Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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A Culture That Enables Workers to Give, Receive, and Thrive!

What type of culture do you desire in your organization?
Collaborative, transparent, innovative, inclusive… Indeed, there is a slew of terms we can use to describe the type of culture we desire in our organizations. But going beyond words, what are the defining characteristics of a healthy organizational culture? In other words, what does a leader aspire to see, feel, and sense? – As they walk into the lobby at 8 AM, roam the halls at midday, provide business updates on Zoom calls, and discuss with employees during 1:1s?

What does a healthy culture look and feel like?

A culture that enables others to give, receive and thrive is an aspiration of a true leader. And to build that culture, many leaders ask a key question. – How can I get the most value out of my employees?
Now, I can hear the gasps of leaders as they say: Aké, I don’t want to get the most out of my employees. – I value them as people! I want them to be productive and contribute immensely to the organization.
Now, that sounds like a worthwhile objective because it humanizes the intention!

And the desire to soften the tone and tenderize the meaning by rephrasing is understandable. – Because most of us are well-intentioned and want to treat our workers as best we can. But we also have a natural and sometimes competing desire. – To get as much value as possible from an investment. 

Think about it!
You expect value if you hire a fitness trainer for your time and financial investment! – And the value might equate to weight loss, cardiovascular peak training, optimum muscle building, or something entirely different.  Likewise, when you go to the doctor and present a health challenge, you expect to walk out of the hospital with a remedy. – A prescription or brilliant advice that could cure your ailment.  Undeniably, when we invest, we expect a return!

And the same holds for leaders and workers as well! – Workers expect a commiserate return for the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears they contribute. – Therefore, the worthy question is: What can a leader do to create a culture that enables workers to give, receive, and thrive?
It starts with how we view workers!

Don’t Discard Too Quickly! — Things are not always the way they seem!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite snacks was yogurt! – I specifically liked flavored varieties with chunks of yummy fruit like pineapples and strawberries blended in. And in my youth, I had little interest in knowing what went into producing my favorite yogurt. – My intention was singular – to indulge my sweet tooth. 😊 But when I was in my early 20s, I became health conscious. And in a quest to find ideal foods for my health endeavors, I became curious and wanted to know what was in yogurt!

My fact-finding adventure led me to a surprising revelation!
I learned that yogurt is made from bacteria called yogurt cultures. – Producing yogurt requires combining heated milk with two live cultures. But here is the pièce de résistance: the warm milk creates the perfect environment for the bacteria to grow. Thereby thickening the milk and creating yogurt!  https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-make-your-own-homemade-yogurt-in-7-easy-steps
Eww! The excessive mention of bacteria (even though it is the good kind) in food gave me the creeps back then! It still does now! 😊

But creepy or not, the yogurt production process offers keen insight into building a healthy organizational culture! – Sometimes, what we think is a poor fit is what the organization needs. – But to derive value, we need to know what we have.

To build a healthy culture – Know What You Have!

In yogurt production, bacteria serve a vital purpose. – It enables growth!

How does this relate to organizational cultures? – You might ask!
As we know, it is not uncommon for a team leader to feel regretful about various aspects of their team. – Team members, strengths, skill gaps, and much more! – Especially when the leader did not hire every team member!

Also, during the hiring process, it is not uncommon for leaders to miss the potential downsides of candidates. – This may happen when evaluating the skills of a “professional candidate.” i.e., One who is adept at interviewing and capable of putting on an exhilarating show like Julie Andrews’ performance in The Sound of Music!
And this can enable one to secure a role despite one’s inability to perform the job.

And when this happens, a leader may think the only option is to: get the employee out of their team! But in many cases, employees do not manipulate their way into the cubicle. – Instead, they are imperfect and have a lot to offer. And one can help them grow and contribute effectively by providing coaching and opportunities.

An environment that enables workers to give!

However, sometimes, the problem is graver and has little to do with a worker’s skill set or lack thereof! Instead, the point of contention is rooted in personality differences and conflicts. As we know, working with people with different personalities is unavoidable. – Even when personality tests are a foundational tenet of your candidate screening process. Also, no one gets along with everyone. And sooner or later, our quirky habits rear their ugly heads!

But it is worth looking past the idiosyncrasies because a dynamic blend of differences is vital to building excellence. – And high-performing organizations are composed of people with different skills, backgrounds, and personalities!

To better grasp this, let us consider the world of sports!
A football team of eleven Tom Brady clones – the American Football quarterback with the most Super Bowl Championships, would not be a great team. Likewise, a soccer team of eleven replicas of Pelé, the winner of the highest number of FIFA World Cups, would not be a great team. – Because diverse skills are needed to make a great team.

Indeed, the value of diversity is known when a leader places more bets on the opportunity that different perspectives bring than the comfort that sameness allows. And we reap the benefits of diversity when we learn and work with what we have.

Learn To Play The Cards In Your Hand

More often than not, in our professional lives, we are dealt cards. And our ability to succeed and thrive depends on how we play those cards. Notably, difficulties may arise due to factors outside the leader’s control. – Such as unfavorable global and natural factors or market conditions.

Not too long ago, we experienced this with the emergence of the deadly coronavirus! – The virus surfaced and shut down the world for what seemed like months on end!
Months later, Hurricane Ian landed! And within minutes, lives, homes, and businesses were rocked and uprooted.

Understandably, depending on your experience with the pandemic, you might struggle to believe anything positive emerged from it. But as is often the case with disasters, there are glimmers of hope! In this case, stories of organizations that weathered the storm with courage, hard work, and teamwork.

Stories like that of a restaurant owner who told his employees that to save the organization,  everyone (himself included) needed to take a significant pay cut for some time. – Everyone has different financial situations. – And for many, this was a significant request! However, believing in the business, many employees agreed to stay, work, and take the pay cut.
Thereby enabling the business to survive the slough, pivot to a delivery model, and reopen after the pandemic. – With a unified team of employees who had weathered the storm together.

A Way Forward

Indeed, many heroic stories emerged out of the 2022 pandemic! But I share this with a high level of sensitivity because many businesses had to shut their doors. – And I do not intend to negate or diminish the agony so many experienced.
Yet, in the face of adversity, it is valuable to learn lessons that can enable us to thrive in the future. – And one of those lessons is the value of teamwork.

Indeed, the best teams are not composed of clones. And it is worth resisting the tendency to nurture an environment marked by sameness. – A better approach is to create a culture that enables people to contribute all they can. – Thereby opening the door to building the unimaginable.
And this is enabled by imbuing the culture with tenets that allow workers to give, receive and thrive. 

For you and to you,



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