Human-Centric Leading in Action

Case I: Strategy Team Struggles

Original Situation and its Impact

The strategy we developed essentially failed. We spent numerous months leading workshops to develop and design a strategy what would succeed across teams, yet it was never implemented. 

Our strategy team, as well as other functional teams were frustrated. Each team was doing their own thing, which impacted the teams' projects, creating delays and tension that was never resolved. We were reactive to what was happening, instead of following a strategy that would guide us in the right direction.

What was wrong?

We reached out to the Leaders for Good team to help us figure out how to get the strategy implemented.

Fact Finding

We followed the Leaders for Good pulse check to find out that our values were being implemented in different ways by each team, creating confusion and conflict that intensified frustration. A big insight was our frequent use of criticisms/judgments/blame (CJB) -- we had not preivously noticed how often we used it in our meetings and discussions, which created a miserable team feeling and took away our attention from our real problems.

HCL Tools in Action

We went through multiple workshops to explore our habits and processes. Through them, we realized that we were using a defensive mindset that made us fight each other instead of work together.


We used the HCL tools to learn how to change our mindsets so that we can change from feeling frustrated to in-control of our destinies. This mindset helped us respond (vs react) as a team and focus on ways to align our actions with our values instead of blame each other.

Emotions as Data

We engaged in an exercise around identifying the source of our frustration and defensiveness, which helped us identify what we needed to do to feel more calm and resourceful. We were surprised that we could use emotions to help us solve problems!

Needs and Perspectives

When we stayed in a calm and resourceful mindset, we felt better and could see new solutions that we had not seen before. We decided to align our values with our actions across teams and created a habit of checking our values against decisions, which worked well. We also developed a program where each month, a team takes a value and starts promoting it throughout the organization to ensure that everyone understood it the same way, embedding it into the culture. This allowed us to make decisions more quickly, ensuring they implemented our values, and also solve conflict according to values instead of who could yell the loudest. 

Case II: Conflict that Created Errors Visible Across the Organization

Original Situation and its Impact

Our internal clients started complaining about our work quality and error rates. We had always had a good team image in the organization, so complaints were disturbing. Over time, we noticed that our team culture had become aggressive, which was another disturbing trend.

We had numerous organizational and market constraints that made things challenging for us:

  • low salaries (controlled by HR) amidst a talent market that was competitive
  • difficulty recruiting highly-skilled staff amidst a city where unemployment was low and salaries were high
  • executives and team members emailed rather than talked to each other, even when they sat next to each other; the emails got long and nobody read them, which led to miscommunication and work quality errors
  • a lack of trust
  • aggressive communication such as cursing, name-calling, gossiping, blaming, complaining
  • a top-down, hierarchical organization that espoused directive leading, while the younger staff wanted a collaborativeworking style
  • little innovation, as new ideas where actively not shared due to feeling unappreciated and disrespected
  • many sick days were taken, especially after days that included emotional arguments, which disrupted work flow and increased production and healthcare costs

We reached out to Leaders for Good for help.

HCL Tools in Action - What We Did

With the Leaders for Good team, we took on various actions that helped us deal with pent-up frustration and anger that was poisoning our team, which resulted in poor work quality and errors:

  • drew out the starting team culture and the wanted and unwanted resutls it created 
  • engaged in some exercises that helped release pent-up emotions, which reduced anger and frustration enough to have open conversations
  • outlined the desired outcomes and the behaviors required to achieve it
  • removed the behaviors that kept us from achieving our goals, such as CJB, hiding pain, gossiping, etc.
  • identified desired mindsets and from there, discussed how to solve our problems; this was especially revealing -- when we expressed our emotions, even on post-it notes, we all realized that we felt the same way and could move forward into thinking about solutions
  • we created regular "Happy and Effective" team meetings during which we practiced our new habits and discussed any happenings that felt like the "old way" of doing things


The outcomes we actively pursued and created through our workshops, coaching and training included a transformation of the ways we interacted with each other and our Clients -- I did not think we could do it:

  • a better team feeling
  • a clear understanding of which types of behavior we can use and not use to support a positive team culture
  • rules of engagement that we used to understand how we would deal with conflict or upset
  • specific actions we took as next steps for each one of us, plus the entire team as a group
  • radically less tension and reactive behavior that led to better communication and decision-making 
  • workshops we created to ensure we could keep our positive habits without sliding backwards