“Employee Tuesday” – What does a Culture Development Partner do?

by Alena Diduch

After one year of short work you’ve started a very new role as Urban Sports Club’s first Culture Development Partner. Tell us about your journey!

In hindsight, short work was a blessing (for me). At first it was very emotional because my previous team had been dissolved due to the pandemic. We were responsible for B2B team sport events, such as football and beach-volleyball tournaments, so lockdown hit our team hard. Today I’m relieved and grateful that our special team spirit stayed intact and we remain friends.

When I started 100% short work I started looking for training programmes. The first (and as it turned out, most influential) stop on my journey into my current culture development position was a seminar in positive psychology here in Berlin at the DGPP. During a 6 month training programme I connected with my personal strengths, values and the meaning of my life.

Every coaching intervention, strength profiling and group feedback session pointed me in the direction of social psychology and human connectedness. If you ask me about my personal driver it’s this: Other People Matter! I want to help people connect with others and themselves. 

I am very passionate about seeing people flourish, be vulnerable, develop new skill sets and help them figure out why they get out of bed in the morning. Hence, I’m very grateful to work with people in the form of either one-on-one leadership training and coaching or by helping develop Urban Sports Club’s culture as a whole.

What does culture mean to you?

A highly regarded individual once told me that culture is accumulated behavior in a group over time. This resonates with me because culture is always moving, constantly changing and we’ll never be in a position to say “OK, good job. Culture is done.” 

When I think about the components that make up corporate culture, the following list comes to mind (although this list is by no means finite and might look very different to someone else): 

To me, corporate culture is

  • our DNA – the beliefs and values,
  • our different languages and internationalites,
  • the way we collaborate and communicate (both internally and externally),
  • expectations of ourselves and our peers – our mindsets,
  • how we recruit and onboard new peers,
  • our respect towards each other and our boundaries,
  • the level of transparency and how we give feedback,
  • our level of motivation, and our understanding of failure,
  • the level of diversity – equality and inclusion,
  • our commitment to sustainability and climate change,
  • believing in our vision, mission and purpose,
  • the number and variety of office dogs

and finally the way we deal with a crisis and the way we celebrate success together!

Why are company values essential and what makes Urban Sports Club’s 6 internal values special?

Well, the above list of cultural touch points can be linked directly to our underlying company values. Our values are the foundation of our aspired mindset and the way we treat ourselves and each other. 

What makes the 6 Urban Sports Club values – or as we like to call them our ‘tactics’ – special to me is their interconnectedness, especially when Embracing Vulnerability.

In feedback from our value surveys and workshops we discovered that embracing vulnerability is actually the most challenging value. This makes sense, given the performance-oriented work environments many of us still operate in today. Yet, I believe that vulnerability is the birthplace for authentic collaboration, sound leadership, creativity, innovation and human connection. Allowing yourself to take a step into the unknown when you cannot predict the outcome takes bravery, trust and a willingness to develop. 

For me vulnerability means emotional exposure and risk taking, being open and not being defensive when we receive constructive feedback or criticism, believing in the best intentions of others, asking for help, saying “I love you first”, and as Brené Brown, the leading researcher on vulnerability says, “our most accurate measure of courage”.

I love this value, because I believe it’s the glue that holds our 6 company values together. In order to take ownership, you need to embrace vulnerability. If you want to challenge yourself and others, vulnerability is required. Putting yourself in the shoes of others is a vulnerable choice, because it asks you to connect with the feelings of another person and in order to do that you need to connect to that feeling inside yourself. You cannot surf on the wave of change by staying inside your comfort zone either. And lastly, leaving your ego at the door, means taking off our protective armor which takes a lot of courage and openness. 

What personally motivates and adds meaning to the work that you do?

Other people matter! This sentence stuck with me from my positive psychology education. I really enjoy forming connections with and helping other people find their way. My personal two core values are compassion and curiosity, which I believe go really well together with a constructivist and systemic coaching mindset. Believing in the resources and self-efficacy of others feels very natural to me and I’m grateful every time I witness self discovery and personal growth in an individual. So creating a socially and psychologically safe space at work where people can figure themselves out, fail and learn, collaborate appreciatively and come home with more energy than when they started gets me up in the morning and excited about my work.

As of today you will lead the new “Employee Tuesday” series. What are your goals? Who will be featured and what can we expect?

The Employee Tuesday series is a great opportunity to portray the many interesting people who collaborate and work at Urban Sports Club. We want to spotlight the different roles and departments within our group, but more importantly introduce our community to the human beings filling those roles so you can learn more about their life, characteristics, interests, challenges and their personal connection to our six company values.
The pandemic hit our company hard. Many processes were put on hold and our teams had to cope with a lot. We’re so happy that our colleagues still feel loyal and optimistic about our purpose and mission. This attitude is essential to our well-being, especially during stressful times. It’s time to let our people shine and by doing so attract even more like-minded folks to join us on our meaningful journey ahead.

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