581 Rebecca Friese:

Why do some companies attract and retain top talent, while others struggle to retain people?  There’s a lot of lip service about the need to create a great company culture – and it’s more than installing ping pong tables or kombucha on tap.


I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who calls herself the “workplace crusader”.

Rebecca Friese has made it her mission to transform businesses and organizations by identifying and innovating outdated people practices. In her book The Good Culture: The Leader’s Guide to Creating a Workplace That Doesn’t Suck, Rebecca provides a step-by-step approach to operationalize a great people strategy that will boost success of your company.

We’re going to get into all the details with Rebecca in a moment! First…

With more than twenty years of experience in change management leadership, Rebecca Friese transforms organizations. By identifying outdated practices from the ground floor to the boardroom, Rebecca helps everyone, from Fortune 500 behemoths to hopeful start-ups, build the capacity to implement market-leading cultural changes. Having taken on every role from employee to a consultant to Vice President of People, she knows what it takes to chart a new course for talent management.

Now, Rebecca is on a mission to help organizations not just be better places to work, but exceptionally innovative, engaging, and forward-thinking places to work. She’s seen what happens when work sucks for people—when top-performing employees become dejected, disengaged, and ultimately leave organizations, and leaders are left scratching their heads at why this happens more often they expected, and how it affects their bottom line. What matters to employees may be very different than what managers think. In her book, ‘The Good Culture: The Leader’s Guide To Creating a Workplace That Doesn’t Suck,’ Rebecca provides a step-by-step approach to creating a Good Culture, making an impact on your people strategy and ultimately the success of your organization.

Today we talk about how to create a positive, interactive corporate culture. Listen to learn why it’s not just about feel-good policies or perks, and why the cost of not creating one may be more significant than you realize. We talk about how to figure out what works best for your company day-to-day, how to chuck out what doesn’t, and how to bring people into the fold, empower your team members to co-create with you, and support cultural growth, all the way to the top.

Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Rebecca Friese.

Melinda Wittstock:         Rebecca, welcome to Wings.

Rebecca Friese:                Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Melinda Wittstock:         Me too. I’m just going to start with a really open-ended question which is, what makes a workplace great?

Rebecca Friese:                That is an open-ended question, and that’s amazing.

Melinda Wittstock:         I mean, because there are a lot of things.

Rebecca Friese:                There’s a lot of things. Well, it’s funny because whenever I speak to a group of people or even individuals, leaders, everybody knows what a good workplace feels like. They can describe it. It’s open. It’s genuine. I can be myself. I’m allowed to do work that matters. I am challenged. Literally, all the words are similar across the board. And I would say if you asked me to describe a bad workplace culture, it’s all the opposite of all those things. So we intuitively know what a good workplace culture feels like versus what’s a good culture. Because I think we all kind of intuitively know that. Well, what truly makes a good culture? What creates that environment for people?

And so two things, two definitions that we use. First and foremost, you have to talk about, well, what is culture to begin with? What’s the definition of culture and do we all agree on that? So for the purposes of organizational culture, for the way that we look at it when it comes to work, we define culture as the way in which work gets done. So if you’ve got the norms, you’ve got the behaviors, you’ve got the actions, you’ve got the policies, all of those things intertwined that cumulate with this is the way that work gets done here and that’s our culture. That is it. Then if you say, okay, well, great, what is a good culture then? It’s when the way that work gets done aligns with the work that you’re trying to do.

So if your work is all about innovation and discovery and curiosity and you’re trying to push the envelope and you’re a risk-taker. If your culture is more of a hierarchical, a lot of micromanagement, no autonomy, risk is frowned upon, failure is frowned upon, you have this discord that happens. Where the way that work gets done isn’t helping you to do the things that your company is trying to do. And so therefore there’s this frustration and this discord and there’s this, well, what am I even here for anyway, feeling.

I like to look at examples of good cultures, because no one culture is the right culture for every organization. It’s like dating. One culture can be good but can look very different than another culture. It doesn’t mean that the one is bad or the other one is bad. They can both be good. But it’s because the culture fits and aligns with the work that’s trying to get done there is what makes it good.

So you look at a Disney culture versus a culture at an SEC. An SEC culture, in order to get that work done, they’re compliant, they’re risk adverse, they’re rule followers, they’re looking at being very buttoned up policies and procedures. Versus a Disney where it’s all about experience and happiness and doing whatever it takes for the customer, et cetera. And those are very different cultures and therefore the way that work gets done is going to be different because their goal is different.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it’s interesting with workplace culture, because a lot of entrepreneurs when they start their businesses at the very beginning don’t necessarily take the time to think consciously of what is the culture that they actually want to create. And think of it as some sort of ‘nice to have’ when it’s actually a foundational aspect and a big predictor of the success of the business.

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah. Absolutely. It’s really interesting. I definitely feel as the new generations come up we’re going to be trending towards this a lot more. A lot of this is legacy. As a culture, as a world, we’re learning more and more what’s important especially given the type of work that we do now versus what we used to do 50 years ago. So it is an evolution and I do feel like as these new generations come in, this conversation is just going to be so much easier. It’s already so much easier than it was 10 years ago. The fact that we talk about this and it’s top of CEO’s minds, even if it’s too little too late still just gives me hope because it wasn’t that way 10, 15, 20 years ago.

So we work with anybody from literally Fortune 500, 200,000 plus person companies, global companies to literally somebody with a white sheet of paper saying I have this idea. So it’s fun because we get to see it on all points of the spectrum of where people are. And yeah, you couldn’t be more right that workplace culture is foundational. However, it doesn’t have to be this big thing when you’re starting out. It just has to be what do I hold true? What is the purpose of what I’m trying to do here and what are the ways in which I’m going to get that work done? And so therefore what are our values and how’s that going to show up in our policies and our procedures and who we hire.

You have those guiding tenants really thought out at the beginning and then use that to make your decisions moving forward and then you’ll be good. You might have to nudge stuff along the way, you might have to change stuff. There’s going to be gaps that you’ll have to bridge over time and as you scale, but if you just have those foundational tenants, you’re going to be so better off than if you don’t think about it until [crosstalk 00:06:21].

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, absolutely. Having your values very, very clear but also your mission and your vision, those three components, you’re going to attract team members that share those values and vision just from the outset. So it eliminates a whole series of problems because a workplace culture, if not all the team members are bought into it, it’s going to be an unhappy place for them, it’s going to be an unhappy workplace, all these sorts of things. So it’s partly the people that you’re attracting, but also the systems and things that you put in place. Let’s take it through different company phases. Right?

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         So a company that is pretty much idea stage, where they’re just in that scramble. What are some of the foundational things? Is it really just simply knowing your values and your mission at that point or is there anything else really that needs to be nailed down at that early stage?

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah. So yes, but to get even simpler; to have your purpose, have your why really, really clear, why are we doing this? Because inherent in that will be something about your values. So even if you haven’t sat down and said, okay, well, what are my values? If you have your purpose and you’re really clear on that, you’ll attract people that align with that purpose. And then the values can be kind of as you’ve got those first groups of people, you can see what values are helping nudge your business in the way that you want it to go. If you can define that upfront and be really clear about this is what I value as a founder, that obviously will help. But I don’t think it’s a problem to give a little room for that co-creation for the people that are first jumping on board with you in that first iteration of what you are, as long as you’re clear on the purpose of what you’re trying to do. If you’re not clear on why you’re doing it, that’s going to be hard from the get go.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. So when you get to the phase of a company where you’re now in rapid growth stage. You’ve got product market fit, you’ve got customers, hopefully referenceable customers, and now it’s time to put gas on the fire. You’ve got to scale really quickly or bringing in a lot of employees super fast, but you’re still kind of early stage. What are some of the things you really need to have in place at that point really to assure a great culture? And also with the added challenge now that so many companies are remote and having to create these cultures on Zoom meetings.

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah. So I think you kind of went there already talking about recruitment. So the number one thing that you can do for your company, to nudge your company culture in the direction that you need it to be to align with the work is to get very clear on your recruiting process and making sure that your recruiting process is attracting people. And then getting to the point where you’re hiring people that are a fit with your culture. And I want to be really clear on “fit” in this world of bias and racism and whatnot. We got to move away from the days where it was like, well, if I got stuck on a plane with them or an airport with them for hours, would I like hanging out with them?

There’s this notion, an old school notion about getting along is a good culture fit. And that is not necessarily true and that’s going to block your ability to attract a diverse workforce. So that’s a little bit of a soap box I want to go on because when I say culture fit, it brings up a lot of notion about what that is. And what that is, is that you’re aligning with the purpose and you’re aligning with the values. And that can show up in a lot of different ways from background and experience and whatnot. So it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be attracting a lot of like people. What you will be attracting is a lot of like spirited people. People who are up for whatever it is you’re trying to do as an organization and the way that you’re trying to do it.

And this is where my dating reference gets even better because it’s like, as long as you’re super clear about your purpose and your values through your recruiting process, then the people that are a good match for that will choose you. They will choose you. And that doesn’t mean that if they don’t choose you they’re bad, it just means that it wasn’t the right match for you. And you don’t want to bring people on that aren’t the right match for you. So you want to be as clear as possible. So backing up, you have to go through a process where you have articulated those values, not in a way that it’s just words on paper, in a way that you can point at proof that those things are happening.

So you say you’re transparent, but I just talked to somebody who… Transparency is one of your values. But I just talked to a person that you hired six months ago, and they literally never hear from the CEO. It’s like a black box. The emails come out, but we’re remote. You hired this person six months ago in the middle of COVID and this person is like, “I have no idea what’s happening. I don’t know if our company is healthy.” And so therefore your value on paper is not showing up in the way that work is getting done. So when it comes to companies that are scaling really, really fast, the best thing they can do is be super clear on their values, but they have to be able to back it up with stories.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s really important to walk your talk. So say Podopolo my interactive podcasting company: One of our values is transparency and so I always make sure that I’m really checking in with everybody all the time to the point of over communicating. But also one of our values is really around social impact, so actually involving the team and creating ways that we can be measured, not just in terms of our revenue or profit milestones but actually what’s our social impact? And how can we measure it? How can we get better at it? How can we involve all our stakeholders in it, that kind of stuff. So you take a value like that and you get people excited about innovating around those values.

Rebecca Friese:                Well, you just hit the second point that I would say is you’ve got the definition piece of it, but then you also have to have on the back end of that as how are you measuring that you’re actually doing that? This is another thing. So you’ve got these great values. You have great stories around it. I remember talking to Evan Wittenberg, who at the time was the head of people at Box, and he was talking about there’s kind of the counter proof points. How do you hold people accountable/how do you reward them around your values? And I like to say, if you really want to know what an organization values, look at what gets rewarded and recognized? That will be the very pinpoint of… Look at whose careers are successful in the organization. What are they doing? Because that’s what’s getting rewarded and recognized.

No matter what’s being said on this paper that’s [inaudible 00:14:43] our values, this is what happens. Evan Wittenberg was talking about how they have a value that says, make mom proud. I haven’t checked it lately but I’m pretty sure they still have this value. And then they have in parentheses, unless she’s evil. Which I love. It’s like make mom unless she’s evil. So he was talking about, so what does that mean?

A lot of times people go to the café, they’ll bring a salad back to their desks. So you’ve got somebody walking down the hallway and a piece of lettuce flies off of their plate because they’re rushing down the hallway and they don’t notice it. The person behind them sees it happen, they don’t pick it up. So that right there is counter to make mom proud. Mom would be like, “Pick up the lettuce. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t your lettuce. Pick up the lettuce, honey.” And what we do with that person that didn’t pick up the lettuce is the key. If we let that go, if we don’t say, “Hey, why didn’t you pick that up?” Or make a thing about it and be like, oh, whatever. People are so smart, they notice that and they’ll be like, “Huh, I guess we really don’t value that. So what is it that we do value?” And suddenly you’re creating this counterculture, or not even counterculture, but this, again, dissonance in what you say you are and what you’re actually doing.

So putting measures around your social impact and being transparent about that is closing that loop. It’s like, okay, we said we’re this, we’re doing all these things over here, very positive things, but how are we measuring that and how are we getting everybody involved and being transparent about that so that we’re holding ourselves accountable around that value. So it’s a really important loop closer. And one thing is to be clear about what it is and then the other piece is about how do we reward and recognize on the backend to make sure that we are actually holding ourselves true to it?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. Walk your talk is absolutely vital. So when you have organizations either large or small working remotely now, and some of them may have plans to return to an office kind of structure again in the future, others have just said, “Well, actually this is working. This is okay. Or we’ll do some sort of combination of both.” There are different challenges in that in terms of really enabling your team members to really connect on a meaningful level. Especially if you’re a company that is really focused on innovation and kind of thinking differently and collaboration and having these accidental collisions and all this sort of stuff. What is your best advice about how to do this really well on a remote basis?

Rebecca Friese:                So my number one thing is, we just have to turn up the care. We have to as leaders turn up every single action, notion, everything that we do around caring about our people. It is so much harder to intuitively understand how our people are doing, what they’re struggling with, get all those cues when you’re not in a workplace with them. So you’ve got to at all levels look at your interactions and how you might turn up the care. And that could be as simple as every call you start with, you check-in; how are you doing? You take five minutes at the beginning of every call. Instead of diving right into the work, you just pause and say, “How’s it going? What’s going on? What’s your day like? What’s your weekend like? Are you okay?”

Just true genuine connecting and honestly being vulnerable with people so that they can feel free to do the same. Because it’s been created as just this barrier. Whereas it used to be like I would walk by your desk and just stop by and be like, “How’s it going? Oh my gosh, I heard about your kid’s soccer game this weekend or whatever.” That’s gone and we need that as people. Just as humans, we need that connection. But then also when you’re thinking about your organization, that’s when as a manager you’re able to suss out situations and figure out…

I would be able to feel somebody across the room that was having a bad day. You could just physically feel that. And so we have to turn that all up now that we’re remote. It’s not impossible. It’s actually, we’ve been given this incredible gift of video and being in people’s homes and what is more intimate than that? We are, I think, creating this more intimate and vulnerable space just by the virtue of the situation that we’re all in. And it’s really a beautiful silver lining of what has happened here. So that’s number one; turn up the care.

Number two, it’s like a subset of that. I brought a woman Jennifer Eggers in to speak about resilience to a program that we’re doing with women executives. And she told this story and it just really hit home for me about how two of these, sorry, very senior level people at an organization, same organization she was coaching, both had high-performing teams, coming in to the coronavirus, they were probably tied as far as leadership goes. The way that the one leader handled kind of transparency and communication and whatnot, versus the other leader created a huge difference in their team’s engagement and ability to actually get work done.

And the only thing that this one leader did as opposed to the other leader was, had a daily kind of stand-up meeting with his team. And it literally was a 10 minute check-in every day. And it was like, “Here’s what I know. Do you guys know anything? How are you doing?” Just a really casual check-in. And it was anything that was happening in the organization that he could share or not share, but also just how are we doing? What are we going to get done today? Does anybody need help kind of thing. And his team has been thriving through the coronavirus, not just surviving, thriving. And the other woman who is more of like, well, I’m just going to hold back. I will share knowledge as it comes, but I’m just going to kind of business as usual. They’re struggling. Super struggling.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. People just are craving this connection, but it’s a meaningful connection because on the flip side of that, you also have a lot of people that find Zoom meetings exhausting.

Rebecca Friese:                Exhausting. Yes. And so you have to have this layer of empathy around everybody’s situation. So I’m an extreme extrovert. I could Zoom all day. I get kind of sad when I turn off my computer at the end of the day. I’m exhausted but also because I’m an extrovert, it energizes me, that connection and that visual. Other people literally physically get headaches. Literally physically can’t take that kind of constant engagement. So you have to understand and balance that. Becky can deal with this, but Joe can’t. And so how do you make sure you’re still doing check-in. So have a Slack channel where you can check in. Have it once a week versus every single day. Have it so you can turn off camera and we’re just on phone.

All this takes is intentional actions. Intentional actions go so far. We do not have to be perfect, we just have to show that we care. So there’s no silver bullet. But the leaders that are winning are being authentic, they are caring and they are trying. Their actions speak louder than words. They are maybe messing up, but then they just keep on getting up and going out there and going for it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes, absolutely. Just like it doesn’t have to be perfect. This is a big lesson learned in just the entrepreneurial journey, but it is a journey.

Rebecca Friese:                Yes. And nobody expects you to have it exactly a hundred percent. Why do we expect it of ourselves? It’s just crazy.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, I know. It’s really true. I mean, one of the greatest joys of entrepreneurship really for the person who kind of has that entrepreneurial DNA already in them, this natural curiosity, this appetite for learning, just always improving, sort of like chasing problems, just knowing how to innovate not really minding failure because you take that as a lesson, but what do you learn from it?

When you work with companies, how conscious or not are most leaders about this?

Rebecca Friese:                Well, yeah, you hit a really big point. So a lot of the companies that their founder started and the founder may or may not still be very involved in the business, so much of the definition of the culture comes from that person. So it’s frankly sometimes very easy for them to walk the talk because they created the thing. I created the purpose. These are actually just an extension of my own values as how work gets done a lot of the time. And then hopefully if they’ve been clear on that, they’ve attracted those people that align with that, it becomes kind of easy. And then you’re just nudging for certain situations or gaps or whatever.

I think where the problem comes in is when you start to scale, you start to get bigger, you start to get leaders that maybe don’t align as well, or your purpose starts to get a little disparate and it’s not as clear and so there’s confusion around that. And so you hire leaders that one person thinks that this is what we’re trying to do, another person thinks that this is what we’re trying to do, and you start to have these gaps. So the best thing to solve for that is to have a leader or leadership team that can get aligned as quickly as possible to solve that gap. But it’s not all about the leadership. Every single person that comes in to your organization is either going to be a culture add or a culture minus for lack of a better term. And it really does come down to that. That if we’re not conscious about every single person and their impact and we just rely on the leadership to kind of push it out, that’s not going to work either.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. Everybody has to really be empowered in it.

Rebecca Friese:                Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. And everybody has to recognize their ability to impact. I mean, when we look back at all the data on why somebody stays or leaves a job, what is it coming down to?

Rebecca Friese:                Their manager. It comes down to their manager.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. It’s their manager and it’s also how many friends do they have there? How well have they connected?

Rebecca Friese:                Right. Exactly. It’s all about this very micro sphere of influence. So many people could care less about what the CEO is doing. It’s like, no, this is my daily experience is with my people on my team, my friends and my manager. So we forget how easily that influence can be pushed positively or negatively. You can be spiraling up or spiraling down just based on that small world of that. And lots of small worlds like that create either a good culture or a bad culture right there. And so when I’m talking to people and we’re talking about leadership and people are like, “Ah, but I have this leader who doesn’t…” And I’m like, “You know what, start with you.” What can you be doing to better align, to better live those values?

If you think that the organization as a whole isn’t living up to this transparency value, what can you do so that you are? Even if you don’t even manage anybody, how can you be reaching out to other teammates, people in other teams to be more open and be more communicative because you know that that’s the right thing to do. While leadership has to be stewards of the culture, they have to be aligned, I don’t want people to think that it’s not my job. Culture is everybody’s job. It is everybody’s job, and everybody can have a major impact on the culture that really truly affects people in a profound way.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s also really a big driver of valuation growth as well. It’s not just a nice to have. I think back to Tony Hsieh and Zappos. Not doing anything that Amazon wasn’t doing from a business perspective.

Rebecca Friese:                Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         But valued at a billion dollars because of this amazing culture and also customer service and success, which was a really big part of their culture as well. I mean, even to the point of anybody joining Zappos had to work in customer service for a while no matter what their…

Rebecca Friese:                No matter what your role. Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because it was core to the company and creating that. And his book, Delivering Happiness was a major influence on me. And a lot of the things that he did were a little bit counterintuitive. For instance, rewarding customer service people for talking longer on the phone [crosstalk 00:30:34].

Rebecca Friese:                It’s an example I use all the time of, if you say that you care about customers but then you’re measuring them based on how quickly you get them off the phone, that is counter. That is a disconnect. So again, aligning what gets valued with your values is a huge thing. We value customers, we value their happiness, so why would we try to rush them off the phone? So we’re going to reward that person that spent 10 hours, which by the way I’m like, “How do they spend 10 hours? What were they talking about?” But it’s such a perfect story about how if you truly believe that these values are going to support your purpose. So he believed that putting customers first, delivering happiness, making the customer happy was going to be what was going to differentiate them and win, so then we’re going to value that and then every program process, everything had to line up to that and that being one huge one.

Before that, customer call times, that was the number one measure. And it wasn’t how long, it was how short got rewarded. You were able to churn through 300 calls in an hour, that was what was getting rewarded. And he was like, “That’s wrong. Because if we believe that our purpose is to deliver happiness to our customers, then we can stay on with them as long as they need us to stay on with them.” I just love that example. It’s perfect. Thank you for bringing that up.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Well, so many people make them… I think it’s a huge mistake of, okay, so they write their kind of culture manifesto and they write down all their values, they go and copy to everybody but don’t focus on it operationally from day-to-day. How are we operationalizing this? What does this actually mean in practice and keeping that top of mind for everybody?

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah. So we call this culture coding. So it’s like, okay, so now you’ve got your culture, you’ve defined it as far as you really… more than just words. You’ve actually put some agreements around that and guidelines around that and even some stories around that. How do you then embed that into your organization so that it’s operationalized and so that you’re living it day-to-day, so that you’re unconsciously doing it because it’s in every part of your organization? So it’s your programs, your policies, your procedures, it’s the way that your website reads, it’s how you interact with your customers. It is literally every part of, again, the way that the work gets done. That is the operationalizing of your culture.

And it takes some time and we talk about, okay, there’s the essential actions. It’s like my whole organization, what should I focus on first? And that’s why I go back to recruiting is going to be your very first and foremost thing that you’re going to want to look at. Especially if you’re scaling, back to that high growth thing. If you don’t have that right, if that’s not aligned, then now you’ve got all these people in your organization that aren’t aligned to what you’re trying to do there. So you got to fix that first. You’ve got to get the way that you recruit aligned with…

So it’s not just like what you recruit and look for in people, it’s also the way that you recruit says a lot about your organization and is part of your culture code as well. And then you look at growth and development, you look at onboarding and then these rewards and recognition. Those to me are the essential actions that from a culture code and operationalizing standpoint you really need to get right. But you got to look at all the places in your org and say where is there friction? Where is this not happening and why? And it usually comes down to a misalignment around what you’re trying to do and how you’re doing it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. So you mentioned that you worked with a lot of Fortune 500 companies as well, and it’s a whole different thing to turn a super tanker around.

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right?

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         As I get to know the change management and that’s hard.

Rebecca Friese:                It’s hard. So it is hard work. It’s funny, I was just talking about this yesterday. I was like, there’s some things we just don’t sign up for. But the reality is, many an organization that comes to my company FLYN, we do consulting in this area obviously. And many companies that come to us already have good cultures. They’re not trying to do a 180. They are saying, “Okay, we’ve got a good culture. And either something has changed about our business, maybe we’ve acquired something or we’ve shifted things we’re doing. And we need to kind of get clear and do some nudging.” I would say that many of the larger clients we’re working with, it’s more about nudging and clarifying and keeping the ship moving in the direction they want it to move, or even changing the direction a little bit, but you’re not talking about turning a culture around.

So I will say, while it isn’t impossible to turn a culture around, it is very, very hard, especially if you are a large organization. You need a leadership team that’s going to come in and prioritize that and basically say we’re not doing anything until this gets right if you’re going to do that. And generally speaking, that’s just not in the cards for large organizations that have bad, toxic cultures. First of all, they have to look in the mirror and say that it needs to happen. And usually that won’t happen because it’s like a chicken egg thing. They are a bad culture because they’re not looking in the mirror and they won’t look in the mirror and realize that they’re a bad culture and do something about it. So the companies that are working on their culture generally speaking are already going in the right direction. Because they get that it’s valuable and they’ve always understood that it’s valuable. Does that make sense?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. It completely does. Well, it’s keeping it top of mind because as companies go through different stages of growth, seasons, new challenges, different things, it’s really important to keep it top of mind. So I like what you said about the nudges. So Rebecca, I’m curious, what led you into this work? What was the aha that made you become the culture Maven to really totally-

Rebecca Friese:                Culture Maven, I like it. I’m just going to put that on my business cards. So it’s funny, it’s always been about people for me. People and organizations and kind of that win-win. So my background’s change management, so it was funny that you brought up change management. That is my core. When I came out of college, I went right into consulting around change management and really understanding what makes people tick? What makes people want to work really hard at a problem versus not? And then I went into innovation and we recognized as I was working in innovation, my job in this… it was basically an innovation consultancy and my job was to help organizations build their innovation capacity and capability. So when you think about giving them a fish versus teaching them to fish, I was on the teach them how to fish side, where we were teaching them how to be innovative.

And time and time again, it just came back to the organizations that were winning at innovation had created a culture in which that was valued and it really came down to this culture piece. So I had this peanut butter chocolate moment with my business partner Decio Mendes where we were like, “Okay. These things go together.” Really focusing on culture and aligning it with your business strategy. And on top of that, using innovation in order to help create these amazing cultures in workplaces. Using those techniques. This is it. This is the key to organizations winning and the people being happy. So our purpose is we unlock smiles at work. We know that when people are smiling at work and they’re happy, it’s because they’re in a great work environment, it’s because their doing work that they love and understand and know how they fit in and can have impact. It’s because they’re growing and developing. They’re in a culture that supports them.

So the unlock piece is by using design thinking and innovation techniques in order to do that to really get there. So it really was this aha moment that we had of this intersection of everything that I’ve done in my life from change management to organizational design, et cetera, and then innovation where it was like, oh my gosh, this is it. This is the thing that we need to work on. So I know that’s a long answer, but it really was this journey that then suddenly became a huge aha.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Well, I can just tell in the smile of your voice how much you love what you do. And so Rebecca, how can people work with you? What’s the best way? Tell me a little bit about the work you do with your clients and the type of people that you’re looking to work with.

Rebecca Friese:                Sure.

Melinda Wittstock:         Leaders out there who want to get this right.

Rebecca Friese:                Yeah. Well, so on a very light way, we have the book. So it’s called the Good Culture and it’s the Leader’s Guide to Creating a Workplace That Doesn’t Suck. So that is a very light way of just dipping your toe in, get the book, read it, want me to come and do a book talk, yay, that would be amazing. But the work that we do as FLYN Consulting, we do workplace innovation. So if you think about all the areas in your workplace, again, back to that peanut butter chocolate moment, we are experts in design thinking, human centered design, and we apply that to the workplace. You think about user centered design, human centered design, the employees are that user in this case.

And how do you design a workplace, a culture around them with them at the heart. So we work on everything from the overarching culture. Are you creating it? Are you nudging it? Are you codifying it? Any type of larger culture program down to, do you need help with innovating on your new hire orientation process? Or you’re recruiting or any people processes in general. And we still do innovation projects. Actually help innovate on everything from internal to external things. And then we also do really amazing events where we take our clients into organizations around a theme. And now that’s all virtual of course. Some day we’ll get back to in-person. But they are these incredible learning journeys where we go in and we learn from other organizations about a workplace innovation theme. And we kind of get behind the scenes and we learn and they share and create this really intimate cohort. And so we do those things and that’s another light way of interacting with us. All can be found on our website which we have a new website in 2021, it’s FLYN, F-L-Y-N consulting.com.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Well, Rebecca, I just want to thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.

Rebecca Friese:                Oh, it’s such a pleasure. What you’re doing is amazing and I really appreciate being part of it.

Rebecca Friese
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