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Engaging Corporate Culture

Changing Mindsets One Thought at a Time

by Laura Kennedy

Working with a great leadership team not only improves the quality of work you can produce, but can also nurture a healthy framework across company lines to help your team communicate more clearly.

In my first year with the PPF Group of Companies as a Vice President of communications and marketing, I am fortunate to be working with our partners, COO and leadership team to bring language to the framework of corporate culture that the company has long lived by. This includes real world strategies for actually engaging corporate culture every day in the workplace.

It’s likely the yoga teacher in me that makes me believe that the more we focus on what we do best and open ourselves to new opportunities by making space for others, we’re all better for it.

Here are four major habit changes that, in my opinion, are game changers in reinforcing a positive corporate culture that is bound for success:

1. Choose Curiousity over Criticism

One of the most important pieces for healthy corporate culture is choosing to be curious instead of critical.

Imagine you’re in a brainstorm and your colleague has this BIG idea that you can see a few barriers in execution. Now, we always want to foster an environment of safety to share ANY idea, so what to do? If we’re being critical we might say something like “that will never work” – a defeating response for our colleague who shared the idea and sending a clear signal to the rest of the group - be prepared for criticism: a sure-fire way to shut down new ideas.

Instead, if we choose curiosity over criticism by asking a question like “tell me more about how you would deal with ‘potential barrier’”, we leave it open to discussion. Just maybe our colleague has thought about this already and has an idea, or another colleague might have a suggestion.

Choosing curiosity over criticism ensures that our team feel safe to share and our time is being used in a productive and positive fashion.

2. Assume Positive Intent

API. Oooooh an acronym - and one I love to use as a filter when mentally processing communication interactions of every kind (yes, text messages, I’m talking to you. And everything said by teenagers, always.) Assume Positive Intent.

But what does that actually mean? It means, when you aren’t sure of intention or tone, to assume the best.

Have you ever got an email from a colleague that says, “Are you in the office today?” It can be easy to go down a rabbit hole in your brain…

“Are they suggesting I’m not in the office?”

“Do they think I don’t come into the office often enough?”

“Does that mean they think I don’t work hard?”

“Why don’t they appreciate all the out-of-office meetings I have?”

…and our mind goes on and on, down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts.

We all know that despite the plethora of apps and social media platforms that connect us – or maybe because of them – message tone can be easily and often misinterpreted. But what if we take a breath. What if we assumed the best intentions?

“They must want to connect with me in person.”

“Maybe they brought donuts.”

“I can’t wait to hear what this is about - they always have awesome ideas.”

ASSUME. POSITIVE. INTENT. Don’t read a tone. Don’t let your mind spiral. And if you have one of those negative thoughts, acknowledge it, breathe and push it to the side.

Keep this API tool in the front of your brain, let it filter every incoming communication and it will change your life.

3. Listen Actively

Anyone who’s ever been in a meeting with me knows I love sharing ideas and thoughts and am easily excited to build on someone else’s.

Active listening is a skill I have to practise regularly because in my excitement and enthusiasm for a great idea or story, I can interrupt if I don’t keep myself in check or my brain moves on to what I want to say next. The result is likely I’ll miss an important detail being shared while I’m caught up in my own thoughts.

Thankfully, active listening is here to help me. It’s a great tool and easily practised. I try my best to remember what someone said, the most important detail they shared and any supporting information they think I should know. If it feels like significant information or that they really need to know I understood them, before I offer my own take, I will often repeat it back to them and ask “Did I get that right?” The question not only gives them an opportunity to say yes or no, but to add more, “Yes AND” something perhaps I forgot about or more information they want to share.

4. Stay in Your Lane

Lane check, anyone? I love collaborating with colleagues and building out creative ideas. But I’m in no way an expert in their fields. With my practise of curiosity, active listening and assuming positive intent, I get to learn so much about their areas of expertise. In marketing and communications, I need to cross over into a lot of lanes, but it’s imperative to remember my role is to help pave the road, not drive it.

A simple check-in can make the world of difference for people to understand that you respect their expertise. “I feel like I could learn a lot from you and maybe bring this to the project, what do you think?” or “Would you like to collaborate on this?” is a good place to start. Remember, collaboration only works when it’s invited and agreed upon – no one needs you pulling into their lane without an indicator, and please don’t bring that bulldozer over here, this is the fast lane.

Providing these tools to your team with hands-on opportunities can certainly help establish new habits. Pick a Corporate Culture Champion for your meetings and ask them to politely redirect team members when people are bending the framework a little too much. While it can be a hard task, it’s always better to address a breach with gentle prompts:

“Let’s reframe that remark to a question and get curious about that.”

“How would your feelings about that change if you assumed positive intent?”

“I feel like we might need to take a pause so we can all listen. Please finish your thought you have our attention.”

“I really appreciate your willingness to collaborate. Can we get clear on roles so we’re each focused on our own areas of expertise and being super-efficient?”

New habits can take some time to adapt to, but don’t lose your patience after a month and give up. Commit to six months minimum and engage your whole team to help you and hold you accountable as well. And when you fall into an old habit you want to shed, call yourself out and then move on.

Change can be hard, but with it comes innovation. And while your team may struggle at the beginning, they will thank you when they start to enjoy the success of these strategies. ~



Vice President

Marketing & Communications

Laura holds the role of Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the team.

With a background in public relations, Laura Kennedy’s career spans decades working in leadership roles in communication, partnership and event management in Canada and Europe. Laura has a track record of turning dreams into reality that enhances and exceeds outcomes while building long-term, loyal partnerships. She has a passion for team building and mentorship, leading with integrity and seeking measurable results.

In her agency life in Toronto and Ireland, Laura worked for global brands including Vodafone, Johnnie Walker, Corona, Levi’s, Guess, Bridgestone, Pfizer Ireland, Subway UK, Coca-Cola and artists like Bruce Springsteen. On the corporate side Laura has been responsible for developing marketing and communications strategies to build Canada’s largest country music festival, Boots and Hearts. In her recent role as Executive Director of GPHSF, Your Family Health Team Foundation, Laura grew revenue for the organization by 548% in her first 2.5 years in leadership.

A few career highlights include:

• Development and leadership team on 2015 inaugural WayHome Music and Arts Festival making it one of the worlds largest first year music festivals with 35,000 in attendance and global media coverage.

• Working with Aiken Promotions to launch and establish Live at the Marquee as a stronghold in Europe for headlining artists like Elton John, The Who, Bob Dylan, Kanye West and many more.

• Curating a Republic of Ireland launch for the German-based Mustang Jeans Fall/Winter 2006 collection at an 18th century prison, not only was the event at max capacity, it resulted in multiple fashion features, increase in retail distribution channels and product placement with key influencers.

Laura is a member of the CPRS (Canadian Public Relations Society), is an advocate for excellence in communications and has been a guest speaker and panelist at numerous industry events, sharing best-practises and metrics for success. She and her team have been honoured with awards including 5 consecutive CCMAs (Canadian Country Music Awards), CMW (Canadian Music Week) Award, CPRS (Canadian Public Relations Society) Awards, and she was nominated for Cork business woman of the year in 2006.

Laura is a Queen’s University graduate and recently completed her Yoga Teacher Training. She is a longstanding volunteer with the Peterborough Theatre Guild and a board member of the Peterborough Petes Education Fund. She lives in Peterborough with her two teenage boys and their dog Gracie.

CONTACT ME 705-748-5182

Founded in 2012, by Mike D’Alessandro and Darrell Wade, Park Place Financial grew quickly to become one of Central and Eastern Ontario’s top wealth and estate planning firms. Its mission, to be known for excellence in helping grow and preserve the wealth accumulated by family business owners and entrepreneurs across multiple generations. In 2018, Terry Windrem Insurance Agencies joined Park Place Financial, firmly positioning the business as an industry leader in wealth and risk management.

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