Andrea Herron 00:02
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea Herron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach. In part one of my conversation with Brad Fetterman, we dive into everything corporate culture, Brad will share an example about a company that turned their profits around with a culture shift. You’ll learn why culture and business strategy are connected, and why culture is really about accepting behaviors. Welcome back to another episode of the HR scoop. Today, our guest is bread Fetterman. Bread, sees his job is helping organizations discover and live their possible. This mission has followed him throughout his career as an international author, speaker, coach and consultant with over 25 years of corporate experience. He’s also the founder and CEO of performance point. And we were so thrilled to have you here today. Welcome, Brad.
Brad Federman 01:26
Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Andrea Herron 01:28
Yeah, it’s quite a list of accomplishments. But I know that you are very active and you care a lot about the work that you do. So I can’t wait to kind of dig into it for our audience here. Great. So let’s just jump right in. And I know you do a lot of work with culture. And I really think that so many companies are struggling with what culture even means, at this point, given the last couple of years of uncertainty and change. But in terms of culture, and where do you think leaders are making some common mistakes? Or what are some things we could avoid when we’re trying to build or maybe rebuild our culture?
Brad Federman 02:07
Sure. So I think the first thing is that set it and forget it mentality. That’s problematic here. And the reality is culture is a living, breathing thing. It needs to be continuously cared for and recreated if you want to maintain and preserve it. And I think we have this tendency to proclamation proclamation, right, this is our culture. And then we move on to business. And there, there’s a separation between the two. So I think that’s a big one that the second one is, you know, that we copy other people’s culture. So there’s like a little fad thing that goes on, Oh, they got this really cool thing happening, can we do what they’re doing. And ironically, the company that’s doing well with their culture that has defined it, put some painstaking time into it, it represents who they are, it represents where they want their business to go, their strategy, everything. And so it works for them. And if you pick it up, and you bring it over to your organization, change a couple of words, it doesn’t really mean much. And in many cases, it doesn’t help you. And in some cases, it could hurt your organization. I think that’s a second big mistake that you see leaders make. And then the last thing I would say is, leaders get caught up in the fact that tasks and business trumps everything else.
So one of the really interesting things that happened during COVID was when we had to pivot and go home and work remotely. All of a sudden, people paid much more attention to their people and their culture. And they did this great job in the very beginning. And when he got comfortable, and we had supply chain issues and all kinds of things, leader started to forget about all that stuff. And they put their they put their head down, they just did they did the grind. And it all became about what are the what has to get done. And I can’t tell you how many companies that we work with where we had to come back and say, Look, you’re losing trust with your people. They don’t know whether you care about them or not. They don’t know whether you’re committed to things like safety, other things that you said you were committed to before and they believed there. They’re doubting it now. And we find every time it’s because leaders are not visible. They’re not having those conversations. Culture takes a backseat. It’s all about putting out fires and problem solving. And so I think people forget how important culture is culture drives your business, and it will, it will drive your business even more of the future than it does today.
Andrea Herron 04:39
I agree with you and I do think that sometimes we kid ourselves into a cool slogan or a pizza Friday or you can wear jeans the office now is going to make your culture. I can’t tell you how many times we have built in rolled out and created some amazing program that actually would better that people get they can’t commit to it or they don’t commit to it because they can’t walk away from the day to day fire to actually work on their own growth and development inside the company, which also is part of culture.
Brad Federman 05:13
Yeah, yeah. I mean, when you think about it culture is I defined culture this way. It is about the behaviors you’re willing to accept, rather than rather than the ones you’re willing to espouse. And when I say that, it isn’t about all behaviors, it’s about the worst behavior you’re willing to accept. So let me put it this way, if you act great, 361 days of the year, but for the days, you’re having tantrums, you berate employees, whatever the case may be that those four days define your culture, not the 361, where you behave well. It’s when you’re tested, when you’re challenged. That’s what defines your culture, when you have 10 salespeople, and one of the brings in 10 million, while the other ones bring in two, and you’re willing to let the person who brings a 10 million, do whatever they want, that becomes your culture. And so we have to start thinking about it from the standpoint that it’s not about what we do most of the time. It’s about what we’re willing to accept, while we’re challenged, that defies our culture.
Andrea Herron 06:18
It really does. And as you say that it it makes me think of, you know, let’s take those four days as an example. You know, people are essentially bracing themselves on eggshells waiting for that day to come, because it always does. So, but the person has to be self aware enough to know that and then really want to change it. So I’m curious, you know, if there are some common characteristics among leaders who excel at building culture, or especially for some of our, you know, HR audience, if there are some characteristics that we could help leaders develop to avoid the dreaded four day conundrum?
Brad Federman 06:59
Well, a couple of things. One is proximity breeds understanding. And so we have to be close or proximal to our people. Now, when I mean, when I say that, I don’t mean standing close to them, I mean, understanding them. And so I think that one of the best characteristics of a great leader that builds a strong culture is somebody that creates dialog, open to a dialogue that is so powerful, to be able to get people to talk and share and communicate. And the only way you can do that is you have to reduce fear in the workplace, you have to create a safe environment for people to to be willing to talk through that. And I think that is probably the biggest, the biggest one creating an open dialog being predictable in your behavior. And, and being curious about your
Andrea Herron 07:50
people. Yes. And again, you know, I think something that’s often overlooked is the component of self work, which is such an interesting thing to bring into kind of the workplace leadership conversation, but I really think it’s a missing component. Because if you’re not willing to reflect on your personal characteristics, and how you show up as a leader, and instead operate on pilot or auto mode, you’re not going to realize the actual impact regardless of your intention. And so there’s some self work there. But that is really tricky to try and bring to someone and have them care about if there’s not some type of performance ultimatum or, you know, working coaching session if they’re open to that.
Brad Federman 08:34
Sure. No, absolutely. I think you’re 100%. Correct. We talked about it in terms of self awareness. And when we say self awareness, we’re not talking about you just being aware of yourself. But how you impact others, as you just described, it doesn’t matter what your intention is, it matters what your impact is. And then once you know how you’re impacting others, are you willing to do the work to align yourself with them? Meaning, if they see x as a strength? Well, let’s use that more if they see y as a weakness, or a challenge or a problem? Are you willing to shore it up? Fix it, minimize it, get help for it? And so we talked about alignment as a strategy. Right? And how do we align with our people? That it’s so it’s so important, and I and you mentioned ultimatum? Wow. You know, I think, kind of share with you a story that demonstrates how important and strong culture is,
Andrea Herron 09:30
please do Okay,
Brad Federman 09:31
so I was working with a with a technology firm, and I was asked to come in and do an engagement survey. And I have to say the engagement survey came back with some of the worst scores I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, scores that you couldn’t even believe you’re looking at it saying No way. And by every comment was usually an executives name with a curse word. I mean, I felt like I was redacting a government document. It was just, you couldn’t share it in The forum that it was in. And the the VP of HR wanted to have the meeting with the executives and not have us debrief it. But when they saw the report, it became very clear they wanted us to deliver the message. 100% Yeah, yes, absolutely it, which is what we suggested in the first place. So, interestingly enough, we spent probably half day working with that executive team to try and get them to digest it. And we saw everything from defensiveness, anger, deflection putting it on managers, it’s their fault employees feel this way. They’re bad mouthing us all kinds of things. And I had to keep going back to what we actually knew what the David said. And it took a long time, but I had some examples that I would that I could share without putting somebody at risk. So I shared a couple of those examples. And I got more of the defensive name, defensiveness, anger. But finally, one of the executives said, I can see how they feel that way. And I said, Tell me more, and they share their story. And then somebody else said, Yeah, I could see that too. And they shared their story. Here’s the interesting thing, the company was losing money, they were losing $11 million a year, the reason they were losing the money was because employees weren’t on board.
In fact, they were sabotaging efforts, because they were angry at the executive team and the culture, they these beautiful values in the wall that never really existed in real life. One of them talked about respecting employees, and it was not uncommon for leaders to break employees curse them out in public, right? So we worked with them to put a change the culture and make it real, one of the things that we did was we actually worked with them on a three strike your rule out. So if the first time you made a mistake, you got a warning, as an executive, and a training plan. The second time you got a B, you broke the rule, you got a coach. And if you did it a third time you were let go. And all it took was one of the executives to go three times, test the waters, and they were fired. And what was amazing was the executive team all went, this is serious, we’re doing this right. And CEO, of course, we’re doing this, we said we’re going to do it. And then the employee said, Oh, my gosh, they’re doing this that was within three months of the engagement survey. By the time that year was up, they had a, I’m sorry, they were losing $10 million, they had an $11 million shift to the positive, they were actually profitable by $1 million. All because employees got on board, boys push them forward, if boys did what they needed to do, because employees started to buy in and saw real change. That’s how powerful culture is. It can either make or break your business, whether you realize it or not.
Andrea Herron 12:46
That’s a great case study and all of the things that you just don’t want to see in an executive leadership team. But you know else another great example of you can’t set it and forget it, because it is an act of progress, and nobody’s perfect. But if you are striving to make those changes, and the employees know you are, it really does go a long way versus what you might tend to see in other places, which is let’s do an employee survey, maybe you’ll see the results, maybe something will come of it. Maybe we won’t. But we’re gonna ask you again next year. And maybe we’ll take your feedback into consideration. Maybe we won’t. And of course, people get jaded by that. So I think it’s a great example of actual results.
Brad Federman 13:26
I agree. And I always have the rule. Don’t ask, if you’re not willing to act, if you don’t want the answer, and you’re not really act, willing to act on the information. Please don’t ask. Please just don’t ask.
Andrea Herron 13:37
Yes, everyone write that down. So aside from kind of employees buying into giving feedback, you know, do you see any other role of the average employee in building culture? Or do you see it more as a top down exercise?
Brad Federman 13:54
I see it as a sheriff sighs I let me explain why. Because you know, if you were in 1980, I might say, right, but we live in a different world. We live in a world where the hierarchy is either dead or dying. People no longer go up the chain of command to get answers and come back down. They they go to who has the answer. All of the rules and structure we put in place is pretty much gone. We’re networked at this point in time we’re dispersed, where we’re in Agile teams, where the world is just a different place. We also have five different generations of the workplace. We have lots of diversity in the workplace. So we are lacking shared norms. Because everybody comes from different backgrounds, as different thought processes. So a couple of things about culture. One is it’s got to be a shared understanding and shared experience, which is why I’m hyping having conversations because the way you develop understanding is you talk through things right. You know, you know, when you go get married to somebody, then you go to marriage counseling. What do they make you do they make you talk about important things, holidays, family traditions, how you’re going to raise kids. Why do you do that? Because you want to build common understanding before you enter into a relationship for life. Right. So, I mean, ultimately, we want to, we want to have conversations with our employees. So I think there’s a, it’s a shared experience, I do think that executives play a large role in defining the culture.
Now, I think employees should have some impact on that. I mean, asking employees, their thoughts, getting getting them involved in that process, process, I think is important. But in the end, your your culture should support your strategy in your business. And that is a an executive responsibility. I think your managers have a responsibility for keeping it alive and translating it to employees. And I think your employees, as well, as everyone has a responsibility to keep it alive, to talk about it, share it hold each other accountable. And when it’s not happening, or we feel like we’re losing our way to raise our hand and say, Hey, we need to revisit our culture. It’s dissipating. Here’s why I see it that way. And I think that’s important, we need to actually give our employees permission to call us out, when we start losing our
Andrea Herron 16:22
way. Yeah, one thing that’s worked really well in organizations kind of in line with this, that I’ve seen is having employee like a volunteer group, like an events group, or a culture group, so you’re getting people from different departments from cross sections of the company, who can go about it more grassroots style. And yes, make sure the executives are brought in and they’re on board and everyone’s aligned, but to kind of have that united voice that people feel like they’re being represented. And then if other employees don’t like it, you say, well, great, you should join the committee. We’d love to hear your perspective, if there’s something we’re missing.
Brad Federman 16:58
Yeah, I think I think it’s great. I do. You know, one of the things that I also will suggest is, if you we have a book out called cultivating culture, and it’s 101 ways to pull that off. And they’re on the activities, discussions that are in there, 15 minutes or less. And they’re, they’re great to build into meetings. So you’re ending, you’re, you’re basically talking about things that relate to your culture and the kind of culture you want. And you’re building that understanding what are the cool things about doing that is we can give you an agenda for meetings, so that you have a productive mix. One of things we’re finding is most people meet, and they talk about problems, fires process, or the update each other, we are rarely seeing people do all the cool things they should be doing as a part of the meeting. If you want to update people, you can do that via email, right? Meetings are for making decisions meetings are for culture building meetings are for dialogue, therefore, there’s an interactive process. So we built these meetings to culture build, create camaraderie, trust, and, and here’s the cool thing. They could be led by the manager, or by any employee. In fact, I see lots of companies using it, and they rotate from one place to the next. So besides doing a committee for the organization, you can invite your team to help strengthen the culture in your team. And they can take the lead at running those conversations. And that’s powerful. It also is a great development tool, because now all of a sudden, you’re asking employees that typically take more of a passive role in meetings for the department, or the team to take an active role lead it. So they’re getting presentation skills, development, they’re getting leadership development, they’re getting facilitation and communication development. I mean, the the power of doing this helps in so many ways beyond just culture DeVille.
Andrea Herron 18:55
It’s very empowering. I love that. And I do recommend everybody grab a copy of your book. And one thing that I do, I think you’re really nailing there is the 15 minutes, because yes, we have all these generations. But our attention span is all fragmented. It’s all shorted. At this point. We’re at tick tock nation. Yes, yes. And so the idea of Bite Size, culture building bite sized development, bite size, engagement, probably is going to be more successful than trying to put together a three day program or, you know, something a little bit more intense, which does have its place but just for an ongoing culture building. I really like the the short and sweet version.
Brad Federman 19:36
Yeah, that’s why we did it. We we know time is valuable. We don’t have a lot of it. And we know attention spans are short. So how can we do this in a very productive way and get real impact and we have seen amazing differences in customer service scores profitability, revenue, generation, safety, morale and engagement. Just buy in by By engaging in these kinds of discussions and activities, short, sweet, always a call to action fun. But what’s more important than all that? Is it delivers results. That’s the power of doing it.
Andrea Herron 20:15
Yeah, and I want to dive in a little bit more on that and the impact between the customer and the employee relationship. So I know in the other example, you gave, you know, they were able to take profit loss into a gain. How do you think the internal culture matches or doesn’t or impacts kind of the external experience of customers?
Brad Federman 20:38
Well, you used a word that I think is really important, use the word experience, brand promises, slogans, jargon, mean, nothing. It’s what is my experience, that means everything. And the only way you create a consistent experience that matches your promise, is if you’ve built it from the inside out. So I’m a firm believer that you have to do the work internally, before you make promises externally, otherwise, you will fall short. It needs to become a part of your DNA and your wiring. And then when you find that there are challenges or issues because things shift or change, you need to revisit it. And so I’ll give you, I’ll give you a great example, I work with a very large hotelier and they had some challenges on their problem resolution scores. And their whole concept of their business. And the way they talked about guests, was building relationships with guests, and creating not only relationships, but experiences with their guests where they felt at home, and they felt cared for. So when there was a problem. And it guests complained, and the problem wasn’t resolved. Well. They fell short on that, on that promise, right. And so we did some work with them on building problem resolution skills. And we did it using these types of conversations and activities. And in one month that hold that chain, I mean that now I’m talking international company, saw a 17% increase in their problem resolution scores, which had a dramatic increase on their loyalty scores, all because they had short 510 minute 15 minute conversations about problem resolution that made the difference in the way they worked with their guests. It’s just, it’s an inside out job,
Andrea Herron 22:30
he reminds me a little bit of an onion, where go with me here, you got it, where the very middle is, you know that self reflection and self awareness that we were talking about earlier with the leader really understanding their strengths and where they still need to improve, to be a good leader to the humans that are working with them. And then you go a layer out to the employees who have to Yes, manage up but also be invested believe in what they’re doing believe that those values and their work makes a difference. And if you can tie that piece into the culture, then even apply training or you know, certain tactics on top of that of how you interact externally, it goes out another layer to where it’s all aligned. But it has to start again, from that place of really setting the tone and then bring everybody along with you. Which is not a set it and forget it that is an ongoing practice.
Brad Federman 23:29
Yeah, I would I never really agree with you. I think we spend enormous amounts of money with these interventions that we do. And my experience is that if you get people on the same page, you get them excited and passionate about being on that same page, and you are clear about what what will make the difference, the call to action, then they find the way. It’s amazing, they will pave the way for you, they will make sure you get there. But if you spend time doing these tense interventions, you talk about training and processing, and you don’t have that first piece, you will kill yourself and not there. That’s the amazing difference. Think about it this way. You know, and I hate using sports analogies. But there’s a reason why football teams get together between plays right there on the field. And they do a huddle. Okay, if if there’s a reason for that it matches the tempo of the game. It gets everybody on the same page, gets everybody psyched and prepped to get on that line and do their job. I mean, if you use the huddle, well, it really helps you win the game. If you don’t use the huddle, well, you lose your opportunity to win the game. And so to me, it’s all about setting that tone first and get everybody on the same page and making sure they understand what the call to action is. And if you can do that, do that well and get people excited and passionate about it. You’re already halfway there.
Andrea Herron 24:51
Yeah, it’s similar to the standup that I’ve seen be really successful, you know, the daily huddle or stand ups and now we just need the matching outfits.
Brad Federman 24:59
It’s there. Yeah. there. Yeah, exactly. You got to do the standup right though because I think there’s a some few. There’s a few ingredients that people forget to do. And many of them start to do it in a rote way. And part of a huddle is that it should be fun. It should be energizing. It’s a stand up for a reason. It should not be something that is something you just do.
Andrea Herron 25:25
Thanks for joining us for another episode of the HR scoop. Stay tuned for part two of our episode where we talk with Brad about HR technology and the role it plays in corporate culture.