Three Questions With: Nicole Bendaly, Executive Director, Waterstone Culture Institute

We’re sitting down with each the senior team members at Waterstone Human Capital to find out, in their own words, what drives them and why Waterstone is North America’s top firm for helping organization build high-performance teams and cultures.

This week, we’re talking with Nicole Bendaly, Executive Director at the Waterstone Culture Institute.

Waterstone Human Capital (WHC): How do you describe what the Waterstone Culture Institute (WCI) does?

Nicole Bendaly (NB): The WCI is a really special place, in that what we do is based on the fact that we care deeply about the people within organizations and their ability to thrive and bring their best selves to work – for themselves, for their colleagues, and for the organization.

We inspire and enable organizations to build high-performance cultures, and we do that through their people. We do that in three ways. First, we measure their culture, and that measurement gets everyone really clear on the strengths and what the people feel their organization is already doing well. It also identifies areas of risk and of opportunity – things that put their people at risk of leaving, disengaging, or not being their best selves or performing at the highest level. So, assessment and measurement is really important.

Second, we look at the people – the development of leaders and their teams. We know culture is created by everyone, but that it’s mostly influenced by leaders. So, when we can help develop leaders who know how to build connections, create an environment of belonging, lead with a people-first approach but still with accountability, we know the organization will perform better and their people will stay and be engaged.

The third piece is done through our culture advisory and transformation process. It’s about operationalizing culture. We’re not in the business of convincing people that culture matters – we work with organizations that already know it, but they don’t necessarily know how to build the processes and systems needed to leverage culture. We help those organizations get clear on the culture that exists today and the culture that needs to exist tomorrow, and then we work with them to build a plan for how to create that culture and build ownership in that culture across all levels so that they’re seeing measurable change.

WHC: What surprises people most about working with the WCI?

NB: I think it’s how much we care and how much time our team gives to every client. Every single client is just as important as the next.  We’re a small but mighty team who can accomplish so much with our clients, and we are able to connect what we do back to making a difference.

We also set our clients up for success, so they can carry the work forward knowing we’re here to support them. Even after the project is over, they can pick up the phone and talk and to bounce ideas off of us, but we really work to set them up for success and to continue their culture journey.

WHC: Why should organizations consider working with a firm like Waterstone to fill their leadership roles?

NB: I always point to four main things that I think set us apart. First, our models, our services, and everything we do stems from what we know makes the biggest difference when it comes to building high-performance cultures. We bring our own expertise, as well as best practices that we’ve gathered through the Most Admired program over almost 20 years. That’s our R&D lab – it’s what we know works, what we know winning organizations are doing. And those best practices evolve. So, the Most Admired program feeds us evidence-based best practices that we see demonstrated year over year through this network of organizations that prove they’re high-performance cultures.

Second, is that our team also brings 20-plus years of expertise in, and our own research in leadership development and culture transformation. We’ve built this over years of practice and working with client to build leaders and transform cultures. We’ve done the trial and error, so we know what makes the biggest difference.

Third, is the network of independent consultants and coaches that we certify to deliver Waterstone’s offering. That results in a network of experts who allow us to cover a lot of areas and support clients in a lot of different ways. For example, where we may not be experts in an area like Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), we have coaches who are. So, even if we don’t have a solution in-house, we can still provide clients with wholistic approach to challenges through our network of coaches.

And finally, because we so closely connected with Waterstone’s executive search team, we’re ideally placed to support organizations throughout the entire employee lifecycle. We’re truly a culture partner – from attracting and recruiting talent, through to retention, engagement, and development. When you work with us, you’re not just getting the WCI, you’re getting the insight and expertise from across Waterstone Human Capital.

At Waterstone, we inspire organization to build high-performance teams and cultures through our retained executive search, cultural and human capital measurement and advisory, and high-performance leadership training services. We’d love the chance to work with you –book a meeting with our team and find out how we can help you achieve your growth and performance goals.