thoughts in their daily interactions with each other, stakeholders, and customers. 

Like shared goals, these living relationships are vital because they allow key cultural concepts to be redefined and reimagined over the life of an organization. This may lead to an affirmation of traditional ideas with an eye toward a modernized world, and it may lead to the articulation of new cultural concepts that honor a changing workforce. 

A Peak Behind the Ethos Curtain 

Perhaps an example from our own experience will help. “Image” is one of the cultural concepts that we honor at Ethos. For us, that means we show up in spaces with professionalism. When Becky first joined Ethos in 2009, that primarily meant going to client sites in formal business attire. When David joined us in 2017, we shifted to a business casual style. 

If “Image” is part of the Ethos culture, how could that shift be acceptable? Simply stated, the world around us had changed, and our team had changed. We had more diverse clients, many of whom wore business casual attire as the idea of professional dress evolved. Throw in our team’s preferences, and we suddenly had a moment where we both affirmed a cultural idea AND updated its definition.

Reflection: How long has it been since you revisited key culture concepts in your organization? What actions can you take to ensure your culture reflects the influence of shared goals and living relationships?
  

Ethos Leadership Group, LLC

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Carol Payne

Ethos Team:

Carol Payne

Operations Assistant

Carol joined Ethos in 2020 after working in revenue cycle management and operations for non-profit and for-profit organizations. A natural helper, Carol takes pride in completing operational tasks that allow her teammates to focus on client-facing work. Carol particularly enjoys preparing Ethos’ daily tweets and bi-weekly leadership content for publication.

Fast Facts:

  1. Lived in 10 states before settling in West Virginia in 2012
  2. Is the mother of three grown children
  3. Enjoys reading and spending time with her family
Aaron Ray, Project Analyst

Ethos Team:

Aaron Ray

Development Specialist

Aaron joined Ethos in 2022 after working in the behavioral health field in various roles, including being a counselor and an adjunct professor. A researcher at heart, Aaron works behind the scenes and alongside clients to connect them to evidence-based methods to achieve their goals. Aaron particularly enjoys gathering data, synthesizing information, and working with the Ethos team to meet clients’ needs.

Fast Facts:

  1. He was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio and is a proud fan of Cleveland’s major sports franchises and The Ohio State Buckeyes
  2. Is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Ohio
  3. Aaron enjoys spending time with his family, smoking meat, and cooking good BBQ

Partner with Ethos

Sherri Ferrell

“Whether it’s using a self-assessment process to identify ways to improve board effectiveness, leading the board in strategy development and succession planning, or assisting with CEO performance evaluations, Ethos is skilled at assessing the scope of a board’s needs and devising strategies to help improve their performance and the performance of their organizations.”

Sherri Ferrell
Chief Executive Officer, West Virginia Primary Care Association
Lisa Jones

“I cannot say enough great things about the strategic planning process with Ethos. The process was not only fun but truly engaging. Becky and David were able to take a multitude of ideas from more than 30 participatory team members and help consolidate them into a workable functional plan. I will definitely use Ethos again for strategic planning and other leadership consulting needs!”

Lisa Jones
Chief Executive Officer, Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center
Renee Steffen

“Ethos was a true consultative partner in our strategic planning process. They listened to our organization’s feedback and were flexible in incorporating modifications into the process in a way that demonstrated they valued our organization’s culture and history. In addition to walking alongside us every step of the way, Ethos’s facilitation skills are top-notch. They helped move the conversation forward during critical breakthrough moments while ensuring everyone felt heard and valued. Several of our board members commented that it was the best strategic planning process in which they had ever participated. I can tell Ethos has a passion for helping clients move forward in a positive direction and this positive energy was highly evident in our experience working with them. We weren’t just another client but rather, we were a valued partner in the work!”

Renee Steffen
Executive Director, Sisters Health Foundation
Stacy DeCicco

“Our work with the Ethos team has impacted nearly every facet of our organization. Our initial experience engaged our board in a strategic thinking exercise. This half day event was originally scheduled to be an isolated experience; what it became was a launching point for organizational growth, professional development, and intentional, sustainable efforts. Our amazing experience within the strategic planning session brought mission and vision centered decision making to life for our team. The conversations of that day were not simply discussions that were archived and put on a shelf at the end of the meeting. They quickly transformed into digestible, attainable action items. Immediate implementation was possible because of the ongoing support and facilitation we received from the Ethos team. That energy and momentum flowed from the board, through our team, and out to the agencies that we support and engage across the community. We are a stronger organization because we are now able to execute our mission and serve our community better than ever before. The investment Ethos has made with us has created ripples that are felt further than they can ever be measured!”

Stacy DiCicco
Executive Director, United Way Alliance of the Mid‑Ohio Valley
Greg Franks

“Having served in leadership roles for several property management companies, I’ve had the opportunity to work with numerous consulting firms. My experience with Ethos Leadership, which involved an operational analysis of an active adult community with more than 16,000 residents, was one of the best experiences.”

“After spending two weeks embedded with our operational team and reviewing hundreds of documents, Ethos provided a comprehensive analysis and set of recommendations that addressed HR, Infrastructure, Leadership, Finance, Programs & Services, Planning, and Customer Service. Following Ethos’ analysis, we executed a plan to adopt sixteen (16) actionable steps that improved our operations while honoring the culture and values of our company and our client.”

“This entire experience set in motion a plan of execution that the community and its residents have benefited from and will for years to come. I highly recommend Ethos and their entire leadership team.”

Greg Franks
Vice President Southeast Region, AAM
Lisa Leach

“I best describe our organization’s experience of leadership development with Ethos Leadership Group as a journey of discovery that leads to building effective teams who are willing to break the silo mentality that often holds organizations from reaching their true potential. I have watched members of both our Management and C-Suite
levels grow and mature through the process Ethos Leadership Group has developed. Staff actively participates in assisting each other to achieve interdepartmental and strategic goals and share in each other’s successes rather than focus on one another’s missed opportunities. Through the discussion-based approach, our management team has learned to feel more confident in their decisionmaking abilities resulting in more effective and timely decisions. Ethos does a tremendous job of defining characteristics of effective leadership and helping staff to identify how their weaknesses and strengths can work in harmony to achieve organizational goals.”

Lisa Leach
Chief Executive Officer, Southern West Virginia Health System
Wendy Gall

“My time participating in the Ethos Executive Coaching program was a pivotal point
for me both professionally, as a new leader, and personally. Based off of a deep understanding of me as an individual, my coach was able to provide invaluable
insights and practices that helped guide me at a time in my career that was, I have to admit, a bit overwhelming. Our insightful discussions, along with the relationship that grew throughout our time working together, challenged me to grow in my areas of weakness and build on my strength, helped me formulate my thoughts around my leadership style, and provided me the tools and support I needed to gain confidence in becoming the authentic leader I am today.”

Wendy Gall
Director, Customer Care Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, First National Bank of Omaha
Enderson Miranda

“Ethos Leadership has been a trusted partner of OnSomble for several years. All members of our executive team trust and rely on Ethos’ expertise and advice. I have personally benefited tremendously by having Ethos available as a sounding board for strategic decisions over my years as COO and CEO at OnSomble. I can confidently say that Ethos consistently plays an important role in the continued growth and success of our company. I would unequivocally recommend the Ethos Leadership Group to any organization that wants to excel.”

Enderson Miranda
Chief Executive Officer, OnSomble, Inc.
Craig Glover

“The team at Ethos Leadership Group are great partners. They listened to my goals and developed a plan specific to my needs. Often, leadership groups have one approach they try to use for every situation. Ethos is different. Their various tools and approaches allows them to develop a custom plan for your organization.”

“The onsite work with the Ethos team was excellent. They are interactive, engaging, and fun. The session felt like a group of friends having a candid discussion as opposed to a work session. I highly recommend working with Ethos Leadership Group.”

Craig Glover
President and CEO, FamilyCare Health Centers
David Ray - Ethos Leadership Group

Ethos Team:

David Ray

Owner

In 2017, David joined Ethos after leading and advising in the non-profit sector. An organizational troubleshooter and natural synergist, David leverages his analytical and relational skills to help clients take their business and team to their desired next level. With a passion to see others live and lead well, David enjoys connecting leaders to evidence-based practices to boost leadership capacity, build human capital, and improve organizational performance. David particularly enjoys working with clients through strategic planning, executive coaching, and team development.

Fast Facts:

  1. Started his own property investment company at the age of 24
  2. Certified Human Behavior Consultant
  3. David enjoys spending time with his family, traveling to islands, and pretty much anything that has to do with personal development
Rebekah D. Mathis-Stump, J.D. - Ethos Leadership Group

Ethos Team:

Rebekah D. Mathis-Stump, J.D.

Owner

Becky joined Ethos in 2009 after leading the daily operations of five distinct work teams over a ten-year period. An analyst and solution-generator by nature, she works with clients to identify their needs and develops a plan of action to reach their desired results. Having worked in numerous disciplines in her career, Becky brings a broad range of knowledge and experience to our clients. Becky particularly enjoys working with clients on organizational audits, strategic planning, employee training and coaching, and governance.

Fast Facts:

  1. Lived in numerous states growing up, finally claiming West Virginia as home after marrying a native son, Jeff Stump
  2. Received life membership in The Order of the Barristers — a national honor society
  3. Becky enjoys reading, golfing, and cheering on the West Virginia University Mountaineers
Dr. James A. Johnson - Ethos Leadership Group

Ethos Team:

Dr. James A. Johnson

Founder

As our Founder, James encourages us to dream bigger dreams and mentors us to achieve them. James brings this same passion to our clients, skillfully blending inspiration with practical application in his work. James’ primary areas of expertise include leadership and fundraising.

Fast Facts:

  1. Development Officer at Pheasants Forever.
  2. Received President’s Volunteer Service Award (presented by President George W. Bush)
  3. James enjoys spending time with his wife (Lesa), and hunting