How Culture trumps Strategy

Whenever I walk into a business, as a client or a coach, I pay attention to the emotional vibe I pick up from the employees. The vibe I pick up is my subjective assessment of the culture of the business.

When I pick up a vibrant, friendly or warm vibe, I come to the conclusion that there is a healthy culture. When I experience cold, distant encounter, I know something is not right with the culture. Pay attention the next time you walk into a shop or business. Look past the trained customer service friendliness, and see if you pick up the subtle vibe. Do employee laugh with each other or are they ships passing each other in the night? Do they stand in for each other or leave you waiting while the person helping you is away?

I have often found that often management does a lot of strategic planning, that goes nowhere. Merely because they do not consider the culture of the business. If the people do not follow where you lead, your plan fails.

Culture is the underlying of emotional wellbeing in any company.

Imagine your business as a garden.


The design is your strategic plan. The plants are your employees. The fruit and flowers are the products or services your clients enjoy. Culture is the soil in which your plants grow.

Without good soil, your garden is going nowhere.

Another way to think about culture is to notice “the way we do things around here.” It is the unwritten rules in any company, and it evolves automatically if it is not created deliberately.

How do we create a healthy culture? By consciously choosing the purpose and values of your organization. Business owners should pay as much attention to deliberately creating a culture than as they pay attention to strategy or financial report. It is paying attention to the whole business that it will prosper.

If you are interested in cultivating a culture in which employees can flourish, please contact me.

Like Breathing for Business

Like Breathing is for the body, so is marketing for the Small Business (Any business for that matter).

I just came from a group session with four small business owners. Their biggest challenge is getting enough clients to keep their business afloat.

From experience I know how they feel. I remember those early days full of stress. I also know from experience that this is not the only challenge, but possibility the biggest. We have a product or service, we know that it will add value to our clients. We just cannot seem to get the clients and the product to meet each other.

imagesIt’s like walking through a maze. Often we take a turn and end up in a dead end. Finding our way through trial and error. I remember wishing someone could show the way.

So today I am glad to say that Quantum Flow Coaching can be that guide.

We are collaborating with a group of international coaches that wants to make Small Business’ successful. We want to change the world economy by enabling Small Business owners to beak through the dreaded first 3 years. And we do it by coaching them to get more clients.

So – today we launch our online e-learning marketing system.

A 52 week, step by step guide to increase your cash flow by getting ALL the clients you need.

Please take a tour through this system, and let us know what you think.


The Recession’s Gift

Since 1994 to 2007 South Africa had an economy growth of about 6 – 7%. Then just as the rest of the world, we experience a dramatic downturn in 2008 and 2009. Currently I hear our economy is performing just below 3%.

So most of us, having changed gears and drawn our belts tighter, do still feel the effect of the “great recession” as some economist call it. The question arises – how do we respond?

Do we complain? If you want to, go ahead, but it will not change the situation.

Do we long for the wonderful past? Not a very good option as it is water underneath the bridge.

Do we put our heads down and just work ourselves out of this situation? I think this is a good option. It is a step in the right direction.

What I also suggest is that while we work, we also think and learn from the recession, as I belief it has a gift for us.

The gift is that of exposing the worldwide consumerism. Consumerism is a parasitical system at its worst and at its best an immediate gratification syndrome like that of a 2 year old baby.

To stimulate further economic growth the government encourages small business development. This is a good plan as small businesses are the highest employers in the country. We should however also remember the gift of the recession in this plan.

Observing small businesses I see that a lot of them are in business primarily to consume.

In a start-up phase of a business and for survivalist entrepreneurs, this is acceptable. What stands out is the consumption of profits when a business has “made” it. Expensive cars, big houses etc. A wise entrepreneur will wait until his/her business is mature, before they indulge themselves, if at all.

This consumption is not only restricted to business. Unfortunately the mentality also prevails in government and corporations. I am not only talking about the lavish parties that are held. I am also referring to the employees that come to work with a mentality of doing as little as possible for as much as possible.

Too really change this recession around, a fundamental mind shift has to take place in society.

We need to change our consumer thinking (what can I get) to one of adding value (what can I give).

If you consistently add value money will follow.

I take myself for example. Because my cash flow is under pressure, I tend to think carefully if what I buy, will add the most value to my life. If my business does not add value to my clients, I will not have any clients. If the business I am a client of, does not add value, I do not spend my money there anymore.

This is also true for being an employee. If you have a mentality of adding value, constantly asking yourself “How can I improve the performance of my company?” you will be the last person to be retrenched.

My invitation to you then is: Will you take the gift of this recession and use it to add value?

Striving to add value


SCARF: A shelter for the brain

Successful engagements with your clients or employees is closely linked to knowing how to satisfy their social needs.  Social needs are perceived by the brain as important as basic needs like food or shelter.  When these social needs are not met, we feel threatened.  On the other hand we experience a sense of reward when our social needs are met.  A reward emotion will draw a person in and ensure engagement, where a feeling of being threatened causes one to avoid a situation or person.

When your employee experiences a reward emotion, they will be more creative and show increased problem-solving skills.  It also stimulates deep thinking and positive emotions. This employee will be more willing to stretch herself beyond what she would normally be willing to take on.  Unfortunately, a sense of being threatened seems to be the default response in teams.  In a team setting it is therefore even more important to ensure reward emotions.

The SCARF model is used in Life, Business and Team Coaching to diminish a threat response and optimize positive reward emotions.  This acronym stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

Status relates to our relative importance, where we feel extremely threatened when we feel less important than someone else or being left out. We even feel better when we feel that we are becoming better than we were previously.  Learning and developing satisfy this need.

Our brain has a constant need to predict the immediate future.  Uncertainty decreases one’s ability to focus.  Giving your client enough information creates certainty and therefore willingness to engage with you. Make sure your clients and employees has the answer to the question “What is going to happen next?”

Autonomy is about having choices and a sense of control. We often hear about people leaving the corporate environment in search of a life where they have increased control over their life.  Creating an environment where employees feel that they have choices will contribute to an engaged workforce.

Are you my friend or my enemy?  This is the need for relatedness; knowing whether another person is “someone like me”.  Research has shown that people place the most trust in information they get from someone they feel connected to.  This increases trust.  Information received from such a person is processed by the brain using the same circuits as the ones processing one’s own thoughts.  Therefore you want to foster a sense of connectedness among colleagues.  You also want your client to feel that you share similarities.  Allowing people to share information about themselves contributes to a feeling of connectedness, especially if similarities are found. Mentoring, buddy systems and working in small groups also contributes to relatedness.

The perception of fairness or lack thereof elicits very strong emotions and reactions.  Consistency helps to increase a sense of fairness.  Perceived unfairness can be due to a lack of knowledge and transparency can help to correct these perceptions.  Establishing clear expectations from your clients and employees and making sure these are met will also contribute to engagement and positive emotions.

Satisfying the social needs of your employees and clients has a significant impact on them. When you find ways to increase their sense of importance, certainty, having choices, feeling connected and being treated fairly; the effect will be extremely satisfying both ways.