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Watercooler Hangout #1 Transcript 💧🗒

A chance to connect with Watercooler members more closely, and learn from each others’ experiences.

During this hangout on November 8th, we hosted:

  • Andrew Montelenti, CTO at Parse.ly
  • Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company
  • Jonathan McCormick, Director at Rosseau, Ltd.
  • Morgan Legge, Operations at Convert.com
  • Prabodh Kumar, Head of Engineering at Recruiterbox.com
  • Robert Williams, Owner at Folyo
  • Tim Burgess, Co-founder at Shield GE
  • Vivek Juneja, Engineering Manager at Zalando

Below is a transcript (albeit a bit rough with the internet connection!)


Claire : I’m truly excited and honored to have all of you today. In my note earlier, like I was saying, we’re just going to spend time a little bit of time first obviously getting to know each other, a little bit about our backgrounds, and then the most important piece, talking and sharing through the biggest challenges that we’re facing. And because this is the first one I’m honestly not sure what will come of this, so in many ways all of us here can sort of guide and direct what we want to get out off this time together.

I think the reason why we at Know Your Company, Daniel and I, Daniel who’s our Chief Technology Officer, we even started The Watercooler, is because these sorts of connections just don’t happen if you are a manager or a business owner. To be able to talk to peers who are running businesses and running teams from all over the world, it just doesn’t really happen that much. So I’m excited to have all of you here. And yeah, feel free to, I don’t know, just again take this where you want it to be. It’s yours to shape.

So looks like we have Andrew who might be joining us here momentarily, which is awesome. So while he gets settled in … Oh. Yeah, so while he gets settled in, let’s start off with introductions. So I’d love to hear first a little bit about yourselves. Obviously your name, where you’re calling in from, the company that you’re a part of, your role.

And then the two things that I’d love for you to share, or maybe three, is I guess first what you want to get out of this discussion here, or what you’ve been wanting to get out of The Watercooler in general, so that’s the first thing. Second thing is the biggest challenge that you’ve been wrestling with lately as a leader or as a manager. What’s just been the number one thing on your mind that maybe you’d like to discuss today, or have people talk about? And then the last thing, the most important question in my opinion, which is, crunchy or smooth peanut butter, which do you prefer? That is the last question.

So, like I said, a little bit about yourself, where you’re calling from … yeah. The second-

Vivek: Let’s make that a first answer.

Claire : Yeah, or we can do this in whatever order you want. The second being why you joined The Watercooler, what you want to get out of this discussion, and the third thing being crunchy or smooth. So, who would like to start? Anyone can take the ball here.

Vivek: Go ahead. Go ahead.

Morgan: Gentleman first.

Vivek: No, go ahead. [inaudible 00:03:48] first.

Morgan: Okay, fair enough. So I’m Morgan. I was born and raised in [inaudible 00:03:56]. I work out of my home office. I have traveled extensively, and lived in five different place [inaudible 00:04:05] back to Montreal about three years ago. I work for Convert.com, which is an A/B testing tool. And we scrappy 100% remote, multi-time zone team of my next tires five. And we operate on a structure of governance called Holacracy. So it is a distributed way of making decisions, essentially.

I convert, run [inaudible 00:04:46] HR. I’ve also started doing engagement with integration partners, because I like the people part of it. I also wear the hat of conscious business. Holacracy, you don’t necessarily have a job, so I take on roles that suit my skill set and my interest of either [inaudible 00:05:13] or where I want to go. Right?

My background is in interior design and project management. So I’ll [inaudible 00:05:25] people is, I solve problems. I listen, and I solve problems, and I spent 20 years doing that with a wide variety of stakeholders for gut remodel construction projects, all the way from outsourced manual labor up to the end client. So it was kind of my intro into working with different teams. And I used those skills with the creative problem solving to do what do on a daily basis.

So it’s been a ride. In the time that I’ve been there, it’s been a lot of fun actually. I think I’ve had two days where I kind of, in those three years, kind of threw up my hands. But mostly I have to say that I really love the values of the team. One of the first things that came up when I was first hired of, I actually [inaudible 00:06:31] framework was allowed to refuse a potential customer based on their values not aligning with us. So that had come out of a really awful working environment, and that to me kind of sealed the deal of how important aligning values and the culture of the team hiring was super, super important.

So I’ve been on this journey. Grown the company from seven when I started to 35. And with all these different pieces and parts, really attract and grow engagement within the team. Like I see my role as being a [inaudible 00:07:17] role essentially, for people inside the team and people outside the team. So to really think in terms of operations, we’re the grease in the wheels to keep everything moving, and we need to provide [inaudible 00:07:36] to the people [inaudible 00:07:38]. But then those that are doing hiring and are outside-facing also have to think that way too. Whether they’re customers or whether they’re people [inaudible 00:07:47], they’re our customers too. Right?

Smooth peanut butter. Though I prefer hazelnuts, I have to say, but peanut butter works for me.

And [inaudible 00:08:06] I think is really … So there are a few. The challenge I have [inaudible 00:08:14] point, trying to maintain our growth without growing the team. Like grow the team, but I don’t want to have to grow as much as I’ve grown to get to the next jump of where we want to be financially. So that is a challenge, for sure. And then also scaling our hiring process. Our hiring process is really [inaudible 00:08:42] super [inaudible 00:08:44]. And I’m trying to deal with that challenge now.

So that’s [inaudible 00:08:52], I think, has always been to learn from other people. I’m really a true believer that a person can always learn something, from no matter who [inaudible 00:09:08] anybody. If I am the job laying pipe, or whether whoever it is, I can always learn something, and it’s [inaudible 00:09:20] with the group initially, and it has absolutely exceeded every expectation that I ever had.

So I’m here to tap into your brains, as it were, and learn.

Claire : Wonderful. Well thank you so much, Morgan.

Morgan: That’s all I have.

Claire : No. Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s good to know that you’re on team smooth. And yeah, we’re excited to be able to tap into your brain as well. So, thank you.

All right, who would like to go next? Whoever wants to go, you can just start talking.

Vivek: Yeah, let me try. Go ahead. Hi, I’m Vivek, from Berlin, Germany. And for the last two years, I’ve been working with Zalando. Again, it’s online retailer. I work as an Engineering Manager for basically managing the entire fashion store. The online fashion store. We are basically the Amazon for fashion in the Europe. And so having different time zones. I just enjoy this because this reminds me of the days where we used to work with distributor teams. Some in India, some in China, and it was amazing experience. So this reminds me of those times when I talked to different people in different time zones.

I [inaudible 00:10:46] started [inaudible 00:10:48] long back. Moved in different roles. Basically thrown into leadership saying that, "Hey you can figure it out. Just do it." And I had amazing mentors over the course of my entire career. And I think what brought me to Watercooler is basically I just enjoy Watercooler. Right? You get people, you hang around there, and you share information, sometime gossip, [inaudible 00:11:15] them which you can actually apply to your day-to-day work. And sometimes gossips that can be useful. So I think this why I’m really [inaudible 00:11:25] here, and tap into the minds of, the collective minds of amazing people like all of you.

And for me, I think that started in the journey about what does leadership mean, and how to define leadership versus management. Being thrown into leadership without very much training and becoming a [inaudible 00:11:43] hands-on engineer. You need to pick up the skills as you go and as you learn through conflicts and different situations. So you pick up things that work, things that [inaudible 00:11:54], and also working different cultures. Like if you’re working in the Eastern Europe, or East Asia, than working in Middle East and India. So, that really brings you different perspectives of how people respond to leaders.

I had an [inaudible 00:12:14] in South Korea for five years working with LG, and it was an amazing experience. How they leader and model there. And then a switch suddenly to the UK, where it’s very frank, open. So it’s jumping [inaudible 00:12:32] models. Like really you can actually build a catalog of these ideas.

And now in my present job, so I work with a diverse team. I have almost … people with me on a day-to-day job, everyone coming from different backgrounds. Some German, some Indian, Russians, Chinese, from Turkey. So, it’s amazing. It’s like a melting pot of culture, and also emotions that come. And that spirit connects to me as [inaudible 00:13:01].

At the moment, single number one challenge is basically trying to understand of how do you manage as a leader your emotion while making decisions. And as a leader, my job is basically to be able to help people bring out the best in [inaudible 00:13:19] at work, in their professional lives, because we solve complex customer problems. And how do I build the empathy for my customer, or our [inaudible 00:13:29] among them?

And the modern world is full of biases, full of complex, changing equation [inaudible 00:13:39]. And that really puts you in a different situation, because you’re absorbing a lot of information. There’s [inaudible 00:13:46] of information available to you, which creates a complex mess of bias. So when you deal with decisions that need to made, how do you ensure you’re self-aware of the state that you bring into that decision making, and what’s the longterm effect of it.

And I think this has been a kind of a search for myself for a long time, on understating how people deal with this. In different professions, not in the profession just the way I’m currently in. Understanding the different areas of life and professions of people make critical decisions. How do we [inaudible 00:14:22] their emotions into that? And I think that as a human being, you have emotions. You need to ensure that the first-class citizen in any [inaudible 00:14:33] take it out from that [inaudible 00:14:36].

So for me, I admire and promote, in my team and everyone at work, to bring your best to your [inaudible 00:14:43] for yourself, and the [inaudible 00:14:45]. So that’s the same reason, I want to bring myself to my team, with all my imperfections and the nuances. Yet I want to be in a place where understanding and contemplating on, "Okay, well this is the right state of mind I need to jump into, because this is what it demands of the situation is." And asking the right questions, and ensuring the team understands that.

And [inaudible 00:15:13] something, it’s a work in progress, and I do that sometimes by journaling, or just looking back in the past major decisions I had to be part of, and how did I do, and what do you think about. So being self-retrospective about it. But it’s a [inaudible 00:15:33]. That’s where reading about the testimonials, and how all of you contribute to The Watercooler really gives me a deep respect … thinking from your point of view on how would I apply to my day-to-day decision making process.

So again, thank you for having this amazing experience, being with all of you, and I’m looking forward to connect and contribute.

Claire: Thank you so much for that. We have to ask though, peanut butter wise…

Vivek: Oh. Crunchy peanut.

Claire : All right.

Vivek: Crunchy peanut better. I like crunchy one.

Claire : All right. One to one then. Got it. Thank you so much. Yeah, we’re really excited to have you, and I think your point about emotions being such a volatile thing to take into consideration when making decisions as a leader is something extremely worthwhile talking about. So I look forward to hopefully touching on that in a conversation. Thank you again.

All right, who’s up next? Who would like to introduce themselves?

Tim: I can go. I can go. So Tim, I’m based in Sydney, Australia. I am [inaudible 00:16:46]. We’re an insourced employment service. So we employ people internationally for companies where they don’t have an entity set up. Can’t do it directly. Role in the company is … So I’ve been on operations side of the business. So I deal with all the day-to-day [inaudible 00:17:05]. Technology reports to me. Implementation, account management, all that stuff. They are the firm that deals with sales and service.

So what brought me to The Watercooler, actually, was … I can’t remember whether it was on Twitter, or email or something, but I was getting articles that were really interesting to me as I started to become a manager of people as opposed to an individual contributor peer, as we started to grow in size. And I was reading these articles, I was like, "Oh, this Know Your Company. This is interesting." And then I got on the [inaudible 00:17:46]. And then i realized that I kept clicking through these things every month, so I started to look at more, like what else could I learn, and [inaudible 00:17:54]. It’s been very helpful for me as a way to learn.

One of the biggest things that I discovered was as [inaudible 00:18:02] individual to a manager, to now I’m a manager of people who manage other people, is that my sort of startup, trail and error, let’s just do the minimum we have to in order to get the result, it doesn’t work well with people, and the collateral damage of trail and error is horrific. So I realized that it’s something that … that it helps to be more thoughtful, and to have a bit more technical approach.

So [inaudible 00:18:43] that I have currently. Well, I have a personal challenge, and then I have the company challenge. So the company challenge is around embedding culture and values. So we’re at 25 people now, and we feel like we’re at a tipping point where our organic [inaudible 00:18:59] culture that we’re a small group, that we all know each other isn’t going to survive if we get to 30, 50, 100 people. We’re a service business, so we’re going to add. There’s no way around that. So we need to have the structure in place in order to be able to scale [inaudible 00:19:20].

And then as an individual, part of this is that I need to be able to espouse the values that I want the team to show, and I really want us to have a culture that’s around honest communication. And so feedback is a really hot topic. How do we communicate in a supportive way, how we do we manage balance so that we’re not always telling people off, but we’re also praising them so that they don’t switch off. And the [inaudible 00:19:56]. And for me personally, being a better listener, I think, is a really big part of that.

Now peanut butter, either way to be honest. If I had to choose, I guess I’d go with crunchy. But I’ll take it any way.

Claire : Awesome. Thanks so much, Tim. And now, yeah, two to one in crunchy’s favor. Just keeping score here for this very, very important question.

No, and I think the point you made about listening is absolutely key. I actually wrote something very recently on that topic, because it’s something important, that I think we overestimate, as leaders, our ability to listen a lot of the time. So, thank you for bringing that up.

All right, who would like to go forward and introduce themselves next? Just go ahead, and you can just start talking.

PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:21:04]

Rob: I have a newsletter I sent to our freelance product designers, where I basically find them their jobs, for freelancers. It’s got like 4000 people on it. It’s a very small operation. I was telling Tim and Morgan before the call, a bit earlier than the rest of you guys, I’m still a one person team. I’m team crunchy as far as the peanut butter goes.

What brought me to The Watercooler was just wanting, I guess, to grow beyond myself and expand my network a bit. In particular, I read a book, Peter [inaudible 00:21:52], now the talk of it, and I think that might have been part of the reason why also I joined was, realizing that managing yourself and managing is, a lot of times, the key to getting better results for stuff and implementing systems, led me to some of Claire’s awesome guides.

And yeah, what I want to get out of The Watercooler is … I’m definitely not at a place yet where I can implement everything directly into my business, because I don’t have that sort of thing. But, I think that I can get mindset changes from people that are ahead of me in ways, which has been tough for me because I’ve been in masterminds with other people in similar situations and you start to run into the same problems often. Sometimes it feels like the problems kind of migrate between us and just kind of whack-a-mole sort of style.

So, yeah. I also have a podcast on product [inaudible 00:23:07]. I’ve interviewed some really cool people. That’s been another way to kind of grow my network and change my mindset. So, yeah. I think that’s about it.

Andrew: What’s your podcast called?

Rob: It’s called One Thing podcast.

Andrew: Alright.

Claire : Sweet. Now, thank you so much for joining us, Rob.

I think having the variety of perspective is so important, and you make a great point about how, for I think, all of us as leaders, whatever stage that is, whatever stage of the business that is, the only way you leap forward is by being around people who are in a different place than you. So I think the variety of perspective is actually really important for all of us here to learn. So thank you. Who’s next?

Jonny: I can go next if that’s cool.

Claire : Go for it, yeah.

Jonny: So lots of shared experience, I suppose really good to connect with you all and see some faces to the names that I’ve talked with on the various fora at the Watercooler. It’s really cool to be live with you guys to really appreciative. Rob, I suppose I’m not too dissimilar to your situation in many senses.

I’m a two person organization, so I left my management background, typically specialize in organization design, or change management of all sorts of people, mission strategy type issues is what I typically do and I’ve done a number of years at PWC, so I think The Watercooler was, after going out by myself and starting my own consulting practice, it felt very, very lonely. I went from a 350 thousand people, really, really active sort of internal social network, had access to knowledge and really, really switched on your tips 24 hours a day so I could reach out to our community and get answers to most of my questions pretty quickly and pretty satisfactorily.

And I think I really didn’t anticipate how much I would miss that after leaving such a big organization and starting out by myself. Finding The Watercooler was a bit of a godsend in some senses because it allowed me to get some live feedback from other really, really smart people. It also allowed me to share whatever knowledge that I think I have or other people who are going through challenges that I’ve either seen before or experienced myself. So that was really cool for me.

Morgan, I was really interested to hear your background in interior design. A, well is to judge how the more obscure background, and I’m new so I initially was … I went to university to train to become a religion. Through that process, discovered somehow that I was much too irreverent for that lifestyle and found my way to the dark underbelly of management consulting. And here I am seven or eight years later, running my own business, and our first staff member just a … Yeah, I think can help me get some head space and find my way through the [inaudible 00:26:46] a company and starting a company.

So, I think that brings me on to what my biggest challenge is at the moment and there are two that sort of came to mind in your e-mail. One is, I’m really fortunate coming from somewhere like PWC, I had great network, and was really fortunate to lend me some work really, really quickly after starting. So I got one client who’s pretty much probably 95 percent of [inaudible 00:27:15] want more and more and more and more. And I recognize that that’s actually quite a vulnerable place to be in, as a business. So I had to scale that from one client or a couple of smaller clients to a couple of really [inaudible 00:27:34] pipeline.

And the second thing is, and I think some people will have experienced this before or have a [inaudible 00:27:42] with it, it is friendship, or manage those people who go, "Hey, can I grab a coffee with you?" and differentiate the ones that are gonna be mutually beneficial, or could lead to a genuine opportunity to partner together, or a genuine opportunity to work together, compared to those that who are going to take, take, take, and you don’t really get anything in return. And I think there’s definitely a place for that, but it’s just I feel like, at the moment, because … I’d say I’ve probably invested quite a bit of time into trying to raise my own profile over the past year since starting my business. I’m quite active on Medium. I also started a podcast. Yeah, I just do sorts of, quite a bit of speaking locally, at conferences, things like that. And I think I’ve had a lot of people that want some time now, and I was just trying to differentiate how to give it in the best or the most appropriate way.

I [inaudible 00:28:40], and I’ll wrap it up by saying I am firmly in the team crunchy pack.

Morgan: I think I need to go.

Claire : You’re outnumbered here Morgan, for now. All good. We’ve still got a few folks left though, so we’ll see how this shakes out. Johnny, thanks so much for sharing. Very, very excited to have you with us, here.

So, we’ve got, I think, two folks … Yeah, two folks left to introduce themselves along with myself, and yeah. Love to hear from either [phonetic 00:29:16] Prabodh or Andrew.

Prabodh: I can go next. Can I go?

Claire : Absolutely, go for it. Yes.

Prabodh: I’m from Prabodh India, so Head of Engineering at Recruiterbox, so we eliminate this applicant tagging system. So Morgan, it might help you in some of your problems.

So, our engineering team is based out of India and our other functions are over here, so we also have these time zone issue, like they were in pacific and western time zones so, our entire inventory has been always based out of India. I been in [inaudible 00:30:04] for long, like I’ve been working here for last — close to four years. First three years, I work in different products. And from last one year, my responsibilities include mostly making sure all these documents needing and all responsibilities of the team and each individual individual’s contribution, things like that.

I think it’s more of the same. Are each function [inaudible 00:30:28] things and then work in each of their different management philosophies, so they need engineering work, with this collaborative [inaudible 00:30:35] it’s more of a role and can’t really currently blame them, probably I will never resignation, which is like [inaudible 00:30:43] we work for this project I’m taking responsibilities, so I’m taking on his responsibilities for him.

It’s sort of a whirlwind for us. I’ve been an engineer for probably like last 11, 12 years, so I’m mostly working in … as product design, product developer and product manager, and I was working so … how I came to management was, I was one of the founder members of my previous company, where we were three founders, and we had to do all the things [inaudible 00:31:17] them and originally [inaudible 00:31:17] instead of, defined the vision for the team and things like that.

After that I move on to a different opportunity, at Computer Box where I joined the design team but eventually moved to this specific role I am playing. One thing which keeps me busier is making sure that everybody on the team is excited to come in to work every day. I think it’s an unappreciated problem, but I think [inaudible 00:31:51] when is the morning going to come, is so excited about mornings. But I don’t know if that team is excitable, and [inaudible 00:31:58], like morning session. That’s my role and my problem always. Being a small time, probably we are team of 11 or 10, so even the boss still need to do whatever it is it’s very [inaudible 00:32:10] so it’s going to make sure we always [inaudible 00:32:13] the boss doing things. That’s the major part of my responsibility was.

And I’m also on the team’s [inaudible 00:32:22]. I don’t mind any of them. I actually love [inaudible 00:32:26] anything else is the same. Yeah.

Vivek: Go for the smooth one.

Prabodh: Yeah, I enjoy the smooth one, I like them [inaudible 00:32:36].

Morgan: Just to even things out.

Claire : Sympathy!

Morgan: Awesome.

Andrew: I just going to say that I’m firmly in the smooth category, so, I don’t know where that puts the votes.

If I could put two votes in for smooth, I would. [inaudible 00:32:54]

Morgan: Evening out a little bit, evening out a little bit.

Well, Andrew, we’d love for you to introduce yourself.

Andrew: I’m Andrew Montalenti, I’m the co-founder and CTO of Parse.ly. So to give a quick summary, Parse.ly is a software company that sells media analytics to large scale brands, publishers, news companies, online video companies, and all sorts of other folks.

We’re kind of like a middle-aged start-up. We’re a school year operation, and we have about 70 people on staff, that spans distributed team, and we’ve been fully distributed remote since the beginning. It spans about 30 people in the engineering product and design, which is the team I run, CTO. Then we have about 40 people on a business team, like a business department that spans sales, customer success, finance, operations, and areas like that.

That’s the team [phonetic 00:34:10] Mahinder runs. All of that is not strictly true anymore. We kind of manage some departments together, and stuff. So yeah, I guess, why I joined the Watercooler, is because I’m generally find that I’m a really — I’m personally [inaudible 00:34:31] type, so I write a lot, I read a lot. I think I just tallied that I read 18 business books in the last six months, and write content just for myself that then I just shred and throw away. I find that I’m a little too in my own head, and it’s good to hear from other people’s perspectives how they are approaching problems.

In terms of challenges, probably like the — so scaling has always been part of the history. We’ve had [inaudible 00:35:09] up the right scaling path over the course of 10 years. The head count that we’re at now, which is 70 people, if you had asked me five years if the company would ever have 70 people I would have said hell no, that would terrible. We should never get to 70 people, that’s way too many. No one would even know each other anymore, whatever. But we sort of steadily grown to that size over time as revenue has gone up and funding, and all the rest of that.

I’m not too worried about culture. I think actually we nailed a lot of cultural aspects at Parse.ly pretty well, and you’d find that to my talking to the staff. I think [inaudible 00:35:47] be more worried about … probably the number one thing that keeps me up at night is this dynamic of a lot of the people who are at Parse.ly in the early joined the company to create a product that was useful for the market from nothing, and discover those market needs, and evolve them in a really rapid way.

I fear now that a lot of [inaudible 00:36:15] come to Parse.ly work for maybe more careerist reasons, and maybe that’s okay, but maybe they’re kind of coming because the company is already established, already has 400 customers, and notoriety, and whatever else. They’re not really here for those foundational reasons. I sometimes wonder if … basically the thing in the back of my head is — to what degree is the big company mentality that I tried get away from when I started the company, now infiltrating my company, years later. So that’s probably like the biggest thing that spins the wheels in my head from like a concern or fear standpoint.

[inaudible 00:37:03] learn to, happy to be hear.

Claire : Awesome. Thank you so much Andrew. I think that the fact that you can say that you nailed culture at Parse.ly might actually be a great place for us to start because I think … it’s fascinating, and it was echoed a little bit here today, One of the biggest challenges I think we face as leaders. We’d love to hear, at some point, your thoughts on that.

I’m going to really quickly share a little bit about myself for those of you who don’t know who I am, and who the strange person is who’s been organizing the hangout and running the Watercooler.

I’m Claire, and I’m the CEO of Know Your Company. Our software helps managers become better and get employee feedback. As I mentioned earlier, before we kicked everything off, we started the Watercooler because we just felt like there wasn’t a place where you could actually talk about leadership that wasn’t expensive, that you could do a few minutes here and there, and that you could connect with people from all over the world. So it is so neat, almost a year later to see how many conversations have been had — thousands and thousands of conversations. We have about a thousand members from all over the world, and to hear and learn from amazing talented people like all of you.

For myself, I am … what am I, team crunchy or team smooth? It depends on the day, actually. It’s actually why I like to ask this question. I’m always curious where people land.

And then in terms of my biggest challenge lately, the big thing I have been thinking about a lot lately and that I’m actually about to start writing a little bit more about, is the problem of as a leader, making decision all the time that people aren’t always going to agree with obviously, and how do you negotiate the need to have people excited, high morale, and invested in where the company is going, or the product is going, etc., when you as the leader are making decisions that they don’t necessarily agree with. The question of buy in, the question of communicating those decisions. And … and sometimes maybe you making decisions where you don’t necessarily agree with it, but you’re letting the person take the lead on it. So how do you distinguish between all of those paths. That’s something I’ve been chewing on lately.

That’s a little bit about me. But we have about 20 or so minutes to really dive into one particular challenge. And like I said, this hang out is new. I really want to open it up, and let folks — if there’s anything particular that really resonated with you that one of the other members talked about, if you have a particular question, there’s a challenge you want to dive into first, I want to open up the floor for that discussion.

Vivek: I like the idea of trying to put culture like with you being a single person company, and you’re scaling to 70 or going through a long corporate like 10 thousand, 20 thousand employees… One of the things that comes around this culture is a lot of people talk about culture fitness. You’re hiring someone for culture fitness, and defining culture … this is our culture. It would be interesting to understand from each of one of you, what do you see as culture? What is culture to you, to the type of organizations that you have created or you belong to. It would be a very interesting perspective to also bring in general, in your day-to-day understanding of how you see culture in your own organizations.

I think it would be interesting, but I’m open to any other suggestions that you may have.

Tim: I think it’s a really interesting [inaudible 00:41:09] … meant for me. That’s exactly that we’re really wrestling with. And so my current thinking on it … it always seems to evolve, but my current thinking on it is that what’s important to is value fit. So we want both the share the same core values that we do, and so what we’re trying to do is find a balance between diversity [inaudible 00:41:37], so that means culturally they don’t have to be an optimist, they don’t have to be someone who comes in every day and is super-smiley. They have to share our values around transparency and empathy. Those things are deal breakers for us. So –

PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:42:04]

Tim: … empathy, those things are deal breakers for us. So, what we’re trying to do is look at…at someone who fit our values, but who we think can add to our culture, because what we find is actually having those preferred few to having some people who, who are their glass is half full. Then it allows us to see things from different perspectives and make decisions overall.

The mistake I think we’ve made is that we haven’t made these things explicit in the way that we think about roles, the way that we hire, the way that we interview, the way that we’re onboard, performance manage, and try and grow people. And so now we’ve got a bit of a disconnect where, where we’ve got people who are established, and now we’re trying to roll values out and we’re saying, well, actually, they’re not a 100% with some of those values.

But that’s a tricky conversation because you’re, we hired them, and now we’re saying actually, you know, we kind of want you a little bit different there. So yeah, that’s my take on it.

Morgan: So, I think, it’s super interesting and it kind of ties in to…so I have a little bit of the opposite problem, so we have this really robust manual, but it works really well for culture fit in our hiring process. The problem is that my legacy team wasn’t hired that way. So even though they were a part in those, that culture and those values, I now have a core legacy group that and staff saw what the vision was.

We saw we, we wanted to adopt Holacracy. We want certain, you know, traits that come with that. You have to have people who are entrepreneurial. You have to have people who divorce their, taking things personally, right? So giving feedback. All these things like cause your role is separate. They’re not who you are, right?

So it’s and also people who are really about, you know, progress not perfection. Things like this, so these are all things that we, we knew that we wanted to have and we knew we had to have flyers scale with Holacracy, but finding that the legacy people maybe aren’t the right work.

I spend a lot of time working with them, one-on-one to coach them with or coach that it’s true, like, so I feel it, but from the reverse.

Tim: I think that’s the next step for us is that where we commute a new path, and I can now, make some decisions.

Morgan: Yeah.

Vivek: Does anyone have opinions of what they consider to be a good culture or a bad culture?

Jonny: Yes, so I thank you very much for bringing up the veck and for sharing your experiences Tim and Morgan. It was super interesting to get that insight.

In speaking of terms, start up finder probably, three or four months ago by coming on potentially doing a little bit of work with the company, and one of their big challenges was hiring people in reasonably senior roles, in a very, very fast growing company. So, just for some context this year they’ve gone from 25 employees to 150 employees. Next year they’re going to double in size and same again the year after, so they’re on this massive sort of hiring curve and their lead time for talents if they were to, I’m talking sort of senior, mid to senior level talent, so if they were to hire a head of product development [inaudible 00:46:51] something like that, they’re gonna lose jobs were somewhere between 12 and 18 months, and to have those jobs unfilled for 12 to 18 months just seems insane.

Like, it seems absolutely crazy, I’m sort of trying to unpack what some of the issues behind that might have been. One thing that stuck, and I wanted to explore it a little bit more, and he was saying, you know, we’re a young fast moving company, and I get really concerned that it was actually quite heartening whenever you said that you trying to consider more diversity within your culture. Because I think sometimes people can use culture as a bit of escape for bringing their own implicit bias into situations. So, what he meant really, when he was saying, "We’re a young company", is everyone is under 35, and actually that’s probably not a great situation to be in. Especially if you’re talking about a company that, at the end of next year is 150 staff. To not have one employee that’s over 35, you’re probably actually jeopardizing the, [inaudible 00:47:58] in many sense.

So, I think that there are some times with culture there’s these sort of hard markers, and I would see that as something like an age gripe or experience level gripe. Something that’s a definite hard marker that someone can identify, actualize, put their hands on, touch, and identify really clearly, and I think that a lot of the time actually those things are unhelpful.

I think what’s helpful in defining culture is are these sort of softer markers. We’re looking for things like learning and the difficulty with that is that sometimes those softer markers are harder to identify. Especially in that sort of attract recruit board stage. They only really begin to come into their own when ever you’re in the develop, or and maintain stage of that sort of recruitment board with them.

But I think really getting clear on what the soft markers of your culture, what the soft markers of healthy culture are is something that’s really, really important and can actually be against those hard markers that are, maybe going to be unhelpful or could lead to, you know, an un-diverse [inaudible 00:49:03] something like that.

Morgan: That’s interesting.

Prabodh: [inaudible 00:49:15] can’t concerned so I think the [inaudible 00:49:18] agree to define to it was what kind of [inaudible 00:49:22] and what kind of behaviors.[inaudible 00:49:26] So. Everybody brings something to the table and it just[inaudible 00:49:34] like pulls in one direction. That is one constant chain that is happening, so hiding would like to explain them the kind of the processes we for look. Not just the tech, but the [inaudible 00:49:50] We have these open feedback sessions where the floor is open for the team, and we just talk about what are the things, everybody’s doing well, or some areas of influence.

It’s pretty open, like we have[inaudible 00:50:06] Nobody carries anything negative about that, so you talk about this pack, and we make it, we explain them, we call them all to our office, at least a couple of us. We have lunch at our office. We make them have lunch at office, and probably get a feel of how we work and how we talk, giving our stand ups.

It gives a chance to evaluate them on, when it comes to us their relation it’s mutual. So, we evaluate for being how comfortable with the person, and even if that part of the feeling is [inaudible 00:50:42] especially in inviting them on for lunch. It makes them feel relaxed also, and I think it’ll go well.

Tim: Actually, I’d like to go back to your point, Andrew about our culture. One thing in the startup mode, one thing we were always very conscious of was, would we require an extraordinary effort from people. Ya know? [inaudible 00:51:09] here, a lot of the companies there, and they’re hiring people, and they’re trying to work 12 hour a day and weekend, and that’s often glorified with a start-up community. And I’m [inaudible 00:51:28], hopefully some life perspective, and so for us, that was always something that we were actively trying to, that was a barometer for us. When we stopped and eliminate the idea that you had to be able to, you had to be able to work outside. You had to put in this massive effort in order to get the job done, and so when I’m looking at other companies, for me diversity’s a big one. Ya know, the mix of people that’s there, and the other big one is this how much this super human rock star kind of thing. How much is that glorified.

Morgan: Yeah…we… yeah we try really hard to beat that into people in a good way. The work [inaudible 00:52:24], the productivity, and I actually have our CEO do the part of the onboarding, the onboarding team, because he’s a super good example of that. Like, having him on an onboarding video call with people who are [inaudible 00:52:51] contribute to the team see that. I think really, really helps. So, we make the point that…on the weekends, just because we work in synchronously doesn’t mean you need to manage your slack. Don’t let it manage you. Like when are programs are off. You should be going to it, rather than the technology box, and it’s if you really need to, put in key words. Ya know? I think that having since we’ve grown, I’ve actually have had to put those in the hand book. Like, these are our best practices, this is how we set this stuff up, and this is, we’re really serious about this.

If you don’t do it, especially within the first 90 days, I think they have to do 12-hour plus days to be able to impress people, and we aren’t that, that’s not right.

Tim: Yeah.

Morgan: It’s about what you deliver, so we have to be careful about that we’re actually walking…

Vivek: What also changes is as the size of an organization changes. Suppose you have a small [inaudible 00:54:18] this whole company, and the type of the behaviors. I really liked her both points, the type of [inaudible 00:54:29] is needed. At certain point in time, it just becomes chaotic, and …they’re not going to bring different people in. These people who are initial setup are trying to create these new teams they are hiring, the new people they are hiring, it becomes very interesting problem for them. Like, I exhibit a certain kind of behavior, which works for me and the people, and the problems we are solving, and suddenly I need to bring in new people. I look at the same mess you have, it doesn’t work. I think evolving the culture, and then looking at retrospectively identifies this bad or good culture difference.

So like, you look back, three years back. Where was the organization? What kind of people? What kind of team were you selling? That was a bad culture for us when I look at the vantage point, and I think it’s very religious to where you are in your organization and the industry. But I think it’s too central. It’s very also difficult to kinda put it in real, to someone to say, “hey, this is the thing we are really doing”, and I think what also helps is exemplifying these behaviors. Making sure, you are walking the dog. Not just putting posters, [inaudible 00:56:00] culture, but actually ensuring if you see something good, you call out, and you say, “Okay, this it is. This is how the example, I want my team and everyone in the team to exhibit.” However, one of the trusting points of my experience comes from was, people coming with general curiosity and why is that the right culture for us; and I think we allow this whole retrospective behavior for people to come in and say, “[inaudible 00:56:30] Why is it needed, and what is helping us?”

I think this is a great behavior to also celebrate, and you can look back at your own culture and save a sense now, in this context, in this type of problems space we are working in.

Morgan: This maybe done, but it’s now.

Claire : Absolutely. No, I think this conversation is amazing. We are already approaching on our hour here, and I want to be respectable of everyone’s time. The last, sort of thought though, that I wanted to share is, just some of the perspectives that we’ve gained in studying in research and culture for the past four or five years. Which is, ya know, in terms in how you define it. Those behaviors as, ya know, probably what you were saying of, ya know, "The things you do and you don’t do." Absolutely. That’s what you have to judge at the end of the day. It’s not the posters or what are seen as artifacts. It’s not even the things that you say, which are seen are spouse values and beliefs. It’s actually the basic underlying assumptions for what people have is that last layer of what people actually do and they don’t do. And just making sure that that’s what you want your culture to be.

Now, so this bigger question though of, well how do you know if your culture is bad or good, or what makes a bad culture and good culture. Is there sort of any objective thought around that, and like you’re saying it’s very relative to team size, to where you are in the company’s trajectory, and I think that the thing I always think a lot about when it comes to culture is at the end of the day, culture in itself. Let me back up. Organizations and businesses in particular are extremely different than, say countries or families or cultures in other groupings of people.

Which is that in a business, the goal is to actually get something done, and so your culture is actually serving its purpose to help your business, to help your team actually accomplish a goal. It serves that greater purpose, and so to answer the question of, "What is a good culture and a bad culture?" I think it’s tying it directly to well, what is your business trying to get done, and I don’t mean just in terms of hitting revenue numbers, or certain number of customers to be served, but I mean in terms of what well, kind of business do you want to be? Do you want to be one that lasts a long time? Do you want to be one that delivers a high quality product? Do you want to be one where customers are happy? And I think the reason why that’s so important to reinforce when thinking about culture is because, it can be very easy to start thinking about culture as, are people happy? Right? Which is a good thing to ask.

I think it’s, I think asking about happiness is important. I mean, if you got to my Twitter bio, ya know it says, “My mission life is to help people be happier” Or trust me, I’m all about happiness, but I think that it can be very easy to have that definition of happiness become warped by a founder’s whim of well, “These are the things that made me happy, so a good culture is this, because it makes me happy.”

Right? Or it’s very easy for a culture to become, “Oh, this set of employees. I need to make them happy, so I’m going to change the culture. Change our policies, or have actions be a certain way, because of this.” And those employees might not be the right employees you want to make happy. Right? Maybe those are employees you shouldn’t of hired in the first place, so those are the wrong employees to make happy. So, I think with culture it’s very easy to get lost, and “Oh, how do we just make everyone feel good? How do we make things feel good?” Instead of thinking about tying to, what are we actually trying to accomplish as an organization and tying it to those bigger goals, and that it’s this tool, and it serves to help move the organization forward.

So yeah, those are my thoughts here. I feel like, by the way, we could talk about this for another, ya know, good few hours. It’s been an amazing conversation so far, but again I promised everyone for this first one, we would do just an hour, just to experiment. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to share this recording with all of our members. I’ll post it in the water cooler, and if you feel like you have so much more to talk about, what I would love is; feel free to connect directly with maybe one or two of the other members. Feel free to jump on the phone. Get on at Google Hangout, or start a thread in the water cooler based off of one of these conversations: So, what is a bad and good culture, or what is a challenge that you face with actually having a manual, but having people who you’ve hired and now don’t follow the cultural manual, or the opposite problem.

And I’d love to continue this dialogue, because I think aside form just us here on this Hangout, that we’ll actually learn a lot more, and get a lot of input from the other almost thousand some members by sharing some of these conversations. So, yeah I think. I think that’s it for today. Thank you so much for joining me. This has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve had a blast.

Tim: Thank you everybody.

Morgan: Yes, thank you everyone. Nice to meet you. Thanks, Claire.

Claire : Absolutely. Hope to talk to you soon, and yeah, see ya in the Watercooler. Thanks everyone.

Tim: Bye.

Vivek: Bye.

PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [01:02:02]

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Know Your Team. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.

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