Edgar Papke, Award-winning Executive Coach, Author & Speaker

#034: Coaching Teams for True Alignment: Insights on Culture, Leadership, Conflict and Change

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and leading organizational coach, Edgar Papke, for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Edgar Papke is globally recognized as an award-winning executive coach, author, and speaker. He is a student and teacher of leadership, conflict, and the human art of business and has been recognized for his innovative approaches to leadership and business. He has delivered over 2500 keynote speeches, lectures, and workshops to audiences worldwide and consistently ranks among CEOs and executives as one of the field’s most impactful and influential speakers. Along with being the author of “The Elephant In The Boardroom,” his newest book that explores how leaders use and manage conflict to achieve greater levels of success, he is also the author of “True Alignment®,” his book that provides a unique and preeminent framework for linking customer motivation and experience with brand, culture, and leadership. Edgar holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology, and a Culinary Arts Degree.

In this episode of the podcast Edgar shares insights from his book “True Alignment: Linking Company Culture with Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results” and how the work of an organizational coach is fundamentally about helping leaders, teams and organizations get alignment. He discusses the concept of the Business Code and how alignment comes through 4 key elements: The Customer, The Brand Intention, Culture and Leadership. Themes delved into on a deeper level in the podcast include: the human art of business, leadership, the central role of conflict in organizational change processes; coaching a team’s leader, individual team members as well as the full team as a whole; the management of complexity and more. Edgar also shares insights, stories and practical tips on coaching teams from his own practice as well as his work building a global community of organizational development consultants and coaches who are versed in the True Alignment® methodology.

Team coaches are sure to find Edgar’s book, “True Alignment: Linking Company Culture with Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results,” not only an essential read on the art of business but a helpful framework to support team coaching interventions. This is an episode that you surely will not want to miss!

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Contact Edgar


Part 1 – Getting to Know the Coach: Edgar Papke


  • Globally recognized coach, author, and speaker
  • Student and teacher of leadership, conflict, and the art of business
  • Recognized for innovative approaches, has delivered 2500 keynote speeches
  • “True Alignment: Linking Company Culture with Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results” and “The Elephant in the Board Room”
  • Bachelors degree in international business
  • Degree from Culinary Institute of America
  • Masters degree from Regis University in Organizational Psychology
  • Singer and songwriter with three albums to his credit
  • Feels privileged and honored to work with people in this way
  • Based outside Boulder, Colorado
  • Originally from Germany, landed in New York harbor in 1961

Story & Journey into Coaching

  • Practice breaks down into being an author, an individual and team coach, and a speaker
  • Works with organizational consultants on expanding their own practices
  • “all of our personal experiences influence us in one way or another”
  • Being an immigrant, having the experience of trying to fit in got him interested in learning how people interact with each other
  • Couldn’t initially speak English – learned a lot about human dynamics, formed a lot of his thinking going forward
  • First career was as a high risk insurance underwriter in global markets; did that for 7 years and decided he didn’t want that to be his career. However, it exposed him to ideas about business, risk management, markets, products/services and how they were provided
  • Then moved into the culinary world; comes from a line of cooks and chefs in his family; went to culinary school and was an executive chef in multiple restaurants and had a catering business
  • Realized as his family started to grow that he wanted to make a change so he could spend more time with them; moved to Colorado and went back to school to get a masters in organization, focusing on leadership and the psychology of leadership
  • After working for 5 years with a group of consultants at an employer’s association in Denver, he started his own practice and has been doing that ever since
  • First part of his work was working with team and group development, and then worked on the executive level
  • Was drawn to coaching because of the entrepreneurial bent to it which felt natural to who he was; also used instruments to determine what kind of work he was suited for and they all pointed to being a psychologist, a trainer, and a coach
  • Had a great background in business and it naturally flowed
  • Feels he’s in the ideal place doing the ideal work given who he is

Part 2 – Perspectives on Coaching and Team Coaching

 Interest in Leadership

  • Leadership is an incredible human phenomenon: “the majority of people look to the minority of people to lead them to create a better life”
  • Business is the creative response to human desire and need
  • Leaders are expected 1) to create change (people look to them to do that), 2) to constructively confront conflict, and 3) to strive for self-knowledge; the interdependency among the three is remarkable
  • Leadership as a phenomenal aspect of human behavior
  • Samurai leader on his wall – spoke to him
  • Leaders are constantly going through some form of rebirth

 On True Alignment

  • What does it take to be a leader in today’s increasingly complex world?
  • At the heart of coaching is bringing alignment: the framework presented in this book hits at the heart of that
  • Framework focuses on 4 key elements of business: Customer, Brand Intention, Culture, Leadership
  • FIRO Theory: human desire driven by need for inclusion, connectivity, attention, feeling competent, and to be liked and loved; everything emanates from that
  • Emotional threads run through four elements of alignment
  • True Alignment book: getting 3 things right – the ‘What,’ the ‘Why,’ and ‘How’
  • How to build an emotionally engaged workforce?
  • Importance of culture (the ‘How’): how do we come together and work together?
  • What is the common emotional driver that engages members of a team to feel a sense of commitment
  • How we treat one another within a team construct is also the experience of the customer – very powerful
  • Conflicts that show up in a team all relate to alignment; misalignment is a cause of conflict – key aspect of understanding culture and ability for a group to succeed
  • By improving alignment you can reduce the conditions that lead to conflict in the first place
  • Experience in multi-national context: despite these differences, a common framework can be very powerful; people bring individual personality differences
  • The key is to understand that everything is personal, and we need to bring this into the conversation
  • Allowing people to bring themselves in their “true form” is important
  • The “Business Code” – aligning the Customer, Brand, Culture, and Leadership

Applying the alignment framework

  • It’s a universal story: context (unique setting, characters (self-oriented), conflict (this is natural), resolution
  • Each person in a group needs to understand who they are and how they relate to conflicts; important to find resolution that is beneficial to individuals and the whole
  • The first step is Assessment: to create change we need to understand present conditions; all change and growth is the result of self-knowledge
    • Cultural surveys, leadership survey, individual fit
    • Questions around strategy and vision
  • Usually contacted by a leader within an organization, then through conversations decide how to go forward
  • After assessment, have a conversation about the results and then map out how to apply this in the organization
  • Feedback and planning process needs to be aligned with the culture of the workplace; important to understand that it’s not ‘one size fits all’ – important to understand the culture and how leaders behave within this culture
  • Engagement: spend time up front with executive team, then coach executives through implementing strategic plan that they’ve created
  • Alignment process is a very natural framework for strategic planning
  • Sometimes work is ongoing, other times it’s intermittent
  • Often ends up working one-on-one with CEO or higher up leaders for a longer engagement following work with teams (often for multiple years)
  • Trust: teams have different forms of trust they can “lean into”
  • Make sure you keep clear that it’s team members’ responsibility to communicate with one another
  • Important to be conscious as a coach to step back and let the clients (team members and individuals) do the work; job as a coach is to facilitate
  • Role is to support and help them communicate, not to be communicating for them
  • Example: executive team running a financial institution
    • Alignment gave construct through which to understand conflict
    • Executive team included board members who were shareholders – long-term goals were not aligned
    • Different elements of trust within the team
    • Conversation about individual goals led to people’s goals for the organization
    • This opened the door to a conversation about what common path for the organization would fulfill individual’s desired outcomes
    • Then could bring it back to the market and customer experience, build a road map for the organization
    • Within 2-3 years this was very effective because individuals could see their own goals being fulfilled; big cultural shift, became more team-based which then drove individual behavior in a more positive way

Centrality of Conflict

  • You will find misalignment through a conflict
  • New book: Elephant in the Board Room, available October 9
  • Leaders influence how conflict is managed; if they avoid it, then conflict is not dealt with
  • If leaders address conflict, it becomes an opportunity to improve team alignment and outcomes for the organization
  • Work of the leader is to address misalignment
  • Business as an art form – creative expression of human need and desire
  • Innate desire to compete with one another, which is a form of conflict – how we go about it makes all the difference (is it destructive or constructive?)
  • Contextualizing conflict is key; if leaders understand the context, they can then step up to address conflict when it arises
  • Individual and collective success is about how we manage conflict
  • Fundamental question: how do I fit into a group and what are the rules?
    • We rarely talk about these questions when a new person joins a group
  • Role when working with leaders is helping them understand how they influence conflict
  • Leaders often learn through trial and error, coaching can be really beneficial in being more proactive
  • Elephant in the Board Room in 3 Parts
    • Unique relationship between leaders and conflict: if people didn’t engage in conflict the way we do, we probably wouldn’t have a need for leadership
    • Self-knowledge: self-concept, own experiences and belief systems as an individual and how this relates to conflict
    • Model that leans into how intentional you are in your relationship to others and in effectively managing conflict
    • Book written for leaders broadly: self-knowledge applies quite generally
  • Chapter on Business Code: “At the heart of complexity lives simplicity”
    • Work culture today – how to find the simplicity?
    • Complexity of organizations distills down to simple ideas – what do we want for ourselves, how to create the space for this?
    • Important to take a breath and step back, find ways to get to those goals
    • Legacy of relationships is what we leave behind
    • We are more empowered when we create that simplicity, work smarter, focus on core priorities
    • Role of coaches is to help find those conflicts that really don’t need to be there

Part 3 – Parting Advice/Resources/Contact

 Words of Wisdom

  • What we’re asking people on teams in organizations to do is to self-discover, create self-knowledge about who they are and how they function with one another
  • Constantly strive for self-knowledge as a consultant or coach; from there you can discover what competencies and expertise will best serve you and how to best collaborate
  • Be truthful to yourself in a way that you can then expect others to do with you, either in a team context or with an individual

 Next Steps

  • Wants to take the alignment framework globally
  • Offering assessments and tools on a worldwide basis
  • New levels of work with ongoing clients, very fulfilling
  • Next book project: delving further in exploration of how humans influence one another, how we create threads of trust, and what our personal fulfillment is about; should allow leaders to get to another level while returning to simplicity
  • Contact: Website (edgarpapke.com), Twitter, LinkedIn, Direct email at edgar@edgarpapke.com

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