Sales Tax Institute Book Club: Contagious Culture by Anese Cavanaugh

This month, the Sales Tax Institute read Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives (McGraw-Hill, 2015) which covers how to “shape and revitalize your culture — by setting the tone, engaging the team, and creating a dynamic working environment that encourages extraordinary growth, productivity, and innovation.” The team was lucky enough to not only read Contagious Culture, but to also receive training from the author, Anese Cavanaugh. As many of you know, our staff works remotely. So, coming together to physically take part in this culture training was an experience that elevated our work as a team and our individual productivity.

Here are the highlights of what we learned…


Part 1: The Self

Master Self Care Before All Else

It’s important to remember and consider all the elements that go into how you feel throughout the day. Elements as basic as what you’re eating, how much water you’re drinking, whether or not you’re sleeping enough, and how much physical activity you’re getting can transform your experience at work. Even breathing and posture can make a huge difference in how good and present we feel. In fact, in working with Anese in person, one of the things she had us check in throughout the day was the quality of our breathing and how we were sitting. Just bringing attention to this had a way of bringing us back to presence and shifting our energy.

Give Yourself Agency Over Your Own Experiences

It’s easy to get caught up feeling like everything is happening to you, and you are not in control of your experiences. But you do have control over what you get out of situations. By reminding yourself that you have agency in any given situation, you’ll have a more positive experience. If you consciously make the choice about what the purposes of your interactions are, they will feel more successful. For example, if you go into a review meeting with your supervisor, go into it knowing you’ll get feedback that will help you grow as an employee. You’ll go in with an open mind to receiving information that will benefit you. You are the leader of your life, and how you decide to lead your life has a direct impact on what the outcomes are.


Part 2: The Team

See How Your Energy Affects Others at Work

Your attitudes and energy levels are contagious. You can “infect” other people at work with the attitude or energy level you bring to an interaction, hence the name of the book: Contagious Culture. The way you show up at work can come across through your personality, attitude, body language and behavior. (So much so that Anese wrote another book, Contagious You in 2019 to more fully address the contagious nature of our leadership, “Afterall,” as she says, “A contagious culture is simply a bunch of contagious you’s working together.”  

Anese offers, “We are always having an impact on our lives, each other, and our own internal experience — with awareness and intention we can be more the cause of that impact (vs at the effect of things happening to us). It’s worth spending some time to be intentional about ‘how am I showing up?’ ‘Am I creating the impact and experience I want to have?’ And ‘is the energy, and contagiousness of that energy, helping things go better or worse here? Am I creating the culture I want?’” She also says that 70% of this work is in awareness, the other 30% is in what we do with it. Which puts us in a position of choice! 

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Often, feedback stops after giving context and explaining what was noticed (positive or constructive). To make feedback the most effective, there are steps to follow. Contagious Culture uses the COINS model for giving feedback. (C)ontext; give an objective overview of the situation at hand. (O)bservation; describe the behavior you’re providing feedback about. (I)mpact; what significance does this have? (N)ext; after giving the feedback, provide a request for how things could be better. (S)tay; be willing to stick around after the feedback is given to continue the coaching conversation. Staying gives the feedback receiver the impression that the giver is willing to help them improve and cares about their wellbeing. This feedback model allows for deeper, more constructive conversations that will be more productive and satisfying for both the feedback giver and receiver.


Part 3: Our Team

Steps We Are Taking

Every member of our team has taken away something different from our training and reading Contagious Culture in terms of self-care. As a team, we took time to reflect on our core purpose, our core values, and how we could change our processes to prioritize them.

Our new and improved core purpose is…

“We demystify the complexities of sales tax to empower individuals and companies to understand and manage their risk and responsibilities.

We educate, consult, and advocate, elevating the profile of sales tax.

We are committed to social justice and equity, respecting the differences and similarities of all.”

Our core values can be found here ->

Building on this, we redefined our expectations for one another as a team. We came up with 14 team agreements. For example, we laid out how to handle emotional support, task ownership, and meeting agenda expectations. Just a few weeks in, we are seeing tremendous progress in the way we work as a team and the way we feel at work.

Steps You Can Take for Your Team

There’s never a wrong time to initiate culture training with your team. We’ve included links to resources to get you started below. 

If you are interested in reading Contagious Culture and/or setting your team up with this culture training, go to Anese’s website to learn more. She has many ways to access the content including core training in the IEP Method® (her methodology to creating healthy leadership and cultural impact) as well as bespoke solutions for your team and organization’s unique needs. Here’s an overview of four useful tools that your team can adopt:

  • Intentional Energetic Presence® (IEP): The IEP Method  helps you show up effectively, authentically, and impressively at work. Get introduced to IEP here ->
  • IEP Energy Check: Check in with your Physical, Mental, and Vibrational energies. Rate 1-10 where you are. Be aware of where you stand and how that might affect the energy of those around you.
  • The IEP Presence Reboot: Follow these steps: 1) notice/check-in, 2) intend your presence, 3) breathe and do what you need to do to take care of yourself, 4) step in/reboot, 5) repeat!
  • “Bubble Up”: This consists of “activating the super power of energetic space. If you imagine you have a bubble around you — with the energy and emotion inside the bubble being all yours and everything outside the bubble being everyone else’s, this can give you space to decide HOW you want to be with that person, and WHAT you want to take on or not.” (How to Protect Yourself Against Second-Hand Stress)

While we can write about this and share our experience, we really hope you’ll experiment with these tools and principles for yourself as we’ve found them to be incredibly helpful individually and as a team. We recommend you download more tools and exercises from Anese’s site here. Simply subscribe and you will receive immediately applicable tools to support your leadership!

Next, the Sales Tax Institute will read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. We’d love to have you join us in our next reading assignment. We encourage you to support your independent local bookstores. Our neighborhood bookstore is Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in historic Printer’s Row Chicago. Join us and support your own favorite local store!

Posted on September 28, 2021