Going from a Culture of Evaluation to a Culture of Dialogue

“As we lean into this ancient lineage, our work in circle is to create the world we want within the world we have. Circle and its components are the seeds. Circle is the pattern. We have changed the chairs. Now we can change the world” (Baldwin and Linnea, The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair)


The intention of today’s team meeting was to make an assessment, a review of the probationary period for those who recently joined our organization. Me being one of them.

My experiences with this type of meeting have been mainly one-on-one to hear a one-way feedback. In the best of situations, I would get to the meeting feeling anxious and left with a sense of relief. In worse situations, I would just be numb because I dissociated from my emotions in order to ensure professionalism.

I now realize the negativity of this dynamic where I had to find coping strategies (red flag)! Have you ever had a similar experience? Being passionate about the subject, many shared their experiences with me, and vulnerability is a common feeling during such meetings. The more toxic or hierarchical an environment, the greater the feeling of powerlessness. I used to tell myself that it is normal, that everyone goes through that, and that people are just doing their jobs.

No wonder I didn’t last long. I realize that I was constantly looking for a job where culture supports authenticity and healthy relationships. Simple right? Still, it seemed less likely than winning the lottery.

Today was different. No surprise, we do things differently at Percolab. It is important for me to document because I am starting to forget how toxic organizational cultures can be. I would like to introduce the benefits of a collaborative culture and share with you that there is a way of working where you do not spend your time coping and adapting to an authority. There is a way to just be yourself and get the best out of yourself!

As mentioned above, today we had an evaluation and probation follow-up day, however we don’t call it that. Today, we can call it: an appreciative collective assessment, and we did it together with a team spirit. We have shared our experiences of the past few months as human beings. I did not feel judged or criticized. Instead, I felt I was genuinely cared for, and fully heard. We had a safe space to express our vulnerabilities. I was able to ask for help and was able to express my fears. The process allowed me to end my Monday full of appreciation and gave me a new boost of confidence and energy, knowing that my team cares about me and sees me fully.

Here is how this type of process works and the transformative benefits that it generated.

  • First there is an invitation. All members (old and new) are invited to take part in the meeting.
  • A generative question is formulated in the meeting. Ours was “what feedback can we mutually give ourselves following the onboarding of new members in the last few months?”
  • Time agreement. We agreed on 80 minutes for the circle and 20 min discussion for follow-up and further actions.
  • Roles held by different participants: facilitator, note taker and time keeper. Notes are very important to document our process and for those who were unable to join to have transparent access to the information.

The process

We proceed in a circle. Whoever is ready to share, goes, and then we follow the order we agreed on if it is a virtual meeting (which this one was), or the order we are sitting in the circle if it is a face-to-face meeting. When our turn comes back and we have nothing to add we can choose to skip this turn.

With the facilitator holding the process and the relational space, we speak about our experiences from the heart. We share to the center of the circle, with trust of being heard and accepted fully with all we carry.

Organizational wellbeing, organizational healing, is an amazing doorway for healing our society.

For those who see themselves as leaders: what responsibility do you want to take on to create a better emotional and psychological environment for yourself and others around you? Can you share your power and vulnerability? Can you trust others and show others how to trust you? Can you genuinely ask for your needs and feel safe doing so? And can you give others that same opportunity?

And for those who do not see themselves as leaders, remember your autonomy? Remember that each day gives you an opportunity to make one tiny different choice at a time. These are your building blocks for a better future, for yourself and others around you.

I wonder how the world would change if the workspaces changed. I wonder how our mental and emotional health would change if we felt heard, appreciated and simply at ease being our genuine selves at work.

Can you imagine the ripple effects of such a transformation? How would it change your life and that of those you care about?

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Work after the crisis

The COVID-19 crisis sent many workers home. Organizations needed to turn to telework and many find themselves turned upside down. At the very least, telework requires technological tools to deal with the lack of physical proximity. However, telework does not have to be a simple transposition of office-work to home-work and virtual tools. At its core, the current need for telework is an opportunity to create the future of work, which is based on a new culture of collaboration.

Since 2007, at Percolab, we have been experimenting with this new work culture based on a radical practice of collaboration. Whether you are side by side in the same space, or whether everyone is at home, collaboration is built around a few fundamental beliefs:

  • a global purpose; to accelerate the socio-ecological transition;
  • agency and the leadership of each individual stemming from autonomy and trust;
  • taking care of relationships by nurturing and re-establishing them, when necessary;
  • day-to-day learnings and maintaining the learner’s posture;
  • balance between the individual and the collective through shared decision;
  • the individual and collective capacity of human beings to self-organize;
  • transparency from the very beginning, making actions visible and accessible.

In her book Going Horizontal, our colleague Samantha Slade presents tangible practices with which we can embody these convictions. This set of practices, that we use and share, has developed for years with our customers, our partners, and sister organizations. These practices have been refined through multiple experiments and learnings, allowing ownership and creation of a greater common meaning. Furthermore, our approach is intended to be gradual and pragmatic so that everyone can acquire this new culture without fear of an unsettling transformation.

In our work of supporting teams, we observe that many people are affected by deficient, ineffective and painful collaboration horror stories. They have deep scars that keep them from re-engaging in collaborative endeavours. Nevertheless, we also all have rejuvenating collaborative experiences. For this reason, we call on organizations to build strong collaborative cultures in order to prevent the current need for telework from fulfilling Morten Hansen’s prophecy which states that poor collaboration is actually worse than the absence of collaboration.

The speed of COVID-19 transmission highlights our global interdependence. It reminds us that we must make this interdependence a strength in order to overcome this crisis. By joining the common venture of taking care of each other and of nature, we give meaning to the ultimate reason behind our existence. We recognize interaction and connection as the rudiments of everything that lives. This widens our field of vision and naturally changes the way we make decisions. This crisis is like a springboard that seeks to propel us forward. And the organizations do not have to be cubicles and silos in which we’re confined. Work can be a rich and complex environment in which we can reveal the best of ourselves.

With hope that the common question ‘in which cubicle are you?’ becomes ‘in which garden are you?

Article written by Denis Côté, associate member of Percolab Coop


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3 Strategies to Change your Workplace Culture by Changing Your Meetings

Originally published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers


Meetings are an organization’s cultural backbone. How you run your meetings says more than you might think about how your organization functions. The bottom line is that meetings are an effective barometer for gauging how well your organization is doing in terms of productivity, innovation, and teamwork. If you dream of an engaged organization where people show up with their full creativity and potential and really share responsibility, meetings are an easy, low-risk place to grow this dream.

Most people find meetings stressful or boring and drag themselves to them. Hence, there is ample evidence to suggest people are ready for something new. When organizations are able to correct bad habits that stymie creativity, meetings become an ideal leverage point for transforming entrenched habits and beliefs in your culture.

Here are three simple meeting steps that invite everyone at the meeting to show up differently and collaboratively. With them, we tap into our collective agency and creativity. It’s a practice, which means you won’t get there by talking about it; you need to do it, reflect on how it went, and do it again. That’s how we change habits. We cannot expect it to be perfect on the first attempt.


1. Identify purpose and time

Ensure that your group agrees on the purpose and time of the meeting, because people have different assumptions, and this can create confusion and frustration. For example, a 60-minute meeting that focuses on clarifying the next steps of a project will be different from a 90-minute meeting that aims to find ways to improve relationships with the project partners. If you find yourself in a meeting where purpose and time are unclear, you can let the organizers know what your assumption is.


2. Co-create the agenda wisely on the spot

No single person can really know all that should be addressed at a meeting, nor should one person have to hold that on their own. Redistributing the responsibility of setting agenda items can be done by emphasizing the importance of initiative. The principle goes: “If there is something you see that is important to address, then write it on the agenda yourself and facilitate your agenda point.”

Identify to the group how much of the collective time and attention you want for your agenda item. Using the four agenda categories below shapes what will happen at each point and can boost intentional consciousness among the group:

  • Announcements (when you just want people to listen to you);
  • Feedback (when you want to listen to others);
  • Co-creation (when you want to work with your colleagues on something);
  • Proposals + decisions (when you want a collective decision on something).

Here’s an example of what a co-created agenda might look like (Bonus tip: Using a web-based collaborative tool, such as Google Docs or Asana, can make editable, live agendas a breeze to co-create):


Purpose of the meeting: the next steps for our project (60 min total)

Category Person Topic
Information/announcements Hana


Schedule update

Partner relations

Feedback/consult Paul


Results from interviews

Presenting our new service

Co-create / work together Hafid Ideas for next consultation activity
Proposal / decision making Maria Hire students?


Remember there is no rule that everyone needs to be in conversation all the time. You can be creative in how you run your agenda point. You can invite people to think silently for a minute before a go around or to position themselves in the room to express where they stand on a question. It’s up to you.


3. Run the meeting with roles

As an organization, make it a priority to designate meeting roles. Agree on who will be the meeting host, the time holder, and the note taker. It’s also critical to rotate these roles regularly if you want to develop participatory leadership. Setting an expectation around this flexibility can help streamline how roles are assigned. For example, there can be the expectation that everyone has a go at a role before anyone does it a second time or that roles rotate alphabetically by last name.

The meeting host uses the natural connections between points and the group energy to establish the order of the points. The time host supports the facilitator of each point to keep to the time they attributed to themselves, with kindness and care. The notetaker documents the essential items: points of clarity, proposals that take form, decisions made, etc.


Building a horizontal culture

These three strategies, used together, are geared toward a collaborative and conscious way of working. Running meetings consciously builds a horizontal workplace culture because team members feel empowered, heard, and valued for their specific contributions and reach larger, collective goals.

A group takes on shared responsibility for what is addressed, how it is addressed, and the time management. Meetings become enlivening, democratic, co-creative spaces. This is the opposite of conventional meeting culture, which revolves around one or two people.

It is not a free for all. It’s the opposite, in fact. Clear structuring elements allow self-organization to take place efficiently.


Building team trust

Really, though, this is all about learning to trust again. Trust your colleagues to care about things and put them on the agenda, trust people to be able to share the time, and trust that the right things for today are addressed. It’s truly liberating.

Once you get the hang of this in meetings, you’ll find it spilling over into other areas of work. You’ll be stepping forward for what you care about while trusting others to step forward with what they see and care about. You’ll be more apt to give space to your colleagues to self-organize. You’ll be able to tap into the diversity that surrounds you better. All of this brings life back into the workplace and puts flexibility and flow into the cultural backbone. In fact, reconnecting with our capacity to trust each other is part of our collective journey to reconnect with our humanity. Organizations desperately need this now, and so does the world.


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Le kata appréciatif pour progresser

Voici un article que j’ai écrit pour Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.

Pour continuer de progresser dans votre carrière de CRHA, avez-vous pensé au kata appréciatif?

Le kata appréciatif est une approche inspirée du kata d’amélioration proposé par Mike Rother, tirée de la philosophie du lean management. Quant à l’élément appréciatif, il est issu de l’approche enquête appréciative (AEA). Suite à mon parcours, je constate que l’utilisation jumelée de ces deux domaines d’expertise a un pouvoir optimal pour insuffler de la vitalité dans les systèmes et chez les individus.

Le kata appréciatif, composé de quatre routines constituées de questions puissantes, donne du sens, permet de formuler des aspirations profondes basées sur les forces actuelles et propose une mise en action concrète menant à l’acquisition de nouvelles compétences par l’expérimentation.

Créer du sens et se projeter dans un futur désiré

Par des questions appréciatives, l’intention est de permettre à la personne de se créer une image mentale forte, et la plus détaillée possible, de la direction vers laquelle elle souhaite aller, de ce à quoi elle aspire dans un futur idéal.

Les questions suivantes sont des exemples typiques d’un accompagnement vers un futur désiré :

  • Lorsque tu te projettes dans le futur, quelle est la plus belle vision que tu as de toi-même, et qui sont tes principaux collaborateurs?
  • Quelles sont les tâches qui t’apportent le plus d’énergie?
  • De quelles compétences crois-tu avoir besoin pour atteindre cet idéal?
  • Quels sont les indicateurs qui te permettront de dire que tu as atteint ton objectif?

Découvrir une perspective à 360 degrés de sa propre réalité

Par cette deuxième routine, le professionnel est appelé à donner des exemples réels et documentés de sa situation. Il peut s’agir de résultats probants obtenus à la suite de projets réalisés dans un passé récent, d’une évaluation annuelle, de courriels de félicita tions ou de commentaires sur son travail, d’un questionnaire sur les forces.

Un processus réflectif stimulé par des questions appréciatives est activé pour découvrir la personne dans toute sa complexité et sa réalité :

  • Qu’est-ce qui t’apporte joie et vitalité durant tes journées?
  • Qu’est-ce que tes collègues te reconnaissent comme forces distinctives?
  • Comment décrirais-tu ton environnement?
  • Par quel type de personne as-tu besoin d’être entouré pour être meilleur?

En prenant conscience de ses forces, le professionnel pourra les utiliser comme tremplin pour aller plus loin.

Déploiement, ou le plus petit pas possible (PPPP)

La routine de la mise en action permet de faire le plus petit pas possible en direction de l’objectif établi. Voici deux exemples de questions pour amorcer le mouvement :

  • Que penses-tu pouvoir mettre en action dès maintenant?
  • Qui peux-tu solliciter pour t’aider à atteindre ta prochaine cible?

Les avantages acquis à cette étape sont très encourageants pour le professionnel qui célèbre plusieurs petites victoires, des succès le menant vers la réalisation de son futur rêvé. Il est important, comme dans tout processus, de souligner les réalisations du « coaché » qui le rapprochent de son objectif professionnel.

Design, ou routine d’expérimentation

Routine dynamique et stimulante, le design est le terrain de jeu pour expérimenter de nouvelles possibilités :

  • Quelles opportunités vois-tu?
  • Y a-t-il un projet que tu pourrais entreprendre pour développer cette compétence dans l’action?
  • Quelles forces possèdes-tu déjà qui pourraient te servir de base solide pour développer une nouvelle compétence?

Plus on est créatif et audacieux, plus le développement sera rapide et ancré. Plusieurs boucles peuvent être nécessaires pour atteindre, par étape, les différents jalons de maîtrise d’une compétence. Un accompagnement de type coaching dans cette réflexion est un soutien pertinent et générateur d’énergie constructive pour se développer davantage (plutôt que de rester dans le traumatisme de ce qui pourrait être perçu comme un échec). Exemples de questions :

  • Que souhaitais-tu réaliser? Que s’est-il passé?
  • Qu’as-tu appris de cette expérimentation?
  • Que ferais-tu différemment, en tenant compte de cette expérience?

L’utilisation du kata appréciatif dans l’accompagnement au développement de compétences amène une énergie décuplée, un esprit créatif permettant de trouver plusieurs façons nouvelles de se développer et de l’engagement chez le professionnel. La joie d’avancer dans le succès est transformatrice.

Source : Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.


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