020 : The Leader As a Facilitator with Steve Chaparro


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Leaders play many vital roles in their company and it is their job to not only grow as an individual but to drive growth into the company as well. And one of the ways to drive growth is by creating a culture where scaling the business is possible from the employees all the way to the top. 

Steve Chaparro, founder of Culture Design Studios, helps companies create a culture of growth and helps them maximize potential by taking design thinking to the next level.

In this episode of Culture Design Show, Steve Chaparro gets interviewed in his own podcast by John Corcoran of Rise25 where he talks in-depth about the leader as a facilitator and as an architect of culture. Listen as he discusses how leaders can espouse a positive and growth-seeking culture in the company, the role of the young generation in reshaping culture, and more. Stay tuned.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • The difference between a leader as a facilitator and the leader as an architect of culture
  • The transitional period of a company in building its culture
  • The role of the leader in directing the company and the role of employees in inviting people into the company
  • The crucial role of the young generation in reshaping culture

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Steve Chaparro, the Founder of Culture Design Studios, is a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and culture design strategist. He takes design thinking to the next level as he assesses how to make culture in companies and organizations a movement of change rather than a mandate. His extensive experience in design and strategy allows him to create cultural shifts while eliminating toxic cultures and improving leadership.

Sponsor for this episode:

This episode is brought to you by the Culture Design Studio, a consulting firm that helps people and cultural leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people through a series of facilitated workshops. They provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization.

Culture Design Studio has worked with organizations like Duarte Design, Design Thinkers Group, Red Bull, USAID, Bacardi, and the Office of Civic Innovation

If you’re looking for more than just a consultant and want someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, Culture Design Studio is the one for you.

Contact them today to learn more about what they can do for you and your company.

Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai


Welcome to the culture design show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Chaparro 

Steve Chaparro here, host of the culture design show where I feature leaders of top creative firms, including architecture firms, creative firms, graphic design and marketing and advertising firms. Today I have John Corcoran here who has done thousands of interviews with successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And today we have flipped the script and he will be interviewing me.

John Corcoran 

Alright, Steve, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here. And in this episode, we’re going to be talking about leaders as facilitators how to transition leaders from acting as an expert to being more the one who’s facilitating the expertise within organization so we’re gonna get into that in a second. But first…

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio. Culture Design Studio helps creative companies to transform their workplace culture through co creative design and has worked with companies like Duarte, Redbull, USA, ID, Bacardi, the Office of civic innovation at the city of Long Beach and many others and culture design studio also delivers keynote speeches and does culture design strategy and consulting. So if you are looking for a dynamic speaker talking about culture design, or an innovative workshop facilitator, look no further to learn more, you can go to culture design studio.com

Alright. So Steven, so let’s talk about this topic of leaders as facilitators. Now traditionally, the leader is more of like an architect within an organization where they set the strategy and they’re in many ways, the many cases the most knowledgeable person on the team. They have the expertise but In this case, you know, in today’s day and age, things are changing so quickly, you know, knowledge is is rapidly evolving. And so leaders really need to be more of a facilitator rather than an architect. So talk a little bit about the distinction between those two.

Steve Chaparro 

Yeah, I think this for me, some of this language comes from my, my time in the architecture industry, half of my, my career has been in the world of architecture. That’s where I got my bachelor’s degree in architecture have been in the field and different roles within architecture. So for me, an architect is an expert in taking a client’s vision, articulating what that vision looks like from its requirements perspective, and imagining what the solution is, and then creating a blueprint, if you will, to make that happen. And so in many of those cases, the end solution is pretty stagnant. It may evolve throughout the process, but it In terms of understanding what is needed, an architect has the skills to be able to envision it, articulate it, plan it out, draw it out and actually oversee the building out of that particular solution. And I think in many cases that echoes what leaders have had to do in the past, leaders are the most charismatic, or leaders have are the most experienced and either one, being able to envision what the market needs, oversee the building out of a product and make it and telling people this is where we’re going. This is the exact destination of where we are going as a company. I’m bringing you folks along with me to help make that happen.

As you said, I think the environment is really changing. So and technology is a big part of that. Things are changing so rapidly. And I think in the past while we have been able to say okay, here’s a five year plan, and this is where we’re We are going this is what the landscape is going to look like. So our five year strategy is going to take us here. And I just think that things are changing so fast, no matter what industry you’re in, whether you’re in government, whether you are in academics, whether you are in technology, things are happening so fast, and I constantly refer to vuca. And it’s the things are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. So where we have used not one, the leader themselves, the CEOs, the founders, have been the architects of this plan, or in some cases, they realized that they needed to reach out to a third party expert, a consultant, a management consultant, or whatever type of consultant who is the subject matter expert, and has given area so what they do is they embark on this three 612, multi year engagement, where they do all of their research. They gather all the insights from their research on their own. They develop some strategies, and then they make some recommendations.

The problem is, as I was saying, a lot of these things are changing so rapidly that that strategy that five year strategy could be, you know, irrelevant in the next six months. So here’s the thing. Here’s the answer. Finally answer your question. The answer to answer your question is I think leaders need to understand that they themselves as executives, and the third and the third party consultants, especially when we’re talking about culture, culture within an organization, they those two groups, the consultants and the executives can’t be the subject matter experts in the culture of that particular company. There is one group that can be the subject matter experts on the culture and that is the employees. The employees in this case will have the best ideas, the best understanding the best insights and possibly even the best recommendations. And so a leader needs to transition from being that cultural architect to a cultural facilitator. And so that’s what we’re talking about how a leader needs to become a facilitator of culture.

John Corcoran 

And when does that happen in the evolution or lifecycle of a company? Because probably early on, they are the architect as the team’s getting larger, but at some point, it crosses over a threshold where it shifts from the leader being the architect to being the facilitator. Is there. Is there a bright line rule of when that happens?

Steve Chaparro 

I don’t think there’s a bright line rule. But I think there is a transition transitional period. Let’s say we’re talking about a startup, a startup at the beginning. They’re being led by a founder who has a vision, they understand the landscape, they understand the market need, and they also understand that their product is one that or service that is one that meets that need. And they also believe that they have some type of employer brand where they are attracting people to the mission of that particular startup. And I think early on When they’re in stealth mode, or they’re in building mode, the leader and the founder should, in fact, that is the time that they should in fact, be the architect of the culture, they should say, Hey, if you’re coming to our company, this is what we’re all about. This is what it looks like, my behavior is going to embody that culture. And I can have somewhat of a tight control on what our company is going to be about. Because in a sense, the culture is a product itself, for the companies that one or the other, the potential employees that are going to join the firm, but also for the potential investors that will engage the firm as well.

Here’s the point of transition, I believe the point of transition is when they start to get into high growth, or what some might call hyper growth, or they’re actually growing it by by multiple multiples that are exponential and when they start to grow exponentially And that they, they’re having to really hire on a lot of people and additional layers are starting to be added to the company. What happens many times is they are able to scale the customer experience, but they’re not able to scale the the employee experience or the culture. And I think once that starts to happen, they need to start allowing the employees are inviting, rather inviting is actually the better word, invite employees to help determine what this looks like. I think leaders should always say, here is the direction that we’re going, but I need you as employees to help me determine how we’re going to get there.

John Corcoran 

Yeah, and you know, I could see why from a leaders perspective, this seems a little bit disconcerting or threatening, in a sense, the idea of of, of giving up this control, which obviously is what got them where they are today. But you argue that This shift actually can be quite beneficial, and you get more ideas and it becomes a richer and more robust experience. I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

Steve Chaparro 

So one of the ways I like to think of this is you think of the company in terms of its people power, the resource, the assets that the people represent all at all layers. You think of the company not as an organization, but as an organism. When you think of it as an organism, you can think of it in multiple ways, multiple layers. And so I say that there’s always for any organism rather, this is absolutely scientifically true or not. This is the way I frame it.

In my mind, there is the spirit of that organism, there is the bones of that organism, and then there’s the flesh of that organism. I believe that the leaders themselves should always be in control and dictate the spirit of that organism or that organization. And they say, in terms of what our purposes what our mission is the direction that we’re going I’m going to breathe this out by with my communication and the words that I paint with my or the pictures that I paint with my words. But as far as the the flesh of it in terms of inviting people to be a part of it. That’s that’s where we invite employees to, to join that effort.

Now, I agree. I’ve had many conversations with leaders that have said, Steve, why would you say that? Actually, this is why I said one time, one time we’re having a conversation, and we’re trying to come up with the solutions for the future of that particular initiative within the organization. And it was all the executive team. And I said, I really think that we should invite the people that are on the ground, to speak into this in terms of what this is going to look like. I actually think that the best ideas to solve this problem, don’t reside in this room.

Basically, I was saying that the best ideas were I’m going to come from the executives. And I tell you what, I’ve got a lot of like the eyes, the dagger eyes that I got in that room that day. Like, what do you mean? Like we have been hired? Or we I founded this company or, you know, who are you to say that I don’t, we’re not going to have the best ideas. And so very much this is a place where leaders have to become vulnerable and transparent, and to understand that they have to release some control. But there was this one author, he’s actually a pastor who said, your organization is either structured for control or for growth, but it can’t be both. So if your structure for control, you are going to determine yourself all the decisions, but if you’re going to be structured for growth, it means you have to release the process to invite other people into it and come up with ideas that you may not fully agree with. Which is a really hard thing. And there’s a lot of egoism that happens at this level as well.

John Corcoran 

Sure, yeah. I mean, you have to let go of your ego in a sense at this point. But, you know, the point that you’ve made a number of times is that this is going to happen, whether we like it or not. The generations are changing, a younger generation is coming up. They’re coming into the workforce. They’re moving into positions of authority and responsibility within organizations. And they expect to have a voice, they want to have a voice, they’re not going to be happy unless they have a voice. But that can be a good thing. So talk a little bit about again, how it’s really critical that this change happens because of that younger generation coming in.

Steve Chaparro 

And I understand that there might be some people that are hearing us right now that might say, oh, you’re talking about the millennials who believe that they should have a voice in areas where they don’t have experience and these are Cry Baby, you know, this is the cry baby generation That wants that feels entitled to speak into things that they have no, right. I do not take that approach at all this, I actually believe that diversity of thought diversity of perspective, diversity of expectations is a beautiful thing. If you’re able to invite that you’re able to create space for that if you are able to harness that, and bring that to bear, there’s tremendous power that comes from these multiple voices. And so I think that I do think it’s true, though, that the younger the generations are in our workforce, the more and more they want, if not expect to have a voice.

Now, I want one possible misconception to be squashed right now. I’m not talking about leadership by consensus. This is not about saying, Let’s come up with some diluted idea that 100% of the people in an organization will agree with that is not what I’m talking about. There has to be some filtration. There has to be some filters have, you know, is this viable? Is this desirable? Is this feasible? All of those things need to be brought to bear. And I think any good idea will need to go through that process. But what we don’t do many times is if we don’t allow some type of some type of open innovation to occur within our organizations, then we defraud ourselves for the best ideas possible. And I use this one example. It’s sort of philosophical.

But when I went to architecture school, one of the things that we learned about was, you know, I went into school thinking, Oh, like, I’m going to be, I’m going to learn to be this design genius. And I’m going to have these great ideas that I’m going to get to express. And if you know, I’m going to start a project, I already know what I see it in my head of what I want to design. And one of the things instructors told us was, Steve, we don’t want you to go into a design process with the end product, the end solution already in mind We almost want you to go in it with as blank of a sheet of paper as possible. Because when you draw one line, that one line will inspire the next line, which will inspire the next line. So if you allow the process to help develop that idea better and better ideas that you might not have considered before will emerge and bubble up. And that’s what we’re talking about is allowing the process to unfold and let some of these good ideas rise to the top.

John Corcoran 

That’s great. Well, we’ve been talking to Steve Chaparro, about how and why leaders really need to become facilitators today when it comes to culture within their organization. And, of course, Steve is the founder of culture design studio, and Steve remind everyone where people can learn more about you.

Steve Chaparro 

I would love for people to reach out to me on LinkedIn, it’s Steve Chaparro, Chaparro is one “P” and two “R”s on LinkedIn. They can also reach out to me at culturedesignstudio.com.

John Corcoran 

Alright Steve, thanks so much. Thank you.


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