Culture-Building Best Practices from A to Z with Simon D’Arcy (Ep. #72)

Published on
March 14, 2023
No items found.
Follow Our Podcast

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #72: Culture-Building Best Practices from A to Z with Simon D’Arcy

Your company’s culture is either a headwind holding you back or a tailwind helping push you forward toward greater success and productivity. Which is yours? And if it’s not headed in the right direction, what’s the quickest way to turn it around?

Our guest today, Simon D’Arcy, shares culture-building best practices from A to Z, including: why company culture and culture “fit” is so vitally important; the right time to start thinking about company culture; what a great culture looks like and who is responsible for it; creating a culture committee & culture champions; and the importance of gratitude, recognition, and appreciation.

In this episode:

Meet Simon D'Arcy

  • Simon D’Arcy is a speaker, author, executive coach, Founder/CEO advisor, and partner at Evolution, a coaching, consulting and investment firm, where he focuses on helping companies scale without losing their soul.
  • For more than 25 years, he has been part of company-wide culture transformation efforts at Fortune 500 companies and has helped early-stage startups discover and cultivate cultural identities from their earliest days. 

What Is Culture?

  • Culture is the "how we relate" to pretty much every interaction. How we collaborate, how we make decisions, how we respond to breakdowns and conflicts, how we work out differences, how we onboard, how we hire. Culture is the how, it's the right way of how any particular company is functioning.
  • And therefore culture is either a headwind or a tailwind. And there's can be a big difference between what you want your culture to be (the words you may have thrown down on some slides, or on some posters) and the actual day-to-day living of it. The difference between what we aspire to and what's actually happening every day is an exercise that leaders and managers must go through to continually bridge that gap.

What’s the Right Time to Start Thinking about Company Culture?

  • There's a false belief out there that people have about culture as if it's just another thing to be planned or scheduled and then rolled out, done now, but not later, and that it's another box to check, but is not actually that useful.
  • But the fact is that culture is happening all the time. It's no different than profit or accountability or productivity where the right time is always or anytime you can.
  • It's the same for culture. When is the right time? The earlier the better!

What is a Good Culture Code?

  • A culture code is the articulation of your culture, a guide for leaders, managers and employees. to, to then be culture builders. Netflix famously came out with their culture deck and many others followed. You can call it your company's "DNA." It's the why we exist, what's important to us, our core values. But having it documented or codified is important.
  • There are at least three things that your code should have.
  • First it needs to feel authentic. It feels like us, like, oh, yeah, that feels true.
  • Second, it should energize your staff. It should inspire people maybe even make them want to be a better person! It should feel fresh or new in a way that engages their motivation.
  • Third is that it needs to provide specific guidance. If it's too vague or abstract it won't be very effective.
  • A fourth might be that there's no corporate jargon - stay away from the cliches.

The importance of Gratitude and Appreciation

  • Neuroscience informs us that you get a shot of dopamine when somebody calls out and says, "What you did there was really great for our  organization!" Don't keep those things under wraps, make these positive callouts public - it's not only great for productivity, but it also can build credibility in case you do have to have any difficult conversations later. It's effective on multiple levels.

Who’s Responsible for Culture in an Organization?

  • One of the biggest myths that really hamper a lot of culture building efforts is that there's one person responsible for culture - it's the CEOs job, or the Head of People's job, or the Head of Cultures job (there are lots of different names for that role these days). But that's just not the case, it's not even possible.
  • The truth is that it needs to be every manager's job to be a culture builder. Every manager is a culture builder for their team.
  • Every manager, every executive, the C-Suite - it needs to be every person's job because we all are constantly shaping and making choices about how we interact with each other. When that is intentional, aspirational, and in line with the culture code, it become self-perpetuating. So it must move from one person's job to many people's jobs in order to have the greatest effect.

Next Steps

  • If you've identified that culture is a big opportunity for your company, then having one of your top five OKRs focused on culture is a very smart idea. It puts the full organizational might behind it and keeps it really visible for folks. Some examples would be Engagement Surveys or Pulse Surveys.
  • But even more important is to have a team of people that are stepping back, taking time out of the working "in" the business to work "on" the business! There has to be a process of evaluating those OKRs from quarter to quarter and following up with real-world recommendations to improve those metrics.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Simon on LinkedIn, Twitter, and at Evolution.team.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Simon D'Arcy

Simon D’Arcy is a speaker, author, executive coach, Founder/CEO advisor, and partner at Evolution, a coaching, consulting and investment firm, where he focuses on helping companies scale without losing their soul. For more than 25 years, he has been part of company-wide culture transformation efforts at Fortune 500 companies and has helped early-stage startups discover and cultivate cultural identities from their earliest days. 

View the episode transcript

Wendy Hanson  0:24  

Welcome everybody to building better managers. I think you all heard the expression, culture eats strategy for breakfast, and it was attributed to Peter Drucker. But truth is, we did a little research, Peter Drucker didn't say that I'm sure he believed it. But that was not his quote. So we want to clear that up in the beginning. But Bill mark, clean author and founder of employee humanity says, culture is how employees hearts and stomachs feel about coming to work Monday morning or on Sunday night, because culture makes such a big difference in a company. Today, we're going to explore organizational culture and the impact it has on teams, and leadership. And I have a wonderful guest who's really an expert in this area. So I'm delighted because I want to be learning from him today to Simon Darcy. So let me tell you a little bit about Simon. Simon is an author, a speaker and executive coach, and He is founder and CEO and partner at evolution, a coaching and consulting investment firm, where he focuses on helping companies scale without losing their soul. So listen to that scale without losing their soul. I love that. For more than 25 years, he's been a part of a company wide culture transformation efforts at Fortune 500 companies, and he's helped early stage startups discover and cultivate cultural identities from their earliest days. So he's worked with the biggest companies and the small ones. So we're going to try to talk about all those today from whatever platform you're listening from. So welcome, Simon, I'm so happy to have you here.

Simon D'Arcy  2:11  

Thank you. It's good to be here. I'm eating your enthusiasm for the topic?

Wendy Hanson  2:17  

Yes, well, I'll say that, you know, my new role at BetterManager in the company, I'm one of the co founders, and I just became also chief of culture, and, and community. So I'm very proud of that role. And a lot of the the ideas that we're going to talk about today are things that we've been working on at BetterManager. So it's good to be able to share it with people on the podcast. So tell me what's the right time, because I'm sure a lot of people ask themselves this question, to start thinking about and creating a company culture?

Simon D'Arcy  2:52  

Well, I love that you're starting with that question. Because even the question itself, I think belies a certain belief, default belief people have about culture. Like, let's schedule culture for next quarter. Or maybe we do it now, but not later. And one of the things I discovered as I was like, really working with a ton of different companies and convening thought leaders on culture is that I think there's when people hear the word curl culture, they think a lot of different things. And mostly they think they reduce it down to something that is not that useful. Because in a sense, culture is happening all the time, like your when is the right time to focus on profit, when is time to focus on, you know, the the how your employees feel coming to work, when is the right time, like the answer is always always or anytime you can. But the question, I think also makes sense from the point of view of like, okay, well, when is the right time? If you're, I think the earlier the better, would be the answer, I could say is applicable for pretty much all situations.

Wendy Hanson  4:04  

Yeah. And you've got to get into it early. I know that you focus on sales really early. And it's usually it's like, let's get the sales go. And it makes sure we're good before we worry about the culture. And by then culture could already be established. Correct?

Simon D'Arcy  4:18  

We will Yes. And you know, there's this classic dilemma that that I think a lot of earlier stage founders in particular face and leaders of companies, they're like, Oh, well, we've got to make sure we survive. We've got to make sure we get our next round of funding, we've got to make sure that our next quarter like results are good enough to get our next round of funding or support. And so let's let's just do that. But then they kind of keep punting it, and then by the time they do start it, they're already 50 people strong, and they've missed a probably the best opportunity to shape your early stage company culture that you have, which is kind of pre that first. Big scaling of of people. Yeah,

Wendy Hanson  5:03  

yeah. And, and people look at it, as you say to a nice to have, it's not a must have. But if you don't deal with it early on, then the culture just happens. Explain to me,

What does culture mean to you?

Simon D'Arcy  5:17  

Yes. So for me, and as you're starting to allude to culture is the how we relate to all the things. So how we collaborate, how we make decisions, how we respond to breakdowns and conflicts, how we work out differences, how we onboard how we hire, how we culture is the how, right the way of working. But the other thing I'd like to say about culture is it's it's a, what we know is it's either a headwind or a tailwind. And just because and there's a difference between what you want your culture to be and the words you may have thrown down on some slides, or on some posters, and the actual living day to day culture. And that that gap between what we aspire to, and what's actually happening every day is an exercise I lead a lot of leaders and managers through having them really see the difference,

because we either are just overly focused on the positive aspiration. And we ignore this, and then people just it becomes a Dilbert cartoon, and people are rolling their eyes and going, okay, yeah, you save you. This is important, but that's not how you're really acting. And then we miss the chance to really do the cultural work. So I think that would be the definition, I think I'd like to add two more things, if I was just on a roll is that in all the conversations, we've kind of convened around culture around culture building with leaders, these truths keep coming back to us. One is that culture matters. And, you know, 20 years ago, we may have said, Okay, it's nice to have. But ever since Glassdoor came on the scene, and completely readjusted the power balance between employees and employers, by that, you know, transparent, seeing through the door, the glass door of the company, it's changed the game. And now companies can say they have a great culture and employees who are like looking see where they want to work the best, best and the brightest can go Yeah, not really. And so that plus a whole generation of more progressive leaders, who are when millennial leaders, Gen X late or late late Gen X and early millennial leaders who actually care about how you know, the culture and the community that their company is, you had now have a lot of competition for those people. And so culture matters is either a hit tailwind or a headwind. And the last thing that feels pertinent to this conversation is that culture can be intentionally shaped. There's a default culture, and it's going to happen regardless if you put attention on it or not. And as leaders and managers, we can intentionally shape it.

Wendy Hanson  7:59  

Yeah. And what's the challenge about having a default culture when that shows up?

Simon D'Arcy  8:06  

Yeah, so my DeVonish default culture is is kind of like what happens when no one's being intentional about it. So you know, as humans, we're wired. In certain ways. We're wired to search our environment for threats and potential threats. And these include psychological threats, we're wired to base pay special attention to when there's a status differential, or somebody's like has more authority or power, we can get little reactive, we're wired in a particular way around uncertainty around things that seemed like injustice, or not fair, or change, lots of change. And so these things that are normal parts of everyday organizations is chaos and change and uncertainty and status differential and things that aren't fair. Those tend to trigger like reactive behaviors and humans. And then you add to that we're not even in the same building anymore. We don't get the kind of like smoothing out in our social relations that we used to have by accident. And you have a recipe for a lot of things like I'm withholding information, or us versus them thinking, or a lack of accountability or a lack of a capacity to have in conversations we need to have in order to make the decisions we need to make. And so that kind of default clothes kind of tell tale signs become. You know, those are the things that's what happens when you don't pay attention to culture intentionally is you're gonna get more of that and less of the stuff you want.

Wendy Hanson  9:40  

Yeah, that's great. Also, when when we've been thinking about culture in our organization, we think about like, what's the word like if you know we're, there's a certain culture word that we pick out, but what's the behavior? Yes, so that you can look at here's and we made a list we had an off site recently we made a list of here are the things that are important to us. And then here's the behaviors. Because if we don't know, the behaviors, we can't recognize when the good culture is happening. Yeah, yeah, and reinforce it

Simon D'Arcy  10:13  

exactly like so the first, like, a lot of the map I'm speaking to comes from this kind of culture building roadmap, which I'll talk probably a little bit more about later. But the first step we just covered, which is around, we get to discover who we are, when we're at our best when we're, you know, like the like, each person. If you think about like skill without losing your soul, you think like a soul is something that's like, separate from personalities separate from our egos separate from, it's something that has like this essential goodness to it, right, wholeness to it. And you think about companies the same way, like companies and teams have, like an essence, like, who we are, when we're at our best, like a purpose, a reason for being a reason for coming together. That's kind of at the heart of things. And so being curious about that is a good thing. And then the second thing is like, how do we codify that in language, that actually helps us keep practicing and aspiring and, and moving from default culture to the intentional culture, it's, it's not like a one time journey. It's not like we do a retreat, decide on the words, and then we're done. That sets up a free, you know, you know, a daily practice, if you will a weekly practice a monthly practice. And so I would agree with you 100%, you need, you need ways of describing your kind of aspirational culture values are, but you also need specific guidance on how we are going to behave. And we've actually found that there are four or five key behavior continuums, if you will, that make the most difference for higher performing thriving cultures?

Wendy Hanson  11:53  

Oh, that's very interesting. Yeah. Because

Simon D'Arcy  11:57  

you've analyzed hundreds of culture codes, and it's like, oh, wow, these certain ones keep showing up. And then we've also worked with teams who don't have certain ones, like if you don't have anything, either implicit or explicit, called out around. Ownership, or responsibility or accountability versus blame. And, right, that's a really important behavior in any team that's trying to accomplish something. So is candor. Right? So is appreciation and gratitude versus maybe entitlement? So is learning and curiosity versus I already know, fixed mindset, right? So there's certain ones that they can, there's lots of different ways of describing those. You know, I had one company, and we did their culture code, and their way of describing it was entitled to nothing. That was the name of the maxim were titled to nothing. We are, like, grateful every day for what we get to do. And I like that. It's like, it's a fresh approach for talking. Yeah.

Wendy Hanson  13:04  

And when you talk about culture code, explain to our listeners, what do you mean by culture code?

Simon D'Arcy  13:12  

Yes. So it's the kind of the document the articulation of your culture, that then can become a guidance for leaders, managers and employees to, to then be culture builders. And so culture code, you can call it lots of things. You've heard it, you know, Netflix famously came out with that deck, their culture deck, and then HubSpot, and others came out with their decks. And at one point in 2013, Slideshare had, like 500 of these, like, company culture decks, that people got inspired, and they uploaded them. And, and so you can call it your company's DNA, you can call it like, why we exist, or what's important to us, or our core values, or our culture code, or the DeVito way, right? That's how DaVita talked about it. Lots people have different ways of talking about it, but having a document is important.

Wendy Hanson  14:09  

Yeah, having that document and, and I love being able to have something that is uniquely for your company. It's not, you're not gonna find it on every other company, you know, you're, you're gonna find it uniquely. This is like, Oh, this feels like, this feels like us. It sounds like us. And it's not always one word, right? It's not one word.

Simon D'Arcy  14:31  

Correct. Like, in fact, we, I would say there's three things, at least three things. You want to make sure your culture code, like if you were looking for a set of evaluation criteria for a good culture code is number one. And I think is the one you were referring to. It feels authentic. It feels like us, like, oh, yeah, that feels true. It feels energizing. Like, I read it when I read culture codes. And I read a statement, it's like, well, that makes me want to be a better person. You know, like, I just read that statement and I want to I that inspires me. I can Read transparency. That's just a word to me. But if I read something like, I'm going to be odd, like what Brene Brown says, like being direct is kind or direct is kind or something like, I want to read it in a way that feels fresh or new in a way that engages my motivation for wanting to do it. And so that's authentic and energizing. And the third is that it needs to be kind of, like, provide specific guidance, you know, when and not, and if I were to add a fourth, it'd be no corporate jargony, you know, like, stay away from the cliches, you know, like to not provide Dilbert with another cartoon.

Wendy Hanson  15:42  

He's got enough to be right to be thinking about. Yeah. And talk to me a little bit about culture, and values of the company.

Simon D'Arcy  15:51  

So values is just like one, one access point. And one dimension of one's kind of a statement of a value is Speight. And saying that we're, this is important to us on a document, like a culture code is basically saying, This is who we aspire to be. What as soon as we say we aspire to be xx, we're also need to admit that we're human, and we're not fat all the time. Like, just by definition, would none of us are perfect. So I think the thing that gets missed in the value, you know, using core values, is we don't spend enough time acknowledging the things that aren't that and that it's okay and not be that what that does is starts to drive all that not the value behavior, underground, and we can't talk about it. And therefore we really can't do any culture building because culture building is really happens when you're not living up to the values when you having the hard conversation. Like in the early days, I used to say, like anybody can have a great culture when you're like hockey stick growth, and you're you know, is going off the charts every single year, but have a down year have to do a riff have to let go, some people have to do some reorg. To prepare to survive for the next year, you get to find out what your culture is like. So culture is all the things including values, including, like, guidance around how we do meetings, how we do all hands, it's rituals that we build in its decision making frameworks. Its look and feel of the company. Its leadership examples, behavior leader example, like leaders, modeling the behaviors they want people to do. There's that famous Janet Burch did, I think a study of Pennsylvania State University around like, how do you get kids to eat green vegetables. And it was like to put kids in a bowl of peas. And she'd have kids in the control group, like, go into the room, there'd be a bowl of peas, then eat the peas, or they wouldn't eat the peas. And then in the other variable group, they would have kids already in the room eating the peas, and they wanted to find out, like, what would be the difference in terms of the adoption of that new behavior? If you had people already in the room eating peas, and guess what, like a lot more kids ate peas when there were other kids eating peas. And this is a, I think, a very instructive lesson for managers, which we already know, like, lead by example. But like, how do you want the culture of your team to be like, be that way, act that way, get get feedback, give each other feedback about that. And you'll build that into the culture of your team.

Wendy Hanson  18:34  

Right. And one of the things that is really important to us at BetterManager is of gratitude and appreciation. And I witnessed it today on one of our leadership calls, you know, our, our, our chief revenue officer called out somebody and thank them for their work that they had done with a team. And it's, that's what we want to be doing is because we know, neuroscience wise, you get a shot of dopamine, when somebody calls out and says, what you did there was really great for our teams in the organization. And so you don't keep those things under wraps, you let them out, you know, and then hopefully you build enough credibility that when you have to have that difficult conversation, then, you know, everybody's on a better page. So who who's responsible for the culture? Is it the leader, the HR person who's responsible?

Simon D'Arcy  19:27  

Yeah, I think that's one of the early like, in the early phase of culture development at companies. And when I worked, I worked with a consulting group in the 90s. And we worked with big systems, fortune 50, fortune 100, fortune 500 companies. And their approach was, I think, quite right for the time, which was work with the CEO and then the senior team, and then you can really start to impact the culture of the company. And that makes sense and I still think the leadership team and the CEO and you know, the head of culture or they had a people in Some cases have an outsized role in affecting culture just because of the role they have. But I think that that's a big mistake a lot of companies make is they just stop there. So

Wendy Hanson  20:12  

Simon, whose job is it in an organization? Who's responsible for the culture?

Simon D'Arcy  20:19  

Yeah, great question. Because I think that's one of the missing links. And that really hamper a lot of culture building efforts is there's this assumption, that it's the CEOs job, or the head of people's job, or the head of cultures job, and just lots of different names for that role. And I don't think that's even possible. I remember hearing, Evan, co founder of Twitter speak, he's also the founder of medium. And he said something that I think is just great advice for all founders, startup leaders, business leaders alike, whose if you don't have somebody whose job it is to pay attention to the thing, it's not going to get done. So whose job is it, like more than 50% of their job, or more than 40% of their job, or more than a significant percentage of their job? Is it to pay attention to culture? And for most people, it's like, third and fourth place on their job description, even if even the ones that have an official role. So my answer to that question is, it needs to be every manager's job to be a culture builder. Every manager is a culture builder for their team, it needs to be every executive, every executive job for building culture in their organizations needs to be the CEOs job, and then needs to be every person's job, like we all are constantly shaping and making choices about how we interact with each other. And we can do that intentionally, in line with this aspirational calling forth that the culture code is. Or we could just do it automatically. And once in a while, it'll be good. And once in a while, it'll just be kind of mediocre. And that's fine, too. It's kind of generally what happens. But I think that's the shift that needs to happen is in with our with most of the people we work with now we're working on getting it to be moving from one person's job to many people's job. Yeah, yeah.

Wendy Hanson  22:20  

I know, because we're, if we're all not, you know, singing from the same song book there, nothing's going to happen. And we need to be celebrating each other calling each other when it's not working, and really pull things together. What's Is there a roadmap? You know, I know you talk about it in your book that leaders can follow. It's kind of help them as they go on this journey?

Simon D'Arcy  22:42  

Yes, there is. And we'll we'll talk about that. We're working on getting a one pager gist of the roadmap, but it's, it's kind of goes through a cycle that repeats, right? Like discover, is this kind of appreciative inquiry, like being curious about like, who do we want to be? Who are we already when we're at our best? Who where's the gap between who we are values and how we're actually showing up? And then, so discover design, like actually codify and create a document or a set of documents that codify your culture code. And then we call it prototype prototype is like, before you kind of make a big splash about it in your company or team, you might want to have your leadership team, like, really practice this, like, are we an example of this culture? Before we go, creating a lot of eye rolls and an all hands, let's make sure we're walking our talk. And so I always say, coached teams to like, wait a few months. Alright, we'll publish it. You know, there's that and then embed. And this is like, the biggest step of all of them is like, how do you embed this this culture code these values, these behaviors, statements, this DNA into every aspect of your business, we can have probably have a couple of questions about that. And then amplify the number of culture builders, which we just spoke about. And then lastly, iterate, you're like, Okay, how are we doing? Like it just like a, like a product release? Like you update the product, you take feedback from your customers, you create new releases, you test it, you measure it, and so and then you start over again, like how are we doing? Now? Let's discover where are we at now? Do we need to adjust? Are we walking the talk? How do we embed it in all our systems? How do we create more people who were paying attention to it and focused on it? And then how do we learn from how we're doing and keep it going? So

Wendy Hanson  24:49  

Oh, I love that and I love your guidance on don't try to get it out so fast, you know, don't that's, you know, and I think that's everybody, let's get it out and let's get it About the website. Well, let's live with it a little bit first and see. So for you to say that let's pilot it with the leadership team and really make sure that we're working it and then get it out there.

Simon D'Arcy  25:12  

Right? Well, because it, getting it out if getting it out there is the goal, then we've missed understood, like, what culture is really and what the real goal is, the goal isn't to have a shiny, beautiful document. On our website for new hire for new candidates, the goal is to actually have like, a culture rating on Glassdoor that's above 4.6. Or whatever it is, right? Like, that's the goal, like the people who actually work here have, like rate as highly our net promoter score for this for for our company is high. That's the goal.

Wendy Hanson  25:53  

Yeah. Because we walk the talk, you know, we're really and and it's authentic. And we check back, you know, we're trying to build in ourselves a lot of contingencies on how do you check back after six months, maybe when somebody's been in the company? And are we are we walking the talk? Are we doing what we said, our culture represents? Yeah, lots of ways to be able to look at that. And any other advice that you would give like, one of the things that we're doing is creating a culture committee, with reps from all different departments in the company to go yes, you know, is that how, how would that become a best practice for companies?

Simon D'Arcy  26:34  

That's definitely that's definitely, it's a best practice. In our book, we, in course of writing, interviewed a lot of different passionate culture builders from different companies, and one of the people I interviewed was, Katie hunt more from Etsy, she's no longer there. But at the time, she was kind of in charge of their impact and values team. And she basically, they created a cross functional, you know, impact and values team that had people from every function, they met regularly. And they were constantly like, looking at like, how's the culture doing here? What can we do to, like, embedded even further, and they weren't just looking at, you know, like fun things to do like beer pong, beer pong nights, or, you know, like all hands, they were looking at, like, Oh, why don't we create a way of like a ritual in our meetings that then Oh, and if someone tried something at this time, they could share it with the rest of the team. And then they would try it, and it spread out ownership. And it had it basically affected, we call it a culture champion team. And then that membership on that team can rotate. And it's a great career development opportunity for anybody that gets to be part of the team. So it's just a win, win, win all the way around. And I do think it's a really good thing to do.

Wendy Hanson  27:52  

Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's great to hear. And what are some other practical considerations when people are looking at this, you know, to start culture champions, you know, test out with the leadership team first and make sure you know, what you're talking about, have things that are unique. What are some other things that you've learned through all your research, which is amazing that companies are doing that you think is so useful?

Simon D'Arcy  28:16  

Yeah. Let's see, I'll say that. One of the things that I think gets under attended to, is the how to talk about and be with each other in the not cultural moments, you know, so when, like, we're not very good at bringing up like, the things that aren't ideal, or the things where we're not living up to the way we say we want to do it, we we tend to get kind of snippy, or reactive or defensive. And so if there was one like skill, like super skill that would make the rest of the culture building process easier. It's, let's make it as easy as possible and normalize and do it as often as possible when we can talk about the moments where it's not working. Like I love the example you gave earlier, where someone like was demonstrating one of the values around like calling someone out and appreciating and being specific about it. And that's great. But I think the the next level of that is, can that same person, especially leaders, especially people with power and authority, that can they call themself out in front of others, when they don't, like miss an opportunity to like really live the culture? And I think it's, it's way easier for me to as a leader to call myself out in a moment and say, God, I missed an opportunity there. I did this and this and what I really would have rather have done is this and this, and that's just me, being accountable for the culture we want to create. There's no shame, there's no blame. We can we can hold that we're human, and we make mistakes and that were well intended. And we can just name it when it happens. and do what a friend of mine calls like, can we give receive feedback and without flinching? You know, like, just not make a big deal out of it and just go. Okay, thank you. And so I think that's for me the the skill that enables teams really to do this. Well,

Wendy Hanson  30:19  

yeah. And that is so wonderful when the leader models that and says, you know, I missed this opportunity, or I didn't follow the culture on this, you know, there was no transparency in what we were doing. And I know that's important to us. And that models it for so many other people to be able to say,

Simon D'Arcy  30:36  

exactly, exactly.

Wendy Hanson  30:38  

So Simon, how do we measure culture and improvement over time? What are some of the things that we can look at in an organization? Because it's such an important piece to be maybe have it as an OKR? How do you what are some of your suggestions for that?

Simon D'Arcy  30:54  

Well, right off the bat, I think, particularly if you've identified that culture is a big opportunity for your company, that having one of your kind of top five OKRs, is focused on culture is a very smart idea. It kind of puts the organizational mite behind it, and makes it really visible for folks. And it's going to be a forcing function for having, you know, key metrics that you're tracking key performance indicators, which are like leading indicators, right for like how we know we're on our way toward that. So that's smart. Obviously, there's some form of like engage manual engagement surveys, pulse surveys. But even more important than like those is do you have a team of people that are stepping back taking time out of the working in the business to work on and make meaning from last quarters to this quarters, or last year, so this year's like results, and then following up with recommendations, I think on a more one, on one level, I think a huge opportunity is embedding culture into how you manage performance. And I got to be part of a company's culture change effort, Canadian company in the kind of financial arena. And they realized that the they had all their performance reviews were based on just results. And they had like these really incredibly high performing salespeople who left a trail of dead bodies in their wake, and nobody really wanted to work with him. And so, like rubber meets the road moment for this company was when they redesigned their evaluation rubric to include a second column, this is this is, you know, 20 years ago, and it was like, groundbreaking, like, Wait a minute. Now, it's like, of course, you do this, but they created, you know, in addition to meets, or doesn't meet or exceeds, or highly exceeds they had around culture, they had like, champion, like, you know, people are inspired, they people talk about this person is the as, like, an example of the culture. And then it was like, you know, what they're working, they're 100% engaged to being a culture builder. And then it's like, ah, not, you know, not meeting, you know, like, not doesn't seem like and then like not meeting at all, like they're actually counter impacting culture. And they had to decide early on, if someone's a superstar and results, but they're, like, really low on this. What's the net of that for their performance review? And are we willing to say that's a not met? And that was a tough conversation, we had the top 30 leaders of that company all stacking hands and saying, Yep, we're gonna say that person doesn't get the promotion or the bonus. And we're willing to lose people that say, well, that's messed up. Yeah. But those are the companies that actually like they're really walking the talk. And they're saying, we're not just valuing results here. We're voting results and our impact on others and how we get the result done.

Wendy Hanson  34:04  

Yeah, that's great. And all of our interviews in the company and all when we bring on coaches and facilitators, I do the culture, kind of checking up on like, are they a good fit for the culture? Because there are we coach a lot of executives and companies who say, this person has such great skills, but boy, he's terrible, you know, he doesn't get along with people and do you really want to trade that off? You know, is it really worse? So I think that's an important consideration, you know, don't hire hire for a good cultural fit and people can learn the skills better, you know, at higher levels. That's I'm being simplistic but it's it's an important piece to think about in a company.

Simon D'Arcy  34:49  

And I think it's okay to say that people don't currently have maybe are as skillful as they need to be or could be like it's okay to have like a skill gap in some areas. Some people with highly technical You know, specialties, right? I've never really had to emphasize some of the more interpersonal skills. But is there a willingness? Right? Is there a willingness to is to learn? And is there like a recognition that it's important, I think matters. And I think I almost want to say something else. Because this word culture fit can get really confusing. In this current day, like culture fit means willingness to embody and demonstrate a certain set of skills and ways of working together, not like this is we've decided that this culture is the right culture and your culture, which may emphasize different values is the wrong culture is nanananana are talking willingness to engage in these, like interpersonal and ways of working. And these things that we've decided is going to make us a better team and help us fulfill our mission as a company.

Wendy Hanson  35:50  

Yeah. Oh, that's great. That's great. So tell us a little bit about your book. Because I think it's a great opportunity for people to learn more about culture and scaling.

Simon D'Arcy  36:02  

Perfect. So here's the book scale without losing your soul. It's the startup culture guide, it's good for really any person who's in a situation where you have a team or a company, and you're going to grow over the next period of time, you're going to bring new people in. And you want to get a good kind of sense for a way to look at culture, a way to think about culture, a way to talk about culture that is both actionable and possibly inspiring. And then it gives you a roadmap for how you can do that on your team or in your company, a step by step. And we're actually it's a very practical thing, like I read a lot of books. And it's like, I read the first 100 pages. And I'm like, This is great. And then I read the next 100 pages, I'm like, Well, this is kind of just restating the great in the beginning, and then maybe they'll I'm don't even get to the last 100 pages. So we skipped the last 150 pages. And we kept this thing, short and actionable. And it has, I think, a somewhat inspirational tone, because it's bringing together examples of other companies that are actually doing this and with the work that we've done. So

Wendy Hanson  37:10  

that's great. And that's really what we the message we want to get out in this podcast are things that are actionable, and they're clear, and you leave this and you know what you can do next. So this has been extremely helpful. Thank you so much for joining me today. And thank you all for listening in on this you. If you look at the show notes, you'll see more about Simon and the book and more information and you can connect with him, Simon house, the best way for people to learn more about you and get in touch with you.

Simon D'Arcy  37:43  

You can go to scale without losing your soul.com. That's the landing page for the book and other resources that are helpful. And you can also find me on LinkedIn. Great,

Wendy Hanson  37:55  

great, Simon Darcy. So thank you, Simon, thank you so much, because you're making such a difference in the world being able to help people with their cultures, because then people come to work happier, they're more productive, you know, they understand they're more empathetic, all these things that we need, we need more EQ in the workplace. We get a lot done, but we have to have this piece. So thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your wisdom. And as always, everyone, you can always write to me wendy@bettermanager.us happy to field any questions and have a wonderful day and think about the culture in your organization and think about what you can do about it, and this book provides a good path to get there. Thanks, everyone. Have a great day.

The future of work has arrived. It's time to thrive.