Improvement Nerds Podcast: Episode 30

Episode 30

Culture in the Workplace

Culture in the Workplace

In Episode 30, Mike Bensi and I nerd out about the importance of culture in the workplace. As we dive deep on the topic we talk about the importance of routinely assessing culture and studying what the key drivers of culture might be. In Mike’s experience there are many things that impact culture, but the big ones are: trust in leadership, communication, clarity of goal, making an impact, having the resources you need to do you job, and opportunities for growth and development. Be sure to listen to Episode 30 Teaser.

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Episode 30

Culture in the Workplace

In Episode 30, Mike Bensi and I nerd out about the importance of culture in the workplace. As we dive deep on the topic we talk about the importance of routinely assessing culture and studying what the key drivers of culture might be. In Mike’s experience there are many things that impact culture, but the big ones are:

  • trust in leadership
  • communication
  • clarity of goal
  • opportunity to contribute and make an impact
  • having the resources you need to do your job
  • opportunities for growth and development

Mike helps organizations build strategies that transform their culture and employees, as well as the leaders who support them.

Fueled by his dedication to help develop stronger relationships between leaders and their employees, Mike trains leaders on the importance of culture, putting employees first and the role leaders play in accomplishing both. 

Mike’s favorite question for clients is, “How can I help you?” and he uses the answer to help leaders develop people-centered strategies they can implement right away.

Mike brings a diverse background to his work, including past roles with small companies, global organizations and government.  These experiences have given him the platform to personally understand the needs of clients and how to best meet them.

 Mike is the author of The Success of Failure (2017), and is a sought-after keynote speaker on employee engagement, HR, and leadership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, and an MBA from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. He is also currently a MBA leadership coach at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. 

Mike serves his community at HEAR Indiana and lives near Indianapolis, IN with his wife and three children.

To connect with Mike please reach out by the following channels:

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Episode 30 - Culture in the Workplace Transcript

Tom West:  Hey Improvement Nerds. This is Tom, back with another episode of the Improvement Nerds Podcast. I am super excited to be nerding out today with my friend, Mike Bensi. As I started my own business, Rachel Pritz, you all know her from Episode 3, was coaching me through the journey and helping me to target the niche that I wanted to serve and how it’s going to start to promote my business.

And I asked her, does she know anyone who does this really well? So. She introduced me to Mike and he agreed to meet me for breakfast and the breakfast was amazing, but the conversation was awesome. We more so just talked about who we were as people and the things that we love doing and less about our businesses.

We had a ton in common and I think probably 80% of that conversation, Mike was spent talking about Ironman. You’re just a wealth of knowledge about how you as a startup or you as an entrepreneur can create value for our clients and to go about it in a way that isn’t all consuming.

You know, there’s a lot of people who are doing startups and stuff, and it’s like a 90-hour job.

When I met you, you had great advice on how to be very efficient and effective with it so that it wasn’t all consuming. I’ve always appreciated your mentorship and you sharing your experiences to help me in my own business. So, thank you for that and thank you for coming onto the episode.

Mike Bensi: [00:03:51] You bet. You bet. No, thanks.

Thanks for going back to memory lane and how it started. To even think about being together in person, let alone sharing a meal, during this time seems like a distant past, right? Yeah. I mean, let alone talking about Ironman races and getting into the water with a thousand other people. Um, so yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are good times, but yeah, definitely.

No, I loved it and I love the energy that you had at that time, you know, kind of going into the unknown.

I mean, if I remember right, you had some big experiences within large environments that, that must’ve been kind of like the times that we’re in a little bit, a little bit scary, a little bit exciting, not knowing what to expect next.

Tom West: [00:04:37] I think that’s a way to summarize almost everything in life, as experiences you’ve had when oftentimes you’re not fully aware of how big or monumental they might be. Um, and then as you grow through those things and you move from one challenge to the next, you tend to forget the things you’ve already overcome.

Mike Bensi: [00:05:00] Yeah. No, for sure. For sure. I mean, yeah, it’s a good reminder these days. Our kids all started school within the next week. And I feel like we’re having similar conversations with them, just trying to gear them up for what to expect, you know, wearing masks and socially distancing and what if school gets closed. It’s like, you don’t have control over those things, but you have a lot of control over a lot of things and focus on that. Getting your head ready for the day and being prepared for what’s next. So yeah, a lot of those things, you know, thinking back to our breakfast, still seem to ring true, which is nice for sure.

It means I wasn’t making stuff up, I guess.

Tom West: [00:05:49] Yeah. So a lot has changed since then. Um, and you know, we were talking about. Sit downs and networking with clients and keynote presentations and things like that. And you’re still doing a lot of that virtually. So recently you, you made a presentation virtually on a topic that I can’t wait to nerd out about today with you.

So I want to kind of set the stage and have you lay that topic out for us? I’m curious. What, what is it, what is it that we’re going to be nerding out about today? Mike?

Mike Bensi: [00:06:27] Well, if we can’t talk about Ironman and triathlons and ultra races, then I guess one thing that I’d love to nerd out about is just, uh, culture in the workplace.

Uh, you know, I, I, it sounds like a lot of your improvement nerds are, are either working right now, leading others, maybe a combination of both. Um, and I’d love to just nerd out around, you know, what it’s like to, uh, work, uh, what it’s like to lead other people. Um, and, and it just be a person who leaves other people,

Tom West: [00:06:58] you know, I I’m, I’m sure I man, and alternative endurance sports and family is all gonna come up as we would share stories.

And we nerd out about that topic and I think it’s really important topic. Right now because culture takes work and very intentional focused effort to define and to create and to sustain as a, before we nerd out about culture and, and share some ideas about how to. Create culture and inspire and direct culture during times of uncertainty, before we do all that, I want to let the improvement nerds of the world, get to know you a little bit.

So share with us the path that you’ve taken in order to get to where you are now. Maybe start with what you do, who you are, and I’ll talk a little bit about benzene company and then kind of give us a little bit of the history lesson of, of how this all came about.

Mike Bensi: [00:07:57] No. That’s great. No, thank you. Yeah. I had been seen company, me and the dog.

Um, we focus on, uh, working with leadership teams, working with executives on how to better communicate, how to better prioritize, um, in order to leave great cultures and lead great businesses. So a lot of times that looks like, um, for me, you know, being, uh, an outsource resource to help them with all things, culture.

Right. Um, you know, I, I, you know, met a group at that talk that you mentioned, they have 40% turnover. They, um, you know, are having a lot of challenges with remote working. Um, and the COO and majority of the executive team is new. And, you know, they’ve reached out just saying, Hey help. Right. You know, like we’ve read books, we think we know, but, but something’s not working and we need them.

And, um, you wait to start it and how I got here, uh, not to go too far back, but you know, right out of school, I kind of fell into human resources. Um, not really knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up. And it would have been a great, great fit, you know, because I was helping people. I was, you could see that in terms of helping them find a job, helping managers with difficult issues.

I got to see a lot of HR in, in kind of like an entry level generalist role. There aren’t really got me turned on to a couple of things. One just, you know, how important it was to treat people well while at work, which for a kid out of college seemed like a no brainer, but you could really see evidence of it that, of when it was working and when it wasn’t.

And, and then, you know, second, you know, just, you know, this other kind of passion of just how, how our brains are wired rate, you know, how we are wired to. Um, maybe motivate others or motivate ourselves. And that, that isn’t more true or evident when, um, it is when you are in the workforce. Um, and so, you know, even early in my career got turned on to those things and you kind of moved my way out, you know, in, in and out through different HR, HR leadership roles.

I went from manufacturing to tech, from tech to. A state government of all places, um, which was really wild experience to which I guess state government and wild probably don’t go in the same sentence, but, um, just at the time that it was a lot of change happening and really neat time to see how you can use change to motivate people.

Um, and, and what happens when you don’t, um, and, and all of that kind of fell into, um, a consulting role with the firm based out of Indianapolis. And, you know, never in my wildest dreams, I think that I would do consulting nor did I think I would go out on my own. But, um, over the seven years that I was there, luckily, you know, they were wonderful in sharing a lot of resources.

Um, a lot of just how to, and gave me a lot of space to try new things. And, um, you know, the timing just worked, worked out great way to go. And on my own, I am helping continuing to help businesses around their people.

Tom West: [00:11:14] It sounds almost as if it was planned out perfectly. And I know that’s not the case. I mean, um, when I had Jason Barnaby on the episode, he, he talked, you know, had you look at.

Everything, um, in a Ford way, like it seems jarbled, and it doesn’t make sense, but when you stand where you are today and you look backwards on it and see how it all, all adds up, you realize how truly lucky you are that you’ve had. And it just sounds like. You know, the, the path you’ve walked has given you the experiences you’ve needed an order to be.

Um, I don’t think that the word is creditable, but like steadfast for organizations when they need someone and who can come in and provide clarity and drive accountability and help them get unstuck.

Mike Bensi: [00:12:05] Yeah, absolutely. In fact, Thomas, I could really use you to write some copy for me about what I do and how I work.

That was fantastic. I’m taking notes already.

Tom West: [00:12:14] Yeah. Well, I, you know, I’m looking a little bit at your background and you’ve talked about that motivational theory aspect of why people do what they do and how do we as leaders. Help those individuals achieve. So as you were sharing those things, I’m like, is he a psych major?

Cause I’ve talked to other HR professionals who, um, you know, said like, Hey, I just found myself in HR. And while there I. Got to learn about HR processes. But what I was mostly curious was about how to engage people and how to motivate people. And both of those people had psych degrees too. So I was like, does Mike have a psych degree in?

Sure, sure. Enough. You’re in people’s heads.

Mike Bensi: [00:13:01] You betcha. Yeah, no, I, I get that a lot and yeah, it’s so true. I mean, you know, the, the folks that you talk to you you’re like helping, helping the business is. It’s wonderful and great. You get to see how our organizations can thrive when they really focus on their people.

But then, you know, there’s this other part where it’s like, well, wow. You know, you know, like I’m helping a client in terms of, you know, they, they love to be in control. And if they’re leading a team, being in control is great. Right. And you, and that they get to. Come up with really neat ideas and move the organization forward, even in times like this with uncertainty, but also it’s really challenging because you might leave people out or you might rely on your guts so much that you just kind of think, you know, you, you, you don’t listen to them.

So, you know, like those types of things, when they happen, it’s like, wow, that is so challenging yet. So cool to think about. The basic things that you can do, right? When you’re open to those to really not only help improve yourself, but help improve others

Tom West: [00:14:11] in almost every episode or, or conversation I have in one way or another, it always gets back to a sample of one and of one.

So the individual and how that person interacts with the world in. I think for me, that was when the light bulb went off in my career. There was, I was studying for my PMP and the individual who was. Administering the training, he said has a project manager. There’s all these tools and this is this body of knowledge and their organization has expectations of you to deliver results, but don’t ever forget that the most important thing on any of your projects is the people that trust you to help them be successful.

And when I started to manage projects and that way by empowering people, Became a lot more fun in the results came a lot easier than me going around and just telling people what to do and how to do it and why to do it. And so I’m, I’m glad that light bulb went off for me. I know it’s gone off for you.

Mike Bensi: [00:15:18] Yeah, no. Well, and thanks for sharing that too. I mean, I I’m, I’m amazed how much, you know, like back in my day, I think I’m old enough where I can say back in my day, right? Like my, my father, where. I remember those types of classes, not, not touching on the people side. So that is awesome to hear that you even got, got that input, right.

That insight, and that they’re focusing on that. Uh, now, um, you know, it’s just so important for regardless of the industry or a role to make sure that that people focus is there.

Tom West: [00:15:51] So this is a bit crass, but I, in some ways, want to petition for a refund of my MBA because, you know, I studied finance and empathy.

Yeah. And some of the softer culture, the culture pieces, weren’t part of my curriculum. Like everything was analytical and whatnot. So, you know, now obviously I selected that degree, so I somewhat did it to myself, but then I walked out of grad school and into the workforce and relied on what the book said to do.

And like, it was just a train wreck. I was. Trying to convince with data and using terms. No one understood. I actually used and I use the word in healthcare average. Whoops. I’ve I’ve learned a lot by doing it wrong. Uh, but you know, I see that you went to Kelly also and they’re in forward thinking organization, but I just think all institutions were in the dark.

They didn’t understand the importance of culture. The way that it’s understood. Now there’s so much research that has happened around, um, human interactions that weren’t as well understood back then that now they’re better understood and more actionable.

Mike Bensi: [00:17:20] Yeah. Yeah. We, you, you brought up my psychology degree.

I mean, I, I would love to go back to school now and, and just go back to those courses. You know, cause I remember sitting with a buddy who I think he was a chemistry major, but I mean like, like he, he called it like a lit there’s a legit science, right. There’s there’s research. Whereas you were learning about guys like Freud and, and others where they have these really cool theories.

It’s just, you know, it was still, it still seems so new. Whereas, you know, in the last. Yeah, gosh, over 20 years so much is out there. We’re able to study things in such a better way of just of, you know, of workplace culture, psychology itself, sociology, right? Like there’s just so much coming out where, um, it is.

I mean, I, yeah, I’d love to just go back to undergrad and just sit in a classroom to hear what they’re learning right now.

Tom West: [00:18:18] Yeah. I think the, um, continue education. Opportunity is, would probably be something that could fill that for you. So I don’t know, um, you know, like has a change, a change agent or, or whatnot?

No. Are those professional credentials that require you to do that? Ongoing learning? Are they bringing in and the new research and for me that when I was starting to sound, but this business and whatnot, like. I was just doing everything I had done before, because it was routine and it was habit and comfortable for me as soon as I had to make change and stuff like that.

Yeah. It was pretty exhausting. And I had a lot of anxiety and it was because, because of the psychology of it all, and people just had to talk me through some of that stuff to realize like what the sciences, the, the innate. Innateness of it playing out and to realize like, Hey, it’s not you, like, don’t, don’t be guilt.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Or get down on yourself because it’s happening. It’s like there’s years of evolution. This is why

Mike Bensi: [00:19:29] rain, right? Yeah. Yeah. You’re, you’re trying to find a lot of years in terms of now we’ve evolved as humans. So yeah, I don’t don’t think you’ve got it all figured out.

Tom West: [00:19:38] Yeah. And I think a lot of people fool themselves thinking they deal.

Mike Bensi: [00:19:42] Yeah. Yeah. For sure. I think you’re seeing that in spades you’re around them. What’s going on in our society right now.

Tom West: [00:19:51] Yeah. So I also see, um, that you had an experience where you were an adjunct professor.

Mike Bensi: [00:19:59] Yeah. Yeah. So, um, yeah. Thanks for that. Where I, I taught, I’ve taught for two semesters now. And the last two years, um, on the topic of, um, people in the workplace.

So it’s been a really fun experience, just, um, bringing some of the things that I’ve learned, working with other clients to a classroom environment. Uh, if anything, it’s really kind of challenged me to just make one, make sure I’m keeping up on the latest information, the latest research. Um, but also to, to get a different perspective, because you think about when, you know, Thomas, when you, you got your MBA, you know, these are folks they’re all over the place in terms of their careers.

Some are just out of school, you know, not knowing what to do next. Some are mid career wanting to get the MBA to kind of catapult them into maybe a higher level leadership role. Some are just in there for fun. You know, I had one who, um, he he’s actually. Um, his daughter was going to the school and he wanted to continue the education, um, and, and wanted to learn and almost be a student along with her.

So it’s just been like a really great experience to continue that learning process and give back in a way to others.

Tom West: [00:21:19] I’m sure that, you know, passion to teach and educate and give people. Knowledge so that they’re in a position where they can act and behave differently and be a advocate for change with the information, with the right information.

That’s gotta be kind of cool to see that these individuals are seeking that so that. You know, the good thing about a student is they, they know what they’re getting themselves into and they’re seeking this new knowledge. But what that new knowledge will allow them to do is really promising because as a society, there’s just so much information.

There’s so much knowledge that’s available now that you have to want to be current on it and try to incorporate it and include it in your next steps. So you has an adjunct professor and has a consultant. You’re always trying to bring the most thought provoking conversations to the table to help people really evaluate where they are and where they want to go and make informed decisions about the best way to get there.

Mike Bensi: [00:22:25] Yeah, no, you’re, you’re absolutely right. And you, the last two times that I’ve taught. You know, um, you know, obviously not, not during the endemic, but three printers, you know, you had a lot of folks who, you know, again there, because they would, they would, it was really neat because they could bring it and like real life examples that they had struggled with or had experienced, whether, you know, maybe it’s, uh, uh, poor, poor manager or, uh, you know, a low morale culture, um, or, or more immediate issues.

Um, You know, to talk through, you know, I, you know, in terms of, you know, I think w one, you know, who, who was and direct reports he could talk through, he was, and he had a problem. He had a challenging employee on his hands, and it was really neat to be able to talk about that in the classroom. Um, and to have people not, not really give advice, but to ask questions, to learn more about, well, what would you do and how would you handle this?

So it’s been, yeah. That any kind of laboratory, like, experience for me.

Tom West: [00:23:29] It’s almost like a case studies, right? Like really a studies and, you know, has I support my clients and whatnot. I I’m someone doing the same thing. Like they had an experience that they have a problem. There is an opportunity on the other side of that problem.

The thing is, is no one. Sees it all or understands it all. So there needs to be research about the, the problem or the opportunity to really study it and really understand it through questioning and collecting information and going to see it for yourself. And then with all that information, then taking it and evaluating, you know, what, what are the root causes are the primary drivers of these things happening?

And how do we then implement counter measures to prevent them from happening in the future or to lessen the impact of them happening right now? You know, these ideas, once we have prioritized them, how do we act on them? How do we measure their outcomes? Really? It’s, it’s calmer. It’s always conversational.

Like. It’s not when I come in, it’s not about the tools I bring. It’s about the dialogue I drive it’s brain. And I’m sure it’s true for you too. It’s bringing everyone to the table and having them have a conversation about where they are and where they want to go and facilitating consensus, building and buy in and willingness to take risks and a willingness to change

Mike Bensi: [00:25:00] that dialogue is such a key piece.

I mean, and you see it in, in your own. Work with your clients without that dialogue, I think people just kind of stay in their heads about what the, what the challenges are, what the problems are. Maybe they think they’re too big or they won’t be able to get past them and someone like you coming in and having that dialogue simply, you know, I I’m sure you’ve seen it too.

And you know, and you’re. Project management days too, of just, you know, helping people kind of just uncover the answers that they already know. Are there, maybe they just didn’t verbalize them or didn’t think of them. Yeah. Asking the right question. Just helps pop that out for them.

Tom West: [00:25:46] Yeah. I love that’s really why I’m addicted to.

Um, the improvement sciences and, and serving as a consultant, which has like a negative word, negative connotation with it. But for me, it’s really about going in and helping people trust their own ideas. And, and I know through for you because the history we’ve had and the conversations we’ve had, I know that when you support your clients, you’re doing the same thing.

You’re really helping the individuals who have the problem. Um, you know, sit with it because a lot of times they’ll ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist, or they won’t voice their concerns about it. So you come in and you create that safety for them and their peers and everyone around that problem, or who’s impacted by that problem to, to talk about it and to share ideas about how it can be solved.

And it’s once you do that, once you create that environment, the answers come and big problems. Start to feel really small and progress gets made pretty quick.

Mike Bensi: [00:26:49] Yeah, no, for sure. And it’s funny that you say, you know, consultants know that it’s, it’s a bad word. I totally agree with you. I, I finished up a project a couple of months ago and, and part of the process was just, you know, getting feedback from the folks who were involved and you an over overall, you know, really good responses, you know, like it was good project, everything.

Know, all the expectations were met. You know, we kind of, we, we landed the plane, all of those fun terms. Um, but w one, one comment stood out that I really, I really liked. And it was along the lines of, you know, when, when this comes up again, you know, I don’t think we need a consultant. I think we can do it ourselves.

And, and to me it was like the best feedback I could receive, because like I had, you know, help them with and dialogue. And created a space for them to solve the problem on your own, rather than, and forcing things at them, doing things to them, you know, like something in whatever I did, you know, just allowed them permission to, you know, create a solution.

And the hope was that, you know, I, you know, I was able to create that space for them to do that. Um, and, and I think, you know, the best consultants do them right where they they’re working, not for themselves, but rather for the sake of that space so that others are able to join in, um, and create their, create the solution together.

Tom West: [00:28:24] Very well stated, just, um, I want to take what we’re talking about now and point that at culture, because for, for me sometimes when I’ve come in, it’s been, uh, a specific problem. So a growth of a business or product line, or, um, you know, excessive costs in the supply chain. So a lot of it’s transactional.

Like I need your help doing this one thing and yeah, there’s. Layers to it, but it’s not overly complex. Um, now when you try to point that problem solving process and that trust building process or the work to create space for people to share ideas at something that’s more broad, such as culture, it it’s much bigger, more complex and requires a more delicate approach because of it.

So I want to start to talk about. How you lead organizations through improving their culture and especially how that is looking now with, with so much chaos occurring in organizations, how do people keep their focus on culture and actually impacted.

Mike Bensi: [00:29:45] Yeah, no, for sure. For sure. Well, time is, I mean, you know, like any good consultant first, it depends.

Right. You know, like I think that’s a, a great, uh, tool to rely on. It depends. But, um, more often you might, the way that I come in. Yeah. I I’m truly trying to really understand right. And get a lay of the land if you will. Because I think a lot of times I hear. And you’ve probably heard this too, right.

Broken supply chains, right. Like, okay, those are, those are symptoms, but what’s the real problem. Right. You know, turnover can be high, but what what’s causing that. And, and so, you know, a lot of times it’s really trying to develop that understanding and it might be done with the, the executive team that I’m talking with.

Um, or other times where I’m having to come in and, um, you know, maybe do a little bit more, uh, of a, a deep dive, like a formal review, maybe that’s through an employee survey or focus groups, or just kind of, you know, another type of assessment to really kinda gather that. And, you know, especially during this time, you know, there, there there’s, you’re looking at.

At that with a different type of lens, perhaps, but still looking in the same areas. You know, I think, you know, a year ago, um, when, you know folks said, well, this isn’t, we don’t have a flexible work environment. You’re that, that meant something. But now when people say that, great, you know, it’s, it’s less about, you know, how often I can work from home and more about, well, I don’t feel listened to.

Because of my, you know, childcare needs or my dependent care needs. Um, I don’t, you know, when we talk about recognition, um, you know, perhaps in the past it was, you know, the quarterly town hall where we kind of talk about, you know, who did a good job. Whereas now it’s like, well, I only hear from my manager and you know that the managers absent because they’re, he or she’s dealing with their own issues in terms of.

Yeah, just where their mind is at, in terms of focusing at home or with their work responsibilities. So still coming at it with that stance, same type of desire to learn, but maybe kind of having different feelers and areas that might be causing some disruption given the time that we’re in.

Tom West: [00:32:23] I imagine the levers are somewhat the same of a robust culture.

So. Um, you know, there’s likely to be things driving to a good, strong, uh, culture, and then, but there’s probably also things that are eroding it and whether you’re physically present or working virtually or a midst of crisis or instability, I imagine these levers are probably the same. They may change slightly, but I’m assuming trust leadership.

Is important in any circumstance, communication and information sharing and feedback is important. In any situation you mentioned reward recognition. I think that’s important working collaboratively and the opportunity to contribute and share your ideas is important. So I’m assuming as you go in and you measure culture, you’re seeing.

Similar themes of what is contributing to it or what’s chipping away at it. What are some of the other things you tend to see in that analysis of what builds a good culture or what breaks it down?

Mike Bensi: [00:33:40] Yeah. Yeah, no, I think you hit on the key ones. I mean, I won’t, I won’t go through those or over again. I think you really nailed them, but I think one great.

Now that it’s coming up, I’m in a really interesting in way. At least my, my opinion is you’re just do I have, do I have the tools to do my job? And, and that can mean a lot of things for different people. Um, your tools could be.

Tom West: [00:34:09] Yeah. If

Mike Bensi: [00:34:09] I’m working from home, am I, do I have space to get the job done? Um, do I have, you know, a laptop?

Do I have a, and a client, you know, she’s just asking for a whiteboard and you know, for you just let me have 30 bucks to get a whiteboard so I can write down some notes, but you know, those types of tools, but also I think at a larger level is my am I able to do my job? Um, you know, there’s so much noise going on right now.

I mentioned on the pandemic social unrest. Um, I mean, you add in, I mean, climate change, I just read an article, um, about an invading species of jellyfish. That’s in Europe now. I mean, it’s just like everywhere you look, there is just something, a mess and it, if we’re not making the job. Enjoyable easy to do, right.

We’re doing a disservice to our employees. And so, you know, like great recognition is great, but how easy is it to get the job done? Are we making it overly complicated with different processes, different levels of approval, right. I think right now it’s really just focusing on those fundamentals of what it means to work in terms of how we share that.

So that’s been kind of a big piece. Um, that I see, uh, within organizations, um, the other is, you know, if, if you think about when the pandemic started, it was really kind of neat. It was like this little experiment in itself of, you know, how, how will companies respond. And for the most part, I think you heard companies who were communicating more, um, you know, some of the studies they showed that, you know, feelings of trust and leadership.

That you mentioned when up during that time, uh, communication also went up, right? People knew exactly what the organization was doing and why, you know, here’s why we’re not working in the office. Here’s why we are right. Here’s why we’re needed. We are an essential business. Um, and then also people just love having a job or you can implement said, um, crazy numbers right now.

And people are, are grateful. Um, but. You know, over the last five months, some of those basics of have kind of been put to the side, you know, we’re kind of tired. Um, uncertainty is dragging up, you know, so companies are starting to communicate last or maybe not as clear. Um, the level of care that we see is, is, you know, people are feeling less cared for, right.

Again, kind of whether it’s being. Asked to come back into the office or forced to come back into the, the office, um, despite the challenges of having kids or loved ones at home. Um, and then, you know, also, you know, just, I think managers are sick of it. You know, we, if you look at, at the data managers, don’t trust, remote working, um, or their skills to manage remote working.

And so, yes, the, you know, everything has shown that, you know, people who were able to work remote. Have been able to do so, but I don’t, I mean, I think fundamentally, you know, we, as humans don’t trust that that’s the case. And so we’re kind of, again, pulling people back in, um, maybe, you know, before, before we needed to, or without clarifying those questions.

So, you know, a lot of those sentimental is, are being challenged right now during this time. I think

Tom West: [00:37:43] the middle of any change is. The fuzziest and the most unorganized, um, thing, because at the, at the start, as you were saying, it kind of follows a U shape or early on a lot of communication, a lot of support.

And over time has resources or expand and the change that’s in as people, it slips to the back of their mind, their fatigue sets in and things like that. So the middle, the law is always. Where things kind of fall apart and then magically there’s a correction wants people kind of see that end, you know, they can realign and they can refocus their energy on communicating and, and things like that.

But with what we’re going through right now is that there’s just, no, at least from what I’ve seen, there is no clear end in sight. And I think that this middle, the middle of this is, um, something that steams pretty bad because, because of that, like I just, there’s so much uncertainty. We don’t know how long the uncertainty is going to last that it’s hard for people to make decisions about what their strategies are for their organization and things like that.

So are you seeing that kind of like this is that U shaped energy happening and change?

Mike Bensi: [00:39:10] Oh, absolutely. Well, and I know we joked about it at the beginning, but, um, I may have permission to talk about an iron man. Yeah. Right. It feels a lot like that. Right. Maybe it’s not in Ironman, but, but any type of event that you haven’t been through or you led type of distance radar, our brains are always trying to figure out, you know, how long is this going to take?

What’s the path to get there. And what does success look like? Right. And if we don’t have any of those right now, and in idea, and man in, in the working world, right, you, you, you reached this point where I’m tired, this is taking longer than I thought. Um, wait, I should be going faster. I wanted to write on, maybe I’m not feeling you have the right level of energy, you know, we’re, we’re, we aren’t just selling off.

And I, I hear a lot of clients kind of at that point where. Yeah, we’re at that bottom in a way, in terms of, you know, like where do we go from here? What is, where are we going? And, um, if, if companies don’t get control of that quickly, I think it’s going to lead into longterm resolve or longterm impact in terms of just whether it’s just general engagement, but also just the success of their people and ultimately the success of the business.

Tom West: [00:40:32] Yeah, and I think I’m going to go out on a limb here. One of the other drivers I tend to see around culture and engagement is opportunities for growth and development. And. I’m assuming you see it on your survey is I know when I’ve done Baldrige assessments and whatnot, that’s a training and out contract training, training activities, but also training outcomes is a key emphasis of, um, or an organization.

So, you know, right now and so much uncertainty. I, if I was in leadership, I’d be trying to pull my resources and conserve cash. And the last thing I’d be doing, my, my tendency is to not want to spend on training and growth and development for my workforce. And, you know, by withholding that development, I think.

People who are in this change. They know things are going to be different in the future. They may not know exactly how different they’ll be, but they want to be doing something right now to prepare themselves for that. So they are, I think they are hungry for growth and development, but I don’t see very many organizations with a willingness to invest in those things.

And for all the transformations I’ve been part of that really was the thing that kept it all together. And most recently, the one that I had supported a hospital transformation out in the Southwest, the senior leader, he opened that the CEO actually openly said. I know other organizations would not invest in growth and training and development right now.

And he said, I am not going to make that mistake. I’m actually going to double that budget. Well, and they had a large financial deficit that they had to overcome. So, you know, and I think a lot of organizations right now, they see these financial deficits and they’re trying to conserve their cash. But what they don’t realize they might be doing is they’re preventing.

Their workforce for being future ready in some ways. And they, and they could be, um, losing individuals who are looking for, for those, those investments right now. Are you seeing that play out?

Mike Bensi: [00:42:51] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I, there’s not a lot of organizations to your point who are talking about learning and development?

Um, is I historically think about it, right? Like kind of large classrooms. Um, training programs, whether, you know, maybe even online training as well, um, where we’re, I’m trying to encourage people is, you know, and we kinda talked about it earlier of just using, using that time that you’re in, um, as, as a training opportunity.

I mean, it’s, if you think about, you know, those, uh, organizations who have had to make job cuts. Right. They’re being forced into that by asking people to do more with less. Right. Um, and so, you know, there are people out there that are being forced into two new roles and, and there’s a lot of opportunity in a way, you know, hopefully without having to make job cuts, to think about what are those ways that we can get people learning without having to send them to a conference, to a training program.

Um, maybe we’re not cutting our budget, but we’re putting the dollars in a different way. And so that that’s where, what I am seeing some companies do. But to your point, yeah, most of them are just kind of sitting tight on larger engagement development efforts.

Tom West: [00:44:22] We talked a little bit about the different levers are the drivers of a culture or the things that can erode it.

I want to kind of just dive maybe deep on, on one of them. I know in a previous presentation, you presented 20 ideas that organizations could implement an order to, um, drive culture. So we’re not going to empty the pockets and go through all 20, but maybe if you can give us like one. Of those recommendations and even as a teaser, cause I want individuals to hear this and like that, that might be better.

XE has 19 more of those ideas. I need to talk to him. So I don’t want you to, you know, give away the cow here. Um, but what maybe what is one thing that an organization can do that you’ve seen to be effective right now in this time? Uh, to help better define their culture or to nurture it and to move it forward.

Mike Bensi: [00:45:18] Oh, definitely. Yeah. Thanks for that. No, I think you hit the theme over the last week has been around communication. Uh, you have folks who, you know, again, they, you know, maybe we thought we’d be back in the office by now and we’re not. Or we’re being asked to come back to the office when maybe I’m not ready as an employee, or my family’s not ready because kids are not going back to school.

They’re going virtual. Right. Whatever it is. And so that communication theme seems to be hot topic. And I think if you think about when pandemic, the pandemic started. We were communicating constantly. Right. Which was really great because we needed to, things were coming up every day. We were learning new things.

We were so unsure here. So, I mean, I, I remember a CEO I worked with, he had, um, in one day he, he had, you know, like 10 meetings just back to back. I don’t think he ate or went to the bathroom during that time, but he would hold these 15 minute standup meetings at seven 30 in the morning. And then at four 30 in the afternoon, and at the time they seem logical and I even encouraged it.

Um, and, but he continued those way beyond what anybody needed or wanted. Right. And so I think over communication, um, is, is not what’s needed and obviously not under communication, but I think just that idea of consistently communicating, right. Getting back to what was going well. You’re having a cadence and just creating something for yourself of, you know, what does it mean to be in communication with my team?

And it’s really, you know, some simple ideas of just daily. You know, we check in on someone that we haven’t talked to in awhile, um, weekly, you know, we make sure we talked to the all team. Maybe it’s maybe it’s that 15 minutes stand up meeting. Just, we don’t have to do it every day now. Um, And, you know, continue with monthly company updates, quarterly reviews or, or saying goals, whatever that is, but creating that cadence is just so important

Tom West: [00:47:24] right now in to shamelessly plug.

Something that I know works really well is to write a communication plan. It’s, you know, an initial assessment of what’s the information that needs to be shared, who is the audience that needs to get it. And what are their preferred communication methods? I think an organization that tends to be. Where the rub is, is that they’ll do like, who’s the audience and what’s the, we got to get out, but they don’t ever ask themselves the question of how does that audience like to receive that message?

What is their preferred channel? And I think if an organization was to say, Hey, we want to improve our communication. Maybe one of the ways they can really. Get there faster is to talk to their people and simply ask, what are your preferred communication methods? Do you want email? Do you want a virtual meeting?

Do you want, um, a newsletter? Do you want whatever? And really, because they’re. There’s one that, you know, a lot of, uh, age diversity in the workforce, but there’s diversity in general. So organizations can assume that average everyone’s homogenous tech can just wants to be communicated with the same way.

So not just. Are you saying let’s communicate, but let’s communicate in the way people want to be communicated to and, and commit to that and learn as we go. And constantly, I think that’s what you were saying is let’s not over-communicate or under communicate. Well, the only way to know if you’re doing those two things is to solicit feedback and to evaluate your communication methods, to say, are these working the way that we thought they were.

Mike Bensi: [00:49:12] Yeah, no, absolutely. No. I love that. Right. You know, I, I, I had a client where they hadn’t answered that question until I got in. They didn’t realize that their emails were just being ignored, that they got all their information from their local area manager, um, on there on the weekly updates, that area manager health.

And so they just realize that that’s how they get their information. So that’s how we’ll deliver it. And we, they deliver information through the, that area manager and communication scores went up for them, just for that smooth, simple act of, like you said, just understanding how people like to receive that, that communication.

So, yeah, I think you’re spot

Tom West: [00:49:54] on. Um, you know, I was simply saying something that I know you are already doing. I just wanted to go there and nurse. Um, so I think that’s really sound advice and, you know, uh, individuals who are looking to improve their communication, um, there’s a lot of resources that are out there, like just go to Google and type in communication plan and one’s going to come up.

I, you know, I’ve tried to. Need to create one for my organization and make it available. But there, you don’t have to, people listening to this, you don’t have to work with Mike or I to improve your communication, but you do have to commit to improving your communication, work with someone, whatever resource that works best for your organization, seek it out and try to make it happen.

Like it’s important. As Mike had said in the survey, see done communication oftentimes is one of the key drivers of culture and engagement. So I think that’s great advice to say here’s some ways you can improve it. Uh, you can help. I’d be happy to help. Uh, if not like still working on it, people.

Mike Bensi: [00:51:07] We can end it on that work on it.

Tom West: [00:51:09] We just work on communication all the time.

Have a lot of fun, uh, nerding out with you. And thanks for coming and talking about all the things that help to create a robust culture and leaving us with a good. A piece of recommendation of that one thing people can start doing to improve their culture. And we teased at that. There’s 19 other things on your list of 20 things organizations can be doing.

So I want you to take this opportunity to plug yourself and leave us with ways that individuals can connect with you and to see this presentation of the 20 ways to create a robust culture.

Mike Bensi: [00:51:55] Thanks for that, Thomas. And thanks for having me on this was a lot of fun. Um, like you said, I think, probably the best way is just my website, all one word and I’ll throw another plug out there. You can subscribe to a monthly newsletter, to just see other helpful information.

So, yeah, I appreciate that. Thanks again.

Tom West: [00:52:24] Thank you. And I’ll include all that information in the show notes.

So then Improvement Nerds of the world… you guys have zero excuses not to follow up with Mike.