One of the things that I hear in my work with investment professionals is a complaint about a toxic culture in their firm. I detect in these complaints a vague sense that the firm’s culture is something that’s both unchangeable by them and external to them. Culture is viewed as an obstacle, something that they need to work around to fit in and get by. 

I think that these complaints are valid – too many investment firms do have toxic cultures. But I don’t think that resignation and passivity are the most constructive responses to the problem. 

You don’t need to hope for some new visionary CEO to be parachuted in with a shiny new culture. Such a “culture” probably has been mass-produced in the sweatshop of some big-name management consultancy. Transplanting a synthetic object into your firm is unlikely to work out well. The original state of passivity regarding the old culture will flip over to active rejection of the new, which will further embed the old. An expensive own-goal.

Instead, you can take the lead to organically improve your firm’s culture. You can do so now, whatever seat you occupy. Here’s why. You change a culture one relationship at a time, and you change a relationship one conversation at a time. 

Every single conversation you have in your organisation has an impact on the culture. Every conversation counts and compounds into relationships that are either dysfunctional or constructive. And those relationships combine either to entrench a toxic culture or to create a great culture. 

The quality of your conversations is vitally important. It’s something that’s absolutely within your sphere of influence. You might even say that your firm’s culture is your personal responsibility.


  • Which of your professional relationships is deficient in some way?
  • How is the quality of your conversation contributing to that deficiency?
  • What will you change? When will you do it?