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Company culture is now acknowledged as one of the most important aspects to running your business. In every workplace it varies by it's people and values. But how do we determine the worth of your company culture? By the success of your business operations!
Recently our CEO Stacy Jones, sat down with an expert in the field to discuss how to improve your company culture and ultimately change the productivity and lives of the people within it. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines the importance of building culture in your company from the expertise of Choose People's Kris Boesch.
Kris Boesch is the CEO and Founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness, and boosts the bottom line. Kris and her team have researched and tested across a variety of workplaces, key concepts and tangible tools to build an extraordinary workplace culture that not only puts smiles on faces, but brings joy to a business' bottom line.
Kris is also the author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace, and has been featured as a workplace culture expert in Inc, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, and was recently named one of the top 100 leadership speakers of 2018 in Inc. Recently, Kris sat down to chat with our CEO, Stacy Jones to talk about how to create a culture that drives a powerful employment brand.
Question: Can you start off by giving us a little bit of a background on how you got to where you are today?
Answer: I opened the doors to Choose People in 2010, so I've been doing this work for nine years now. I used to run a moving company and when I first came into that moving company, it was a mess. We also were struggling to cover payroll, that's one thing that's mission critical to culture, but this is back in 2002-2003, before culture was even in the business vernacular.
So, here I was taking over executive leadership of this company and being like, "Okay, I don't have time, I don't have money and we've got to get this figured out." Between books and mentors and that sort of thing, you know how sometimes the heavens open and shine down and give you a clue?
That's what happened for me and I thought, "Okay, if my people feel good about coming to work, they'll take good care of my customers who in turn will take care of the financial health of the organization." I focused on what I called the employee experience at the time. If they feel good about coming to work, and it was this emotional health piece, and I worked that and I worked that and I worked that. Because I was like, "My guys are the ones taking the piano up the switchback staircase, not me. They are the face of my company."
Question: Do you think there are still any companies out there who think that their employees should just be happy because they're getting a paycheck?
Answer: Yes. Unfortunately there is still, you'd be surprised. You would think, "how's that possible?" It's a lot less common than what it used to be, but there is, and I have this conversation, because I do have CEOs and business owners who are like, "Kris, it's not my job to make people happy." I'd say, "You're absolutely right, because you actually can't make anyone happy."
However, culture is literally the air your team breathes while running your marathon, right? It's the context, the energy force field when they walk into your organization, and is it one that literally sucks the energy out of them or fills them up? Is it like Disney, the magic kingdom, or is it like the DMV? There's just a piece of like what's the energy force field there? Because you are responsible for creating an empowering context within which people can be happy.
You're crazy not to, because the financial return on investment is enormous, and then I also speak to the emotional return on investment.
Question: How do people start making that company culture fantastic?
Answer: There's a lot of pieces that go into just having foundational, pretty healthy culture. One of the things, and I would actually invite your listeners to think about this question, so on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy or unhappy do you think your team is? So, grab that number for yourself in your head, and then also I would ask you on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy or unhappy are you in your organization? Here's what's interesting is that when I ask that question, because I speak at a lot of national conferences and when I ask that question of audiences, usually about 80% of the audience will say seven.
Specifically their team. Usually their number is one or two off from their team, either higher or lower. What's interesting about seven is seven usually means either, "I don't know," like, "Good question, hadn't thought about it" or, "We're good, no one's going to go postal" which I'm always like, "High five, way to make that happen."That's still a real thing, and they'd say, "It would be a stretch to say our people genuinely enjoy working here, and that we have a really, really extraordinary workplace culture." Again, you get about five percent that say eight, nine or ten. Five percent who go less than seven, and then you've got the ten percent who are trying to see what everyone else says, right?
There are some different culture challenges that are pretty common, right? Whether it's apathy, gossip, silos, entitlement, drama, that exist and the world of culture, if you're a seven, and you're like, "But Kris, we really are inspirational, we genuinely do want to have an extraordinary workplace culture," the secret ingredient to the secret sauce, so if culture is the secret sauce, the secret ingredient really is emotional intimacy. I've had people say to me, "Kris, I can't go to my HR person and be like, 'We need emotional intimacy.'" They'll be like, "Are you serious? Are you not aware of that movement that we just had, that everyone's up in arms in? Come on now."
I'll say the other language you can use is camaraderie, right? Or team cohesion is another way to think about it, and the way you create that within an organization, everything that I teach, share, train, speak on, consult on, really falls under these three pillars that are how you actually create emotional intimacy within a workplace culture. That is where your people feel like they're known, so you know me as an individual, you care about me as a person, that I matter, that my contribution matters, that if I go above and beyond it matters, and also if I slack, it matters.
And then finally included, where I feel a sense of belonging, there's shared identity, there's inter-dependency awareness. Those are the three keys to how you create that level of emotional intimacy that takes you from that, "Meh, it's okay, it's fine, it's good. If someone asks me if I wanted to work down the street, I would definitely consider it" as compared to "Are you kidding? These are my people, this is my community, I'm loved here, I contribute here, I make a difference here, I'm honored here, I'm valued here," all those things. Really having your people feel like they're known, they matter, and they're included.
This is something I speak on and so I'll give you guys some real tangible ways that you can create both how to create a sense where people feel known, where they matter, and where they're included. So, on the known side, one of the things, and again, I don't know how many of the folks that are your audience and listening are leading and managing teams, because a lot of what I'm going to recommend is for those who are leading and manage teams. And then, if you also want me to speak to the employment brand piece, I'm happy to do that as well.
Just to give you a real quick, tangible idea, there are two things I'll share with you around the known, right? In order to know someone, you actually have to take time and be present with them and be with them in a way where they feel seen and heard. One of the things that is painfully present in our society today is what I would call "time poverty."
A lot of people are in this experience where they're overwhelmed, they're too busy, there's not enough hours in the day, "I have a zillion things to do," right? They're just in the thick of like, "I can't possibly." Someone comes to your desk to say hi, and you're like, "Oh, my gosh, could you please go away? I have so much to get done." Not because you don't care about that person, not because you're mean, but you're just in this experience of, "I have so much to make happen."
The experience can be that you're drowning, and so one of the things that I work with teams around is I'm like, "Okay, in this social epidemic that is also socially accepted, people actually kvetch and bond over how little time they have," which I think is a riot. This is an alligator that I wrestled for years and years, in which sometimes I felt like I had a handle on my schedule and what I needed to get done, and sometimes I didn't, and it would go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.
And one day again, was really appreciative when I got a clue, and I just really got it. I was like, "Wow, I actually am not a victim of time." We all have 24 hours in a day, we all have seven days a week, it's literally the one grand equalizer, and within that, I get to choose how I'm going to budget my time, how I'm going to spend my time, and rather than really thinking about, "Oh, I have to manage my time," it's like, "Well, what are my priorities?" I'm managing my priorities, and the whole thing around I always like to ask folks, "How many of you are time optimists? Who's my time optimists here?"
Those are the folks that say "I set aside an hour" and four hours in I'll think, "No. Please." Or my productive procrastinators, those of you who get to the end of the day and you're like, "I got so much done except for the very thing that I wanted to get done." You also have, I always like to speak to Lucille Ball and Ethel M Chocolate Factory, and we all remember the chocolates on the conveyor belt and it gets faster and faster and they start shoving the chocolates in their mouth and in their hat.
At some point you had to stop the conveyor belt, you have to stop the machinery, and you have to fix the process. There's something to look at on the process side of things. There's just a piece there where you cannot get to know your people if you can't be present to them. If you can't make eye contact in a way where, and we all know it. We all know when we have an experience that someone is listening to us, there's no one else in the world, there's nothing else they'd rather be doing, and literally it could just be two minutes, but with all of the distractions that we choose to allow into our world, it's so rare that when you do have that experience with someone, it's a game changer.
Question: Are there other things like that that you've seen work really well, that other companies could try to put in, that would help culture along without having that half a day team building, go do the ropes course and see who can climb the best?
Answer: One thing I want to share within that, within the acknowledgement that sometimes I think we forget is incredibly powerful, is to have is peer recognition, right? There's also your manager recognizing you, but then there's something about if you have, and again, it depends on how your organization is set up, but let's say you're in sales and you do a really great sale, right? You get a new client that everyone's super excited about, and you have someone from the warehouse or someone from accounting that says, "Hey, I heard you made that sale. Way to go, high five."
There's something really powerful when someone outside of your team reaches out and acknowledges you. I would say if you're a manager, one of the most powerful things you can do is tell another manager to recognize someone on your team. It's like passing on the praise, because it is, like there's an experience of, "Wow, I have a reputation. I'm getting known beyond just my little team and be appreciated for this," right?
I do want to make sure I speak to this, because again, whether it's rose, bud, thorn, or temperature check, or this acknowledgement piece, these are all tools that you can take on, and even the mindset shift around time poverty, and I really do want to say if you're like, "Kris, we're a seven for a reason and we're not going to pop up to an eight because" something that happened in the past, or because we have someone on our team that's incredibly toxic that no one's dealing with, or because gossip is rampant, or because there's a huge divide between the leadership team and the staff, or because There's so many different possibilities.
There's so many potential "reasons" and there is a piece there where, and again, I realize your audience are these brand managers, but you still can be the catalyst for this conversation. Anyone in the organization can be, it does take some courage, but there has to be an owning and a speaking to what's in the space that's not working, such that can be addressed. One of the things that happens unfortunately in organizations, is there are a lot of what I call "unkind niceness," where people put on their professional mask and they're very polite, and they're very nice, and they pretend, and they don't say the thing that everyone can see, that is causing, maybe it's causing turnover, maybe it is at the source of the gossip or the drama.
It's one of those things where within an organization, you have to whether it's an event that happened in the past that no one's gotten over, and you're like, "Man, people should just get over it." Well, there's a reason why people aren't getting over it, right? There was an impact that no one's acknowledged on how it impacted people.
You can't build a healthy culture on challenges that are in the space. I just want to acknowledge if there's stuff, if there's things that are toxic, any of the recommendations that Stacy and I just shared, if you were to just go in and pretend, "Oh, we're going to do rose, bud, thorn, now we're going to have a great culture" they would be like, "Sit on it." It wouldn't apply.
Question: When you're working on culture, obviously things start at the top, then down, but is it the CEO or the COO? Where is it that it needs to come in, where it's still strong enough? Does it have to be the head of the company, or the top, top top? Or, can it be fleshed out more middling ground?
Answer: There's two ways to think about it, and part of it does depend on the size of your organization. I will tell you to have an organization that has an extraordinary workplace culture, you have to have executive leadership. You have to have the CEO bought in. Actually, one of the things that I do to qualify the clients that I'll work with, I've had COOs come to me, I've had HR executives come to me, and I say, "That's great, and I have to talk with your CEO. I will not work with you all until I know that he or she is bought in, because I'm going to let them know, 'Hey, we're about to look under the hood, and there might be a mirror, and I've got your back, and I'm going to stand for your success and all that'" but I have to know that they're willing to go there, that they have to be vulnerable in that way, because they do have so much influence on the team.
Now, if you're a brand manager, like many of you are, and you're like, "Well Kris, I'm in corporate and the CEO's in a whole other state. I've never even met him or her. It's a whole other world over there," then there's this piece where there is the mothership culture. For example, I'm working with a college within a university right now, and the university has a culture, but then so does this college. I always say, "You can be responsible for your cul-de-sac in the neighborhood," right? "You can still be really clear, what are the operating principles that we're working by? What are we a stand for? What are we a stand against? What are we committed to creating in our workplace experience within our cul-de-sac?"
Now, granted there are the rules of the neighborhood, whatever that looks like, if you will, but you can still take ownership and responsibility and personal responsibility for how are you going to create your own cul-de-sac, if you will?
I don't want to pretend that what the mothership does doesn't matter, because it does. It does restrict you, or it can empower you, depending, but that's still not a reason I've seen where people will, if you will, take victimhood and be like, "Oh, well because corporate and corporate and corporate and corporate and headquarters, and da, da, da" and it's like yes, and got it, there's certain things you don't have control over. There's certain policies. There's even government regulations you have to work within that you might think are silly or don't make sense.
There is something around, if I choose to drive, if I choose to be employed by this company, then I am signing up that I will stay on my side of the road and I will follow the speed limit and all the things. There are some of those things that are in play, however, the music I play in my car, you still always have choices in your personal experience and what you're going to create for yourself and for your coworkers and for your team. Is that helpful? Does that answer that?
I think so. That's helpful. Where do people take culture shifts? They have, I'm sure, great intentions, and it just goes wrong. How can you mess it up when you're trying to positively impact your culture?
Want to hear the rest of the interview to learn more from Kris' insights? Listen to it on our podcast!
Want to access more information on how brand marketers can strengthen company culture? Check out some other blog posts our team has written on other key strategies to directly impact your business today.
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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews, HB Podcast