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Episode 9: Defining and Decoding Company Culture

Duration: 38min

About our guest:

Andre Martin

Dr. André Martin is an organizational psychologist and the author of “Wrong Fit, Right Fit – Why How We Work Matters More Than Ever”. He has spent nearly 20 years as the Chief Learning Officer or Chief Talent Officer of iconic brands such as Mars Inc, Nike, Google, and Target.

Now, acting as an operating advisor, board member, executive coach, and consultant, André continues to counsel c-suite leaders and founders on diverse topics such as executive development and succession planning, high performance teams, employee engagement, culture building, and strategy development.

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What is company culture? Is it ping-pong tables and perks? Is it the values we talk about internally? Or is it the way the company works “on a random Tuesday in October”? With experience at Disney, Nike, and Google, Talent Exec, Andre Martin joins the discussion.

Join us and find out why authenticity and intention lie at the heart of a consistent culture. Plus: simple tools you can implement when it comes to leading with culture in mind.

Key takeaways:

  • Sometimes, the way employees want to work doesn’t always match the way companies operate. This is why it’s essential for employees to genuinely care about the way their company works on a daily basis. This is more than just liking the brand or the benefits it offers. It’s about how people work together.

  • There’s a significant disconnect between what leaders say about the work experience in their company and how employees actually feel about it. Truthfulness and authenticity are essential for leadership. This is why leaders must be honest and authentic when hiring. And clearly communicate the real experience of working in their company.

  • Company culture isn’t just about the values we talk about, like collaboration and innovation. It’s about the daily work. How strategies are made, problems solved, teams working together, feedback given, and more. It’s the everyday actions and decisions that truly define the culture of a company.

  • Clarity and consistency are vital regarding a company’s work processes and values. For instance, openly sharing how team meetings are run, the pace of work, the approach to tasks, and more. Some people may love this approach, while others may not. But clearly articulating such practices and standing firmly on them gives companies a solid chance to excel.

  • Growth can challenge a company’s culture. It’s important to be careful, focused, and deliberate to protect the company’s uniqueness from fading away.

  • In hybrid or remote workplaces, it’s important for employees to meet face-to-face. Not to discuss work-related stuff, but to get to know each other and build trust. Making sure to schedule time just to talk and connect with coworkers keeps everyone bonded, even if people aren’t in the same location.

Want more resources on this topic?

Creating a Culture of Respect: Proactive strategies

Read more

Toxic culture: why employees hesitate to speak up

Read more

Beyond remote: Vital skills for a hybrid workplace

Read more

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Full Episode Transcript

Host: On today’s episode… [00:00:49] 

Andre Martin: And in the end, you know what’s interesting is culture isn’t something we create. It’s actually the output of the aggregation of how we behave every day at work. So, the way that we do all those things determines the culture that we have. [00:00:49] 

Host: We’re getting to the bottom of what a company’s culture actually is, who’s responsible for it, and debunking the biggest myths surrounding it. 

Talking to us today is Portland-based organizational psychologist Dr. Andre Martin, who has worked for the likes of Google, Nike, and Disney as a talent executive for the past 20 years. And his book, Wrong Fit, Right Fit, explores how organizations can do more to engage their employees. Stay with us. [00:01:08] 

Well, Andre, thank you so much for making the time to be with us. So firstly, I think I should start with congratulations on the release of your new book, Wrong Fit, Right Fit. You do make the case of some point that today there’s a crisis in commitment in the workplace. Can you talk to us a little bit what you mean by that and how you see it? [00:01:42] 

Andre Martin: Yeah, I will. So I’ve spent 25 years as the head of talent for some of the most revered brands in the world, right? You’re Disney, Google, Nike, Target. And my cause and my dedication has always been to create companies where people can show up every day and be at their best. And I tell you, I started writing the book because it’s just not the case.

And there’s all kinds of data that tells us so. An estimated $7.9 trillion of lost productivity in our workplace due to disengagement. And you think about that number alone, it’s more than the market cap of Google, Amazon, and Apple combined. All that brilliance is sitting there waiting for us. And then you have data like 30 percent one in three new joiners are leaving their job in the first 90 days. 

52 percent of managers are burnt out. 75 percent of Americans, and probably, for the world too, experience the Sunday scaries. That moment when they realize Monday is coming, and they just don’t want to go to work. And I just think we can do better. We have to do better. We’re just leaving too much on the table So that’s really that crisis of commitment is sitting in that space that people just don’t love going to work. And I think they can and they should. [00:02:04] 

Host: No, I think it’s, again, I hate to bring it back to COVID, but I do think that it’s played a role in highlighting it and making it a lot more intense.

I say with my friends, I’ve experienced it personally, and companies are trying, but I don’t know. I think your book is going to be really helpful for them to really figure it out. And that kind of leads me into my next thing. You also talk about the wrong fit. So, can you also tell us what you mean by that? [00:03:19] 

Andre Martin: You think about fit during the course of writing the book, I interviewed about a hundred leaders from around the world variety of levels and times in their career. And it was really this idea—it just didn’t come down to good or bad culture. To toxic and engaging environments. If you think about it, just like take a step way back, it would make no sense for a company to create anything but a great experience for their employees.

And so if you look at that and you hold that idea, I stood back, and I said, hey, maybe every company is trying. Maybe the issue isn’t that companies are good or bad. Maybe it’s just that the wrong talent are going to the wrong company. And so if you think about the idea of fit, it’s really, do you have a deep and unwavering dedication to how the company works every day?

Not to the brand, not to the cool perks, wonderful offices and massages, and great food and all that stuff. But so the way it works on a random Tuesday in October, how we collaborate, how we solve problems, how we manage conflict, how we socialize ideas, how we develop people and give feedback, all those things that make up the way work happens.

What we’re seeing is a misalignment between how employees like to work, how talent likes to work, and how companies like to work. And I think right there is a lot of the answer. [00:03:51] 

Host: I just find it very interesting because, on the one hand, you know, you’ve got the companies are offering all these perks. It’s really easy to get distracted as a potential employee, for instance.

By all of that, the shiny, cool things, the massages, or even the company motto. So how could leaders and companies change their hiring process to ensure that they are getting the right fit candidates? And what kind of questions could they be asking? [00:05:14] 

Andre Martin: You bring up a great point at the start, which is one of the things that became really clear in the interviews.

When I talked to talent that were in this wrong fit, they talked about; God when I was in a wrong fit. It felt like a slog every day. It felt like everybody had a secret Dakota ring of success except for me, right? I was watching all these people succeed and be happy and have fun, and I couldn’t wait to get out of work every single day, and I was dreading having to go in. And so when you look at that, one of the things that these interviews told me is when I asked them, hey, when did you know it was a wrong fit?

And you know what they said, which was fascinating? They paused, and most of them said, you know what I knew in the interview process [00:05:44]

Host: Really? [00:06:23]

Andre Martin: Yeah. So what they said is they said I was attracted by the brand, by the pay. I was attracted by the title, and I didn’t pay attention to the signals that were sitting there right in front of me.

And that’s because of a thing called confirmation bias, right? And so we end up going through this interview process blinded to the things that would tell us whether or not it’s going to work for us long term. And so what I tell talent is the first thing you got to do before you ever open a job advertisement to look for a job is make sure you know what you’re solving for.

Make sure you know what you value, make sure you know the kind of career you’re building, make sure that you are clear on the kind of manager you want to work with, how you like to get work done, what you’re solving for right now and what you want life to be in 10 years. And I think if talent did just that, they would open up theirselves to a job search and probably look for a very different set of experiences. [00:06:24]

Host: That’s really good advice. And I think as talent, when they’re looking for a job, they also have that anxiety of like, okay, I need to get a job, whether that’s to leave where they are. And that can also feed into the glossing over of those signs that they had seen. [00:07:22]

Andre Martin: It does. [00:07:40]

Host: Just to take it back, a second for the leaders that are within those organizations—what can they do to ensure that they’re hiring the right fit? [00:07:41]

Andre Martin: Yeah, I think the first thing I would tell every leader who’s trying to hire for the right fit is start being honest and authentic about who you are and how it feels to work at your company right now. MIT and Culture 500 did this really interesting piece of research recently where they basically compared the espoused values.

That leaders stand up on stage and put in career websites and talk about what a company stands for, all the things that the leader says the company values, right? They waited all those in terms of how often the leaders talked about them, and then they compare that set of values. To the felt experience that those same employees in that company had on employee review sites, and you know what they found? Zero correlation between the two. [00:07:49]

Host: You’re kidding. [00:08:38]

Andre Martin: No, no correlation between what values leaders are espousing and actually how it feels to work there every day and in some instances a negative correlation. Which means that not only was this company not innovative, they were far from it.

And so the takeaway for me for leaders is stop selling something that you don’t have. And so that’s the first thing I would say to him is just start being more authentic, put away all the flashy career sites and branding and propaganda and just talk about who you are and how it feels to work there right now.

I think the second thing I’d say to them is one of the other things that we see is that as companies grow, if you and I were starting a company, it was just me and you. And we started working together, we would design a really distinctive, really core to us way of getting work done. And then with every leader we bring in, if we don’t teach them that way of working, they bring in their own culture, their own ways of working, their own practices and platforms and all that stuff.

And the more we grow, the more we lose. The very distinct way of working that we built. And so the second thing I’d say to the leaders is, get back to who your company was at its best. [00:08:40]

Host: It sort of leads back to company culture being described as the DNA or their secret sauce. In your own words, can you briefly tell us how you would define what company culture actually is? [00:09:52] 

Andre Martin: Yeah, I think we’ve made a, we’ve had some real big shortcomings in company culture in that we tend to talk about values, right? We value collaboration, and teamwork, and innovation, and these kinds of things. And that’s not company culture.

Company culture is actually how work gets done day to day. It’s hey, how do you set strategy? How do you solve problems? How do you collaborate? How do you kick off team meetings? How do you give feedback? Develop people? How do you gather? What’s your relationship with time? How does information flow?

That’s culture. And in the end, you know, what’s interesting is culture isn’t something we create? It’s actually the output of the aggregation of how we behave every day at work. So the way that we do all those things determines the culture that we have, not what we stand up on stage and talk about.

So I always tell people, I’m like, you’ve got to get really clear about how work happens, how people behave. I mean, if I wanted to tell you what the culture was in your company, I’d just go and sit down in the middle of your office for five days. I’ll just watch you work, and I’ll be able to tell you pretty quickly what kind of culture you actually have. [00:10:05] 

Host: Can you also give us some concrete examples in which good culture improves a company, whether that’s productivity, engagement, or retention? And maybe even if I’m not asking too much, some examples of that being put in practice. If you were at my company for five days, what would be those signs that you see that are like, oh, that’s good company culture? [00:11:22] 

Andre Martin: Yeah, you know what? I’ll start with this. I’ll start with the interviews that I had with talent when we talked about right fit experiences. The way that I heard talent talk about right fit was it feels like you’re writing with your dominant hand every single day. One of the interviewers I had said you know what right fit is? It’s that I can walk in every day and practice my craft. Period. And here’s the thing is great cultures what they do is they’re super explicit about how work gets done, and that’s consistent, and it’s crafted, and people have the same tools and the same platforms to work from.

And what happens then is instead of me having to spend my creative energy on figuring out how to create a PowerPoint deck to socialize an idea, I already know how how everybody in that company sees that information. And so I can just focus on putting my best thoughts on paper. And I think where companies often get it wrong is they allow individual leaders to dictate how work gets done.

And so those of us who work across the company have to do work one way for you, one way for your partner, one way for the next leader. And we’re just wasting all this creative energy in the coordination of work. [00:11:49] 

Host: Off the back of that, can you also give us some practical advice on how leaders can ensure that they are leading with their proposed culture in mind?

Because I feel with the day-to-day anxiety, and with everything that they have to tackle, sometimes it gets lost. [00:13:08] 

Andre Martin: The most practical tip is just to realize that every time you have an interaction with one of your employees, you are either increasing or decreasing their engagement. You’re either increasing or decreasing their commitment to this company.

I think often, leaders don’t understand that every time I bump into an employee, that’s my chance to re-recruit them back to this company. And I think we often miss those moments. We often walk in, and our hair is on fire, and all we want is this person through this thing. I need them to do and we forget that, hey, if they don’t have a good experience with me right then.

Then there’s a good chance they’re going to walk out the door. They’re going to open their computer, and they’re gonna look for a new job. And the last thing is pretty simple, but it’s walking to every day with intention. Like leaders I think right now they’re so burnt out. They’re so under stress. That if everybody just at the beginning of the day took a deep breath, took three steps back, and ask yourself, how can I show up as the best possible version of a leader today?

I think it might change the way we think about our day and our role. And if you just put 15 minutes between every meeting, don’t go back to back to back because then everyone’s just getting you with your hair on fire. Put space in between these meetings. So, you show up as the version of leader that you want to be.

And, you know, if your team’s only getting 15 percent of your attention, then you’re just not doing your job. And frankly, even though this is what I often hear from leaders, right, as well, I can multitask. It’s like 3 percent of the human race that can actually multitask, right? We’re not that good at it as humans.

Maybe we get a lot more out of our time. We could have fewer meetings that would be shorter if we had intention and were fully present. [00:13:25] 

Host: Do you have any great examples of companies that are talking the talk and walking the walk, who are really putting their money where their mouth is and are both intentional, they’re present, they’re guiding their management teams in a way that is actually fruitful? [00:15:16] 

Andre Martin: I put some of those examples in the book. What I find really interesting about this question of culture is back to the beginning—there’s no good or bad culture. There’s no right or wrong way to run a company. What I really love to see is that when a CEO and a leadership team knows who they are, and they are unapologetic about it, right? That means that they are standing there saying, hey, this is the way that we work.

This is who we are and what we do. And if you don’t like that, this probably isn’t the place for you instead of trying to accommodate everybody and every way of working and every possible version of a company. And so there’s great companies, companies like Mars Incorporated, who have this great set of five principles that the family has carried forever, and they are literally the front end of every decision that the company makes all the way down to places like 37 signals or base camp.

Now, it may not be my favorite way of working, but they have a full log that literally tells people exactly how work gets done at the company. How we have team meetings, how fast we work, how we do the things we do, why we care about what we do. And they’re very divisive. Some people love it. Some people hate it, but they’re super clear about their secret Dakota ring for success.

And they stand on it, and they teach it, and they live it day to day. And I think any company that does that has a fighting chance to be great. [00:15:36] 

Host: Could it be argued that those leaders and managers that have been in the company since day one might not be the best to assess the living culture of a company as it is currently? [00:17:07] 

Andre Martin: I think what’s true is that I would probably say leaders that have been there a long time probably remember the company when it was at its best, right? Because when you think about origin stories, every company has them, and when a company starts to grow, you start to hear many of those leaders that have been here say, God, it’s not like it used to be.

It doesn’t feel like it used to be. We’re more bureaucratic, we’re bigger, we’re slower, all those things. And, you know, my challenge to all those leaders is why did that happen? It’s not that the ways of working couldn’t scale. It’s that we did a really poor job in helping people understand who we are and how we do work.

Instead, what tends to happen is every time a leader comes in, they bring this great technical competence, and they also bring this backpack of how they like to work. And so think about like a Google 27,000 people coming in every year, right at the heyday when they were growing like crazy. That’s 27,000 people who are bringing in their own ways of working.

Their own culture, their own experience, their own preferences for the type of email they like to use, the project management tool they like to use. And if nobody tells them how it gets done at Google, then that just becomes the way that everyone starts to work. So it starts to feel a little bit more chaotic, a little bit more difficult.

So, I think growth puts pressure on culture. And if we’re not really careful, really diligent, put a lot of intention into protecting what makes us special, you’re just going to lose it.  [00:17:21] 

Host: So I’m understanding that while a company is experiencing that growth spurt, it’s really important for the hiring team, the leaders, the managers, to sort of stay rooted to how they started and how they’re working or what they’re working on. [00:18:55] 

Andre Martin: Vital. Think about it. We, the sort of typical approach to onboarding, is I’m going to hire you, I’m going to give you one day to understand everything about the company. And I’m just going to throw you in the deep end of the pool. And hope that you swim. Maybe a better way to do is to say, hey, I’ve hired you.

Why don’t I extend that onboarding? Give you two weeks to really fundamentally understand how this company works. So the first time you take a seat in a meeting, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you know how to do your job. We’ve taught you how to be great here, and I think if we did that, a lot of that loss of productivity we see, I think it disappeared because back to that one out of three new joiners that leave the company, they cite three reasons for leaving.

They cite there’s no opportunity to learn. They cite that there’s no career advancement. And you know what the last one is? A mismatch of expectations.  What I believe my job was and what the company was didn’t come true in those first few days that I joined. And that’s sad, right? Because you and I have both taken probably a number of jobs in our career.

I will never forget like the week before I start my job. It is pure excitement, right? I’m telling my wife, and my mom, and my brothers, and my friends how excited I am to join. And then you get there, and it feels like you thought you were joining a company on Earth, and all of a sudden, you landed on Mars.

All that excitement goes away, and it’s just replaced with worry. And so all of your creative energy flows to managing your emotions as opposed to being great at your job. [00:19:12] 

Host: And it’s really difficult to sort of realign. Like, okay, maybe this wasn’t what it seemed like, but I don’t think we’ve also learned exactly how to pivot enough to see the positive. Just because we’re dealing with that severe sense of disappointment that it wasn’t what I thought it was. [00:20:58] 

Andre Martin: And so you’re bringing up a super important point to me. One of the things we talk about in the book is no matter if you’re in a right fit experience or in a hard fit, that is, it’s not quite what you expected, but you’re trying to find your feet, or it’s just simply a wrong fit. There are things you can do, buffers you can put in place that will help make that, your day-to-day just a little bit easier.

I won’t go through all of them, but there’s a couple that I love, right? So, on the inspirational side, the thing I tell anyone who’s struggling is connect to a consumer who’s in need, connect to a peer who is looking for help, or connect to a leader who is modeling either your craft or the way that you want the company to work. Because if you can connect to purpose, if you can connect to consumers, and if you can sort of find a little bit more meaningful work, that is something that’s helping someone be great, it’s going to make your day easier.

And so I tell people like, hey, if you’re in a wrong fit experience, instead of focusing on all the negative emotions, focus on those consumers. Find a consumer story that inspires you. Find the consumer who needs your help. And if you do that, it changes your orientation. On the relational side we know that things like a good manager, mentors are important, but one of the things that I think is undervalued are best friends at work.

Like you gotta find people who you can just be honest with, who you can spend time with, who you can look in the eye and know it’s going to be okay, and often I was reading this piece of data that 40 percent of employees are isolated at work. That just means that we don’t have community, and we don’t have that best friend. So search them out and find somebody. [00:21:16] 

Host: I’m just afraid that, especially with the hybrid models and remote working, that’s become even harder now. So, do you have any tips on that? [00:22:56] 

Andre Martin: Yeah. So first is the tip for leaders, is if you are going to work in a hybrid remote environment, it can be more cost effective.

You can get better talent. You can have a more global company earlier on all those things are true. I think you have to find ways for people to come together face to face, and when you do, don’t pack the agenda. So I always tell anyone that runs a hybrid or remote company, your offsites now are not your chance to have 27 power point shows and have everyone sit and just consume information.

That is the moment where we are going to build the trust, the relationships, the psychological safety that we’re going to need. Every moment forward as we sit on Zoom and try to do our best work, right? So I think that’s job number one. Number two is if you’re in a remote or hybrid environment, you have to start setting up time in your calendar to simply connect with people in your company.

It’s another thing we don’t do. We have a really bad relationship with time right now. Right? We treat it as if it’s infinite, which it isn’t, and we’re not very mindful about how our calendar gets created every day. Most leaders I talked to my first question to them is look at your calendar right now. Is every one of those a million-dollar conversation?

And if it isn’t, why are you having them? Because your calendar is your company when you’re remote, right? And so I tell talent to say you should block out two hours out of your week. That is about you simply connecting with the people who you work with every day and set up those coffee chats and keep the time, and people look at that time as if it’s, it’s discretionary.

Oh, I can take that off my calendar. It doesn’t matter. No, that’s productivity. [00:23:08] 

Host: Yeah, that’s amazing advice. [00:24:58] 

Andre Martin: You got it. [00:25:00] 

Host: Do you have any red flags, so to speak, that leaders can look out for? And signs that might mean that culture is eroding?  [00:25:01]

Andre Martin: Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s a few classic ones. So, I did a piece of research about four or five years ago on this exact idea.

And there’s things like critique is the leading edge, right? If everybody is critiquing everybody else’s work all the time, you probably have a good sense of culture eroding. I think more than anything is if you’re seeing new joiners struggle when they come in the door to understand how to be a success. Like as a leader, I think one of the best things you can do is to keep the pulse on the people who are coming in your company, and if they seem confused, they seem disenchanted, they seem highly stressed, then you know that your culture is either really unclear. Or it’s not what you stand up in stage and talk about.

So those new joiners tend to be a great barometer because if you think about it, like every new joiner starts at 110%, right? They are the most highly committed, highly engaged employees in the world. And if that dips upon coming in, we aren’t doing our job as a company. [00:25:11] 

Host: That is so true. And I feel that sometimes, when newcomers join, especially for companies that might have like rotations of when they get their newcomers, it’s not so much an ad hoc basis.

They just sort of lead that to the onboarding officer or the one manager who’s taken on that rotation. And forget to take a look at the people who will be continuing. Previously, you touched on productivity. And I know you’ve done a lot of work on how culture can disengage people and, in turn, create a less productive workforce.

But what about when it goes beyond that into a toxic workplace? How do you define a toxic culture, and what do leaders need to look out for when trying to spot it? [00:26:21] 

Andre Martin: I think it’s really dangerous to talk about toxic companies or toxic cultures. When there’s toxicity, or there is something going on where employees feel unsafe, it’s likely due to individual leaders or individual teams.

And so what I would say to any leaders the best thing you can do is have a really strong, really consistent, really valid way to capture the sentiment of your employees. That could be an engagement survey. It could be a culture survey. I don’t care what you use. I just care that you have a consistent way to keep an eye on what leaders are modeling the way of working that we believe is right.

What leaders are trying but struggling? And what leaders just are not a good fit? For us, that is, they are toxic in our environment, right? Because that same leader might be a great leader somewhere else. They just don’t work the way we need them to work. And so they’re causing friction in our company. So I think most times we don’t have enough data.

We don’t ask for the opinions of our employees often enough, and we aren’t measuring our leaders on the right factors. It’s not as simple as, hey, if you get great business results, that doesn’t make you a good leader. That makes you a good business mind. Being a leader is an entire different set of skills, and so I wish more companies did a better job of measuring that, of giving employees a place that’s safe. Where they can share those sentiments. [00:27:09] 

Host: So I understand that usually the high performers, they move up, they become managers. So, the training is left up to the company to ensure that they will be the leaders that they need to maintain that culture. If I’m understanding this correctly, and if you have a different opinion, please share it with me because I feel like that’s a major issue today. [00:28:46] 

Andre Martin: Yeah, it’s been a major issue for decades, frankly, so I’ve been in the field of executive development for what, 20-some years now, and I will tell you that more times than not, the very individuals that are promoted into managerial and leadership roles, they tend to be our highest individual contributors.

So we take this great marketer, this great finance person, this great HR person, and they did this great job. We say, God, for doing a great job, we’re gonna make you a manager. And it never made sense to me because two things are happening there. One is you’re taking your best individual contributor, the best at the craft, whatever it is, and you’re now pulling them out of it and asking them to do a different job, which just doesn’t make business sense.

And secondly, is we make the assumption that being an individual contributor. A strong one is going to make you a great manager. They are entirely different skill sets. Right. Rarely is an individual contribute a great manager. And I remember I used to do a lot of work with IDEO, the product design firm.

And one of the things that they prided themselves on, I really love this philosophy, is they said, hey, we hire some of the best designers in the world, anthropologists, ethnographers, graphic designers, communication designers. And when a team comes together, instead of making the most senior person, the leader, we actually put a person on that team that is one of the best team leaders we have. They may not be the best communications expert or graphic designer, but they’re amazing at the craft of leading a team. And I think what we need to probably think about in companies is how do you continue to progress the careers of experts?

Individual contributors are really good at what they do and actually have a much different path for great team leaders. Because the truth is being a great team leader. It’s sort of agnostic of the function. [00:29:08] 

Host: Yeah, it’s interesting. The way I sort of see it is that the leader has to have that ability to mold to their employees, to be able to cater to them. Before you touched on the sense of safety, a company, or leaders provide to employees to speak up on toxic behavior. A recent TalentLMS study found that in the tech industry, 40 percent of employees said that even if they see toxic behavior, they wouldn’t report it. And that, that personally scares me because why do you think that is? [00:31:01] 

Andre Martin: I’d want to look at the study, but I think just based on my own personal experience, I think the reason they don’t say anything is because they don’t live in a psychologically safe environment, right?

I think most employees feel like they don’t have a place to turn that wouldn’t have some potential retribution or negative impact on their career. And especially in this time when jobs are so precious when layoffs are happening.  You want to keep your job. And so many times employees fear that if they say something, they’re going to be punished for it.

And what I would say to employees is, hey, I’ve had the opportunity to work at arguably some of the biggest and best companies out there. And I believe that most of these companies today have avenues where you can even anonymously reach out via a hotline or something else in order to let somebody know that there’s an issue.

Most companies have engagement surveys. And the other thing I say to employees is, hey, if you don’t feel comfortable saying something about your current situation to a manager, to a leader, to your HR person, use the engagement survey, right? It’s anonymous. It’s confidential, and they do get read. [00:31:40]

And then I think the last thing is don’t wait until the environment gets toxic to give feedback. 

Then it’s just there’s so much emotion in it. What I tell people every day is, hey, what you don’t realize is that as leaders move up in a company, they actually get less and less feedback. And so, if you want to create a better environment for yourself, be the person that gives your manager feedback, or in other words, molds them to become the manager, leader you need them to be. And it’s easy. 

First thing is make a top 10 list of behaviors that you want to see out of your manager that make you able to do your best work and keep that list with you everywhere you go. And any time you see a leader do one of those things at the end of the meeting or the next opportunity or via email, send them a note and send them says, hey, Joe, thanks for doing X. It really mattered to me. Please do it again.

And you know what happens nine times out of 10 when a manager gets an email like that? Guess what they do? [00:32:56]

Host: They’re going to repeat the behavior. [00:34:01]

Andre Martin: They’re going to repeat the behavior. And so a lot of us get stuck in this place of, I can’t give feedback until I have something negative to say.

I’m like, it’s the last place you should give feedback. Because then it’s already too late. [00:34:02]

Host: That is such a unique way of providing feedback. And what I find really amazing about it is that you’re not blatantly telling them, Oh, I do this more, or I feel I would benefit more from this. It’s, I just appreciate you.

I love that. As we’re nearing the end of our conversation, beyond remote work, what are you seeing as the key challenges on the horizon for the next 10, 20 years when it comes to building company culture? [00:34:12] 

Andre Martin: Yeah, I think there’s a few things that are on my mind. I think the first one is we have to increase the level of self-awareness.

That everybody has in our companies, right? I just believe self-awareness is the foundation for everything. It’s the foundation for psychological safety. It’s the foundation for building rapport and trust. It’s a foundation for doing innovative work. And I just don’t know that we’re doing enough to help people understand the gap between their intention and their impact. Because we’re just our hair’s on fire all the time, right?

We’re just in this fight or flight. Like every single day. And we have to help people step back and say, hey, how are you showing up? Is that who you want to be? Are you actually helping your people? And so self-awareness, I think, is a huge gap for us right now that I’d love to see us close. You know, secondly, is to think about how we can allow more people to bring more of their skill and experience into their job. [00:34:46] 

I watch people get jobs today, and they become this really narrowed version of themselves, right? All of a sudden, I go from being this broad person with all this brilliance to doing this tiny little finance role and accounts receivable, and that’s all I am, right? That’s all I’ll ever be. And so I remember when I was used to work at these big companies, when I’d sit down with my team members, the first question I’d ask is, tell me everything that you’re good at that lies outside of your current role.

And I would have xAPI journalists. I would have graphic designers. I would have concert musicians. I would have brilliant communication experts, and I’m sitting here, and I would leverage it all. Because the truth is we’re bigger than our jobs. And I think companies have to figure out how to allow that creative energy to come in the workplace.

Otherwise, all these side hustles and outside engagements were all taking on, they’re going to take the best of us. And I would love to see that come into the company. So if you’re working at a company, yes, you can do your narrow job, but then you have a day a week where you’re using these other skills inside the company to help us be better. I just think there’s something really powerful there. [00:35:40] 

Host: Honestly, that sounds ideal. And, to be able to share it, who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? Finally, we’re going to ask you to keep it simple. And in one sentence, can you give us the single most important thing managers need to be aware of when creating a healthy and productive company culture? [00:36:50] 

Andre Martin: In one sentence, it’s “You are your company’s culture. So have intent.” [00:37:15]

Host: That’s perfect. Thank you so much. That’s great advice and a perfect way to end today’s conversation. We really appreciate you taking the time. [00:37:22] 

Andre Martin: Thank you. [00:37:31] 

Host: Thanks for tuning in. In the next episode, we’ll be speaking to Michelle Weisse to hear how training employees and power skills is essential for the workplace of the future. 

This episode of Keep It Simple was brought to you by TalentLMS, the training platform built for success and designed with simplicity in mind. For further resources on today’s topic, visit talentlms.com/podcast [00:37:39]

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