Groundwork Podcast – Episode 7

Melissa Daimler (Udemy, Twitter, Adobe)

Melissa Daimler has become known as one of the leading thinkers on culture.

Melissa Daimler One of the Leading Thinkers on Culture

A show about Chief People Officers from the world’s fastest-growing companies.

An HR Podcast about how these leaders guide organizations through the turbulent times of hypergrowth by investing in human beings.

They lay the groundwork that makes the impossible, inevitable. Join Lingo Live CEO Tyler Muse for conversations on how they became the leaders they are today, how they’ve navigated their toughest challenges, and how they envision the future of work.


Melissa Daimler (Udemy, Twitter, Adobe)

In the last twenty years, Melissa Daimler has become known as one of the leading thinkers on culture. She built Learning, Organizational, and Talent Development functions for Adobe, Twitter, and WeWork. She now serves as the Chief Learning Officer for Udemy, the online learning platform that delivers over 196,000 courses to over 52 million learners worldwide. She also happens to be one of the first coaches ever certified by ICF, the International Coach Federation.

In this episode, Melissa talks about her new book, “ReCulturing: Design Your Company Culture to Connect with Strategy and Purpose for Lasting Success.” She explores why most culture efforts fail as quickly as they start and gets into the playbook she’s developed to solve this problem. You’ll walk away from our conversation with actionable steps to better design culture and attract and retain top talent.

What We Cover:

[0:28] An intro to Melissa

[1:39] Melissa’s definition of culture

[4:02] The three pillars of culture

[6:24] Process vs. practice

[10:13] Getting executives to care about defining culture

[15:23] Your culture is showing up whether you define it or not

[17:56] Seeing an organization like a system

[24:21] Making development contextual and a core part of the work

[29:05] The biggest thing companies get wrong about culture

[36:02] Can a bad culture be turned around?

[41:38 Connecting strategy and culture as a leader

Tyler  0:02

Welcome back to Groundwork brought to you by Lingo Live. I’m Tyler Muse

Tyler  0:14

Today we’re featuring my conversation with Melissa Daimler.

Melissa  0:18

Your culture is showing up whether you define it or not. So, do you want to define it? Or do you want it to be defined for you?

Tyler  0:28

In the last twenty years, Melissa has become known as one of the leading thinkers on culture. She built Learning, Organizational, and Talent Development functions for Adobe, Twitter, and WeWork. She now serves as the Chief Learning Officer for Udemy, the online learning platform that delivers over 196,000 courses to over 52 million learners worldwide. She also happens to be one of the first coaches ever certified by ICF, the International Coach Federation.

In this episode, Melissa talks about her new book, ReCulturing: Design Your Company Culture to Connect with Strategy and Purpose for Lasting Success. She explores why most culture efforts fail as quickly as they start and gets into the playbook she’s developed to solve this problem. You’ll walk away from our conversation with actionable steps to better design culture and attract and retain top talent.

Melissa, thank you so much for joining today. We’re super excited to have you on the podcast.

Melissa  1:36

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Tyler  1:39

Yeah, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve known each other for a while. And I’m super excited to chat about culture in particular, because I know, not only is this something that’s near and dear to your heart, but you’re one of the leading thinkers on this. I was almost gonna say experts. But I think what’s more impressive to me is how intentional you really think about culture. I think a lot of people think of it as this kind of nebulous, abstract, kind of ethereal concept. And you’ve done a really great job of defining it and kind of codifying what does it mean in an organization. So I’d love to start there. Can you define for us? What is culture?

Melissa  2:20

When you just mentioned the nebulous concepts when people talk about culture and define it, and there’s not a real way to codify it? That was one of the reasons why I wanted to codify it, I felt like it was such a huge lever for leaders inside companies that we weren’t really leveraging as much as we could. And I think I’ve read every article, every book on culture, every research paper, and I just kept thinking that there’s got to be a more concrete way to define and use culture. So I leveraged a lot of my experience at Adobe, Twitter, and even we work and now it’s up to me to think about, what are those? Where are we stopping with culture? Like, what what are we not doing? And what do we need to do more of, and we I feel like a lot of companies stop at just defining values, and then talk about culture in a vague way. So I always think of culture is something beyond values. And it’s three things, it’s behaviors, it’s the processes, and it’s your practices. And all of those are connected to each other and also tied to the greater organizational system. And we can get into more details now or later. But I have a definition, specifically around each of those areas.

Tyler  4:02

Yeah, or even I feel like you’ve given great examples of how there might be mismatches. Maybe that’s the best way to kind of define them is. Could there be mismatches between these kind of behaviors, systems and practices that help people understand kind of those three pillars of culture?

Melissa  4:22

I think my experience in even trying to strengthen culture over the years. It was when we were doing it well, when I feel like we had momentum when there was consistency across the organization, and how we expected people to work with each other. We had very clearly defined those behaviors, and even the skills that we wanted to see on a consistent basis. So when I think of value, and I’ll give you a quick example. Udemy has a value no surprise of always learning. But I don’t we haven’t really defined what that looks like day to day. So if I were to see you always learning, would you be asking questions more? Would you be listening? Would you be doing a post mortem after every key project? Would you be ensuring that everybody has a development plan? What does always learning look like at our company? And so the challenge is to go beyond those values, and think about the behaviors that employees need to exemplify. And then even going beyond that, how do we then embed those behaviors into all of your processes, and then also your practices? So when I think of practices, I think of things like how we’re communicating, how we’re meeting, even how we’re learning, and recognizing and connecting. So I think there’s ways to be more intentional and explicit about how that looks based on what we value as a company. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a very high level. Oh, that’s how I think about culture.

Tyler  6:24

I love that because I think values are such a key part of what drives the success of a company. And I’m always at the organization, we have six core values. And I’m finding myself trying to call them out as frequently as I can, when I see behaviors that actually support those values so that people can understand when they say like, oh, Lingo Live’s got a great culture, which we hear all the time. And I’m speaking to core values, they move from these like, inspiring words that are on a Google Doc and on our website into like, a Slack ping that says like, this is exactly rise by lifting others one of our values, but to your point, that that’s just the behaviors and recognizing the behaviors you need to have. You know, in addition to that systems in place, like how you go about hiring, or how you do setting or strategy or how behaviors are assessed, I love that point that you made, and then practices practices. Can you talk a little bit more about what is the difference between a system versus practice?

Melissa  7:26

Yeah, the process versus the practice. I think when I wrote this HBR article, in 2018, I initially talked about systems being a component and people mixed they conflated system with technology. And you and I, I think we’ve talked about this before, where processes need to be defined first, before we define the system or technology to go behind it. So I shifted it a bit to talk about the process, to not conflate it with technology. But the practices piece, I would say there’s not a direct link to practice as there is to some of these processes that we just talked about. But there’s still some, you know, kind of indirect links. So we’re just talking about meetings, for example, if if one of our values is always learning, and a behavior is ensure that we reflect on you know, after key discussions, or or write down a key learning from from your meetings, then in our meetings, we would integrate that practice. You know, we’ve we do that now. And a lot of my team meetings that we wait, we kind of end at five meeting five minutes before and then write down. Okay, what were some of the decisions made? We made? What are some of the things we just learned? Are there actions we need to take? So it’s a practice we’ve done that directly, you know, kind of ties back to the values. Another piece, you know, there’s so much about communication. You know, you could a lot of companies in the last couple of years, increased their cadence of communications, especially the all company meeting. So it went from some companies and I you guys, I think did two went from once a month or once a quarter to once a week. And, you know, what you do in those meetings is such a great opportunity to highlight culture. And so could a meeting, you know, Twitter, we had some of those meetings, highlight different values and stories about what people were doing to exemplify some of the behaviors that we had called out. We talked about things that we learned earned from projects that either went well or didn’t go well. So from a practice standpoint, I think there’s a lot of opportunities to leverage behaviors as well.

Tyler  10:13

Yeah. And it? I mean, it sounds like a lot of work. Do you get pushback when you’re in an organization saying, hey, we need to actually start putting these practices in place? Or do you find that people tend to embrace it pretty quickly. And it’s a pretty frictionless path to be able to start doing things like what you just

Melissa  10:30

mentioned. I think it takes a while, I think it is, like any habit that you have to keep doing it for a while to have it even feel more natural. But I think the other thing that people get wrong, and that was part of the reason I called my, my, the title of my book re culturing is culture is not a one and done initiative, it needs to be done on a consistent basis, you know, maybe not as much as strategy because we’re always, again, after the last two years, especially where we pivoted quite a bit on our strategies. You know, culture, I think, especially in fast growing companies, it needs to be reviewed at least once a year, you know, so, are these values and behaviors still relevant? Is there a behavior that we want to add? Is there a value that, you know, no longer is relevant to us? So I think it’s a constant review. Yeah. And, you know, just like strategy, I mean, I, I just had a meeting this morning. And one of my personnel, my team said, you know, we really need to get better at documenting our objectives. And we have a technology, we have a whole system that that we can leverage, and we don’t leverage it. So documenting our objectives, reviewing our objectives more consistently, figuring out when new objectives and priorities come in, how are we reprioritizing? What are we taking off? So strategy is a noun, but it’s also a verb, we’re always strategizing. And we’re always looking at our objectives. Same with culture, you know, I mean, it is something that we should be doing all the time looking at how we’re working with each other, whereas strategy is, you know, what we’re working on, right? Yeah. So yes, the short answer, Tyler, it’s a lot of work.

Tyler  12:32

Yeah. And I wonder like, if, you know, I haven’t experienced this, but we haven’t done this, to be honest. Like, we haven’t revisited the values once a year, we haven’t put any type of kind of process or routine in place to treat culture and how we do the work, the way that you’re talking about, it makes a ton of sense. But I wonder, you know, if you were to have an executive in the room, when you’re setting that strategy, or pivoting or whatever, saying, Hey, this is not important. Like, I think that culture is in a great place. I think people generally are in line with the values, I think it’s a waste of time to try and review these values, and figure out do we need to add more like, we should really just be focused on the strategic objectives that we’re trying to accomplish? Like, what what do you say to somebody like that to kind of convince them that you’re not going to be successful if

Melissa  13:21

you do that? Well, I think those are the same executives that say, we don’t have a consistent promotion process, or I don’t understand, you know, feedback is a waste of time, or, you know, we’re not hiring fast enough. And I would say, the reason that all of those processes aren’t happening faster, or they’re not as clear as they need to be is because we haven’t defined what it is we even expect from our employees. So I would say if you put more time in up front, and continue to have a focus on not just what we’re doing, but how we’re doing it with culture and values and behaviors and processes. It is so much easier to hire, it is so much easier to give feedback, it is so much easier to say, you know, Tyler got promoted, because this is what he achieved. And this is how he achieved it through, you know, these behaviors. This is this is how it looks to be a vice president. So, you know, it seems like a lot of work. And I feel like it can take so much work out of those other areas that we deal with all the time. Again, especially in fast growing companies.

Tyler  14:44

Right, right. It’s like you want to do you want to spend the time cleaning up a mess in the future are trying to kind of scratch your head and do a post mortem and understand why you are where you are or do you just want to do the work upfront to make sure that we’re not just focusing on what it is that we need to get done, but how we’re going I’m going to do this and how to your point, especially if you’re a hyper growth company, right? If in a period of a year you went from a 200 person to a 500 person company, you’re an entirely different organization with an entirely different set of human beings. Like, it’s kind of silly to think that the values that you felt like exhibited, kind of how we operate and work together are the same with those two

Melissa  15:23

organizations. Yeah, and, you know, here’s the other thing, I mean, your culture is showing up, whether you define it or not. So behaviors are already, you know, people are already behaving in a certain way, whether they’re good or bad, the culture is strengthened or weakened, you know, in every conversation, and every decision you make, and every promotion that happens. So, you know, do you want to define it? Or do you want it to be defined for you. And so that’s, that’s what I would also say, to some of these executives, who I have talked with, have said, this is going to take too long. I just think it’s a much more intentional way to define your culture in the way that you want it to be defined. I also think, you know, it’s ironic, in, you know, what, the fact that we’re working mostly from home now, you know, we’re we already said that, we already experienced that remote working can be done. And I think, you know, I’ve thought about this definition of culture before the pandemic, and wrote a lot about it even, you know, after my experience at we work, but even more, so now, I think we need to be defining culture much more intentionally, because we don’t have as many opportunities in the office to have these kinds of connections and to reinforce behaviors that we want reinforced. So we have to be much more intentional and explicit, in how we define them, and how they get embedded into processes so that it doesn’t matter. If we’re all not in the office, we’re very clear about how we’re going to be working with each other.

Tyler  17:22

Right? Right. It’s, it’s there, no matter whether or not you want to identify it, or codify it, it is there and everyone sees it. Bad analogies, like right, you think about your kids and how they observe everything, even whether or not you want to accept that, you know, so if you’re having a bad day, yeah, right. Or if you’re rewarding certain behavior, you know, and you think you can get away with it, but they see it. So. Yeah, I think that makes a ton of sense. So let’s talk about the book, what was the catalyst for you to decide I’m gonna write a book about this.

Melissa  17:56

My whole career has been looking at the system’s like, I’ve always tried to look at not just the issues, the presenting issues that were coming to me, but I always tried to get underneath those and and look at what are some of the systemic reasons for this presenting problem. Or if we were talking about, you know, a new business or Adobe, you know, when I was there. Gosh, we were 3000 employees when I started and I left at about 11,000. So massive growth and the almost 11 years that I was there changed business model to, you know, products and boxes to software as a service, first billion dollars, three acquisitions. So there was a lot of change that happened. And we actually iterated and evolved our values and behaviors three times when I was there, just because we kept seeing that there were some things we wanted to take out, there were things that we wanted to keep in, and it worked really well. We codified and then we mapped. And this is what I also get passionate about is we mapped the behaviors, to the skills that people needed to learn. So if a behavior is, you know, making sure that you’re listening or ensuring everybody is developing every day, you know, what, how do we then give you the skills as an organization to help you listen better to help you develop your employees to help you ask good questions. So there’s a very clear line between what the organization is expecting from you and then what we’re providing you as resources. I think you know, so often And I would hear employees, you know, we would send them off to Stanford or Harvard, and there, they’d be these amazing courses. But then they would come back into the organization, and there wouldn’t be a tie in or context for how they can use some of those skills within the expectations and the behaviors that we expect from them. So I think as an organization, even if you do that, there, there is a linkage that you need to make sure is there and reinforce in conversations with your employees, about what skills they’re developing? And how they can apply that? So I think, yeah, so I, I have always thought about the organization as a system, how everything ties together. I think learning is also a big lever. And I just, I had such a great experience at Adobe. And you know, it’s done very well, because I think it focused on both strategy and culture, Twitter, the same, you know, I think that was a very fast growing company. And we always, you know, before I even came there, and it was still a fairly small company, when I came at 800 employees, they had already defined their values. And, you know, they were, people loved the values, but what we did is then take it a step further, and codified them a bit more so that people understood what communicate fearlessly to build trust really meant, you know, how does that show up? And then, you know, you and I’ve talked about this as well, I think that we work, it was an opportunity to, I can say, Now, it was a learning opportunity to see what happens when culture isn’t paid as much attention to when the focus is elsewhere on, you know, just devaluation. And you know, what, not even really the strategy because I think we work lost kind of its core core essence or, you know, the core products that it that it was initially selling, which was co working, and got into a lot of other businesses. So I think both the culture and strategy got lost along the way.

Tyler  22:14

So just to go back to what you were saying before, I do want to talk a little bit about we work, because I know you bring it up in the book. But, you know, this is why I said at the outset that I think you’re, you’re one of the leading thinkers on this topic is because the way that you’ve kind of deconstructed, okay, culture is not just how we operate, it’s not enough to say that this is how we operate. It’s also not enough to say that here are our values, we have to go a step further and kind of peel that onion back and say, Okay, there’s behaviors and processes and practices. But even that is not enough. You’re saying like, even to, to kind of de codify that that way. And to start to identify behaviors. There’s another gap there, which is this knowledge gap of what are the skills that you need to be able to exhibit these behaviors, it’s, it’s not sufficient for the organization to say, well, this is what this behavior, this is how we expect it to show up. But, you know, if, if, in order to do that, you need to get comfortable having difficult conversations, that is a skill that you need to develop. And that’s something that the organization should be supporting you there. So you’ve, you’ve kind of taken this nebulous concept again, and you’ve deconstructed it into this kind of chain of events, such that you’re making sure that you’re taking care of every single thing super intentionally, to solve for a quote unquote, great culture. So I just love how you’ve broken that down. And obviously, for us at Lingo Live, we’re focused on skills based coaching. And a core tenant of that is this point of you expect people to operate a certain way, but they lacked skills to be able to do that. And you need to give them support to, like you said, contextualize a skill or a behavior towards the dynamics that they have on their team. But also kind of the dynamics they have internally as a leader who’s developing that kind of emotional intelligence and that self awareness to be able to exhibit this thing. So yeah, I just love the way that you’ve deconstructed it and kind of linked them together. I think it makes so much sense. Yeah. And

Melissa  24:21

I was gonna connect that back to Lingo Live. I do think that’s, I love that you guys are focused on on skills coaching, because I do think we’re doing a disservice with employees when we, you know, we have these leveling frameworks, or, you know, we have somewhat of an idea of what we expect from employees and managers and leaders, but not really. And so we kind of think we know where they should develop, but, and that’s great. But if it’s not contextual, and it’s not mapped to why it’s important. That’s where we we see Some fall off, like we don’t, there’s not as much self motivation to take a training or or get coached or learn something new. Because well, that’s great. If I don’t understand how that’s going to help me in my job, or how that’s gonna get me recognized or how that’s gonna get me promoted, then I don’t know, should I maybe I should just focus on my job and, and produce results, because that seems to be what what gets rewarded, right? Or maybe

Tyler  25:33

maybe I just think that this is part of my identity as a person. Like, that’s what bothers me the most and why our mission is to empower people to contribute their unique potential at work, is that so many times what we hear from people is that, oh, I’m just not good at this, right? I don’t, I’m not good at uncomfortable conversations, or I’m not good at this other thing that I need to be able to do to exhibit a behavior. And it’s like, guess what no one is, this is not a normal thing for people to be doing like this takes work to develop these, these traits are not innate in people. And so organizations that recognize that are willing to invest the time to develop that, and these people not only kind of get what they want in terms of these behaviors showing up, but I think the level of just motivation and transformation that can happen for people, when they realize this is not part of your identity, actually, part of your identity is being able to do this, you can actually be really strong at this, you just hadn’t tapped into that before. And, and it can be really, really empowering for people. So I mean, obviously preaching to the choir here, but I just wanted to point that out. So

Melissa  26:42

yeah, no, I love that. I love that. I also do think there. One of the things I know that we’re even talking about a lot at Udemy is how do we have learning and development than the I feel like we’ve been talking about this for 20 My entire career, but specifically now, how do we reinforce development to be part of their job, so it’s not just do it when you have time, or, you know, hey, at nights, you know, go in and learn. It’s, you know, Hey, these are these are the, the behaviors that we expect, here are the skills that go along with that. And then I as your manager, and even as your colleague, want to help you develop those. So how do we mix, you know, kind of whatever, you know, elearning, with coaching with opportunities on the job to develop those skill sets. One of the things that I know, I’ve always done with my teams is in the beginning, at the beginning of each project, not only defining and being really clear about what the project is, what the outcomes are, we’re now using RACI a lot, you know, who’s responsible, who’s accountable that’s so good for potential decisions that could get blocked. But we’re also talking about skills, like what are some skills that that you want to stretch? You know, where do you want to stretch on this project? Or what is the skill that you’re trying to practice so that we can support each other in doing that. And it just sets a very different tone and experience for people. I mean, obviously, you have to trust who you’re working with, and, you know, be willing to share. But I just think that’s such a great opportunity to practice skills that you’re wanting to develop in, you know, hopefully what people consider somewhat of a safe space in a real situation, right? So you’re taking anything that you learned in a formal training session, and then applying it into your, into your day job and into your project.

Tyler  29:05

When it comes to companies trying to kind of operationalize values and start to think about how we can support what working at this company looks like and the type of culture that we want. What is the biggest thing companies get wrong?

Melissa  29:21

I think it’s one of the things I shared before is I think it is seen as a one and done initiative, that I just need to get these values on paper. And then I can what you said put them on my website, get them on a Google Doc for us to refer to and we’re good. So I think that one definitely I also I don’t love when people say we have a culture of innovation are we have even a culture of learning? Well, what about the other values? But all the other stuff we valued and what does that even mean? Or I want to embed our culture and everything we do, I have no idea what that means. So I just we have to be really clear in I’m a big fan of, of being clear on our language and the words we use, because it’s these are anchors for employees. And there’s so many other changes happening in our companies right now, if we’re then not clear about, you know, what our values are, and what is expected from us, behaviorally. And, you know, companies also get purpose wrong, they call it purpose, or vision or mission or charter, and everybody’s just everybody gets so confused. And this is why all of this gets a bad rap. And nobody just wants to deal with it. Because it’s so confusing. It doesn’t, you know, people think it doesn’t really forward the business at all. So let’s just, let’s just make a list and focus on our strategy. So I think like thinking about culture is ongoing process in and of itself, being really clear on your language. And, you know, when you talk about culture, what does that mean? You don’t want to use my definition, but, you know, be clear about what you’re referring to, and how it ties to strategy and purpose. I think those all have to work together. It can’t just be we’re great on culture, but not so good on strategy, or, you know, we’re just focused on strategy and not focused on culture. I mean, I think there’s that famous, I talked about this in the book where Peter Drucker, I think, Said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. And I think, you know, as much as I love culture, I think they need to work together. And we need to focus on on both of them. So you can’t have a company, obviously, with a great culture, but you’re not really clear on where you’re going or what your strategy is. Sure. Um, yeah, I mean, I think those are the main things. I also think even from a behavioral standpoint, we sometimes get that wrong. I think behaviors have to be, and I talked about this in the book. You know, I think, especially now, we need to be really clear on how we’re defining our behavior, you know, is it is it globally relevant? You know, we were doing something at Adobe, and I think, we’re talking about something like, like, let’s be, let’s be thoughtful, and, you know, remember the golden rule or was, you know, we have to make sure we understand, we got to get in their shoes, you know, understand where they’re coming from, and somebody was on in the meeting from Tokyo, and they’re like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. And so I just feel like, the behaviors have to be global. They have to be positive, you know, think. Don’t be evil, you know, works for one company. But I think starting a behavior with don’t, I wouldn’t recommend. I also think there’s too many some people. I was first inspired, actually, by Netflix, Patti, I interviewed Patti McCord for my book. And I just I think she’s a rock star in this space. And I think, you know, I credit Netflix is one of the first companies who codified culture mean, they really took their values and thought about them behaviorally in that culture deck that is now you know, so famous in Silicon Valley and around the world. But they also have, I think the last count was 46 behaviors. That’s a lot. That’s a lot to track. And so I think part of our job as leaders is to, and this is hard, but to get them down to 10, or 12. And you know, even less than that if you can, because

Melissa  34:12

the point is embedding them into processes, it’s not to create this long list of everything you need. So I think really curating and getting clear on what’s most important. And then I’ll say one more thing, and I’ll stop but I think also being clear about we’re going through this exercise right now at Udemy. Because we’re at a place at 1000 1200 employees, high growth company, we’re probably going to be you know, doubling in size again this year, Publix growing just so fast and you know, kind of evolving our business along the way and I think we have an amazing culture and we need to codify it more we have you know, I think we were laughing because We were talking about return to Office, and it isn’t even return its Welcome to Office. I mean, 60% of our employees have never stepped into any of our offices around the world. So I think it’s just really important that that we all get clear about what these values are, what they mean, and what is what are what are the behaviors that we can see today, and what are aspirational behaviors. So there are some that we started to talk about that we don’t know if we’re, we’re doing all of that today. But we think it’s really important. And it’s an expression of who we are as a company and what we want from all of our employees. But there’s a little bit of a gap there. And that would be a great example of maybe we double down going back to skills on those aspirational behaviors, and the skills that it’ll take to get those to be more of a reality. Yeah,

Tyler  36:02

and I’ve heard you say this before, the adage of what got us here won’t get us there. I think it’s so important to reinforce with teams, it’s not to say we’re being disingenuous here in identifying behaviors that we think are a core part of our identity, or our culture, like maybe they’re not, but they need to be. And part of this is going to be upskilling and developing people. And part of this is going to be bringing new folks in who can help us kind of accomplish these things and exhibit these behaviors as well. But I think, yeah, it makes a ton of sense, you’ve got to be transparent that way, and make sure that people know that what got us here won’t get us there. And and that can be hard for people, you know, especially in the earlier days, when the culture could be a lot more present. And precious maybe is you’ve got all these new people coming in, that are changing the culture and, and it can be hard for those folks that are coming to legacy employees to realize what got us here won’t get us there. And I’ve got to get on board with kind of this new direction that we’re heading in. It is very, like, let’s most companies don’t intentionally invest in codifying, and defining culture and values and behaviors this way. And sometimes they’re a mess, like you come in and the culture is just kind of a mess. Do you feel like can a bad culture be turned around?

Melissa  37:24

Yeah, I mean, I if I, if we go back to looking at strategy, I mean, I, pre Adobe, I was part of a few startups, and our strategy wasn’t great. But we were able to kind of double down and focus on what we needed to do differently. I think the same is true for culture, I think, you know, in, you know, this with coaching, but it starts with with awareness. And so I think first you have to admit that things are not going as well as we would like to I think there’s there’s some red flags that that happen, you know, attrition is happening, or there’s, you know, disengagement things are, it’s just harder to get things done. There’s, there’s a number of things that could be happening. And so I think just being aware that there is a link from culture to some of these, these metrics. Is, is I think that’s key in figuring out and stopping to say, hey, we need to kind of do a reset here. You know, what, what? What is important to us? And I think you can do, you can do this exercise anytime, in terms of identifying the values and behaviors. So, it, it does have to I get asked a lot, does it start at the top? Does it have to start from employees? I think it’s both, I think it has to be co created, I think the leaders have to get on board. And this is this is a key piece. They have to understand that, that when we’re talking about culture, it is not the the ways that that you and I are familiar with and that have been around for 70 years, you know, the net, the nebulous version of culture, where it’s a list of values, we first have to define with them. What is culture? How is this going to help the organization be more consistent, and in fact, help all of these other processes just go much more smoothly than then they do today? So I think the leadership has to get on board and and I think it’s really important for employees to contribute and for them to talk about, you know, when things are going well when I’m having a great day when I just had a good moment with I’m somebody on my team where I got some really good feedback, what was happening? You know, what are some of those stories? What what decisions have been made in this company where you just felt Wow, I’m so happy to be here. I just am really proud to be part of this company. So I think it’s a top down bottom

Tyler  40:16

exercise, it makes a ton of sense, right? If you’re, if you’re viewing an existential threat to the future of the company as being, you know, the what that we are focused on the strategy is wrong, and we need to pivot our strategy, you should be looking at the how, just as intentionally and just as diligently as you are the what, because if you only get one of those things wrong, right, then, you know, you’re not going to be able to get to where you want to be. And, and I just think, you know, it’s kind of funny to say that out loud. Like, that’s, that’s a pretty, I think most people would hear that and go, Yeah, that’s a mistake that a lot of organizations make. And I wonder 2040 years from now, if people will look back on that and go, that’s crazy. Like, why did why did you not recognize that strategy? In terms of, you know, how we think about strategy is not just what is it that we’re going to do or accomplish, but it is also how we’re going to operate and what behaviors we’re going to encourage and how we’re gonna reward people. Like why was that kind of relegated to one department in the organization to kind of look over that versus being part of that holistic, company wide initiative, where there’s an existential threat that is being posed that if we don’t fix this, you know, we’re gonna be dead in the water? Why is leadership so important? I know you’re talking about this in your book. So can you share a little bit more about kind of what leadership means and why you feel like it’s important,

Melissa  41:38

one of the things that I’ve talked about for and that I’ve really focused on myself, for my entire career, is something that I learned in graduate school. For organizational development, one of my professors talked about the fact that it doesn’t even it doesn’t matter what how many frameworks you have, or how good your presentation looks? Or how many tools you have, at the end of the day, we are the intervention, you know, so so we have to be as leaders, aware of how we show up? What’s coming to the virtual room? What is our energy? Do we model and reinforce those behaviors and practices? Or not? So I think people are watching, you know, Tyler, you talked about being a parent, and your kids are watching you all the time. And I agree, I think the same is true for leaders and employees. And it’s the small things that add up to the big ones. You know, I think, you know, a couple of examples. You know, I was at a company where one of my managers was always 15 minutes late to a one on one, and would talk about himself the entire time. So it was, that was, that was tough. And, you know, I’ve also had amazing leaders who, you know, our one on ones are all about coaching, and what is it that I need? And how can they help? So I, sometimes I think that we, as leaders, and even as new leaders, we think, you know, Hey, I gotta get the strategy, right? And I gotta, I gotta make sure that I’m, you know, Inbox Zero and doing all I’m dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s and doing everything right. And at the end of the day, it’s, you know, are you listening? Are you keeping your one on ones? Are you clear, I think clarity makes a huge difference in, you know, what we’re focused on, you know, so many employees end up leaving companies, because it’s not clear, you know, what the strategy was, what the purpose was, how they’re growing. And so I think that always has to be first and foremost. And, you know, I think even looking at my experience over the last six months coming in as a leader, one of the other things that I’m really sensitive to is, you know, I have an amazing team. I mean, they’re, they’re very senior, the amount of initiatives and, you know, programs that are in place is unbelievable for the size company that we are. And so it was really important to me to not just come in and change for change sake, but to really listen and understand all the things that were working and areas where they too want it to evolve or tweak or even overhaul and get rid of. So it I saw those probably sooner than I acted on them. And then it was it was, it was a little uncomfortable for me to kind of focus on bringing them along with those changes, but it was also much more meaningful for the entire team. And the change now is sticking, you know, some of the things that we’re changing, we all are co creating together. So I just think it’s really important, especially as new leaders coming into a system, and a new environment, to acknowledge kind of what’s been there and not be so quick to change. And be really clear about what you want to change. But again, do it with the rest of the team, like, like, bring them along. And again, it’s, it’s also some of those little things be really clear about your own leadership style, and what I would call your personal culture. So what are your values? What are the behaviors and practices that you want to reinforce with your team? What are your goals? So I think we need to have our own systems really clean and clear. If we’re going to effectively impact the organizational one.

Tyler  46:21

It certainly helps to have a handbook or roadmap. So “ReCulturing: Design Your Company Culture to Connect with Strategy and Purpose for Lasting Success” is available on Amazon. So I’m going to pick up my copy.

Melissa, thank you so much for joining us today. This was a pleasure.

Melissa  46:42

Thank you. This was fun.

Tyler  46:47

That was Melissa Daimler.

Tyler  46:58

Everybody is going to agree culture is important. But how you actually actualize and operationalize, thinking about codifying, and improving culture is an entirely different effort. And so I love how Melissa really clearly defines it and comes up with specific definition around three areas of behaviors, systems and practices that help people understand kind of pillars of culture. And then even within each of those, she defines what each of those means, and gives examples and I think that kind of clear, specific language around what can feel like esoteric concepts that are so crucial to moving an organization forward really helps other business leaders understand why is this so important? What is this look like in our day to day work? And how are we going to get to where we’re trying to get as an organization if we invest specifically into these things, so I love that she does that and I’m looking forward to reading the book where I’m sure she’s gonna go into a lot more detail

Tyler  48:10

You can find us online at Groundwork is produced by Mike Giordani at Flowship. Audio engineering by Alex Roses, production assistance by Casey Miller, music by Aaron Sprinkle, Adrian Walther, and Corolina Combo. Special thanks to Pedro Matriciano and Natalya Krimgold.

Until next time. Thanks for listening.

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