HR Superstars
HR Superstars

Episode 8 · 1 year ago

What Does Your Team Look Like At Its Best? The Answer Is Found In Convergence w/ David Hanrahan


It’s easy to come up with the idea of a corporate value.

But coming up with convergence where people align their bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits with that value and actually living it…that’s tough.

How do we get people to buy in to corporate values and live out a collective mission?

To find out, we talked with David Hanrahan, Chief Human Resources Officer at Eventbrite, about working towards convergence and maintaining strong company culture in the face of crises.

What we talked about:

-How to take care of your people when your industry is hit hard.

-How to encourage buy in from your leadership team around empathetic leadership.

-What convergence means and how that builds great culture.

-How to empower employees to live out corporate values.

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

You're listening to HR superstars, a podcast from fifteen five that highlights stories from the front lines of HR and people ops. 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. Welcome back to HR superstars. I'm one of the CO hosts, Shane Metcalf, and today we're introducing a two part segment that may be familiar to some of our audience, and the first part, David Hanner hand, talks about his experience through the two thousand and twenty pandemic and how that brought their mission at event bright to life. Tune in next week for part two. Enjoy. I'm very excited to be here with our guest, David Hanrahand. As chief human resources officer at Event Bright, David leads the global human resources team and plays a key role in leading organizational culture initiatives. David's career has spanned more than eighteen years building strong HR teams and fostering a collaborative team culture across global organizations such as Niantic, Zendesk, twitter, electronic arts and universal pictures. Welcome David. Thanks, guys, really excited to here. Yeah, it's really great. So my understanding is you joined event bright back in November of two thousand and nineteen with probably no sense of what was to come in two thousand and twenty, and within four months the whole world had changed. I'm just curious to hear from you, you know, what was that journey like for you, both personally and professionally, having just joined this company and then everything shifting under your feet? Yeah, it's been a wild year. I celebrate on my first year anniversary yesterday, so I was reflecting back on that. Yeah, when I joined in November, very different company, and that's we're doing well. The company was host IPO about a year, year and a half, and first couple months, first earnings result while I was there, all great. You know, we're growing, we're hiring a lot live events. You know, we were sort of hitting a nerve and started starting to hit our stride as a public company. So then around January, I remember I was in Australia and there was these news reports out of the China of a virus that was starting to spread and starting to become worrisome. I'm in Australia on a flight back. I'm like hot, this is going to be interesting. My mother passed away in February and after that my life was kind of starting to change. I was reflecting on like what's important in life, and my team we were thinking about two thousand and twenty and like Hey, we should get together and plan out our year and do a little team building. And now now that the virus is starting to spread a little more, this is this is now end of February. I come back to my mother's funeral. I'm I'm looking forward to the future, basically with with my team and kind of, you know, being part of something special. So we get together in Nashville. I remember on the flight and and in fact the Sunday before, I remember talking to a lot of the leaders and saying, Hey, I wonder if we should cancel this because this virus is starting to spread. And this was just about when travel advisories were turning to become more serious and you're starting to hear about companies starting to really take a lot of, you know, precautions, and I remember talking to my team and we said, well, let's make this option of for folks. They can stay home you know, particularly for coming from overseas, if you'd let rather stay home. Long Story Short, the whole team wound up going to Nashville and the first night we were in the hotel room, there was an air raid siren and the windows in the hotel womb. I remember about midnight hearing these windows sucking and out like Whoo, whoo, shoosh, and basically at a tornado ripped through Nashville a mile away from the hotel. And so the next day we're supposed to have our off site and we instead spent the first couple hours just making sure all three hundred of our employees in Nashville were safe and accounted for. And so that was the start of what, you know, was essentially a crazy year. We found up having a really great offsite and, like all our employees were safe and like we did all his team building. And then we came back...

...and realize the whole world was changing. Live events we're going to be on shutdown, you know, governments were closing down live events, and it was about maybe three weeks later, three four weeks later, we restructured the whole company. The whole business had to change. The companies operating had to change. We essentially wound up becoming half the company we were before the pandemic and ever since then it's just been a wild year. You know, change management, having to think about ways to sort of keep the team engaged, you know, thinking about the future, thinking about the return of live events. We've done a lot of really great things. We bound up doing a lot of really great things and live events, in very interesting ways, are returning. People are using drive and movie theaters to host comedy shows, people are doing online cooking classes and our creators are finding all these ingenious ways to actually get people together in safe, live or online or hybrid ways to sort of tap that nerve we all have, which is like we're stuck in our homes. There's a yearning to actually have connection and interactivity and our platform is really fueling a lot of hope for people to actually find ways to stay connected. So it's a little bit of a summary of what the years felt like so far. I would imagine that, more than the average company, you have had to innovate your business model to actually meet the demands, and I mean I think what's interesting is covid is a big excelerant. You know, I think it's accelerating Internet access and the awareness of Internet access is at privilege that we want to spread far and wide. But then also, of how do you actually recreate some of the you know, the magic of live events in this new world? So it's really cool to hear that there is a resurgence, that you're finding a groove in the new world. Yeah, people are people having eight our conferences on event right through zoom, you know, doing breakout rooms, doing you know, polls and stuff through zoom. But also we hosted our I'm pretty sure we hosted our virtual conference where they been bright. Yeah, yeah, that's, you know, way with the future. It's a lot of ingenuity for the creators hosting events, you know, in this world that we're in and you know some there are some places around the globe where they can meet safely, like in New Zealand and parts of Australia, and that's happening and it's just kind of like these ebbs and flows around the globe where the viruses is more contained versus less contained. Nonetheless, these creators are really ingenious and finding ways to get people together safely. I'm curious, like you know, how's that impact been to your team, to, you know, your direct team and the employees at event bright and how of you, as a leader in HR had to adapt or shift your focus, because I imagine, you know, amazing that you were able to restructure and pivot and meet the moment, but I imagine, you know, that's got to be very stressful being in an industry that's that's hit particularly hard. Yeah, it's interesting our team engagement so that what we call bx bridling experience, which is essentially hrn recruiting team, our engagement is is at an all time high. So our engagement has just shot up like something like twenty points to you know, this year, and I wonder how did that happen, given all that we had to do and all this tough stuff, and and our team, our team scaled back as well. You know, we lost people in our team and I think that moment in Nashville was like a big moment to come together to be part of building a like what our mission was, which is, you know, to attract, engage, retained the diverse hount that we need or to win to fuel this mission, this mission of bringing the world together lve events. That was really helpful as a oddly for to it us that we were actually able to meet right before all this stuff. But I also just have an amazing leadership team. They're all just fantastic. So I think that we are touching on this before the call about being a human organization. Yeah, leading with empathy and kindness. It's something I try to do just with my team around how I lead and what I talked to him about like why are we here? What is like? What is this like? Where the heartbeat right? So where the heartbeat of this mission,...

...this function that we have as a heartbeat, and the mission is very human one and there's people who want to connect and we're at the center of that. So that mission driven aspect of what we're trying to do in my team has been one thing. I think that it's helped keep us together like really engage, still, like charging forward and aspirational way. And so I am curious, like have your priorities shifted from a year ago when you first joined and you thought, okay, these are going to be, you know, engage, you know attract, engage, retain talent? What's different your later in terms of the kind of Okrs you're setting, the kind of project you're rolling out. Well, I wasn't thinking about the future of work before all this happen, and so we spent quite a bit of time wondering what the future is, gathering data, thinking about how we're going to reopen. All US, or a lot of h our teams, are doing that very same thing and we're leaning into this idea of employee flexibility and employee choice. Their teams out there that will say unilaterally, like these people can work remotely, these, these employees cannot. There are teams out there that are saying, like, the future of work is all remote and like we're not. I don't think we're either ends of those spectrums. We're saying that employee choice is is key. We let people go live anywhere they want you for three months to work, to see if that works for them and then decide for yourself. But back to your question, what's changed? I think a big thing that's changed is leadership development. So we thought before the pandemic, Hey, we're going to have to we should roll out some leadership builment program because I think, you know, the key or our culture in this convergence. Top of your talk about earlier, it's going to hinge on our leaders and so we're starting to think about that. And then the pandemic kit, and then we had to completely scrap all our ideas that we had and like build it from scratch in the middle of pandemic, and it wound up being even more important realizing that in this pandemic and this human organization that we're going to try and build, work like this is going to rest on leadership. You know, it's not not resting on me, it's going to rest on our leadership, and we need all of our hundred and fifty plus leaders around the globe to all the fostering the experience that we want. And one of those things one of the very first principles we teach in our leaders development program we called lead to win, is build empathy, to build trust, and so like is one of the first concepts we talked about. We talked about knowing yourself first, right, and it's kind of a little bit sort of like Mr Meaggi and Daniel son, like you know, I want to learn karate, wait time out, wax on, wax off first. This is a very first thing is you know yourself. Your Eq. Travis Dr Travis Bradberry shows that, like as you ascend an organization, your q actually goes down. So we start there, your Eq and then you know, know your teams, and to do that you have to build empathy, to build trust. We have a question that we talked about, which is, how are you really doing? How are you really really doing? And letting that linger for a moment. And this Human Organization tramp Bill. So that's a longwinded way of saying in the middle is pandemic, when one big priority that's changed is the importance of leadership development and building a completely in a virtual format with zoom and, you know, sort of like hybrid ways of actually interacting in cohorts, a sort of stuff. So that's just one. Yeah, you. So I'm curious as covid accelerated the buy in from the rest of the leadership team around the importance of compassionate, empathetic leadership? I think so. I think help set our CEO, Julia, is really leading with that mentality humanness, compassion and how she shows up to her team. Your question. Has it changed or has it accelerated the buying of the Human Organization? I think so. I think so, but I think where there's a lot of us still grocking what that means, right, was it mean to be a human leader? And how do you foster inclusivity in your team and what is the outcome of that? I think there's like there's fair questions of like, Hey, today we're on a bright break, so we're the whole company is taking the day off today, and I can will speak a little more about this later. But why are we doing that? What's gonna come of that? Of Giving one day off, one Friday per month for the next six months? What's the outcome of that? And the counterintuitive things are around like productivity...

...and like and results actually come with this new future of work that we're thinking about, with more employee flexibility, more employee choice, more like empowerment, is actually protect time rather than finding ways for people to work longer hours or more days or in the middle of pandemic. Bloomberg report said, our average work day, all of our average work days, have increased by forty eight minutes. We're having a lot more meetings and so people are burning out, you know, and back to your question, has accelerated? I think so. But people are kind of rocking this in their own ways and kind of coming to these realizations with they're in their own ways, without me having to say it, and it's been an ongoing conversation. So we talked a little bit about the idea of cultural convergence before we started recording and I'd love for you to just give us a kind of an brief definition of what convergence means. You know, some of the sources that you've learned us from, and then how that applies and building great cultures and also where there wasn't convergence in that example. Yeah, absolutely. There's a great article came out, I think is almost two years ago, called the culture factor out of HBR. I think it's accessible online, the whole article. And in that article they studied company cultures. The researchers, the author study these different company cultures and they found that there was roughly eight different company cultures and then kind of plotted them out on this on XY axis. There's like learning organizations, results driven organizations, empathy driven organizations, and then they could figure out different types of companies, Disney, Tesla, whole foods, and plot them here. And then they looked at whether there was anything, any sort of correlation with the type of culture that you have and productivity, profits, all that sort of thing. And what they found was it wasn't the type of culture that you had that dictated anything around your productivity or profits or anything like that. What was important was convergence. The idea of if I ask an employee in finance in Australia or an engineer in Austin, or take your pick, they're saying the same things about our company, is like this. These are what our traits when we're at our best, US with behavioral tracis of values, etceter take your pick of the language. When they're saying the same things, despite the department, the level, the location, that that's convergence. When they're saying very different things, that's lack of convergence. Convergence leads to productivity, profit, customer satisfaction. Lack of convergence is leads to the opposite. And so that really that struck me. It changed everything how I thought about culture and the important so that I'll be honest that you know, earlier in my career at thought culture was just a soft word. I'm like, Hey, don't get me in any room talking about culture, because that's my, you know, sort of ticket to like lack of credibility. But now I'm just I'm convinced that the C Uro has to be the chief convergence officer. And since then, at my antake, my last company, where I kind of struggle with this, and then now, where I think I'm, you know, kind of learning some new ways to do this. I spend my time asking my team, asking employees, asking leaders. Who Are we? What are we? What are we like when we our best? What are the traits for us as a culture and as an organization that are going to be key for us to win? Because, you know, culture, each strategy for breakfast. You know the Peter drucker quote, and my team is convinced to this and the leadership team are as well, and I'll say it's it's kind of tough, though. It's kind of tough to get conversions. It's tough to sort of like hey, let's like, can we just like write down the five things and then we'll be done? If only we're that easy bright coming up with our core values and a good mission statement, and then you have confidence. Yeah, because we had them. We had five. We had five values and no one remembered them. They were designed before the pandemic. They were designed with a very different company in mind and they were fine, but they didn't guide us. We didn't take them in a way that's sort of like hey, we can actually build leadership development programs around this. We can like, we can sort of like, you know, have performance and feedback conversations around these. We can. We weren't doing that, and so that was key. But to get there you have to have these...

...conversions. So a couple of traits for us that are important behavioral traits that we're realizing now that like hey, this is really important for how we're going to win. They include impact overactivity. As a startup that try to do a lot of things by doing too many things, we like really didn't do anything great. We were fascinated with activity, you know, like we're fascinated with just doing a lots of stuff and being like wow, we're furious for running around, you know, the hallways and doing lots of stuff and then, wow, we didn't have any impact. And so here's one important trait that we're realizing. That word that we're talking about and we're talking about with employees and it seems like it's resonating, is impact overactivity. HMM. And so that's one in this convergence that the CFO loves, the CEO loves, the employees love man like, yes, like that's there's this Eureka moment. was like hey, we got one put on the scoreboard, we got one here. Let's keep building right. And it takes a while, though. It takes a while to like findings. Let's just stick with this as an example because I think it's a really interesting right, because the easy part is coming up with the phrasing and coming up with the concept, the idea of the value, then getting actual convergence where people align their bodies, hearts, minds and spirits with that value so that they're actually living it and it's not just this thing comes from top down. Walk us through a little bit around how you think about getting people to buy in own that and so that they actually start to operate a buy that principle. Well, for the average employee any companies, like, what's in this for me? How does this help me and how does this like fire me up? And so, as an organization that tries to learn, we have to talk about acknowledge when things don't go well and we have to try and deduce whether it's a project, a team that just like we finished this project and it was it was a failure, or we just we ended the quarter and we look back and like what do we actually accomplish? Like wow, we just we did a lot, but now all these things are spilling into the next quarter. For the employees, I think there's a realization that, like you know, my work life balance sucks. If I have a lot of activity and I'm doing a lot of things and I don't accomplish them, then it's even worse because then I feel like wow, doing all this stuff and like weird, like not, you know, racking up the score at the end of the quarter, like we're going to have to continue doing these things, whether it's the engineering team and they weren't able to ship something, or my team that like got some other thing in the way and we like Ope, got do that too. Yep, that too. And so through post mortems, says one, or even pre mortems, through post mortems, we realize there's something here that's holding us back and it's actually causing worklife balance issues, it's causing frustration and it's causing people to want to leave. At times. That becomes them this Aha moment that for employee like yes, if we do this, if we if we have more impact, more impact and less activity, frankly, activity for like fewer things and do them better, then that is a a ticket for us to be a better team. That's a ticket for me to actually have more control of my life. I'm more in control now and you have to talk through those things and talk through then hey, this, this should be part of how we set our initiatives, our tactics and our goal planning. That, then, is like a rallying cry almost for employees as are going through these process like, yes, this is what we have to do, but it comes from learning, it comes from doing postmortems of why this thing was important upon reflection of some failure. Potentially. I want to talk directly to you listening in for just a moment, if you're enjoying these interviews, the concepts we discuss and you're committed to equipping your managers to develop highly engaged in high performing teams, there's some additional resources that we know can help access the forever free best self management certification at fifteen fivecom forward slash academy for core management skills that, unfortunately, are not taught in business school. Visit Fifteen fivecom forward slash services to sign up for our manager accelerator program to reorient your managers around the essential skills needed to conduct effective one on one's, offer meaningful... and coach their teams to greatness. If you want exceptional software that integrates beautifully with our education and training, Visit Fifteen fivecom today. So competencies is a really interesting thing. So we've been orienting a lot of our platform and product around competencies. You know, we're making measuring competencies one of the central pillars of our performance review process, and so I'm curious for you, when you take a principle of value like impact over activity, are there specific competencies that you're then creating and developing, training, growing people on inside of that value? Yeah, I think so. And there's functional competencies and there's behavioral competencies. Right, I'll go back to the lead to win program and what are the principles? What are the principles there? I talked about, you know, building empathy to build trust, but then there's there's also ultimately, this has got to have results, is actually has to lead to something, and so in that one of the leadership competencies is, you know, to actually make it happen, to have results, set ambitious goals with a clear path to achieve them. So that's one of our nine, one of our nine leadership principles. They also include making tough decisions, prioritizing and focus for impact over activity. So it's right there in leadership development program as a competency. And these things that we do, whether it's, you know, building, they to build trust like that sounds good, that sounds part of the human organization, but it's got to lead the results. You know this. This isn't just to be like a touchy feeling like Nice place to be. It's actually to be high performing. And so we can back to those dots from a competency point of view with our leadership directly in that program but I also think it comes into competencies for every pray, every function, for engineers, for product managers, not just two leaders. I love that this is the direction that, you know, it feels like the most progressive leaders are going in because, you know, the one thing I used to do consulting for for a lot of different CEOS and their leadership teams, and I'd help them clarify their at their values and their purpose and their long term objectives, and it was more often than not the actual lived culture was divergent from the stated values. And I think it's your point. You said you had five values. At one point nobody knew them. Like, if they're just written down on a wall or website, they're not lived. And then like how do you actually bring them alive and keep them real? And I think mapping the value to specific competencies and reinforcing that and training on that and then measuring it is the way that we kind of map the ideal to the the lived experience. And you know, I've been taking some notes on some of the specific ones you have because they're great. Yeah, yeah, I'll shout out one leader I worked with. He was just amazing at this dick cost low, the CEE of twitter. Yeah, really like live the values, talked about them and would tell a story. So I still remember a lot of our values, seek diverse opinions, defend respect the users voice. He would talk about these as a story. It's like I want to talk about seek diverse opinions, I want to or to defend respect the user's voice. Let's talk about the legal team and a big win the legal team had this week around protecting users privacy and would tell the stories. That is storytelling is really really powerful, not just for me but like for the CEO, you know, for the CEO to say, Hey, here's a story about how one of our values showed up and I want to give a shout out to the legal team. He would do this all the time, and so it's one reason why, I think a lot of former tweeps still remember the values to this day, is just because how good a job he did with storytelling. Yeah, I feel like culture really is just story, you know, and so if we want to build strong culture, we need to tell strong stories and that that's just this constant weaving process. One of the other things I was thinking about when you were talking is that convergence isn't something that you do once and then you're good. Yeah, you know, it is a every...

...single day. The convergence you had yesterday is gone and are you going to renew it? Are you going to revive the convergence in the company today, this moment? And on one hand that's kind of exhausting, right, building strong cultures? Yeah, it leading because it's a ever ongoing. It's an endless mountain that we have to climb, and yet if we let up, there's only one way it's going to coast. Yeah, absolutely. It's one reason why oftentimes some training gets a bad rap, whether it's leadership, you know development training, or unconscious bias training, the idea of like, could we just do this one training, people will no longer have unconscious bias, right solve. We fixed race as I'm in our company because we had ondi training. Okay, now let's get back to work. Yeah, check that box. You got to keep hitting people different ways. It's got to be it's got to be an iterative and so, like our leadership development, when they're done with their first co work, you're going to have a next wave and then, like, it's got to be a continued process. It can't just be like well, congrats you, you you graduated in and now you're done. Now there's got to be like, you know, wave too, or chapter two. What next? How do we how do we continue to build these concepts? But you got to keep hitting people in different ways to get that convergence of your culture or change some behavior through the leadership development training or unconscious by as training or whatever. Fifteen five is the only evidence based people and performance platform for highly engaged and high performing organizations. Strategic HR 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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