Steve Simpson Profile

  • An internationally regarded expert on transforming workplace culture, Simpson’s results-driven insights and framework has been sought by hundreds of companies across five continents.

  • Simpson is the creator of UGRs - a practical toolset with a proven global track record for moving companies toward the improvements they want to see.

  • Recipient of the prestigious 2015 Australian Educator of the Year Award, Simpson is the author of Cracking the Corporate Code and the co-author of A Culture Turned: Using UGRs to Boost Performance and Culture.
  • CSP Steve Simpson knows firsthand the challenges of making changes to “the way we do things around here.” The internationally regarded corporate culture expert has been sought by companies on five continents to help management understand what’s really going on in their workplace and the steps they can take to effectively strengthen employee engagement and boost organizational performance.

    Simpson is the creator of UGRs – unwritten ground rules – the unofficial way things are done in the workplace that truly drive the company’s culture. Simpson crafted the concept based on years of working with numerous organizations particularly in customer service. Realizing that most of the official literature on shaping workplace culture was highly academic and impractical, he sought a framework for improving organizational culture that would actually get results.

    Simpson teamed up with South African employee engagement expert, Stef du Plessis, to further develop application of the UGR concept and write the book A Culture Turned: Using UGRs to Boost Performance and Culture. He is also the author of Cracking the Corporate Code: Unwritten Ground Rules.

    Today Simpson’s work has been used to successfully transform hundreds of companies. He is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Australian Educator of the Year Award, which to date has only been given to 10 people.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Based in Melbourne, Australia, Steve is an international speaker and culture change agent. He created the one-of-a-kind UGRs concept in the mid-90’s, initially focused on helping companies to understand that without a solid culture – built on UGRs – their efforts to improve service would, at best, be limited.

      Steve continues to travel the world, speaking at conferences and working with organizations to help them understand, and strategically improve, their culture. Besides already having achieved the highest accreditation in professional speaking almost a decade earlier, he earned the ultimate accolade for his ground-breaking work spanning five continents when Professional Speakers Australia bestowed on him its coveted ‘Educator of the Year Award’ in 2015.

      Steve’s global presence is demonstration of the demand for his insights: Steve has featured at two World Conferences on Customer Service Management in the US where he rated in the top 10 speakers. He has featured at the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP) Annual Conference in New Orleans, the Academy of Chief Executives Conference in London, the Annual Leaders Gathering in the UAE, the International Leadership Symposium in Johannesburg, the HDI Conference in Las Vegas and the European Conference on Customer Management in London. And this is only a select sample!

      As well as his conference presentations, Steve works in-house with clients, sometimes over extended periods. These include Kmart Australia and New Zealand, McLaren Automotive, Gold Fields South Africa, Toyota Australia, Next (UK) and Boost Juice (Australia).

      Steve has a Masters Degree from the University of Alberta (Canada). He is the author of two books including ‘UGRs: Creating a Culture of Service’, and the co-author of two more including ‘The Power of Culture’.


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    Steve Simpson's Speech Descriptions

    Most corporate initiatives to change culture center on mission statements and written company values. Most corporate initiatives to change culture fail, resulting in lost investments, both financially and timewise.

    CSP Steve Simpson helps your group uncover your unwritten ground rules (UGRs) – the unspoken behaviors and values that really shape your company’s culture. Simpson engages employees across all levels of your organization in how you can convert your company’s UGRs to support positive behaviors. His passion, experience, and grounded sense of reality will resonate with multiple corporate audiences and move management in a fruitful direction towards measurable changes and improvements.

    Leaders now realise that their culture is a foundation stone upon which everything sits. If there is a resistance to change, culture is at play. If there are issues in terms of how internal functions work with one another, again, culture plays a big part. And if the customers’ experiences are talked about but not really committed to, the culture is at fault.

    Steve Simpson has developed a concept called UGRs – unwritten ground rules – that breaks new ground in terms of helping leaders both understand and strategically improve workplace culture. This presentation, sought by companies across the planet, is tailored for the organisation’s context and is guaranteed to entertain, inspire and educate.

    One of the great myths to do with improving customer service or crafting a great customer experience is that this is achieved by upskilling staff. In other words, if people are suitably skilled, they’ll deliver a great customer experience.

    Steve Simpson argues this thinking is wrong – as it overlooks the importance of workplace culture.

    Steve suggests we ought consider a typical scenario, where staff are sent along to ‘customer service training for a day or two. These employees return to work fully energised and with a new ‘kit bag’ of customer service tactics and strategies. And two weeks later, everything has returned to how it was prior to the training. Why? The culture!

    This presentation sheds light on what teams can do to acquire a genuine culture of service and to lock that in as a point of differentiation.

    One of the problems in industries where safety is an issue relates to sustaining people’s focus on being safe.

    In this presentation by Steve, he shows how despite the best intended safety training initiatives, the culture of the company counts most. Unless the culture is right, safety is compromised.

    If you want a completely new angle on safety, and practical tips on what can be done to garner ownership and lock-in a safety culture, then this is a presentation you need to hear.

    The concept of unwritten ground rule (UGRs) has enormous application in organisations where safety is an issue – yet remarkably has been focused on by very few organisations.

    Steve Simpson recently conducted some research which included the following question:

    If the culture of your workplace was to become as good as it realistically could, how much improvement would there be on people’s performance/productivity?

    The results? Over 90% of senior leaders said 20% or more improvement. Six out of 10 middle managers said 50% or more!

    The results point to many leaders abrogating their responsibility. With such massive capacity for improvement resting at leaders’ feet – the culture of the workplace – Steve argues that focusing on culture is a central and fundamental role of leaders. In this presentation, Steve shows what leaders can do and the potential results…

    How many of us have heard someone say something like “hold your breath for long enough and the moves for change will fade away”? People verbalising this are actually articulating an unwritten ground rule (UGR) associated with change.

    In essence, what people are saying here is that there have been attempts in the past to implement change, but little eventuated. So people’s recollection of events from the past creates UGRs that lock-in, and will make change more difficult into the future.

    It’s in this context that Steve creates a new angle on change management in his presentation. Often people pay lip service to the idea that the culture must be right for change to occur. They pay lip service to this because they are unsure about how to change the prevailing culture.

    That’s where Steve helps create clarity. He introduce the UGRs concept, shows how UGRs prevent change, and gives practical guidance on what leaders can do shift the UGRs, and the culture to be more receptive to change.

    This angle is guaranteed to be new and different!

    What People are Saying about Seeing Steve Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Just when you thought every leadership concept had been identified in the management world! The management of UGRs and organisational culture is THE leadership imperative of this era.”

    – Shane Fracchia CEO, Holy Spirit Home

    “After sitting through hours of dry information fed to us by PowerPoint presentations and pie charts, it was a breath of fresh air when the guest speaker, Steve Simpson, bounded to the podium with an energy that had the whole room responding to him.”

    – Deanne Howard, Cadden Crowe

    “I can only pen the too often used phrase that a light was turned on after hearing your presentation – which was fantastic both in content and delivery from yourself.”

    – Steve Murakami, Bullivants NT

    “To say that I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation on Friday is and understatement. How wonderful to put a name to Corporate Culture with UGRs. I am sure that everyone who had the pleasure of listening to your very captivating and inspiring presentation will put their business to the UGRs test to see how they rate and make some changes to their organisational culture if necessary.”

    – Fay Miller MLA, Member for Katherine

    “I speak for myself and my colleagues, who also attended the Institute of Customer Service Conference, when I say that your presentation was indeed one of the best. A cracking presentation: engaging, insightful, inspirational, thought-provoking.”

    – Carmen Lester, CIBA Vision UK

    “Steve Simpson’s contribution to the Institute of Customer Service Conference was first-class: a stimulating, persuasive, convincing and valuably provocative overview of the unwritten ground rules which actually underpin the reality of corporate life.”

    – Dr. Ted Johns, Chairman, Institute of Customer Service

    “I do not hesitate to state that your presentation was the best out of the 9 I had the opportunity to listen to at this year’s CIPD conference. The passion with which you communicated your material was contagious indeed so much so that whenever you asked for feedback from the audience.”

    – Michael Mifsud, Ltd, Malta

    “We had Steve speak on cultural change in London and he went down an absolute storm. People LOVED him and I very much enjoyed working with him…he was very professional, conscientious and amiable. His ‘thing’”

    – Anita Cox, Conference Developer CPID, UK

    “Steve Simpson is one of those rare presenters who is able to convey a powerful message simply. In an engaging and entertaining presentation, he was able to clearly explain the importance of ‘Unwritten Ground Rules’”

    – Karen Foster, Director, O2 Media

    “How refreshing to have a conference presentation that was not only engaging and entertaining but which provided immediate, tangible actions that can be applied in any organisation including at Board level to address issues of culture and hidden behaviours.”

    – Frank O’Connor, Director, Various NFP Boards

    “Steve is a breath of fresh air as a presenter. He captivated and engaged the whole group at the recent Victorian Health Association Governance Conference in Melbourne. His approach to talking about and approaching the unwritten ground rules (UGRs) in organisations was both refreshing and genuine.”

    – Veronica Jamison, Chief Executive Officer, Bass Coast Health

    “You are a legend. Like a fine wine you are getting better with age though I did not think that was possible. You know I have now heard your UGRs presentation on a number of occasions but I never walk away without feeling more invigorated and determined to make sure I do better within my team and organisation.”

    – Vince Aisthorpe, Chairman, Queensland Supply Chain and Logistics Conference

    “Thank you for an inspiring and informative session both on Thursday and Friday. You presented in a manner that was humorous while still getting your message across to delegates. That is difficult to achieve with an audience that attends 3-4 big conferences a year and are used to seeing great speakers in action.”

    – Viola Jacobs, Local Government Managers Australia (WA)

    “At this year’s HDI Conference in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to attend Steve Simpson’s presentation on UGRs. His presentation was a highlight of the conference. Steve’s sense of humour, credibility, and subject matter gave me pages of notes to use in my own consulting and training.”

    – Jeff Selby, Kuni BMW-Cadillac-Saab, Oregon USA

    “Listening to Steve and observing the audience interaction at the recent Australian Institute of Banking and Finance breakfast in Melbourne was truly inspiring. It comes as no surprise that Steve is highly sought around the globe as a speaker.”

    – Ross Holcombe, Global Foreign Exchange, ANZ Investment Bank

    “What an inspiration! I am already preparing a presentation for my Management Team to introduce them to some of your ideas with serious revolution in mind.”

    – Cathy Carr, Draeger Safety Pacific

    “I had the great pleasure of attending one of Steve’s presentations at the European Customer Management Conference in London – I am so pleased that I chose his session. The UGRs concept has given me the key I have been searching for.”

    – Karen E Berry, Halifax Bank of Scotland

    “I’ve seen a lot of presenters at a lot of conferences – but few with the skills, the humour and the engaging cheek of Steve Simpson.”

    – Phillip Adams, AO, Broadcaster, writer and film-maker

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    Books by Steve Simpson:

    A Culture Turned

    To the outside world, Australia-based Very Important Corporation is a thriving and successful company. What the world doesn’t know is that Bruce Bottomline, the COO, is on the brink of quitting because he knows in his heart that the company’s culture is driving it headlong toward its own demise.

    Bruce is a cofounder of this company with long-time friend and CEO Helen Hardcharger, so he doesn’t want to abandon their dream. But he can’t see any way to fix the problem.

    Fortunately for Bruce and all of his partners and employees, fate has planned a chance meeting on an airplane between him and Sam Sherlock. Sam introduces Bruce to the concept of UGRs, or Unwritten Ground Rules. It turns out that at the Very Important Corporation, complaining in meetings is pointless because no one tackles the issues. And employees only get visits from their boss if something is wrong. Unwritten Ground Rules like these need a serious overhaul. This is the vehicle for change, and Bruce comes away recharged and prepared to put the company’s corporate culture back on a track.

    Learn from Bruce’s mistakes and triumphs how you, too, can address your company’s UGRs and revitalize its culture

    Cracking the Corporate Culture Code: Unwritten Ground Rules : Strategies to Create a Culture of Service

    Why is customer satisfaction on the decline worldwide? Why are so many so called ‘customer centric’ strategies failing to make an impact? Why are organizational cultures so intransigent? These are just some of the questions that have lead ground breaking author Steve Simpson to write this book. In compelling style, Steve contends that many organizations have got it wrong in their approaches to service improvement. He argues the case for organizations to centre-in on the key determinant of business performance – their culture. What truly sets this book apart is its introduction of a potent yet simple concept, termed ‘UGRs’. You are taken on a journey that demonstrates the power of UGRs to dictate corporate performance, and most importantly you are guided through a range of strategies that will enable you to unleash a service revolution.


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