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A 3 minute read


Creating a healthy and high-performing culture has long been a strategic objective for any self-respecting organisation. By all accounts we had become pretty accomplished at it, with many organisations entering ‘lockdown’ with a strong culture based on organisational values, respectable employee engagement results, and high employer brand advocacy.

Then, with the announcement of a global pandemic on March 11, the world and our workplaces changed, along with many of the strategies and tactics we’d come to rely upon to create and nurture culture.

But that was temporary, right?

Now we’re back at Level One we’re back to normal.

Not so fast!

Our ways of working, our beliefs and mindsets about work, our places of work, the who, when, and how we go about the business of being an organisation are changing – be that just with a tweak or through radical reinvention. How we ‘do culture’ in the post-COVID world is leaving those responsible for it, at the core of organisations, with more questions than answers.

The culture game is still being played but COVID-19 has shuffled the deck and the rules have changed.


Based on questions, challenges, and ambitions about all things culture which have surfaced in our regular Blacksmith Client Community Zooms, we decided to invite renowned Corporate Anthropologist, Michael Henderson, to share his observations of what’s changing in the world of organisational culture as a result of COVID-19. A key question on our minds was “How can leaders advance culture with the new rules in mind?”

In our 1-hour conversation together, Michael and I discussed:

  • the head, heart and hand dynamics of culture
  • looking back to our ‘hunter-gatherer’ days for clues about what is deeply wired
  • how the shift in context asks us to review our values for new meaning
  • the danger of assuming your pre-COVID culture is what you need now and in the future, no matter how good it was
  • left-right brain integration and the rising prominence of personal values
  • a surprising truth about organisational values that will REALLY get you thinking
  • moving from together to to-gather as we move to blended/hybrid ways of working
  • the power of unanswerable questions over meeting agendas; and
  • an invitation to play amateur anthropologist by becoming an observer of your day-to-day culture, rather than relying on surveys to tell you what’s going on.

BY INVITATION Blacksmith webinars are for:

  • CEOs and Executives
  • GMs, HR, CPOs, and HR Directors
  • L&D and OD Managers

If you would like access to the full recording of this session and a place on the guest list for future BY INVITATION webinars, please email with your details.

Kate and Michael


Kate Billing:

Kate is the Founder & Creative Director of Blacksmith and she is on a mission to put the tricky business of being FULLY HUMAN at the centre of how we live, lead and work.

Kate believes it’s time for a new kind of leader. Human-centred leaders who together will create the world we need for our shared future. Leaders who are examples of what’s possible when we commit to the deepest levels of humanity and responsibility in the ways that we live, lead and do business.

For nearly 25 years she has worked in the people, culture, and leadership space building a reputation for sharp insights, compassionate challenge, warmth and energy. Always connected to her diverse global community, Kate brings the best of what’s happening out there to New Zealand, and takes the best of our home-grown wisdom to the world.

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

Michael Henderson:

Michael is a Corporate Anthropologist. His job is to help organisations learn the role of culture in delivering workplace performance, business results, customer experience and employee satisfaction.

As an anthropologist, Michael delivers deep insights into culture that go far beyond what many organisations are aware of, including: what culture actually is, what culture does, how culture forms and is structured, and who really owns a culture.

After graduating with a degree in Social Anthropology, Michael travelled extensively for years studying and participating in both indigenous and organisational cultures all around the world. After a life-changing experience of becoming lost in the Sahara desert, he returned to New Zealand and, along with his wife, founded Cultures At Work (C.A.W.), a Corporate Anthropology practice that has now guided and supported over 300 culture transformations in organisations around the world.

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn