May 19, 2020

How to create a company culture that engages staff all year round

Workplace Culture
Phil Andrews
4 min
How to create a company culture that engages staff all year round

Phil Andrews, CEO, USA Weightlifting, discusses how business can create a company culture that engages with its staff.

As the holiday season approaches it can be easy for staff to become less engaged and distracted from their everyday tasks. It is times like these where a strong company culture is essential to ensuring employees stay motivated while still being able to enjoy the festive period.

A positive culture within an organisation stems from the leadership team being open, collaborative and supportive, without micro-managing every aspect. In our organisation, that means the combined efforts of 27,000 people connected to weightlifting – including our members – being better at driving progress and change than one person dictating their opinions to everyone.

One of the key factors that helps keep staff highly engaged is to give them a sense of purpose in the work that they are producing. Do they understand your vision and values? Are your staff reminded of them regularly and why they are vital to supporting your purpose and to achieve your goals?

Ask yourself: why are we doing this? Who/what cause are we helping? What are we trying to achieve?

For me, this is about always considering the needs of the people in your organisation, whether that is a junior hire or an executive joining the company board. The key to achieving a positive culture is to lead with empathy, which stems from understanding where employees, suppliers, customers, members, and athletes are in their perspective. It is the people on the ground who are often doing the real work and having the real influence, and they are the ones that reflect positively or negatively on your organisation.

Staff members now expect their employers to show a commitment to their health and well-being, something that we have taken measures to implement at USA Weightlifting.We introduced our first mental-health focused program, the "Athlete Wellness Program" because we recognised the importance of the health of our athletes and our sporting family.


Transparency and strong internal communication also help to get the buy-in of your staff, ensuring that they understand their role in the business. New CEOs that come into an organisation and try to make sweeping changes without consulting staff that know the business inside out are often met with resistance. It shows the importance of learning the culture before trying to change the culture, however experienced or knowledgeable you may perceive yourself to be. Consistent internal communication will allow you to engage with your team and build stronger relationships with your stakeholders.

Another important factor in maintaining employee wellbeing and morale is to always give staff a voice to express their opinions. Too often, it is something that companies overlook as they obsess over hierarchical positions within the organisation. We have two ears and one mouth, and I do a lot of talking in my role, but always remember that I must do twice as much listening. Feedback is a critical part of this, but not just from the CEO to their members of staff. It helps the business to run smoothly and shows employees that the organisation cares about them and their career. This is a two-way street, and feedback from staff should be actively encouraged to help implement positive change. 

The way that you engage with your audience or customers also goes a long way to defining your company culture. I still take time to read emails in the general inbox and listen to voicemails which really gives me an indication of what is going on at a grassroots level, and that is the level you need to know about.

The importance of a positive company culture can never be underestimated, and it is hard to blame anyone for being unmotivated when working for an organisation that doesn’t share their core values. By investing time, money, and effort into your employees, you give them a reason to invest their future with your company and in turn, to help your company thrive.

For more information on business topics in Canada, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief Canada.

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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