Overcoming Cultural Dissonance and Building Trust

Episode #1082: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, David Mead, an Executive Coach, Speaker, and Co-Author of Find Your Why—a book he wrote with Simon Sinek, discusses his work helping companies overcome “cultural dissonance,” how business leaders can create workplaces that withstand the Great Resignation, and what makes a “sticky boss.” Join us for great insight on David’s journey with Simon Sinek and their book Find Your Why, and gain insight on how to create workplace cultures that help employees thrive.



About David Mead

David Mead is an Executive Coach and the Co-Author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team which he wrote with Simon Sinek. As Director of Communications and Product Development of Simon Sinek, Inc., David has played a role in helping Simon Sinek put his ideas into a tangible form that people could use such as the creation of the online “WHY Discovery Course.” He was later promoted to an Igniter where he spent time speaking, facilitating workshops, and co-hosting the Start With Why Podcast. Since 2019, David Mead has continued to invest in his passion for helping others through his role as a speaker, consultant, and author.

David has worked with over 250 organizations including Capital One, Verizon, Marriott, and Deloitte—helping business leaders challenge their assumptions, consider alternative perspectives, and make simple changes that develop environments where people feel valued and valuable.


Key highlights


Overcoming “cultural dissonance”

Timestamp 02:29


In David’s business today, he helps businesses overcome “culture dissonance” which he defines as “when the culture a company talks about is not the culture people actually experience.” He explains that where companies have cultural dissonance, the trust between employees and employers “suffers” and that “it instills fear.” Because of this, David helps business leaders identify ways they are sabotaging their culture-goals and helps them find practical solutions for their challenges. David then helps them “apply” their found solutions “to the real-time challenges that” they are facing. He explains that in his process, he “can help” organizations “fine-tune their practices, their policies, their procedures, how they show up, how they run meetings, how they handle mistakes” and help them “incorporate trust and human connection” within their culture.


The Great Resignation and engagement

Timestamp 23:36


When discussing the Great Resignation, David shares that “many companies are doing things to keep their people like flexible work hours, upward mobility, upskilling” and so on. While these work “in the short term” it is more important for companies to focus on “who” they are being. Asking questions like “How do we show up? How do we make them feel? Do they feel like they belong? Do they feel like they can ask for help, or admit a mistake, or ask a question without getting ridiculed” can be incredibly beneficial for business leaders to ask amidst the Great Resignation. David states, “give them the perks and benefits and all that stuff, but you can’t do that instead of providing an environment where they feel like we genuinely care about them, do both.”


Who do you follow?

Timestamp 30:43


When asked what questions David has to help companies get to the “root of” their “purpose and passion,” David shares that he will ask “who would they willingly choose to follow?” After asking business leaders who they would follow, he asks them to write their traits down, what they do, and what makes them want to follow them. Then, David will ask “who’s the worst leader you’ve ever had?” In asking these questions, he found that the worst leaders had none of the characteristics of the best leaders. After leading clients through this process of identifying what makes a great leader through their own examples, he will encourage them to reflect on how they can “work on” themselves and “be conscious” of what makes a great leader so they can “show up the same way and have that same impact on other people.”

Being a “sticky boss”

Timestamp 32:41


David shares that his best boss was a “sticky boss,” meaning that people wanted to follow him to new job opportunities. He shares how this boss made him feel and what he did to be a “sticky boss.” David shared that this boss made him feel like he “genuinely… belonged” and that he “instilled the sense of pride in a healthy way.” Severin shares that in his executive recruiting, he will ask business leaders “has anyone ever moved for you?” and that the best leaders have had employees that are willing to move to continue working for him.


What not to do when creating culture

Timestamp 46:47


David shares a common mistake business leaders make when establishing company cultures that they make it too formal. He states that “you don’t have to have a culture initiative. You don’t have to have a kickoff meeting. You don’t have to have all these formalized things that become so bureaucratic and so convoluted that you end up doing nothing with them.” He shares that while you can have these meetings, it is vital to “back up those formalized things with a genuine desire to become better.”


“The much taller hobbit”

Timestamp 49:35


When asked what the title of a book about his life story would be, David states that his book would be titled “The Much Taller Hobbit.” He explains that when he thinks of where he “was mentally and emotionally at the beginning” of his career, compared to where he is now after being “thrown out of the Shire” and starting his own business. He states that he has “been able to meet and associate with people, the elves and the dwarves, that [he] never would’ve otherwise met.” David describes his career journey as an “incredible journey that has not been a vacation, but it’s gotten [him] out of that stable comfort zone where [he] wouldn’t have really learned or grown at all.”


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