Challenges are an inevitable part of the business. It is an unsurprising fact that business owners have to face these at every stage of the firm’s growth. Once the owners overcome these challenges, the most ambitious owners set to grow their companies. This brings a different set of problems; organizational changes, staffing, future course, and performance issues.
For the majority of owners, these challenges turn out to be new, and they would have no clue about solving them. This is where consulting companies come into the picture, along with their consultants bringing in years of experience
in solving complex problems in a niche segment. Leading Culture Solutions is one such consulting firm that is on a mission to help organizations make the changes they need to create the culture they want to achieve their goals!
Over the last three years, we have developed a robust library of tools, training, and methods to address various types of organizational and leadership challenges.
Andréa Hawkins, CEO & Founding Partner of Leading Culture, was with the CEOViews team to share her entrepreneurial journey and what she envisions for their brand.
CEOViews: Considering the competition in the consulting firm arena, how do you think your company is different from the other consulting firms?
Andréa Hawkins: Our mission is to guide organizations to bravely reimagine their potential through transformational change, activating the leader in every person. Our human-centered approach to Strategic Planning, Culture Transformation, Interim Leadership, and other organizational effectiveness methods differentiates us from other firms. In each of these practice areas, we customize the journey through a DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) lens to help clients achieve their goals while incorporating the voice of the organization at every level. We are not “one-size-fits-all” and acknowledge that sustainable change is achieved through consistent engagement versus conducting a few “quick-hit” workshops. Our interactive approach allows us to tailor education and strategies to create a practice of continuous improvement.
CEOViews: Leading Culture Solutions has been in the industry with more than 20 years of experience. The company has also been recognized as one of the Best Innovative companies to watch in 2022. How has the journey for the company been so far?
Andréa Hawkins: We have been pleasantly surprised how quickly LCS has grown! We formed LCS in 2019 with two people, lots of hope and ambition. We saw the need in the marketplace. There were plenty of firms offering leadership development and related services—but they lacked a practice around human-centered design. Little did we know the world would be faced with a pandemic and injustice at the hands of police against people of color and women.
In March 2020 (7 months after we launched), we lost all of our clients as organizations pivoted to try to keep their businesses alive. When George Floyd was murdered, this created a
significant shift and unlocked the stagnation we were experiencing. We began to receive inquiries from clients seeking help to determine how to improve their organizations. Since then, we have grown to 12 consultants and continue to partner with organizations, co-creating paths to success and guiding them on their journeys. It’s truly rewarding to watch our clients implement our Guiding Principles of Diverse Perspectives, Shared Authority, and Collaborative Decision-making.
CEOViews: Leading Culture Solutions helps its clients to navigate complex challenges and manage whatever life throws at them. Tell us what your process is for working with your clients.
Andréa Hawkins: Every company is different, but the challenges we see across organizations are quite similar. As we begin work with companies- the first thing we do is understand the current state to learn where they are excelling and identify opportunities to improve. Next, we gain alignment on what problems they are trying to solve using our unique proprietary means to gather this information. We partner with clients to understand their desired future state and co-create a strategy to help them achieve their goals.
Over the last three years, we have developed a robust library of tools, training, and methods to address various types of organizational and leadership challenges. Some of our more popular frameworks include 4L Journey to Inclusion© 4A Agile Strategic Planning©, and the Leading with S.O.U.L. Executive Coaching Model©. Depending on the issue, we have several other frameworks to guide our client’s journey.
CEOViews: What are the major organizational challenges that companies go through? And how do the services provided by your company address those challenges?
Andréa Hawkins: Today’s workplace landscape is more complex than ever as we all navigate an ever-evolving global pandemic, economic uncertainties, political divides, and mental health challenges. Our clients are grappling with these issues on a daily basis while they navigate “the great resignation,” providing equitable health benefits, succession planning, and being able to manage their core business while also innovating to stay relevant and competitive. These issues can sometimes be further aggravated by poor communication, an inability to manage conflict, exclusionary policies, and a lack of leadership accountability.
We are honored that our clients value the criticality of this work and help us realize our vision for the future of humanity, where every person thrives everywhere.
Our tried-and-true multi-pronged methods create lasting change because they are rooted in addressing humanity, process, and technology concerns. Our solutions include highly interactive Strategic Planning, Executive Coaching, Leadership Recentring, Community Conversations, All Staff training, and other techniques. We empower leaders by providing tools and competencies; we walk along the path while they continue to build their “leadership muscles” and “walk the talk.”
CEOViews: How does your company build that trust with your customers?
Andréa Hawkins: In the early stages of our engagement, we get to know the key players. Not just what their role or title is—but we want to understand why they are at that company, why that role is, and what they would do if money was no object. We want to understand their hopes and dreams. Seeing people’s humanity and understanding who they are beyond their names and titles is vital to building trust. Trust helps us work together.
CEOViews: Consulting firms have a big responsibility to help their clients make the right decisions or take decisions on their behalf. What are the guiding principles that Leading Culture Solutions follows in terms of decision-making?
Andréa Hawkins: We see ourselves as facilitators of the process. We do not make decisions for our clients. We help uncover problems that may be impeding progress and help our clients understand the benefits and risks associated with their decisions. We also share best practices where we see our other clients having success (of course, without sharing any competitive trade secrets.) We believe that divergent thinking helps mitigate bias and promotes the inclusion of different perspectives in decision-making. By establishing ‘diverse by design,’ teams’ clients can increase creativity and innovation and produce highly effective solutions.
CEOViews: What are the most effective strategies that Leading Culture Solutions follow to help organizations identify their North Star?
Andréa Hawkins: To identify an organization’s North Star, we assess the current state and gain alignment across leadership and among staff on the future direction. Assign metrics and owners for priorities and make adjustments as needed to address market forces. This approach is multifaceted and includes a review of documents, customized surveys, focus groups, interviews, and analysis to determine strengths, opportunities, disruptions, value, and impact. The results provide an ability to determine success, strategically plan, and establish accountability. LCS guides and facilitates the consulting partnership to maximize success.
CEOViews: Leading Culture Solutions help their clients transform their culture. What, according to you, are some of the most important values that must be practiced in organizational culture? How does it influence the performance of the organization?
Andréa Hawkins: The most successful organizations are learning organizations—those open to current trends and information. In today’s evolving marketplace, innovation and continuous improvement are vital to remaining competitive. In terms of creating a healthy work climate, attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount. Today’s global workforce requires a level of creativity to address the needs of clients who have become accustomed to immediate solutions and 24 by seven servicing.
Maintaining optimal productivity within today’s workforce requires trust, psychological safety, respectful dialogue, active listening, vulnerability, learning culture, and accessibility – among other important values with employees. These values create a climate where associates can freely learn, unlearn, and relearn. They build a foundation fundamental to creating meaningful and trusting relationships, as well as establishing brave spaces for all people to feel included. When clients live these values in their organization, they generate a sense of belonging where everyone feels safe to participate, learn and grow.
CEOViews: Is there anything you want to share or advise the young entrepreneurs?
Andréa Hawkins: Discover your passion and interests and keep a bird’s eye view of the impact you can have on others. Consider your “ripple effect,” the impact of your work in your community, and beyond. It is easy to get laser-focused on one thing; being able to look at the bigger picture while focusing on what is in front of you is key to success. Entrepreneurs would do well to anticipate barriers and challenges and develop a plan to help them advance to achieve their goals. Goals are achieved when entrepreneurs embrace continuous learning, are open and curious, are willing to fail and learn the lesson, and follow their passion.
CEOViews: What is the roadmap for Leading Culture Solutions from here on?
Andréa Hawkins: It has been an exciting few years. We have grown, and created methodologies to help companies overcome their most challenging issues. As we evolve, we plan to bring our capabilities to the web to allow self-service support. We will continue to partner with leaders and organizations to help them bravely reimagine their potential through transformational change, activating the leader in every person. We are devoted to serving our clients and will work rigorously to ensure that our services fully address their unique needs. We do this meaningful work because we know it has the potential, if adopted, to build equity, which will benefit our client organizations and extend to the broader community. We are honored that our clients value the criticality of this work and help us realize our vision for the future of humanity, where every person thrives everywhere.