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Senate’s New Dress Code Policy: Balancing Comfort and Respect for the Office

The United States Senate, long known for its formal and dignified atmosphere, is undergoing a subtle transformation. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently announced that the Senate’s dress code policy will no longer be enforced, allowing senators to choose their attire freely while on the Senate floor. This decision follows Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s unapologetic embrace of casual attire during his Senate duties, a move that has sparked both support and criticism. In this blog, we will delve into the Senate’s new dress code policy, examining its implications, and offering a perspective on the balance between comfort and the respect that clothing choices convey.


Does the US Senate have a Dress Code? 

Yes, the U.S. Senate has historically adhered to an informal dress code, although it was not explicitly written down. According to Forbes, “The Senate dress code is enforced by the Sergeant at Arms, but as Axios notes, it does not appear in the official written rules for the chamber.” Senators were expected to dress formally, typically in suits and ties for men and similarly formal attire for women. However, recent developments indicate a shift away from enforcing this dress code, allowing senators more flexibility in their attire choices while on the Senate floor.


What is the actual Dress Code for a Senator?

The Senate’s dress code has been an unspoken standard for years, ensuring that senators present themselves in a manner befitting the gravity of their roles. However, the recent shift in policy marks a significant departure from this tradition. While Majority Leader Schumer stated that senators can now choose what they wear on the Senate floor, it is essential to recognize that this decision applies solely to senators and not to staff members.


The formal dress code for senators traditionally required them to wear business attire, typically consisting of suits, ties for men, and similarly formal attire for women. However, it is essential to recognize that this dress code was not formally codified in any official Senate document. Instead, it was a longstanding unspoken tradition that conveyed the respect and decorum associated with the Senate.


What Article of Clothing Was Banned on the Senate Floor Until 1993?

Until 1993, it was against Senate rules for women to wear pants on the Senate floor. This ban, which seems outdated by today’s standards, reflected the more rigid gender norms of the time. However, this rule was eventually overturned, allowing female senators and staff to wear pantsuits and other professional attire without restriction, aligning with changing societal norms and expectations.


The Argument for Comfort

Sen. John Fetterman’s choice to wear shorts and casual attire while performing his senatorial duties stems from a desire for comfort. His decision has raised questions about the importance of comfort in a high-stress environment like the Senate. Fetterman’s willingness to challenge the dress code reflects a broader movement toward prioritizing personal comfort and authenticity.


The Significance of Attire in the Senate

Clothing choices often convey a message, and in the Senate, they can signify respect for the office and the institution itself. Some senators, such as Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, argue that relaxed dress code rules undermine the dignity of the Senate. Marshall suggests that dressing formally is a way to honor the institution, much like one dresses up for significant events like weddings or funerals.


The Balance between Comfort and Respect

Finding the balance between comfort and respect is at the heart of this debate. While personal comfort is essential, senators also have a responsibility to uphold the Senate’s traditions and the respect it commands. It’s worth noting that not all senators are opposed to the new dress code policy, with some, like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, embracing the opportunity to dress more casually on certain occasions.


Why Does a Dress Code Need to be Changed?

The Senate’s decision to relax its dress code policy raises important questions about tradition, comfort, and the message that clothing choices convey. As the Senate continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how senators will strike a balance between personal comfort and the respect owed to their esteemed institution. Ultimately, the debate over the Senate’s dress code policy highlights the broader conversation about change and tradition in the modern political landscape.


How the Office Dress Code is Changing

In light of the transformative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our work habits and lifestyles, our perspectives on workplace attire have undoubtedly shifted. The conventional wisdom regarding what to wear to work, as outlined in articles like the one from U.S. News & World Report, may now seem somewhat outdated. The pandemic forced many of us into a remote work environment, where the daily ritual of donning business attire gave way to more casual and comfortable clothing.


As we gradually transition back to in-person work settings, the lines between traditional office attire and remote work comfort may blur. This evolution not only applies to the Senate’s evolving dress code policy but resonates with a larger societal shift. Individuals returning to offices and workplaces post-pandemic are reevaluating their attire choices, having grown accustomed to the comfort of remote work attire. Companies are grappling with how to define dress codes in this new reality.


It’s worth noting that comfortable clothing options, such as knit blazers or stretchy trousers, can play a pivotal role in striking a balance between comfort and professionalism. Just as the Senate navigates the fine line between tradition and personal comfort, individuals and organizations must find ways to adapt to changing expectations while maintaining respect for the roles they fulfill. In doing so, they can foster a workplace environment that embraces both comfort and professionalism in this ever-evolving landscape of work attire.

In this ever-evolving landscape of attire choices, I invite you to explore how personal style and professionalism can coexist harmoniously. Whether you’re an individual looking to refine your professional image or a company in need of a well-crafted dress code, I’m here to assist you. Contact me today to embark on a journey toward your signature style or to collaborate on developing a dress code that reflects your company’s values and vision. Together, we can navigate the changing tides of attire with confidence and purpose. 


Visit my Website: www.imagepowerplay.com

Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheilamooreanderson/

Schedule a discovery call: https://calendly.com/sheilaanderson

Best Practices Human Resources Operations

You’re Wrong, but Not Alone: Four Horrible Truths for Surviving Matrix Management

One of the first jobs of my professional career required me to serve as a technical link between Intel Corporation’s mask operations experts and its factory yield specialists. The challenge stemmed from the fact that, at the time, we were on the bleeding edge of what was technically possible, inventing the future as we went.  Specifications and requirements that at first seemed straightforward and uncontroversial quickly became difficult to create and confusing to interpret. It wasn’t uncommon for the two organizations to think they were on the same page only to discover that their agreement didn’t work, that it wasn’t fully understood, or – maybe most often – that what originally appeared to be a complete set of parameters suddenly seemed inadequate in light of new information.

Of course, when I say it this way, it makes it sound like we uncovered these discrepancies over coffee, in comfortable chairs, with smooth jazz playing in the background. Actually, the discoveries tended to look more like one hard-charging-part of the organization suddenly realizing that the other part had done something that DIDN’T WORK FOR THEIR NEEDS and would create CRITICAL DELAYS and cause FINANCIAL IMPACTS if it wasn’t corrected IMMEDIATELY even though what they wanted might be TECHNICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. The capitalization isn’t mine, by the way – it’s based on which words were pushed across phone lines at the highest volume. I know this because it often fell to me, a 25-year-old engineer just a couple years out of university, to get these highly intelligent, heavily goal-driven, and (ahem) relatively headstrong technical managers and leaders to have conversations, gather data, share information, come to agreement, and make adjustments that they DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE – especially since the two groups reported into different bosses and structures.

It turned out, I wasn’t bad at this – maybe because I have thick skin, and definitely because I was lucky enough to work for managers who supported my potential rather than overriding my every move. So I suppose it’s not hugely surprising that I ended up progressing from an engineer, to a leader in matrixed organizations, to a weirdo former engineer-turned-unusual-management-consultant who is more concerned about how management works as a complex, open, dynamic, emergent, coherent system than about what results it gets on any given day.

The thing is, because of that progression, I now know something I didn’t know back then:  I wasn’t alone. Plenty of people in matrixed organizations find themselves hamstrung between competing structures, just like I was.  So, whether you’re a senior leader or middle manager, should you find yourself caught this way too, pulled apart by various parts of your company debating each other in capital letters, I wanted to offer you four truths that might help. They’re excerpted directly from my bestseller Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible, Focused Management Team, and they come with a warning: they’re not just truths – they’re horrible truths. If you’re a Ted Lasso fan, you no doubt remember Dr. Sharon telling Ted that “the truth will set you free, but first it will p**s you off.” Be warned:

First, management isn’t sexy. Making incremental adjustments to organizational resources to keep the enterprise on target may be the least attractive part of the work, as viewed from the outside. It’s not high-tech, it’s not customer facing, and it’s not terribly exciting to talk about. The fact that acting as the feedback system for the organization is critically important—and that it can be interesting and engaging to the manager who’s actually doing it—doesn’t change any of that.

Second, management is about being “wrong.” In Iterative Management®, every step leads to new information, and every new piece of information informs every step. Management is about making the best decision possible and then discovering upon implementation that things aren’t going as planned. Often that discovery comes packaged as criticism: “Why didn’t you see this coming?” The truth is, often management can’t see it coming. All it can do—must do—is adjust and adjust again. Fail forward, fast.

Third, management can only allocate resources. The management team can’t change the customer, the products, the services, the marketplace, the board, the ownership, or the future. All it can do is assign resources—people, money, and equipment—to get the work done. And since most resources are fully assigned, all it can really do is contemplate changes to resource assignments already in place. The only decision management ever makes is whether to leave resources alone or, if not, how to move them around. (Sometimes, some managers can change goals too – but not always, and not all of them.)

Lastly (maybe worst of all), management is succeeding when it’s resource constrained. Moving resources around almost always involves taking them away from something else. That’s because the balance between opportunities and resources is never perfect, and it’s preferable to have too few resources rather than too few opportunities. In the best-case scenario, management is all about stealing resources from good opportunities to apply them to better ones. And while that sounds good on paper, in reality it makes for some terribly difficult decisions, especially since those not-good-enough options always have strong, emotional advocates.

(Source: Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible, Focused Management Team by Ed Muzio, An Inc. Original)

It sure would have been nice to know these things back in my 20’s: To know that I was serving an unpopular but important function, that I was destined to be “wrong” over and over, and that my possible avenues for action mostly involved taking resources from those who didn’t want change. The knowledge wouldn’t have made my job easier, exactly, but it would have lowered my stress while doing it. That would have made my life better, for sure, and maybe even increased my level of performance.  Unstressed brains are creative brains, after all.

If you’re leading or managing in a matrixed environment, I hope you can take some solace in the fact that you’re not alone. It’s hard, it’s supposed to be hard, and all you can do is take your next best step from here. I wish you well, and I hope that, after it p**ses you off, this truth sets you free.  Because either way, you’ll still be wrong again tomorrow.

Advice Human Resources Marketing

Fractional CMO vs. Traditional CMO: Which Is Right for Your Business?

In the rapidly evolving world of marketing, businesses are constantly seeking effective strategies to gain a competitive edge. The digital landscape, evolving consumer behaviors, and emerging technologies demand companies stay ahead. Choosing between fractional and traditional CMOs is crucial for organizations of all sizes. Each option brings distinct advantages and considerations, requiring careful evaluation of needs and resources. Businesses must assess their requirements before making a decision.

Traditional CMOs

A traditional CMO is a full-time executive who assumes overall responsibility for an organization’s marketing activities. They are seasoned professionals with extensive experience and a deep understanding of various marketing channels, strategies, and industry trends. Traditional CMOs are typically well-suited for larger enterprises with substantial marketing budgets and complex marketing needs. They provide strategic guidance, build high-performing marketing teams, oversee large-scale campaigns, and drive brand awareness in a cohesive manner across multiple channels.

Fractional CMOs

On the other hand, a fractional CMO is a part-time or outsourced professional who works with multiple clients simultaneously. Fractional CMOs provide cost-effective and flexible solutions for small and medium-sized businesses in need of senior-level marketing expertise. With their extensive experience, they offer targeted guidance and specialized skills to meet specific marketing objectives. These professionals can be engaged on a project basis or for a specific duration, bringing valuable expertise to the table.

Factors to Consider

To determine which option is right for your business, it is essential to consider several factors. Budget is a significant consideration, as hiring a traditional CMO involves a substantial financial commitment. Alongside a competitive salary, benefits, and potential equity or bonuses, traditional CMOs often require additional resources to build and manage a marketing team. This investment may be well-justified for larger organizations with extensive marketing budgets and long-term growth strategies. Fractional CMOs, on the other hand, can be engaged at a fraction of the cost, making them a more accessible choice for businesses with limited budgets or specific short-term marketing needs.

Marketing Needs

Another critical aspect to evaluate is the scope and complexity of your marketing needs. In highly competitive industries or with a global presence, a traditional CMO is equipped to handle extensive marketing campaigns across multiple channels. Their full-time dedication enables a deep understanding of unique challenges, opportunities, and long-term strategies aligned with company goals. Traditional CMOs often excel at building and managing marketing teams, fostering collaboration, and driving cohesive marketing initiatives across various departments. Fractional CMOs, however, excel in providing targeted expertise for specific marketing projects. They offer fresh perspectives and specialized skills for product launches, rebranding campaigns, and digital marketing strategies. Working across clients and industries, they leverage diverse experiences and best practices, providing invaluable solutions to marketing challenges.

Time Requirements

Time is yet another factor to consider. If your business requires ongoing marketing support, strategic decision-making, and continuous monitoring of marketing initiatives, a traditional CMO’s full-time dedication can ensure consistent progress. They can effectively lead the marketing function, adapt to market changes, and drive long-term growth. Conversely, if you need specialized guidance for a limited period, such as conducting a marketing audit, developing a short-term campaign, or addressing a specific marketing challenge, a fractional CMO can provide the necessary expertise without the long-term commitment. This arrangement allows businesses to tap into senior-level marketing talent without incurring the costs associated with a full-time executive.

Collaboration and Company Culture

Collaboration and company culture also play a significant role in the decision-making process. Traditional CMOs become an integral part of the company, working closely with other executives, team members, and external stakeholders. They contribute to building a marketing culture, mentor junior staff, and drive the organization’s overall marketing vision. Their deep integration allows them to align marketing strategies with broader business objectives and foster a cohesive brand identity. Fractional CMOs, while temporary, can still integrate well with existing teams, provide fresh perspectives, and offer valuable insights based on their broad experience working across different industries and businesses. Their external perspective can challenge the status quo and infuse new ideas into the organization’s marketing efforts.

Key Takeaways

The choice between a fractional CMO and a traditional CMO depends on factors like budget, marketing needs, time requirements, and company culture. Traditional CMOs offer full-time dedication, comprehensive strategies, and deep industry expertise, suited for larger companies with complex marketing needs. Fractional CMOs provide flexible and cost-effective solutions, specialized expertise for projects, ideal for small and medium-sized businesses with limited resources or short-term objectives. Understanding your business’s unique requirements, growth trajectory, and marketing goals is key to determining the right fit for marketing success in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape.

Growth Human Resources Operations

Un-Sexy, Boring Management Consulting May Be Your Organization’s Perfect Fix. Here’s How.

I may have the least sexy area of expertise in the entire management consulting universe. While my peers and colleagues do great work in trendy areas like vision setting, leadership style discovery, Agile project management, innovation, DE&I, and the like, I’m sitting over here talking about what’s going on in meetings, whether graphs look forward, and how decisions get made day in and day out.  Bo-ring.


And yet…

“We need to do a better job setting our strategic objectives this year,” a prospective client tells me.

Now, I don’t know how things work where you live, but in my world strategic planning is beautiful and alluring. What could be more compelling than helping a company’s leadership decide, together, what they want to get their entire organization to accomplish over the next one to five years? It’s unarguably crucial. It impacts everyone, and everything. It’s OMG-level important, and we consultants are positively dying to help companies do it. Many of us do a great job at it, too.


In this case, with a few questions, I soon learn that “do a better job” isn’t really about the process or the objectives. What this client really needs is for something different to happen this year so that the beautiful objectives set by leaders actually get done this time around. That’s what hasn’t been happening.

Enter Mr. Boring with, “what do you do with your objectives after you create them? How do they get woven into the actual work and meetings in the organization? Do they appear in graphs?” Strategic planning is great, but no amount of objective setting automatically leads to objective delivery.

“Well, they get sent out and discussed, but then we tend not to work on them. Oh. Hmm. Yeah. Execution could use a look.”

Thus begins one conversation.



“We’re going to take time to reflect as a leadership team on our individual styles and values so that we show up as authentic and transparent,” claims another client proudly.

Whoa. Wshew. Be still my heart. There’s nothing more popular than working with leaders on how their individual preferences, unique approaches, and particular perspectives fuel their personal brands. Cross this with the call we’re all hearing for authenticity and transparency, and you’ve set up a hero’s journey of reflection, self-discovery, and personal development that rises to reality-TV levels of intensity. Again, it’s legitimately important, and several of my contemporaries do a great job helping senior leaders go there.


In this case I discover that the problem they’re solving for, “how we show up,” is based on feedback from an employee survey. At issue is the employees’ perception that decision-making by leadership happens in a vacuum, divorced from reality.

“Great,” says Captain Uncool. “Style is super important. But how have your team members and their subordinate teams agreed to build transparency into decision-making every day? How does leadership and management consistently ensure that people understand not just what has been decided, but why?” Deep personal reflection may not be the ticket.

“Hmm. I guess we mostly just tell people what to do next.” Thus begins another conversation.


Yeah, it’s true. I’m the weirdo management consultant who cares deeply about whether your charts are forward-looking and whether your group decision-making follows a rational process. I talk about organizational immune responses and systemically habituated behavioral patterns. I point out that most research on group problem solving doesn’t apply directly to management teams (because it was run on groups of strangers), and I pay attention to how much time staff meetings spend looking forward (versus talking about current status or history). It’s OK. Don’t try to console me. I’ve made peace with my oddity.

Here’s why…

There’s a whole bunch of interesting, shiny stuff you can work on in an organization, and it’s all potentially quite useful. But whatever you choose – vision-setting, transparency, accountability, agility, innovation, DE&I, or the like – one inconvenient fact remains: in real life, it all eventually gets forced through the keyhole of management habits and systematic behavior. If the people meeting at all levels to run the company regularly look at new and different information and decide whether to change things based on what it tells them – what I call Iterative Management® – any of those highly attractive efforts may have legs. But if the keyhole is too small – if management as a whole is more likely to filter out new information instead of seeking it, discourage messengers from bringing contrary news instead of rewarding them, and hold back change instead of enabling it, those beautiful and important initiatives will all fall equally flat. Everyone will be left with only frustration and the vague sense that “nothing ever really gets better around here. Which means, worst of all, the next initiative will have an even steeper hill to climb yet no greater chance of success.


Don’t get me wrong. The exciting, alluring stuff can have extremely high value. It’s worth a look, and can be especially powerful with external expert support. But please accept this as a friendly reminder: if you find yourself trying to do those things but getting consistently stuck, or if you’re trying to do those things as a force-fit solution for a more systemic problem, well then – take it from Mr. Boring – your best step might not be to just try harder. It might instead be hiding in the least sexy area of management consulting you can possibly imagine.

Want more? Visit the Group Harmonics Industry Intelligence Archive for ideas, whitepapers, and case studies about management culture and how it impacts so many facets of the organization.

Advice Best Practices Human Resources Marketing Strategy

How Fractional CMOs Adapt to Changing Marketing Needs

Organizations seek marketing leadership that can swiftly respond to changing needs. Fractional Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) provide a flexible solution, allowing businesses to leverage expertise on demand. In this article, we explore the advantages of fractional CMOs, enabling organizations to navigate shifting marketing landscapes and stay ahead.

The Rise of Fractional CMOs

Fractional CMOs are experienced marketing professionals who work part-time or on a project basis, offering strategic guidance and executional support as needed. Businesses can access their expertise without the commitment and cost of a full-time executive. This flexibility is especially valuable in fast-paced industries or uncertain market conditions, where adaptability and responsiveness are crucial for success.

Quick Response to Changing Needs

One of the primary advantages of fractional CMOs lies in their ability to respond swiftly to changing marketing needs. Fractional CMOs, with their extensive knowledge and experience, quickly analyze market dynamics, consumer behavior, and industry trends. They swiftly adjust marketing strategies and tactics based on these insights, allowing businesses to seize opportunities and tackle challenges promptly. Unlike traditional hiring processes, fractional CMOs provide an immediate solution, enabling businesses to capitalize on market shifts without unnecessary delays.

Affordable Expertise

Fractional CMOs offer an affordable solution, providing top-tier marketing expertise without the financial burden of a full-time executive. Engaging them allows businesses to access specialized skills and experience, receiving strategic guidance and leadership at a fraction of the cost. By optimizing marketing budget and resource allocation, businesses achieve higher ROI and maximize the impact of their marketing efforts.

Strategic Marketing Execution

Fractional CMOs bring a wealth of strategic insight and industry experience to the table, offering businesses a distinct advantage. Collaborating closely with organizations, fractional CMOs assist in developing and implementing effective marketing strategies that align with the company’s overall goals and objectives. They excel in areas such as market research, branding, digital marketing, and campaign execution, providing comprehensive support throughout the entire marketing process. Their expertise allows businesses to navigate the complexities of the modern marketing landscape with confidence and precision.

Embracing New Technologies and Trends

Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends is crucial for sustainable marketing success. Fractional CMOs excel in this area, as they possess a deep understanding of emerging tools, platforms, and methodologies. Their expertise enables businesses to leverage innovative marketing techniques, capitalize on digital advancements, and adapt to shifting consumer preferences. By embracing these new technologies and trends, fractional CMOs ensure that businesses can maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving marketplace, fostering continuous growth and expansion.

Seamless Collaboration and Knowledge Transfer

Fractional CMOs seamlessly integrate with existing marketing teams, fostering collaboration and facilitating knowledge transfer. Their presence brings fresh perspectives and best practices from various industries, injecting new energy and ideas into the marketing function. Additionally, fractional CMOs can mentor and guide in-house marketing professionals, enhancing their skills, capabilities, and overall performance. This collaborative approach strengthens the marketing function as a whole. It also ensures a smooth transition as business needs evolve over time.

Last Considerations

In an era where adaptability and responsiveness are paramount, fractional CMOs offer a flexible and adaptable solution for businesses seeking marketing leadership that can swiftly respond to changing needs. Their agility enables organizations to navigate the ever-shifting market dynamics and industry trends, seize emerging opportunities, and address challenges promptly. By accessing cost-effective expertise, benefiting from strategic guidance and executional support, and embracing new technologies and trends, businesses can position themselves ahead of the curve and achieve sustained marketing success. With the flexibility advantage of fractional CMOs, organizations can effectively adapt to the ever-changing marketing landscape and drive sustainable growth in today’s competitive business world.

Growth Human Resources Operations

Changing Culture Isn’t Easy – but it’s Not THAT Complicated

Despite intense, often haughty agreement among HR and business executives about the importance of workplace culture, advocates enjoy surprisingly little commonality and precision in defining what it actually is. “Collections of values and practices,” “a definition of the proper way to behave,” and “underlying ways of interacting” represent but a few of the many gravitas-rich, specificity-poor phrases bandied about on the subject. From the discussion, heavy on form but light on substance, one might conclude that culture functions a bit like the weather: impacting everyone, influencing everything, and permeating the workplace ubiquitously and from a great height.

The weather, of course, isn’t something you change. You can accept it, enjoy it, brace for it, or shelter from it – but you can’t do much else. Sadly, that’s how many employees, managers, and even leaders think about company culture – as something to be recognized, handled, and possibly complained about – and that’s about it. Real discussions about how to change it happen only in the stratosphere, and only in the most vague and buzzwordy terms.

Edgar Schein of MIT Sloan, often credited with inventing the term, gave us a significantly less nebulous and more actionable definition of organizational culture. He called it

A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems… that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (1)

In other words, “we” in the organization – whether us personally or the “we” before we got here – faced challenges in the past and found ways to overcome them. Having thus helped us succeed, the behaviors underlying those solutions became embedded into a set of unconscious assumptions about the way we work and the way the world works with us, all of which we model to each other in our daily interactions.

[[RELATED VIDEO: Creating Culture Changers]]

Taking this a step further, combining Schein’s work with the cultural framework research of Fons Trompenaars (2), a picture emerges of culture in this moment as the observable manifestation of those underlying assumptions, processed through the creation first of norms defining what is good and what is bad, and then of values regarding what is right and what is wrong. The result takes the form of observable and measurable artifacts – things that happen in real life as a result of that underlying structure, adopted long ago perhaps by accident and now driving current behavior in a tangible way.A bulls-eye type diagram showing an arrow flowing outward from assumptions, to norms, to values, to artifacts

Imagine Company A, a business with a culture of “highly effective meetings.” How did that come to be? Perhaps some time ago it was discovered in the organization that results were improved (survival guaranteed) when meetings were well structured. By carrying that assumption forward, the team created a set of norms suggesting that it is good to use group time wisely, and bad to waste it. This led to values around how to run a meeting, with employees being rewarded for having crisp agendas or chastised for calling people together with no plan. Ultimately, this led up to a clear artifact: if you walk the halls and insert yourself into various meetings, you will notice that every single one employs a detailed, written agenda.

This allows us to think of culture less like weather descending upon us as we walk down the street, and more like our own habits driving our behavior. Do we swing our arms as we walk? Smoke a cigarette? Our habits do influence us in ways difficult to immediately control. But, we also work on them, and can change them.

Actually, we’re always working on and changing them. As today’s team members work on today’s problems, their solutions can’t help but become tomorrow’s culture. So there’s no magic needed to “get people to work on the culture” – they’re already doing that.  All that’s needed to make an improvement is to pay attention to what people are actually doing.

A bullseye-type diagram with an arrow flowing inward from artifacts, to values, to norms, to assumptions

Imagine Company B, culturally the opposite of Company A when it comes to meetings. Here, most employees languish in unstructured meetings consuming too much time. Trying to change that culture by adjusting peoples’ assumptions is futile: no doubt people already complain of the problem in the abstract and to little avail. Imagine instead giving a few teams of coworkers a template for crafting better meeting agendas and having them agree to try the new approach out for five meetings. Even with no requirement beyond meeting #5, if the template helps, the teams will naturally keep using it.  And at least some members will bring it over to other meetings they attend. Before long, the template is considered the right one to use, then a fundamentally good thing, and finally the whole idea of using agendas has faded into a background assumption. (“Of course we use the template in this meeting – why wouldn’t we?”) Company B’s culture around meetings now looks a lot more like Company A’s.

[[RELATED VIDEO: Turbo-Charge Your Meetings]]

In culture change, artifacts or behaviors come first. The same people who can’t identify or won’t budge on their core assumptions will readily welcome a new tool or technique that makes life easier. If this replaces an older approach, the cycle has begun, and today’s solution starts embedding itself into the shared behavioral patterns that become tomorrow’s culture.

Culture, and culture change, need be neither nebulous nor far-removed. As you walk across the street, you can’t change the weather but you can change your habits. At work, you can’t change assumptions but you can change your actions. If you or your team is feeling the need for shared behavioral change, you can quit worrying about the highfalutin language of culture and just start doing some useful things.  Choose well and culture may just take care of itself.

This article was excerpted from “Culture: How to Define it and How to Change it,” a Group Harmonics Industry Intelligence whitepaper.
Visit the archive for the full version, as well as other whitepapers and case studies about changing management culture and norms.

(Originally published on LinkedIn.)


  1. Edgar Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership
  2. Fons Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture
Growth Human Resources Operations

Execution, Accountability, & Alignment: Symptoms to Understand, not Problems to Solve

Leaders and managers face constant pressure to produce complex output with overtaxed resources under unpredictable circumstances. It’s easy to say that to stay profitable an organization must stay nimble, but the impact of overload, uncertainty, change, and even rapid growth across a diversified workforce isn’t straightforward. Failure modes in execution, accountability, and alignment threaten to crater results, exhaust employees, and throw off extra expenses:

  • Execution failures range from the inability to adjust activity in light of new information to systematic, often accidental discouragement of innovation.  When silos or missed commitments impede collaboration and sequester resources in the wrong places, overall performance suffers.
  • Accountability gaps often take the form of unclear plans, or status updates so heavily polished as to obscure what’s really going on. Either way, the diminished trust and defensiveness between teammates that follows can only damage both commitment and results.
  • Alignment problems between individuals or groups force people into a futile arms race as peers advocate for themselves and fight each other for resources and attention. Poorly defining expectations and actively avoiding negative news only compound the problem.

Venn diagram of execution, accountability, and alignment

These issues are serious; their impact potentially catastrophic. So, it’s no surprise to find providers offering solutions promising to overcome each one, tempting overtasked HR and business executives to fight the evil they see.  Have accountability problems? Work on goal-setting and planning. Struggling cross-functionally? Ramp up communication and internal advocacy.  In this way, every obstacle can supposedly be overcome by an equally specific solution.

Or not. A CHRO or VP of Operations can literally spend an entire career defining problems, researching solutions, auditioning providers, and implementing program after program – all without ever addressing the underlying cause of… well, anything. Along the way, things may improve incrementally – but not permanently, not in proportion to the time and effort invested, and never in a way that does any good for the next problem in line. That’s because the obvious issue often is not be the actual problem at all. Execution, accountability, and alignment aren’t independent challenges to conquer, but related outcomes of the way the organization has collectively decided to work.

Humans construct organizations to produce complex output. The building you live in, the automobile parked outside, the assortment of processed foods in your pantry, and the mobile device in your pocket have one thing in common: none could have been created by a sole actor. The organizing of people and the coordinating of output is central to most of what humanity has produced. Along the way, over the last century or so, we have evolved a set of unspoken assumptions about how best to construct those organizations. These norms are invisible, comfortable and so commonplace as to feel intuitive; they’re generally left unquestioned. Unfortunately, they’re also mostly wrong – at least relative to reality today.

[[RELATED: How Your Management Culture Drives (or Thwarts) DE&I]]

The standard North American management model goes something like this: Begin with a long-range goal, create “the plan” to achieve it, assign resources for each section of “the plan” to a manager who will stitch together subordinate employees’ work in support of his or her piece of the pie, and meet regularly to check that everything is more or less progressing. Typically, the only opportunity to substantively adjust “the plan” and change resource assignments is a presentation-heavy, multi-level, labor intensive review process of heavily curated meetings scheduled no more than twice per year.

Making and occasionally revisiting a long-range plan is certainly useful. But for a moment, hold in mind two ideas simultaneously: First, the North American management model’s reliance on holding to a stable version of “the plan” and its resource allocations. Second, the fact that in today’s world much of the basis for “the plan” will probably change weekly, not semiannually. Now, consider again the issues of execution, alignment, and accountability. You’ll find it nearly impossible not to notice three things:

  1. Execution Failures arise as soon as reality diverges from “the plan.” Work groups can’t pivot quickly enough, innovation is discouraged, and silos begin competing for ever-scarcer resources as teams try to overcome by brute force the discrepancy between plan and reality.
  2. Accountability Gaps appear shortly thereafter. Increased workload adds to role confusion and data overload, meetings get longer and more verbose, pressure increases to explain away problematic results, scrutiny ramps up all around, and trust falters.
  3. Alignment Issues naturally follow. Individuals begin advocating for themselves and bickering over the competing needs, team meetings become more ceremonial than practical, and even the most basic definitions of who-is-doing-what end up mired in confusion and debate.

Tackling these as individual obstacles won’t solve the problem causing them any more than taking an aspirin will repair a broken arm. What’s needed, in engineering parlance, is a “root cause fix.” In this case, that means a changed set of operational parameters for how the organization works.

[[RELATED: Fail Forward Fast: Get Over Being Right and Get On With Getting On With It]]

This isn’t hypothetical. Around 10-20% of organizations have already evolved new practices. Their management teams meet regularly to look forward at the likely outcomes of the present course, not backward at what’s been done so far. Their executives and managers make data-based decisions and execute synchronized adjustments based on what’s ahead and how it differs from what’s planned, not what’s already happened and who is at fault. And bringers of bad news aren’t simply tolerated, they’re actively encouraged, because the sooner an early warning appears, the more time there is to respond.

Plans still exist in this scenario, of course – as a framework. But the daily job of management at all levels isn’t to hold the organization to the plan, but to shepherd the organization to its goal(s). This could reasonably be called the opposite of standard North American management. At Group Harmonics, we simply call it Iterative Management®. The closer any organization gets to this standard, the better its chances of exhibiting agility and coordinated execution in the face of constant change.

Defining this type of management and then developing innovative ways to shift culture by changing embedded assumptions has been the focus of much of my professional career. And it’s been said that the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. In this case, I’d amend that to “recognizing the problem you actually have.” If your organization is facing challenges in execution, accountability, or alignment, whether all the time or only when change is afoot, that indeed is a problem worth solving. But in my experience, you’ll be much better served in both the short and long run if you solve it by finding the cause instead of attacking the symptom.  Do so and you’ll solve today’s problem more permanently, prevent a few of tomorrow’s problems, and end up with an organization more capable than you ever thought possible.


This article was excerpted from Execution, Accountability, and Alignment: Correcting Causes, Not Symptoms, a Group Harmonics Industry Intelligence whitepaper. Visit the archive for the full version, as well as other whitepapers and case studies about changing management culture and norms.

(Originally published on LinkedIn.)

Advice Best Practices Human Resources

How to Make Your Event More Diverse and Inclusive

Event planners must pay attention to a whole host of components when planning events where attendees will spend valuable time and money. However, one crucial aspect that planners sometimes gloss over or overlook entirely is ensuring that events champion diversity and inclusion. Adding a woman, person of color, and/or LBGTQ individual to your speaker panel is important, but not enough. The following tips can help make your events more appealing, diverse, and inclusive.

1. Choose diverse speakers.

Long gone should be the days when event speakers are primarily white, male, heterosexual, and non-disabled. Companies that make this mistake might end up on blogs, news, and social media sites such as Tumblr’s “All Male Panels” account. Avoiding “manels” (all-male panels, especially all-white ones) is an important way to add diversity. However, as noted earlier, simply adding a female, LGBTQ or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) speaker can come across as insincere unless they and their expertise are centered and the event as a whole “walks the walk” of diversity and inclusion.

If you want to prioritize a diverse group of speakers and don’t know where to begin, send out a call on Twitter or LinkedIn asking for speaker recommendations and review members of trade associations relevant to your event’s industry. You can also review the history of speakers and inclusion efforts at events such as SaaStr, which openly commits to inclusivity. And don’t forget to prioritize diversity among your emcees, moderators, entertainers, and announcers as well as panelists and speakers.

2. Work with minority- and women-owned vendors.

Events typically involve hiring multiple vendors, including caterers, florists, signage companies, audiovisual production teams, experiential marketing agencies, entertainment, service personnel, and transportation. If you’re required to use your event venue’s in-house staff during your event, look for opportunities to hire minority and women-owned vendors for other needs. A helpful place to find minority- and women-owned businesses is the Chamber of Commerce in your event city. You can also search the Small Business Administration’s Federally Certified Women and Minority-Owned Business Directory, filtering your results by industry or state. LinkedIn is another place to connect with women and minority business leaders.

3. Prioritize accessibility.

Fortunately, the American Disabilities Act requires public facilities to include accessible restrooms, ramps, elevators, and other features that make attendance easier for those with disabilities. While it might seem tempting to host an event in a privately owned or historical venue, you must ensure these basic needs are met. Forcing an attendee or speaker in a wheelchair to use a service elevator because it’s the only accessible one, for example, won’t feel very inclusive. Aspects you might not consider, like narrow doorways, uneven pavement, curbs, loose gravel walkways, background music, flashing lights, and low lighting can impede people with disabilities. In addition, attendees with disabilities may need other services or accommodations such as transportation, more spacing between chairs and tables, accessible event website and registration process, closed captioning, assistive listening devices, braille-printed materials, allowance of service animals, and/or sign language interpreters.

Provide opportunities for attendees to share their accessibility needs ahead of time and make sure there will be personnel on-site trained to assist people with disabilities. Finally, educate your team and anyone interacting with attendees with disabilities so they use appropriate terminology. For example, it’s no longer considered polite to refer to someone as “handicapped.” Instead, use “a person with a disability.” The National Disability Authority offers a helpful list of appropriate terminology.

4. Get diverse with your food offerings.

Instead of serving typical “event food” such as continental breakfasts, sandwiches/wraps, and standard buffet items, consider offering ethnic foods. Caribbean, African, Latin American, and Asian foods are loaded with savory flavors. Food trucks are all the rage these days, so hiring a lineup of diverse food trucks (often owned and run by BIPOC individuals) is an effortless way to offer attendees a variety of hip, authentic foods while also fulfilling tip no. 2. Check out Roaming Hunger or your local city site to book food trucks.

Make vegans and vegetarians feel more welcome by serving more than garden salads or steamed vegetable dishes. Some attendees will have dietary needs that might include low-sodium, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, and free of common allergens (nuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish), so be sure to provide suitable options, and wherever possible, include ingredient lists. Last, be mindful of religious food restrictions, particularly during holidays, which may prevent attendees from eating certain meats and non-kosher or non-halal foods. On that note, choose an event date that doesn’t conflict with religious or cultural holidays. Do an online search for religious holidays to learn the dates of unfamiliar ones.

A few final tips

Attentive details can go a long way toward making people feel welcome and comfortable at an event. Here are some examples:

• One simple way to avoid discomfort over mispronounced names or misunderstood gender identity is to ask attendees to provide their pronouns and phonetic spellings of their names; then you can include these on nametags and online event profiles.

• If the venue does not have gender-neutral restrooms, create some by changing the signs on existing bathrooms and blocking off urinals.

• If you expect non-English speakers, make sure your event includes bilingual signage, materials, and presentations.

• Another thoughtful gesture to welcome neurodiversity is to provide cozy, quiet spaces where people feeling overwhelmed can relax and take a break.

• During your event-planning phase, ask people with disabilities or who are vulnerable to feeling marginalized what you can do to make the event more enjoyable.

• Finally, follow up with a post-event survey to learn how you can improve next time.

Don’t pursue the objective of an event that embraces diversity and inclusion simply to avoid negative publicity or attract more attendees — diverse and inclusive events often deliver more meaningful and beneficial experiences and outcomes. But more importantly, everyone attending an event, whether it’s a tradeshow, festival, convention, or expo, deserves to feel welcome.

Advice Human Resources Marketing

The Benefits of Having a Fractional CMO for Small Businesses

Small businesses operating in today’s highly competitive business landscape often encounter substantial obstacles when it comes to effectively marketing their products and services. With limited resources, tight budgets, and a lack of in-house marketing expertise, they face significant challenges in developing and executing successful marketing strategies. These obstacles can hinder their growth potential and prevent them from effectively reaching their target audience.

Amidst these challenges, small businesses can overcome barriers and access top-tier marketing guidance by hiring a fractional CMO. This experienced marketing professional works on a part-time or project basis, offering strategic insights, guidance, and execution expertise.

Unlike a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO allows small businesses to access the expertise of an experienced marketing leader without the high costs. This arrangement grants them high-level marketing knowledge, strategic thinking, and industry insights that drive growth and enhance their competitive position.

Engaging a fractional CMO allows small businesses to access valuable experience and specialized skills not found internally. This external expertise helps navigate marketing challenges, identify opportunities, and develop targeted strategies aligned with their goals.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the benefits of having a fractional CMO for small businesses. From cost-effectiveness to fresh perspectives and scalability, this arrangement has diverse advantages that transform marketing efforts. Let’s delve into the details and discover how a fractional CMO maximizes small businesses’ marketing potential.


One of the primary benefits of a fractional CMO for small businesses is cost-effectiveness. Hiring a full-time CMO may be financially out of reach for many small businesses, but a fractional CMO offers a flexible and affordable solution. With a fractional CMO, small businesses only pay for the services they need, providing access to expert marketing guidance without the burden of a full-time executive salary and benefits package.

Expertise at Your Fingertips

Fractional CMOs bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. These highly skilled professionals have worked across various industries, mastering marketing principles and best practices. Engaging a fractional CMO grants small businesses access to seasoned professionals who understand their unique challenges. This expertise empowers them to develop comprehensive marketing plans, identify growth opportunities, and execute tailored strategies for their goals and target audience.

Fresh Perspectives and Innovative Strategies

Small businesses often struggle to break free from stagnant marketing approaches. A fractional CMO injects fresh perspectives and innovative strategies into the mix. These marketing experts provide an outside viewpoint, introducing new ideas, industry insights, and emerging trends that can revitalize a small business’s marketing efforts. With a fractional CMO, small businesses can stay ahead of the curve, adapt to changing market dynamics, and gain a competitive edge.

Scalability and Flexibility

As small businesses grow and evolve, their marketing needs change. Fractional CMOs offer scalability and flexibility to accommodate these shifting requirements. Whether it’s for short-term projects, seasonal campaigns, or ongoing strategic guidance, small businesses can tap into the expertise of a fractional CMO on demand. This scalability ensures that small businesses can access high-level marketing support when needed, without the constraints of long-term commitments or excessive costs.

Knowledge Transfer and Team Empowerment

Working with a fractional CMO goes beyond strategic guidance; it enables knowledge transfer and team empowerment. Fractional CMOs offer training, mentorship, and upskilling to enhance the capabilities and professional growth of the marketing team. This collaboration strengthens the organization, building a stronger marketing team and expanding in-house expertise.

Access to a Diverse Skill Set and Network

Fractional CMOs often come with a diverse skill set and a vast network of industry connections. This can be invaluable for small businesses looking to expand their reach and explore new opportunities. Fractional CMOs can harness their network to establish partnerships, secure media coverage, and connect with industry influencers. By accessing this network, small businesses can enhance brand visibility and unlock collaboration opportunities.

Strategic Planning and Data-Driven Insights

Fractional CMOs excel in strategic planning and data-driven decision-making. They can analyze market trends, conduct competitive research, and identify gaps and opportunities for small businesses. Fractional CMOs utilize data to develop tailored marketing strategies that resonate and drive meaningful results. This strategic approach ensures that small businesses make informed decisions and allocate their marketing

End Thoughts

Small businesses need to maximize their marketing potential to stand out and thrive. Hiring a fractional CMO offers small businesses expertise, strategic guidance, and fresh perspectives to navigate challenges and seize growth opportunities. The benefits are numerous, from cost-effectiveness and scalability to access to top-tier marketing talent. Small businesses can elevate their marketing efforts, enhance brand positioning, and achieve sustainable growth by leveraging the knowledge and experience of a fractional CMO.

Advice Best Practices Case Studies Entrepreneurship Growth Human Resources Leadership Management Operations Strategy

Break Free From Founder Dependence: Strategies for Business Success?

How to Overcome Founder Dependence as a Start-up?

Commencing a business is an exhilarating voyage. As an entrepreneur, you invest your passion and dedication into transforming your start-up from an idea into a tangible reality. However, as your business expands, there is a risk of excessive reliance on you, the founder. Founder dependence can impede scalability, hinder decision-making processes, and limit overall growth potential.

This article delves into the challenges posed by founder dependence and explores effective strategies to overcome this obstacle.


Three Dangers of Founder Dependence

When a start-up heavily relies on the founder’s expertise, connections, and decision-making, it becomes vulnerable to various risks. Let’s closely examine some of the perils associated with founder dependence.

  1. Limited Scalability

Founder dependence can hinder the scalability of a start-up. When all critical decisions and operations flow solely through the founder, it creates a bottleneck that restricts growth. As the workload increases, the founder may struggle to delegate effectively, leading to burnout and inefficiency.

Scaling the business becomes challenging without a well-structured and empowered team.

  1. Challenges in Decision-Making

When a start-up excessively depends on the founder for decision-making, it can slow down the entire process. The founder may become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of decisions they need to make, resulting in delays and missed opportunities.

Additionally, decision-making becomes subjective, heavily influenced by the founder’s biases and perspectives.


  1. Single Point of Failure

Founder dependence creates a single point of failure within the organization. If the founder is unable to work due to illness, personal circumstances, or other reasons, the entire business can suffer.

This vulnerability puts the start-up at significant risk, jeopardizing its continuity and survival.


5 Strategies to Overcome Founder Dependence

Now that we comprehend the challenges posed by founder dependence, let’s explore effective strategies to mitigate this risk and foster a sustainable and scalable business.

  1. Cultivate a Strong Leadership Team

Building a robust leadership team is crucial to reduce founder dependence. Identify individuals who complement your skills and share your passion for the business. Delegate responsibilities to them, empowering them to make decisions and take ownership of their respective areas.

Cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration within the team, encouraging open communication and idea-sharing.

  1. Document Processes and Systems

To minimize reliance on the founder’s expertise, document key processes and systems within the organization. Create clear guidelines, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and knowledge repositories that outline how tasks are performed.

This documentation facilitates knowledge transfer, enables new hires to quickly get up to speed, and ensures consistency in operations even when the founder is not directly involved.

  1. Implement Effective Training Programs

Invest in comprehensive training programs for your employees to enhance their skills and knowledge. By equipping your team with the necessary tools and expertise, you empower them to handle complex tasks and make informed decisions independently.

Encourage continuous learning and professional development, fostering a growth mindset within the organization.

  1. Foster a Culture of Innovation and Collaboration

To overcome founder dependence, nurture a culture of innovation and collaboration. Encourage your team members to think creatively, share ideas, and take ownership of projects. Emphasize the importance of cross-functional collaboration and create platforms for brainstorming and knowledge-sharing.

By involving the entire team in the decision-making process, you can harness diverse perspectives and drive the business forward.

  1. Continuously Evaluate and Improve

Regularly evaluate your processes, systems, and team dynamics to identify areas for improvement. Solicit feedback from your team members and stakeholders, encouraging open dialogue.

Adapt and refine your strategies based on these insights, ensuring that your business remains agile and responsive to market changes.


Embracing Growth and Sustainability

Overcoming founder dependence is vital for the long-term success and sustainability of a start-up. By developing a strong leadership team, documenting processes, implementing training programs, fostering innovation and collaboration, and continuously evaluating and improving, you can reduce reliance on the founder and unlock the full potential of your business.

Remember, building a business is a collective effort. Embrace the growth opportunities that come with empowering your team and trust in their abilities.

With the right strategies in place, you can navigate the challenges of founder dependence and steer your start-up towards a prosperous future.