Claudette Rowley

Cultural Brilliance: The DNA of Organizational Excellence

With Claudette Rowley

By Jill Schreider 

Jill Schreider PhotoJill Schreider is a marketing and communications intern at the International Leadership Association. She is a communications major at the University of Maryland College Park and looks forward to a future working in public relations or human resources. 

Cultural Authenticity. Cultural Design. Cultural Integration. Where these three intersect, Cultural Brilliance in the result. Claudette Rowley’s three-phase Cultural Brilliance methodology, used for creating brilliant, high-performing organizational cultures, is the inspiration for her semi-monthly podcast, Cultural Brilliance Radio: The DNA of Organizational Excellence, airing on Transformation Talk Radio, Conscious Business Radio, and The Dr. Pat Show Network, every second and fourth Friday at 1:00PM ET and on demand.

Cultural Brilliance Radio delivers discussions with stimulating guests who share their expertise on topics related to culture, change, and leadership. Cultural brilliance is born from the idea that people can, “create an intentionally designed culture that reflects the excellence, talent, and invention of people. Brilliant cultures,” Rowley explained, “are responsive to the needs of people, systems, and the external environment.”

With many topics falling under that umbrella, I asked Rowley how she selects the topics for her show and she countered that she doesn’t select by topic, but by people: “I’m more drawn to the people than to the topic — a thought-leader who has written a book or someone working for an organizational with an intriguing culture, for example. If I come across an idea, article, or company I admire, I’ll reach out and invite them to be featured on the show. I try to approach cultural brilliance from a lot of different angles. The knowledge is out there and I enjoy bringing these fascinating people onto the show.”

As the CEO of Cultural Brilliance, “a cultural design firm that helps leaders retain and increase the value of their organizations while they merge, transform, and scale,” and an expert in organization change management, Rowley is familiar with the challenges facing today’s organizations to stay competitive and keep people engaged and motivated.

Having recently celebrated its one year anniversary, Cultural Brilliance Radio has a hefty bank of resources and content for the curious listener. Dr. Pat, often called the “Oprah of Talk Radio,” is a frequent guest and ILA member Martha Miser, President of Aduro Consulting has been on.

I asked Rowley to reflect on two shows where she, personally, learned the most. A difficult decision with so many valuable choices, but she ultimately selected “Leading With Dignity,” featuring Donna Hicks, a conflict resolution specialist and the author of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict and the forthcoming Leading With Dignity (Yale University Press, 2018); and “Time, Talent, Energy,” featuring Michael Mankins, an organizational consultant at Bain & Company and the author of numerous books including Decide & Deliver: Five Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization and Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power.

“Donna’s experience as a facilitator and negotiator in the Middle East and South America was compelling. She would be sitting at a table with, literally, some of the smartest people on the entire planet and they still could not resolve their conflicts. Why was that? What was she missing? She eventually came to realize that one of the reasons these conflicts couldn’t be resolved is because people thought their dignity had been violated and the violation them unwilling to fully engage in negotiation. We often talk about how we can earn people’s respect, but dignity is simply a basic human right. It’s not something that needs to be earned.” Rowley continued, “In our discussion we also talked about how this applies to workplaces in the U.S. Often workplaces and organizational leaders violate people’s dignity without even realizing it.”

This idea of invisible forces in an organization’s culture resonated with Rowley and her Cultural Brilliance work. From Rowley’s experience, organizational culture is mostly implicit and thus invisible to most of the people in it. Through Cultural Brilliance, she works to help leaders understand that culture drives what happens in an organization and in an immense feedback loop what happens in an organization works to evolve the culture. “Every organization has a culture and my vision is to help people understand the culture they’re in, in order to design the culture they want. The challenge is that because they’re already in it, they aren’t always fully aware of all of the parts. A lot of organizations want to make a change to their culture, but they haven’t yet assessed how the culture they have operates. I work to help them uncover the subconscious beliefs that are driving their culture. We can get to the bottom of these issues, if we put the time and energy into it.”

Time, Talent, Energy,” with Michael Mankins, touches on the same theme of cultural practices that may unknowingly hurt the effectiveness of an organization. “Mankins' book is about organizational drag and all of the ways that organizations lose energy and momentum without even realizing it,” Rowley shared. “He talks a lot about the irony and the juxtaposition between how we can communicate so quickly in so many modes right now, but when you go into your typical organization, everything is so slow and a big part of the problem is that people are over-communicating. They are going to more and more meetings and answering more and more emails and getting less and less accomplished as projects drag on and on. And, as he was talking, I was thinking: Wow, I hadn’t really thought about it in that way before.”

“It’s really fun being able to interview people who are bringing forward these exciting new ideas and ways of thinking about things,” Rowley enthused, “and I hope listeners feel that same way as they listen. I want the podcast to be thought-provoking and helpful, so listeners can take what they learn and apply it to their own organizations and reflect on these new concepts around culture and leadership. There’s all this research out there on organizational culture — really starting with Ed Schein’s book in 1980 — and people just aren’t taking it in. I would like to think that my show can help people in organizations tap into that.”

Rowley invites ILA members interested in becoming a guest to contact her at: claudetterowley@gmail.com or introduce yourself after her talk about ILA’s 19th global conference, Leadership in Turbulent Times, taking place 12-15 October 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

She will be discussing culturally brilliant leadership while applying it to the conference theme. Rowley elaborated, “My presentation will be on the ways cultures can not only adapt to turbulent times, but thrive in them in strategic, proactive ways. I will be discussing the necessary mindset leaders should have to guide the culture and people.” Find out more information about her workshop here: http://tinyurl.com/ycdzeter.

About Podcast Playlist

Podcast Playlist shines a spotlight on that digital dynamo of the early 21st century, the podcast. Each column features a podcast program or individual episodes from different programs that pertain to leadership. Like what you see? Join ILA today and read the whole series and every column in our semi-monthly newsletter. Please contact our membership team at membership@ila-net.org or 1.202.470.4818 or join ILA today