HR Superstars
HR Superstars

Episode · 1 year ago

E15: The Key to Creating an Extraordinary Workplace Culture


After the honeymoon breaks down and the insane roller coaster of building a company ramps up, you're left with the hard task of crafting a transformational culture. If you fail at this task, you'll have a fractured leadership team and a toxic workplace.

Since we started our company, we've had plenty of breakdowns, and we've learned how to turn those breakdowns into breakthroughs for our team.

What's the key to creating an extraordinary workplace culture?

In this episode of HR Superstars, hosts David Hassell and Shane Metcalf explore how relational mastery drives cultural transformation.

What they talked about:

  • The value of empathy before agreement.
  • Hatching the antidote to toxic workplaces.
  • How to maximize the impact of intentional energetic presence.

For the entire interview, subscribe to HR Superstars on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or tune in on our website.

The goal should not be to never have relational friction. The goal should be really good at repairing. Owning, caring and repairing is really the practice, and so own the part that you're own, care about the other person's experience, repairent. You're listening to HR superstars, a podcast from fifteen five that highlights stories from the front lines of HR and people ups. Each episode will showcase fascinating conversations with leaders offering their unique experiences and advice for building an extraordinary company and culture. Let's get into the show. You mentioned something earlier, Shane, that I think I don't want to gloss over, and you talked because this is it's a small point but has very big impact and I think it's potentially challenging for people to do, and you said, when you're able to understand where someone's coming from and empathize with their point of view, even if you don't agree with them. I think that's really hard for people to understand why you would even want to do that and and how you can actually do that. I think it'd be really I think it's important for us. You're real. I mean I think you're really good at this, David. I don't think I'm that. As you know, it's like still a learning process. I don't understand, honey, why you're so mad at me for leaving the cupboards open all the time. I just don't get it. So, okay, so how do you okay? Well, how? First of all, why? Why is that? Like? How does that show up to work the eye? Is that important to show up at work? Because doesn't work about, you know, gaining influence and power so that your idea can win and then mobilizing resources to execute against that strategy? Where does empathizing with other people's perspectives, who are obviously their their perspective is inferior to yours, you know, like you're wrong, obviously. Yeah, so what's the value? Most the few? There's a few things there. So I think if somebody feels like they if someone feels like you did something that they interpret it is hurtful to them and they're coming to clear that with you now, it's possible they are having an accurate as testament of what happened and maybe they've already assigned, you know, certain intent that you meant to do this that maybe that may be true. It's possible. There's also a misunderstanding and they misinterpreted your statement and there's something that just needs to be cleared and there's a misunderstanding. And so I think, as there as the recipient of a clearing conversation, I think it's always important to to step out of your righteousness. And this is really hard because our psychological defense mechanisms are really, really, really committed to us being right. And when someone starts to bring something up where they say, Hey, you did this thing and I felt hurt by this immediately, what happ tends to happen is we get into our righteousness, we get into feeling triggered or to pensive and then we're just going to kind of stick to our point and say no, you're wrong, this is how it happened. Right. And I think there's right, there's those it. There's a great George Bernard Chalk quote. They go something like the greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it's taken place. And you know that so much of our relational friction is miscommunication. Just may communicate, just as simple as that. And then expectations. We have these expectations that we walk around with expectations about what people are should be doing or should be saying or or what not. We haven't actually clarified specifically what our agreement is, and that's another that's another place where I think we get into trouble. So some of m come and say, Hey, you didn't do this thing and Mike, I said, well, we didn't agree to that, and you know, I never even it wasn't even on my radar. In the person might be really upset because they thought that was just something that you should do. So the ability to listen, to really empathizing get their story first and foremost, even if your story is different, even if you believe the facts of the matter or your assessments are even a hundred and eighty degrees different. The intention there is that you want to be able to unreally deeply understand and empathize where...

...someone's coming from so that you can repair the connection, because the connection itself and our ability to have trust with each other and our ability to move through misunderstandings, disagreements, conflict and hurt allow us to not only get back to zero but actually to increase the trust in the relationship. So my experience is that the goal should not be to never have relational friction. The goal should be really good at repairing, owning, caring and repairing. It is really the practice, and so own the part that you're to own, care about the other person's experience, repair it. And then what happens is over time those relationships actually get stronger because we know together that we can move through difficult things. And now, whether that's someone who works for me, someone I work for, someone I'm appear with, as those relational bonds get stronger and the trust increases, we're able to do more together and operate as a much more effective team. So we happen to be recording this on the ten anniversary of fife five be being founded as a company, and I came in about a year after that initial founding and so me and David have been working together for nine years and you know, I'm really proud to say that you and I have is good of a relationship as we've ever had, that even through the initial honeymoon phases and breakdowns and all of the the insane roller coaster ride that it is of building a company with somebody and they all the ups and downs that we I think we have embodied that idea of because we you know, there have been lots of conversations that me and David add some very recently, where it gets real and there's breakdowns, there's miscommunication and there's straight up, you know, hard feedback. There's, you know, all the things that come up and if we didn't have the same orientation around breakdowns are an opportunity for breakthrough. The repair is important. Don't go gossip to other people and start telling stories about them and get other people to join our side of why we're right and they're wrong. You know, if we had done those things, we would have been screwed. You know, you would have a fractured leadership team. We probably still wouldn't be both be in the company and the joy it is to get to continue working together, and that's why I think this is so valuable, is because this little idea of cultivating relational mastery is, I think it's the key to making an extraordinary workplace in an extraordinary culture and there's a lot of business benefits to it. But I mean, just think about how many how many times you've heard of CO founders who need to hire a coach because of all the conflict that they're dealing with. I think of all the profounders that I've Thatt have hired me to coach them right, except through a founder divorces. Yeah, you know, like I had a little niche going actually where I was facilitating co founder divorces, and that's it's actually interesting, like thinking about how much inspiration that's drawn, that I've I've drawn from that of seeing how it's like. I would I would come in as as an executive coach for these co founders and they're ready to bring the lawyers in and I'm kind of coming in as the step before that's about to happen, and it's the easiest job in the world because all I would do is I would get in there and I'd say great, tell each other the truth, and they're like okay, and all of a sudden they're saying things that they've never shared, never actually hold the truth to each other, and they're operating in these totally different worlds and then making up stories and then battling it out from these really skewed realities and there's just a ton of semantic noise in the middle, so you know, and the cost of the come and the cost of the company is real. Yeah, so, yeah, I mean really, what we're talking about is creating the antidote to toxic workplaces and we're creating a works a workplace with high levels of psychological safety and trust. That is the intention of this and actually I have, and I've shared...

...this with you, Shane, I have a gratitude folder on my phone and every time somebody from our company shares about the impact fifteen five minutes culture has had on on them, they you know, they I take a screen shot and I put it in this gratitude folder and have dozens and dozens of examples. I just came across this one. I thought I'd just read this very short thing. This was an employee came to us who had come from a very toxic workplace and that was the kind of experience that he had had a number of places, and he said fifteen five was a godsend in that it provided me the safety and space required to invest in myself and not worry about additional workplace toxicity. I was able to show up as myself, be vulnerable, increase my courage, deep in my empathy for others, in myself and connect with others in the truest way I have in a workplace. I've also learned so much about other people in a way that has increased my emotional intelligence and made more compassionate and understanding. There's so much more I could say, but the gist of it is I truly think my short time of fifteen five thus far has been life changing. And so that's just an example I have. I, like I said, I have dozens of examples like this of the the real in way David is at a house. Is that a humble drag? That's a humble brags. That's a not so humble brag. Yeah, I'm always getting David Queed. I'm a like, like makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm like no, no, David, don't read the quotes of people saying how great we are, like, but it's I think what you're pointing to is that that our company cultures can be transformational. They can they can be more than a job, they can be a life changing experience that gives people tools and resources and perspectives that they take with them for the rest of their lives and that benefit them and every other domain that they walk and the most important we're doing this because we're a company that wants to succeed and and it helps us win as well. I mean that is is ultimately this creates a high performing environment where people love being here and, like you said, it's transformational. It's not transactional. The company is succeeding because the individuals are succeeding. And you know, I like to share examples like that from time to time just so that you guys get a sense that we're not just pontificating and philosophizing over here, that this stuff actually works. Okay, so, you know, we talked a lot about clearing conversations a little bit about the ability to repair relationships and of course, clearing conversations are kind of, I'd say, the main mechanism by which we can move towards repair. You know what, what do you what else do you think is important around cultivating relational mastery? Like, if you had to just pick one other tool to train other companies than their employees and their managers, one other relational tool aside from clearing conversations, what would you choose? I think it's probably the work that we did with the Nice Cavanagh and her her philosophy of intentional, energetic presence. I think the I don't think we all realize the impact that we have on people around us, based on how we're showing up, the stories were telling ourselves, the emotional state we're in. There's all sorts of science that shows you know, even like through your neurons, that we mimic each other, we've feed off each other's energy, so to say. You know, you can feel when you know, if you're walked into a room and some people were just in a big argument and all the sudden you walk in it's really quiet, awkward, hotly awkward. But why? It's just there's two people standing there, right, and you didn't actually necessarily hear the fight, but you could feel it. When someone comes in and they've had like this, you know they're just exuberant. They what we what do we say? They light up the room, right. So this stuff is contagious. There is emotional contagion, and so understanding yourself, how you're showing up, and then understanding that that you have impact on people around you and how you impact the people around you is a really, really big piece. Well, yet ready, that's just break down, iep. So that's that's intentional...

...energetic presence for short, and so intentional. So we have a choice. We can steer our attention and our intention anywhere we want. It is the first idea. There are energy and the energetic presence, and so we have a choice of our energetic presence. We're not just a victim of our own internal state, but we can shift it, and I think that's the big the big idea with Ip is, hey, we're contagious. Were constantly contagious, even in non pandemic times. Every human being is contagious, for good or for bad, and that we don't have to just accept our state, but we can bring intentionality to it and if we're not feeling the way we want to feel, we can begin to shift into something else. And then by shifting, you know, we can we can change our how we're showing up, and that will actually change the kinds of relating we're going to have with other people. We may be less likely to to actually cause relational friction and conflict if we're in, you know, kind of a more centered and and more resilient emotional state ourselves. It kind of reminds me of what's his name? Who wrote the powerful engagement? Right, do you remember his name? It wrote the powerful engagement Tony Schwartz. Any shorts good called so Tony Swarts, who you know, wrote a really cool book powerful engagement. Why? Energy Management, not time management, is the key to onelocking performance, something like that, and and that, you know, our energet our energy, our energetic state is one of the driving forces of our creativity, of our relationships, of the quality of our work and of our thinking and doing. And so can we start to prioritize how to be better at managing our energy. And I think this is also so vitally important in this era of everybody working from home and being burnt out on zoom and too many meetings or not enough friends, and our social life are just starting to come back, because we're dynamic in complex beings, right, the human being is, as Walt Whitman said, I cannot be contained between my hat and my boots. I am vast, I contain multitudes, and that is every single one of your employees. Every single one of your employees cannot be contained between their paycheck and their exit interview. We are infinitely more than that. And so getting good taking full accountability for our emotional states and learning to upshift or downshift at appropriate moments so we can bring our best intentional energetic presence to our collaboration super important. Now, this isn't to say just be positive, only bring good vibes, which is, I think, often misrepresented or misunderstood about this idea. And in fact it's like actually saying, wow, I'm going through a lot of grief. I need to carve out some time in my life. I need to ask my boss for a mental health day so I can go properly grieve, so I can fall apart, I can actually feel my deepest feelings, I can go to therapy and start examining the layer upon layer of experience that I've had as human being and how to have a more powered narrative about it, all right, rather than suppressing it and pushing through and whatnot. Sometime as we have to temporarily right, and I mean like I may be having a bad day and I'm about to come into a meeting and I may have to do whatever I can to compartmentalize and shift and show up for that, but I might also say, okay, well, you know what, this next meeting, I don't really need to do this today. Let me let me see if I'll reschedule that for tomorrow and I can take some time and take care of myself, and that's really the, I thinks, part of the nuance there. Or and then, I mean, I think...'s like small things of like, have I drink enough water today, as David Drinks, and water good one. Maybe I need to go for a ten minute walk. Maybe, actually, I can not do a zoom call. Maybe I can take this next one on one on the phone and go for a walk and maybe I can even invite my direct report to go on a walk as well and we'll have a walking meeting and get some fresh air and all of a sudden I have re energized my whole system and that is what allows me to then show up with more presents. And so it's the small things, right. It's like we're not talking about always having massive psychological breakthroughs and yelling childhood trauma, which is really good as well. And if you're a leader, you should probably be in therapy because all of our our past traumas at attachment styles and form our leadership styles. Hm. And so yeah, of course we want to be cleaning up up our own nervous system so that we don't have as much unconscious spillover of our unprocessed baggage onto our teams. But it's also in the simple things. It's also drinking enough water. It's breathing right, taking proper breaths, and very few of US know how to breathe right. Our Society is not known for teaching human beings how to take full, deep bellied, embodied breaths that fully oxygenate the brain and have the lizard mind calm down and know that it's safe. And then one other thing. I think it's very much related to IEP and you are emotional state and your intentional energetic presence is related to the stories you're telling yourself. And there's a concept that we learned from the conscious leadership group called locating yourself, and they have a very simple model where, through a question, you can ask yourself, am I above the line or below the line? And it very simply comes down to do I have I in a state or in a story about the world or what's happening where I am coming from? Fear, often represented by what they call the drama triangle, that there is a problem, it's somebody's fault, there's someone to solve it, and that's where most people tend to reside, basically there's resistance, there's threat, there's something wrong, it's Shain's fault, you know, etc. And or on my above the line, where it's more informed by acceptance and trust. Now what's interesting is that as we take personal responsibility, we can move from what's called below the line to above the line and we can have the very different narrative about the exact same set of facts and circumstances. Being above the line might be characterized by what can I learn from this and having a sense of curiosity, where being below the line you might be like, Shane should have done this thing and now it's all his fault and now it's ruined and we're not you know, etcetera, etc. And so understanding both your IEP, where your emotional stated is it and very much related to are you above the line or below the line, and what kind of story you're you holding about the person you're with and the situation is also really important, because if I'm coming into a situation chain where you know, I think you know, something happened, it's your fault, I may be communicating either explicitly or implicitly, from that place and we're going to have some friction and that may not actually be the truth. It may be a false narrative that I'm holding. So I think this is an interesting one because in my experience, David, I don't know if you share this or not, but I've found this to be one of the harder principles for us to really get traction and internally. HMM, yeah, that there's there's a lot of nuance and complexity to it. And how do we recognize when there's true victimization happening, when some when there's something...

...very wrong has been done? And how do we not then expand that to every time we feel like some of the somebody's done is wrong? That that's always true? And the key is it's not good to be above the line and bad to be below the line, and that's that's the nuance. It just is. I think it's the key is to actually just understand, yes, I'm actually below the line and actually that's the appropriate response right now, but to notice that you're there. It's really about the practice, is about the awareness. It's not necessarily about always being above the line, and I think that is a that's an important point, right because it's in a way it's that there's both locations, sir, have purposes, that's right, and and we don't always, you know, we shouldn't expect ourselves or anybody else always be above the line and sometimes maybe we need to go down there to pick up some rocket fuel for our next learning cycle. But yeah, I mean, yeah, it's I'm just reflecting on this has been one of the more challenging ones that I to really get fully ingrained into our everyday conversations as a company. I agree and I think this is this is an area where we as a team can do more training and more study and more you know, and more work on that. But it is worth noting that when you are below the line, there is a much, much, much higher likelihood, in fact, this is where it all happens to be reactive, to be defensive and to recycle drama, and those things are essentially the things that cause the need for clearing conversations. Yeah, it's almost like it's the invitation is to take a pause before the reaction, you know, like wait, I'm about to write an email or do it big slack message to somebody and can I pause, go for a walk and then come from a place of of you know, almost innocence to re examine. What's it? The root of my emotional reaction to this, and it's that, yes, that little pause that consciousness can enter and we might choose a different approach where we might get curious, maybe we get off of maybe we really in this. You know, there's something I'm always working on of like, especially when I have like a really strong emotional reaction and I want to just quickly assert my perspective as truth, is the moment that I probably most need to take a breath and get curious exactly. And none of us are going to get this right all the time, even probably, yeah, it's tough of a fraction of a time that we're satisfied with how we are. But and move answer correctibate. You know, it's not exactly a relational master it's cultivate. It's a process. It's beyond at least that that's point the ship in the right direction. Let's a sets fire towards treating each other with more respect and kindness and curiosity, as well as bringing our full presence and bringing our genius to the table so that we can collaborate right, because I think that, and this is again, this is kind of why we structure the value of this bleeding into do the extraordinary is that we don't want to spend all our time and in a company having clearing conversations. We want as much of this to be preventive so that we don't even have to have the clearing conversations and can get down to the really fun stuff of winning and making an impact on the world. That's right. Okay, so this is definitely by no means the exhaustive list of cultivating relational mastery and in so many ways, you know, any prescription for relational mastery is going to be a failure because we're unique human beings...

...and we all have our own instances and challenges, and so in a way it's like, can we become relationally fit so that the mini scenarios that being in relationship with other people that will throw at us, we can respond effectively? So we would love to hear from you and on social or send us an email. What are your favorite ways of getting the people inside of your company to improve their relationship skills and what are the you know, what are some of the nuances in practices you've done that have helped you cultivate relational mastery. Thanks for tuning in. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic Hur leaders in all industries use the platform to win by improving communication, up leveling their managers and increasing company wide engagement. Learn more at Fifteen Fivecom you've been listening to HR superstars stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. Be Sure you never miss an episode by subscribing on your favorite podcast player. If you're listening on Apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a thoughtful review or give a quick rating by tapping the stars. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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