“That’s not the way we do things around here!” We have all heard that (or maybe you have said that!) sitting around the table, whether it is a new boardroom or team table, community table, or dining room table. Groans, whether audible or inner, follow. How do we leverage legacy while innovating? Who adjusts to who and how much? That is both a critical intercultural question as well as key to success for mergers and acquisitions, newly formed teams, our organizations, communities and families undergoing continual change. “Like a chess game,” says one of my leadership coaching clients. Failure rate is high when we do not get this right.

When a new leader steps in without honoring and leveraging the legacy of past contributors they lose out! Mergers and acquisitions’ 50-85% failure rate points to this. The throwing away and/or squandering, destroying people, talent, and resources breaks my heart.  How will you honor and leverage legacy while innovating, which is crucial for success?

“In a healthy system everyone who has contributed is acknowledged and the history of the system is spoken about,” John Whittington, System Coaching & Constellations, p.11.

A question in intercultural work that applies to mergers and acquisitions, combining of departments, new leadership, teams is always: how much does who adapt to who? My coaching of leaders living in and/or working with other cultures includes looking at how much do they adapt to other cultures, and how to do that without losing themselves? (staying true to themselves, their values, making full use of their abilities and gifts, innovating)

That’s the biggest fear that begs to be considered when new leadership steps in-how do I adjust to this new culture, both as a leader and as followers, without losing that important part of me, what I value, my vision, while building on past successes and innovating? It is a dance that calls for high emotional and cultural intelligence, being aware of how and where to flex and what is non-negotiable.

In healthy systems everyone is valued for their contribution, with inclusive communication.

I give three examples of cultures and nations that do honor and leverage their legacy of past contributors as well as a leader I am coaching. I invite you to write your examples in the comments.

A leader I am coaching has learned how to leverage the legacy of respect while shifting to a less hierarchical male dominated system where she encourages all to speak up and take responsibility with clear expectations, resulting in greater innovation and success. This frees her up to more of a catalyst and visionary leader with her team.

For a cultural, national, example, the Maori culture being honored, integrated and leveraged in New Zealand goes beyond the Haka (one of the examples of powerful rituals I write about in another blog), including its language becoming an official NZ language, seven seats reserved for Maori in Parliament (leveraging historical contributors requires “a seat of the table”), and some compensation for land seized during colonization. New Zealand demonstrates their success with leveraging legacy while innovating in government.


Aboriginal artist, art teacher and guide Lauretta Coleman at South Australia‘s Warraparinga Kaurna Cultural Centre (photo at top of page, with permission) shared her tribe’s practices that continue today and contribute to leveraging legacy with innovation. One of the Centre’s goals is “Conciliation is a process which involves Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people walking together for the first time as genuinely equal partners in a shared future.” Another photo is of the Aboriginal flag.

imageFinally, in Tokyo I stumbled upon a photo exhibit of the tsunami devastation and recovery from the Iware Prefecture, with this paragraph next to one of the photos, “We lost our equipments and our mates. Our loss was huge. However, we want to pass on our tradition. The culture, spirit and festival that had been passed on in this place for long time. This is something that will be passed on as long as we are here.” I was very moved by this community honoring and leveraging legacy to sustain its innovative rebuilding.

How will you honor and leverage legacy while innovating (with CQ), which is crucial for success? I look forward to hearing from you and how I can best support you and your team as your coach!

Leaders and coaches, apply for your Unlock Potential CQ Strategy Session for greater success as you leverage legacy with innovation and CQ.

Stay tuned until next week for another Weekly Wisdom.

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MSW, MCC, LLC; CQ Master Certified Coach, International Coach Federation https://marilynoh.com/

Unlocking potential, prosperity and peace for leaders, coaches and their organizations through Leadership & Team Coaching, Mentor Coaching and Coaching Supervision

Updated blog from October 2, 2014