Calling all Heroes: Fix Toxic Cultures!

Our world is full of stories of toxicity - in our corporations, in our public institutions and yes...even in our romaine lettuce. When it comes to corporate culture, toxicity and the accompanying breach of trust can lead to painful financial ramifications.

Toxicity is a villain and like any good story, we need a hero to save the day. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s mythological work in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (it significantly influenced George Lucas' Star Wars), the archetype we are looking for this time, is the Corporate Hero with One Face -- the face of Integrity. It is not a single person. The job is simply too big -- we need an army of diverse corporate heroes across hierarchy and all demographics, who are able to slay the metaphorical dragon of toxicity with tenacity and a relentless sense of purpose.  The story only ends when the heroes transform the unbearable corporate cesspools of inequity to shiny new beacons of employee engagement, fair play and purposeful profitability.

But how you ask?

The answer lies inside of you -- you are that Corporate Hero -- not defined by your title, salary or level of experience. You are defined by your integrity -- your courage to speak up when others stay silent, your selflessness and your moral compass that is as unwavering as the Rock of Gibraltar. But it is not sufficient to be bold, you need to be competently courageous by ensuring your timing is right, your internal reputation is strong, you have a solid Plan B and you preserve high-stakes relationships. To see how your perception of what takes courage lines up with others’, take the Workplace Courage Acts Index self-assessment.

Let's turn to the big question of how we create these leaders of integrity in the first place? The simple answer is that you don’t. You merely nurture the integrity DNAthat lives within yourself and your team. In some this integrity DNA is very visible -- they are the ones who question the status quo, their decisions are based on fair play, inclusion and equity and they are always working to make things better - they don’t just think or say, they act. In others it is not so visible because it has been so deeply buried over long years working in an environment where short-term results, mistrust, fear of retribution and politics have reigned supreme. And yet in others it simply does not exist -- that is to say, we have people who simply don’t have the integrity DNA (you know who they are). As the hero, you can try to reform them (unrealistic and complicated given they are often at the top of the food chain) or remove them (through the power of your voice - just see what the #MeToo movement has achieved in a year).

Despite this momentum, the approach to corporate change, diversity and inclusion initiatives has seen little change in the last few decades - with clear evidence that many have failed to deliver.

We need to break away from the never-ending cycle of corporate predictability, bureaucratic processes and reactive quick fixes.

Using the power of storytelling, you can blaze a new trail for your company. However, to make the journey truly meaningful and ensure change happens, we need a radically new and fresh approach to disrupt the deeply entrenched corporate machine. We need an approach that fuses art and science together.

Equity Project For All delivers entirely new experiences for companies -- no more formulaic corporate training videos on harassment showing C-list actors behaving badly, no more role plays where you put on a show in front of your boss -- instead you become the storyteller, the listener, the challenger and the change-agent. You are no longer “in the audience” learning but instead you are “center stage” understanding and applying in the moment. 

By drawing on the power of art and storytelling, as well as the science of perception and behavior, we help on participants open their mind on what drives integrity leadershipemotive storytelling and empathy-driven creativity. In doing so, we awaken the hero within, to stand for something, make the unconscious conscious and bravely slay all the dragons of toxicity that come in the way of a truly empowered, equitable and high-performance organization. When is the mission accomplished? When the data tells us -- we are metric hounds and ensure each initiative is measured carefully for long-lasting impact on your employees, your brand and your business.

Just as the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tze once said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", the Corporate Hero inside of us hears the calling for the first step and boldly goes forward.

"May the Force be with you!"

Raquelle M. Zuzarte is the Founder of Equity Project For All and has led global marketing campaigns at Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Accenture. She has created Diversity & Inclusion and Innovation initiatives at J&J Global Pharmaceutical Marketing, SAP, Procter & Gamble Alumni Global Women’s Forum, Time Warner Cable and She Runs It. Follow her @RaquelleZuzarte.

Raquelle M. Zuzarte: Award-winning Founder & CEO | Global Citizen across 4 continents| Global Speaker | Fortune 500 Global Marketing Leader driven by purpose+profit

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