134: Why Culture Eats Everything

134: Why Culture Eats Everything

134: Why Culture Eats Everything

Is it really possible to transform a company’s culture? Tom Willis not only knows it’s possible, he facilitates these kinds of changes on a regular basis. Tom’s experiences as a CEO and Superintendent of Cornerstone Education Group, as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and as an engineer with the Intel Corporation prepared him well for the work he does today. He’s committed to helping senior leaders become conscious of behaviors they can change that positively impact culture. You’ll love Tom’s passion for his work and the specific skills he brings to ensure real changes happen.

Tom is the co-founder and Partner of Phoenix Performance Partners, a firm that works with school superintendents and CEOs to create cultures that foster the growth of each person and the organization as a whole. Tom is also the host of the Culture Eats Everything Podcast, where he interviews CEOs and Superintendents who’ve created positive cultures.

You’ll discover:

  • How Tom defines culture
  • What prevents many organizations from making changes to their existing culture
  • Why Tom’s team avoids labels like “dysfunctional” when describing issues or behaviors that cause problems within an organization
  • The types of up-front analysis tools Tom and his team use to identify the root cause issues
  • What’s required to create a high-performing, coaching culture

Watch the episode:


Connect with Tom

Connect with Your Team

Mastering the Top 10 Communication Skills

Peer Coaching Made Simple

How to Do the 6 Things That Matter Most When Helping Someone Improve a Skill

048: MIC SWAP: Create a Coaching Culture That Leads to High Performance

048: MIC SWAP: Create a Coaching Culture That Leads to High Performance

Strong for Performance Podcast

048: MIC SWAP: Create a Coaching Culture That Leads to High Performance

by Meredith Bell

​In this special episode, we have a “mic swap.” Former guest Angela Cusack interviews Meredith Bell about her new book, Strong for Performance: Create a Coaching Culture with Learning & Development Programs That Stick. Meredith kicks off by revealing the famous Star Wars actor she was friends with in high school! We then turned our discussion to more serious topics, like what’s required to change behavior for the long-term. Meredith describes a four-step roadmap that organizations can use to create an environment where people love to come to work, contribute their best efforts and achieve high levels of performance.

You’ll discover:

  • The famous Star Wars actor that Meredith knew in high school
  • Why Meredith wrote her book and the impact she wants it to have on organizations
  • The one element missing from most learning and development programs that results in a lack of long-term impact
  • A proven three-step process for rewiring the brain for a new skill or habit
  • Why a support system and accountability coach are key components for improving a skill

Watch the episode:


Connect with Meredith

017: A Model for Accelerating Leadership and Creating a Coaching Culture

017: A Model for Accelerating Leadership and Creating a Coaching Culture


Grow Strong Leaders Podcast


017: A Model for Accelerating Leadership and Creating a Coaching Culture

by Lance Hazzard

Sometimes executive coaching falls short of the expected outcomes. My guest Lance Hazzard has developed a system to ensure all the right stakeholders are involved so the coaching engagement is a resounding success. Lance created this process based three unique experiences: (1) as a senior HR executive who received coaching, (2) as an internally certified coach working with other leaders inside the company, and (3) as an external coach working with clients. Lance is President of Oppna Executive and Achievement Coaching, co-author of Accelerating Leadership.

You’ll discover:

  • The 2 key people to involve in a leader’s coaching experience (besides the leader and the coach)
  • How to structure an alignment meeting to ensure everyone understands and commits to their respective roles
  • What you can do to ensure all the stakeholders stay engaged with the coaching process
  • Why these elements contribute to the establishment of a coaching culture within the organization
  • How to use assessments to determine the areas of focus for a specific leader and to measure improvements

Watch the episode:


Connect with Lance

Read the Transcription

Welcome to another episode of the Strong for Performance podcast. I’m your host, Meredith Bell, and I am delighted today to have with me as my guest Lance Hazzard. Lance, welcome to my show.

Meredith, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.

One of the reasons I’m so excited about having you on the program is you have this unique perspective of corporate and executive coach external and Lance is the President of Oppna Executive and Achievement Coaching. He is an executive coach and he’s also the author of a wonderful new book called Accelerating Leadership: How to Integrate Executive Coaching in your Organization. I’ve read this and it’s excellent. I’m very excited about going deeper with you today, Lance, into some of the things that you’ve done. I know you have a vast experience in HR leadership in a number of fortune 100 companies, and so I’d love to have you start with telling us a little bit about your journey from being a Human Resources Vice President to an executive coach now with your own firm.

Yes. Well thank you, Meredith it’s great question. So my first introduction to executive coaching actually took place in 2003. I was a Senior Director of Human Resources at the time working for Medtronic, a leading healthcare solutions organization. I was offered the opportunity to work with an executive coach, so I was actually the client and I went through a six month process where I had various assessments done. I had 360 reviews and then I worked with a coach who really helped me understand my values.

We worked on some defined goals, and I saw firsthand the power and promise of coaching. So fast forward 10 years later, I was now a Vice President. I got promoted about a year after that executive coaching opportunity that I went through and my company Medtronic went through the process of saying, we’re going to bring more coaching inside. They reached out to the HR leadership team to say, who do you know that might want to become a coach? We will train leaders as coaches, it’ll take about nine months to a year to go through this training process, but the expectation and the return on that investment is that we would expect people that go through this development to coach two to four people per year.

I identified some leaders that I thought would be great and that I knew wanted this type of development, but I also raised my hand because I wanted to help people like I had been helped. So 2013 I went through the first Medtronic Coaching Cadre, about 24 of us went through this process, all Directors and Vice Presidents to learn this coaching to help others reach their full potential. So that was the second version. I started liking coaching so much. I realized in 2016 that I might do this in the next phase of my career.

So effective January 1 of 2017 I opened my own executive coaching practice where I specialize in executive, organizational and career coaching. Now I also do some consulting around not only HR, but really how to install a coaching culture in an organization.

That’s great. I just love the fact that you went from being coached yourself to doing it internally and then also doing it externally. So, you’ve covered all those bases and that was one of the things that I thought came across really loud and clear in your book is your experience in those various roles really shaped the approach that you take now when you go into an organization.

I love the fact that you are not looking at it in isolation with just you and the person that you are coaching. I would love for you to spend a little bit of time talking about your model there in the book because it was unique from anything I’ve read or studied in the past about who should be involved when a coach is brought in to work with a promising leader, whether it’s an aspiring leader or an existing leader who wants to improve performance.

Yeah, thank you. Just before I jump into that, I’ll just say that my coauthor Eric Hicks also has some similar experience to mine where he was a LND leader in corporate America, most recently at Cigna and has helped coach both internally and externally as well. So we’re coming at this as industry insiders that know how coaching works. We work with external coaches within companies, we’ve helped develop coaching within the organization and now I’ve done it externally.

So I think one of the things that’s unique here is we have this perspective and it really goes into details in the book about how to do this, about getting the executive sponsor, who’s usually the manager or the person being coached. Not always, but usually and the HR partner for that person being coached and getting them more involved in the process.

Many times organizations just leave it to the coach and to the client to work together and get reports back and alignment meetings, periodic meetings or completion meetings. But we feel that the development will be faster, the client will learn more and better by having also the executive sponsor and the HR partner somehow involved in this process.

They were already involved in picking the person for the development and perhaps outlined what the client’s going to work on with the coach, but they can be really also involved in the whole coaching process to accelerate the learning development of the coaching client in a faster way.

How do you sell those to people on this model? Because I can imagine one potential reaction could be, “Oh one more thing to do.” But I’m sure based on your experience inside the organization you’ve seen where if these people are not involved, the results are probably not as positive. Is that accurate?

Yes. So one of the things I do in an alignment meeting where the sponsor’s always there, at times the HR partner’s there too is I create this agreement where don’t wait just for me and the client to work together, we’re meeting once or twice a month, but it’s the opportunity because the sponsor is seeing the client work literally almost every day, or at least every week, depending on where they’re at geographically.

So the executive sponsor is seeing how the coaching client is taking in the coaching and progressing through their coaching goals and they’re going to be able to see, this is one of his or her goals and they just did a fantastic job. How do I give feedback to that person to let them know that. Likewise at times are going to see regression, regression back to the normal way they’ve been doing it all along.


How do you ask coaching questions about, “Hey, how did that go for you? What could have gone better? What would you do if you had to do it again?” But an a number of different coaching related questions to get the coaching client involved in how that could’ve gone better as opposed to just saying, “Work with your coach on this.”

It’s ingraining the learning, not only the praise on when they’ve done it well, which helps ingrain the learning, but some coaching questions when it could have gone better and that’s what’s going to accelerate that learning process.

Yes. What you’re really talking about is this whole communication element and commitment and accountability, because we think of the coaching client as the one that’s being held accountable. But the way that you’re structuring this, the different players are all accountable for their roles. If they’re not playing them correctly, then something’s going to fall through the cracks potentially.

Right. Or maybe if it doesn’t fall through the crack isn’t getting the development and that return that you really want. So in other words, by having more full engagement of the sponsor and the HR partner, they’ve already chosen this person for the coaching opportunity. They’re already invested.

What it does is it tends to reinforce that we are working with you as well to help you get to where you want to be and where we want you to be, which is a better place, potentially a higher level leadership or a more effective leader in your current role. But by giving you feedback, that’s how we learn. So we think this model is somewhat unique. We’ve not seen a lot of this stuff out there, so we thought we had a point of view we wanted to share.

Well, the other thing that to me is a real strength of that particular section is you give real examples of scripts or questions related to giving both positive feedback and giving constructive feedback on the part of both the sponsor and the HR person. So, the reader is able to really get a clear idea of what does that look like if I’m in this role, so they’re hopefully less intimidated. The other thing I was thinking as I was listening to you describe that, that the coaching client, it seems to me feels more supported, that they’re not just out there alone with the coach, but that these other individuals genuinely care by the way they interact with them. That has a lot to do, I would think with their motivation and commitment and following through with the development.

Yeah. They come to realize this was quite an investment in me. If I’m the client, I realized this back in 2003 when I was coached. This is quite an investment in me. How do I get the most out of this investment? If I have not only a coach, but my sponsor and my HR partner more engaged in that process that allows me to learn quicker than I’m going to feel very supported as a client.

So we think this is a unique opportunity, so not only for organizations that want to install coaching and integrate coaching, but for coaches who want to gain that further commitment from the sponsor and HR on how they can play a role in really helping develop that coaching client on a faster and better basis.

Thinking about my listeners who are coaches working inside organizations, when you get this kind of buy-in from the sponsor and HR and they see the value of this integrated approach, it seems to me that you would get more coaching clients as a result because you’re going to get… they’re experiencing first-hand the impact of having that involvement and also your coaching client is achieving better results. Is that accurate? Is that a likely thing that might happen?

I think it is, plus organizationally as more people are involved in the coaching process and more clients go through coaching in any organization, you have managers and HR partners more engaged in the coaching process, you’re actually developing a coaching culture in a much more vivid way and a much more realistic way and it works with executive coaches that are external to the company and works with internal coaches that are working within an organization. Where do you get that sponsor, HR, the coach involved with the client’s development. It’s a win.

Let’s talk a little bit about that organization wide coaching culture. What do you mean by that when you say a coaching culture and how do you see that working as a result of the process that you’re describing?

There’s a body of work out there that starting to take place that shown that organizations and this is public organization, private organizations, small and large, that are using more coaching methodology are actually getting better results. Okay? You get more retention of your key people and you get processes for success with people development that are repeatable.

So you’re getting the results, retention and repeatability and you’re seeing how the organization by using coaching techniques as opposed to command and control techniques are getting better results organizationally and with their people. So this type of process where you can embed coaching more into the organization, you start developing a coaching culture.

It’s not just about, yes, we supply executive coaches to our executives and that’s it. It’s, we start developing coaching throughout the organization where sponsors, HR and others in the organization are all involved in trying to lift each other up to reach full potential both at work or at home. So it becomes a powerful trigger for development.

Yeah, so a coaching culture really, we’re talking about how people interact with each other basically, right, instead of telling, there’s a skill of learning how to ask questions and I would think that as a person goes through the experience of being coached and being asked questions, they start integrating that and being able to apply it with their own direct reports. Do you see that kind of a carry-over happening?

Yes, we’ve seen that a lot, because the people that you coach really come to value this and they realize that they’re in the process of developing the solution, so the solution becomes their own. So they start using these same questions or types of questions and the behaviors they’re learning with their staff and others. So the ask not tell version of management starts getting ingrained in a broader perspective and becomes powerful.

That’s great. Could you give a quick example of say a client that has successfully used the sponsor HR model along with of course the coach and the coaching and what a difference that’s made, if you can think of a specific client you’ve worked with?

Yeah, this is not out there a lot right now, so I’m starting to develop this and use this model with the people I’m using. So like I said in the alignment meeting where I’m having with the manager, HR if they’re present and the client, I ask for that commitment. Once we’ve agreed on the goals, when you see that this client is making real progress on a goal, do you feel comfortable giving him or her that feedback? Yes, I do. More importantly now when you see them slip back to their previous ways, will you… so I get their commitment, will you ask some coaching questions and give them feedback so that they can work through how they can do it better next time.

So I’m literally as a coach, I am gaining that commitment from the sponsor in the alignment meeting and really working with the client throughout to have them get some feedback from their stakeholders which are their sponsor and the HR partner to say, “How is this going? Here’s what I’ve been doing. What have you seen? What have you observed and what are you hearing?” So to seek out that feedback.

One of the things that I was just thinking about as you were talking about that, it’s improving the coaching skills going upward as well. Not just for that coaching client to use with his or her own direct reports, but the person’s manager. Then also the person in HR is having to practice those coaching skills, the coaching questions, which again supports that whole culture permeating the entire organization. So, I think that’s a real strength of the approach that you’re taking.

Yeah. Thank you and that’s what I seem to be finding. It’s always interesting. I’m an HR professional turned coach. Years ago I would have thought, do I need coaching training because I’m already an HR professional. I work with this stuff all the time. Once I was coached and going through the specific coaching training, I realize no, this is a specific body of knowledge, skillset and you really have to work to get good at it. So the more you do it, just like anything else, repetition, the more you do it, it becomes more ingrained and you’re able to do it better, to unconscious competence, right?


Where you can do it naturally and not think through it, so it’s work.

So it seems like with this approach you’re taking, there’s actually an opportunity, I don’t know if I’d call it training, but for you to provide development for some of these people that are going to be involved, the sponsor and the HR folks to help them get ready. So, there’s almost a readiness of the organization to be open to having the involvement of these other individuals.

Yes, that’s one of my hopeful next steps on developing and one of the things I’m doing is I’m working to consult with some companies on how to do this, literally developing the materials to make this work now and they’re literally right in chapter three of the book.

Yeah, well that’s the thing. You really do provide a nice blueprint for an organization that is open to this. I would think that’s really a key element when you’re evaluating the match between yourself and a client, is if they have an existing culture that’s open to having these individuals get involved. Because if there’s resistance, that means there’s a lot more uphill work for you to do, I would think.

I think you’re right. What I’m finding is in 2019 people that are going to coaching usually they know that the organization’s investing in them and it’s a good thing. It’s like I find out you’re getting a coach and I’m going, well how do I get a coach?

Right, right.

Where 20 years ago, if you were assigned a coach, it was like what’d you do wrong and or you’re getting fixed. Right? Well that’s not what coaching is about anymore. Organizations are really coaching their strong high-performers that they see can grow in the organization and be the future leaders. So it’s really to get that trajectory of leadership and growth to go faster. So, yeah.

I love that about your title too. Accelerating Leadership. Well, of course one of my favorite chapters was around assessments because that’s near and dear to my heart, since we’re a software company that has assessment and development tools. I was interested in your take though on the different kinds of assessments that as a coach you like to have leaders go through before you actually start or at the beginning of the coaching process. So, talk a little bit about those kinds of assessments.

Yes. So assessments are being used more and more in business. I think we’ve probably seen them most often in the hiring or promotion process, right? I this person a good fit, does this job align with values and our needs based on the job they’re going to do or the job they’re going to be promoted into? So you see those types of assessments. Coaching assessments are also used mainly for development. The coaching assessments that are being used out there, there are many, really help for the client coach to work together.

That assessment as it becomes shared with the client really helps the client understand how other people are seeing them and give us the coach and the client some specific things to really work on in the coaching process. Really the most, the number one type of assessment out there is the standard 360. So it’s coming back to this is what people above you, below you and peers, this is how they see you or how they responded to these questions. The second one would be where the coach is actually doing some stakeholder interviews on specific questions. How does this client do with respect to this area of the job.

A verbal 360.

Yeah, so it’s really a verbal 360, but they’re both quantitative as well as qualitative to some extent, right?

They give some real input for the coach to be able to use with the client. So other than that, then you start getting into Hogan Assessments, which has been really one of the fastest growing assessments in the external market. You get into things that we’ve all probably seen before in some shape, Myers Briggs, you get emotional intelligence, which has come in after the Hogan as a very popular assessment. So, there are a lot of great tools to be used and assessments to be used out there.

Well one of the things I think is so important is this idea of having some perspective from others about where your strengths are and where they see your opportunities for development. Because too often, we all have blind spots. So, it’s different, if you were to sit down with that individual one-on-one and ask, what do you think is your number one for their own opinion of it versus what others say? Because typically we’re unaware of some of our worst offenses.

I remember getting 360s myself and just going, “Whoa, I didn’t know I did that.” So, do you find that kind of reaction, do you find any resistance or denial or defensiveness when you’re sharing 360 feedback with a client?

Sometimes all of the above. Just like in your example, where oh I didn’t know that. I remember some of the first assessment feedback that I got and I’m sharing this with my wife, this is what I’m being told. And she said, “I’ve been telling you that for years.” So as a client getting this information, it’s always great to hear what strengths people see in us. Sometimes they’ll identify strengths that we don’t even understand ourselves, because it’s so natural for somebody in a certain area, they don’t see it as a strength, but it really is.

But we all have gaps, to the point you made, we all have some areas are develop, some gaps that if we know about them and if we want to step into getting better at them, we can and working through them with a coach or other stakeholders like your sponsor, HR partner can really help get through those gaps so you improve. They may never become towering strengths, but they won’t be derailleurs if you work through them.

Yeah, that’s such an important point because I think sometimes people feel like, oh, I’m supposed to turn these weaknesses in the strengths. Well no, just make it so people can work effectively with you and like you say, they’re not derailleurs after all.

Sometimes it’s some real subtle stuff that you work through, myself being coached, I was still doing 90% of what I did in a certain fashion, but it was redefining the 10 or 15% that I really could change to do in a better way. When I work with clients on some of their developmental gaps or some of the areas that they want to improve in, they can start seeing that it can be fairly subtle, but a shift that is perceived very differently.

Yes. Sometimes we don’t see the change as dramatically as others do that interact with us. That ties into me with another aspect of assessment, which is at the end of the coaching engagement, whatever the length of time is, what are some ways that you either reassess or demonstrate there’s been a return on investment? You have a whole chapter on that in the book. That’s such an important aspect. If companies are going to be investing in a major way in coaching, how do they know if it’s worked?

Yeah, great question. I don’t know of a corporation or any organization that spends money that doesn’t think through, well what am I getting for this money? What’s the return? So there a lot of ways to measure that coaching engagement to say has this made a difference? More and more organizations are starting to do that.

So with the individual it can be as simple as a pre-coaching assessment on what it is you want to really work on, here are the six or seven things or three key things that we’re going to work on. With the stakeholders, how do you see this person in these areas? So you get that feedback. Then you do a post assessment. How do you see this person now after going through coaching and has there been a positive change, no change or has it been negative? So you can actually get some good quantitative and qualitative work by doing some pre and post assessments in that and we go into details on how to do that.

But you also start seeing some other things, more and more companies are using some level of all employee or organizational survey to look at organizational health and they’re measuring things like engagement or inclusion or innovation. Although some people might say, “Well, these are soft measures.” They’re really not. They’re the measures that leading companies look at-


When you’re looking at reviews of how companies are viewed from Glassdoor, Best Places to Work, all of a sudden these are leading hard measures, not soft measures and coaching has been shown in some organizations that tracked us, that the people going through coaching and their organizations, they’re getting better scores than other people at similar levels in the organization that aren’t getting the coaching.

So all of a sudden you’re starting to say, wait a second, these folks are having a higher level of retention for their key staff. They’re having greater engagement scores or innovation scores or inclusion scores. People want to work for this manager or want to work for this entity that they’re in. So they’re starting to track some of some of this stuff. It’s very, very exciting to see some of the stuff happen with definitive measures.

That’s great. I think you’re right, the difference when we say soft versus hard, when you’re talking about this whole idea of engagement and other ways that employees feel valued, that has everything to do with retention and reducing turnover and that’s a huge cost savings.

Yeah. Well think about it today we have the lowest level of unemployment in our lifetime, over 50 years. So all of us that have been in the markets for years and years, it’s the lowest level of unemployment ever. Employees can gladly pick up and leave and go someplace else for the most part. So how do you, having and developing that engaging organization in a coaching culture becomes more and more critical today than ever before.

Absolutely. Well, Lance, this has been so much fun. I’ve just loved the things that you’ve shared, and I highly recommend people pick up a copy of your book because you go into so much more detail than we could possibly cover in our time together today.

Tell us how people can get your book Accelerating Leadership and connect with you online.

Thank you, Meredith. Again, it’s pleasure to be on here. You can actually look on a site called Acceleratingleadershipbook.com and find out more about the book and myself and Eric as the authors. You can look at my website Oppnacoaching.com and find out about me, the services I provide and the like. Or there aren’t a lot of Lance Hazzard’s out there. So, you can look at me on LinkedIn and join me there.

Great. And on the show notes page for this episode, we’ll include links to your various social media sites as well as your book page that you mentioned and we’ll put a link to the book on Amazon too, along with your website.

So, Lance, thank you so much for being on the program today. I value everything that you’ve shared with us and I know our listeners have enjoyed that too.

Meredith it’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much for hosting me.

You bet.