top of page
  • Writer's picturejoshlevine

THE EMPATHY EDGE PODCAST: Building an Empathetic Culture

JOSH LEVINE & THE EMPATHY EDGE, APR 5, 2022: What does it mean to leverage your culture as a competitive advantage? What does culture even mean, and why is it so important that an organization articulate and live out its values?

This episode will answer all your questions, especially if you’ve ever thought culture is “just HR’s problem.” My guest, author, educator, and culture expert Josh Levine, founder of culture design consultancy, Great Mondays, shares his expertise on why you need to intentionally design a culture that helps you innovate, perform, and win. Today we define modern company culture and discuss why culture is the ONLY sustainable competitive advantage. Josh shares how to turn the tide on the great resignation, how to evaluate if your company values are helpful or harmful, and how the proliferation of communities in modern business has led to the consumerization of the employee experience – and what you can learn from that to attract and retain top talent.


Key Takeaways:

  • The larger the company, the further removed the leaders are from the day to day culture of the organization. Working with culture ambassadors within your organization can help you to understand what is happening on the ground.

  • Organizations should reevaluate their culture every 2-3 years. Values are not indelible. They can evolve, and they should do so.

  • Your values are your priorities. While all may be important, you can’t work on 40 things at once. You have to understand what are the most important values to your organization and understand what they mean.

“Culture is the cause and effect of every decision that we make. It’s not just an input and an output, but it’s a cyclical reinforcing system. It’s about decisions and behaviors.” — Josh Levine


Speaker 1 (00:01):

Culture is the cause and effect of every decision that we make. And the reason why I landed on that is because I felt it was really important to articulate that it's a system and it's not just kind of an input and an output, but it's a cyclical, reinforcing system. And the other piece of that is that it's about decisions and behaviors. And, that's, that's why culture is so important is because we want, uh, employees and community members to make the best decisions that they can be guided by, by an understanding around what they're trying to achieve,

Speaker 2 (00:47):

Ready to learn why cash flow and compassion are not mutually exclusive each week, brand strategist, speaker, and author, Maria Ross will introduce you to the trailblazing brands and leaders who embrace empathetic tactics to re huge rewards. You'll learn about winning teams, brand wins and fails, unforgettable customer experience, and bold leadership decisions fueled by compassion. You'll get the latest trends in research, discover practical ways to infuse more empathy into your work and life and hear from innovative market leaders who've smashed outdated models and redefined success. Welcome to the empathy edge podcast. The show that proves empathy isn't just good for society. It's great for business.

Speaker 2 (01:32):

What does it mean to leverage your culture as a competitive advantage and while we're at it, what does culture even mean? And why is it so important that my organization articulate and live at out our values? Oh boy, today's episode will answer all your questions, especially if you've ever thought culture is just HR's problem. My guest - author, educator, and culture expert, Josh Levine, founder of culture design consultancy, Great Mondays, shares his expertise on why you need to intentionally design a culture that helps you innovate, perform, and win in your market. Josh is the author of "Great Mondays, How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love," which was selected as one of Book Authorities, "best culture books of all time." Today, we define modern company culture and discuss why culture is the only competitive advantage. Josh shares how to turn the tide on the Great Resignation, how to evaluate if your company values are helpful or harmful and how the proliferation of communities in modern business has led to what he calls the consumerization of the employee experience and what you learn from that to attract and retain top talent. Oh, this was a juicy one for any leader out there looking for a competitive edge, stay tuned.

Speaker 2 (03:01):

Let's get connected. If you're loving this content, don't forget to go to and sign up for the email list to get free resources and more empathy-infused success tips, and find out how you can book me as a speaker. I wanna hear how empathy is helping you be more successful. So please sign up now @ Oh, and follow me on Instagram, where I'm always posting all the things for you @RedSliceMaria. Welcome, Josh Levine, to the Empathy Edge Podcast. I am so glad we finally made this interview happen to talk about all things culture and all things always to make your Mondays great. Thanks for coming.

Speak 1

Thanks, Maria. Appreciate it.

Speaker 2 (03:52):

So let's get into it. I, before we even start talking about whether your culture is empathetic or not, or if you have a good culture or a bad culture, talk to us about the modern definition of a company culture. Cause I think there's a lot of misconceptions out there.

Speaker 1 (04:08):

Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of misconceptions. There's a lot of definitions and I don't think there's any that are specifically wrong. They're sort of the general, if you look it up in the dictionary, kind of the, the practices and rituals of a particular, you know, group of people. And I think that's fine. My, where I landed is that culture is the cause and effect of every decision that we make. And the reason why I landed on that is because I felt it was really important to articulate that it's a system and it's not just kind of an input and an output, but it's a cyclical reinforcing system. And, the other piece of that is that it's about decisions and behaviors. And that's why culture's so important. It's because we want employees and community members to make the best decisions that they can, guided by, you know, an understanding around what they're trying to achieve. So that's where I am as far as a definition goes.

Speaker 2 (05:21):

Well, and I love that because it's also, you know, there, there are those intangibles about culture and the idea of "do I feel like I belong here? Do I feel like I'm seen and heard and valued?" But it is also ultimately about getting work done and making decisions. And I think that's an important element that, you know. I, I have another friend in the culture space, Rebecca Freeze, who about, you know, just putting in a foosball table and providing free lunch is not culture. That's just engineering, is what she calls it, but you're really tying it back to how the business operates and how people make decisions.

Speaker 1 (05:57):

Absolutely. And I would, I would argue that even being seen and heard and valued is part of what motivates us and in order to feel engaged and make those decisions. So all of those, all of those pieces, really the value and the motivation of the end result and it is a business. It is a business endeavor. I mean, I'm here not talking about culture as in like art films. I'm talking about culture as a business tool, as a management tool. Right. So we have to link it back to that.

Speaker 2 (06:38):

Right now you often talk about culture as the only sustainable competitive advantage. Talk to us about that.

Speaker 1 (06:46):

Yeah. So when I was growing up in the business world, learning about, innovation and why companies invest in this kind of competitive edge is, what really, what we were looking for. And what I understood is not just a competitive advantage, but a sustainable competitive advantage, and one that you can have a great tool that improves your production. But if you, if, if it's a widely available tool and someone goes, "oh, oh, they're using that and become more efficient, then I'm gonna do it." So it's not, it's not sustainable. So we look back and think about, okay, so when we're talking about competitive advantage, at first, it was quality assurance. And then it was like rigorous management. And then it was, um, about innovation. And then it was about design and then it's about talent, but ultimately all those things can be undermined.

Speaker 1 (07:49):

Uh, even if you hire great, you, you, you can see this now, even if you hire great talent, um, they're not gonna stick around for longer than two years and so out, what is it that you can have that can't be stolen? It can't be copied. That's your culture. Your culture is gonna enable you to establish a certain set of behavioral norms that allow for, if, even if your top, um, employee leaves, someone else can come in, go, "oh, I understand how things are going." And it's not that it won't be a blip, but that's really important. So that it's really hard to establish. Uh, it is hard to turn the culture ship, but once you do, it becomes an extremely powerful tool. And the reason why I say it can't be stolen or copied is because even if you read a book about the culture of Google and you're like, "I'm gonna do exactly that," that doesn't work that way.

Speaker 1 (08:45):

It's not gonna be, it's just not gonna, that's just not authentic. It's not gonna work. And so you have to build it for yourself. So even a founder that leaves and then starts another company, it's, it's gonna be different. It's uh, someone just told me every sourdough starter is different. So it's like, it's, it depends on what you start with. And it like evolves and it's complex. And, um, and so to me, it's, that's why it's so important is because there isn't anything that's going to improve the performance of your organization and drive that, you know, innovation or engagement or speed or whatever you're trying to achieve more than a culture developed for that purpose.

Speaker 2 (09:28):

Right. And, you know, over the years, I've had clients who, when I'm working with them on their brand story, for example, and we talk, talk about what are their strengths, or, what are their assets that they have to work with? Some of them claim it's their culture, but they actually don't have a very engaged culture. The, the leadership thinks they do, and they try to claim that they do. And I think they almost try to manifest it into existence that if they say it enough, they're gonna have a good culture. Do you ever find that that is an issue where leaders have a blind spot of thinking that their culture is their competitive advantage, but the reality on the ground is not that.

Speaker 1 (10:08):

Yeah, I would say implicit and explicit culture is where kind of how I would describe this. So you can have your, um, um, values stated on the wall or on your key cards or

Speaker 2 (10:20):

Whatever, the poster on the wall. I always call it. Yeah,

Speaker 1 (10:22):

Exactly. Um, but if people aren't living that, then it doesn't, doesn't matter. That's why in, in the book and with our clients, we created the six components of culture in order to establish a system that is self-reinforcing. You do need values and need to be well defined, but you can't just put 'em up on the wall and say, "okay, we've got a great culture." It really has to be systemic. It has to be part of the environment and has to be rewarded and recognized and supported. And it's not a part-time job. And so that's, um, that the, one of the methodologies that we use to try to circumvent that issue that you just described where a leader goes, "oh yeah, this is what we have, and this is what's great. And what works is," and I write about this in the book is we, um, do we have the leaders, nominate culture ambassadors and culture ambassadors are, are those employees that are, um, high potential or people that if you could just replicate them, you'd have like the ideal culture you'd be on your way. And so those folks are, they, they are representative of, are endowed with that. Like, "Hey, the leadership thinks you actually do represent the future of the organization." And they're gonna be more in tune with what employees what's working with for employees.

Speaker 2 (11:42):

They're the stewards of it. They're basically

Speaker 1 (11:44):

They are making

Speaker 2 (11:45):

Sure that you're living it out.

Speaker 1 (11:47):

Yep, absolutely. And so they know what ISN and isn't true, or what needs to be, um, what needs to be voiced and, and, and given air time and, and what, what isn't, so leaders, the larger the company, the further remove the leaders are no matter how much they're walking around, it's just, it is just, um, a reality of the physics of a large organization. So yeah, I think that's a V area, common, um, challenge. And it's not so much, I do think that leaders should attempt to overcome it, but in a way I think the best, the best thing is just to be aware that you're not really gonna know. We, you're not always gonna know exactly what is happening on the ground. And you should just be aware of that. And you should always be looking to learn more.

Speaker 2 (12:38):

Absolutely. I mean, and you know, we talk about this in terms of empathy, that ego kills empathy. And I would say ego can kill culture as well. Because if you think one reality is happening from where you sit, because you do have those values clearly articulated. Everyone knows them by heart, but no one is actually making decisions against them. And like you said, which I even talked about in terms of empathy, if you're not rewarding modeling, making decisions based on those values, then they're just words.

Speaker 1 (13:09):

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 2 (13:10):

Yeah. So, um, you know, we're, we're obviously in a time where we're dealing with a huge movement of, I, I, I don't know the right term for this, but worker centricity, employee centricity, where now knowledge workers have their pick of where they can work. Um, also bleeding into some other industries and they're not, they're not gonna take it anymore, right. To, to quote a rock song. So how do we, how can companies that are bleeding people right now and don't understand why? And they're like, but we thought we were doing all the right things. We thought we were, we have our values on the wall. We thought we were giving them great perks. How can companies turn the tide against that great resignation?

Speaker 1 (13:59):

I mean, good news, bad news is that there is an answer. It's just not one that you can immediately flip on. You can't just decide to do it and say, everything's gonna change because this, what employees are fleeing has been, um, built up and established over a long time. So that would be my first word of warning.

Speaker 2 (14:25):

It's a long game is

Speaker 1 (14:26):

What you're saying - It is a long game. Yeah. It's, it's about stepping back and rethinking your culture strategy. What I would say is we need to think about, um, and is just, uh, sharing this in a workshop. We need to think about what you might call sort of in a nerdy term, the employer value proposition, but it, it is, um, what employees need. And I think about it in the five P's, which is: package, potential, people, purpose and perception packages at the very bottom. If you're not paying your folks enough well enough, then, then everything the game's over. But if you are, then you can move to the next one. Um, so package is what I get today. Potential is what I get tomorrow. So what do I get from, you know, is there a path to, you know, to

Speaker 2 (15:19):

Growth, to opportunity?

Speaker 1 (15:20):

Yeah. To a yeah. Well, so yeah, to a leadership position, or is it a company that's gonna give you a good bump on your resume? Um, people it's, of course, you know, there's, there's the idea of working with great people, but really what, what we need to think about is what kind of people, because you, as, as those people are looking to join an organization, it's what kind of person do I want to become? Ooh, I would love to be that creative and I want to be that. So that's what you're looking for. It's like, who are the people? And what kind of people are you?

Speaker 2 (15:51):

You have those bright lights. Yeah. I mean, and that, I think empathy plays an important role there because if people come into an organization and they see that empathy or respect or service or humility, or all the different ways, companies define empathy in their organization, if they see that, that's how they can find success there they're, they're more to join. That's right. They're like, okay, this is, this is a company that I, I see that the person in charge or the person that's being rewarded or recognized is exhibiting these traits. And that's important to this organization.

Speaker 1 (16:25):

Yeah. And then finally, we've talked about the last two, you know, I talk a lot about purpose. Why are we doing this? That's really an important, and that's been around. And if you don't have a very clear why, um, if you don't have an answer to that before people start asking, um, you're in big trouble, what is your why? And finally, the largest, the, the sort of highest value and hardest to articulate is this idea of perception, which is when you retire or when you leave, will what you look back at this organization, uh, or your time at this organization and say, oh, that was really great. That was, I did this, that, and the other thing, this is what it made me. It allowed me to pivot or allowed me to grow or whatever it might be. So that's a really great model. The five pieces are really great model to start to think about what con like, if you're thinking right at the, the, um, line of scrimmage, which is what do employees want, that's where you need to think about like, okay, what am I providing at each of these levels? And that's, that's a critical, that's a, I think that's a really good starting point.

Speaker 2 (17:32):

Yeah. And I love that you call it the employer value proposition because in my work with brand strategy, when we're talking about trying to connect with the right clients or customers, the external audience, we have to develop a core value proposition of what's in it for them to do business with you, to buy from you, to work with you, to partner with you. And it's the same thing. Your employees are a sales audience for you. In other words, it's, you, you have to give them something in it for them so that they understand what they're going to get out of the relationship other than a paycheck. Right. And if you're thinking that they should just be thankful, they're getting a paycheck, your culture is probably doom to fail.

Speaker 1 (18:09):

Yeah. Yeah. You're stuck in the eighties. Yeah. But let me amplify what you just said, which is I have, um, a strong hunch that in the future will no longer be used in the term customer and employee. Mm. And we're already starting to think about that. So your point was, they're an audience are indeed part of your community. And so the way that I see the world for organizations is who are your communities internally and externally? And you define it by an exchange of value. So yes, with employees, you, one of those exchanges of value is dollars, but that's not to say someone on social media, can't be a bigger influence than someone in your marketing department. What are you exchanging with them? And it doesn't have to be products. I mean, we're talking about influence or amplification or whatever it might be. And you're starting to see that, um, the sort of first phase of that with the kind of Airbnb hosts, who are they, are they customers, are they employees not really either and where do they fit in this model? So, um, and we're gonna be seeing more and more of these types of organizations that, um, will, um, I think circumvent the kind of traditional walls of, of business. Totally.

Speaker 2 (19:27):

Agree. And Lyft does the same thing with their drivers as, as a customer of theirs. Um, I think especially with the gig economy, the smart companies are realizing that the people providing the services are actually part of their community base, not just their customers.

Speaker 1 (19:45):


Speaker 2 (19:46):

Yeah. So, um, can you talk a little bit about a culture where engagement might be lacking and maybe use some examples anonymously or not from your own clients of you coming in there and, and, you know, clearly they, they, they don't necessarily say they have a culture problem. You've mentioned that to me before, in terms of like there's some crisis or some challenge that they're facing that they alter, ultimately come to realize they need to work on culture. Can you talk about a client or someone in that realm that has realized that and came to the conclusion that they need to work on their culture, and then how do you start to get your culture to bend toward the Nirvana that you're describing when it's, when it's not, when they don't have the engagement, they are losing people. Can that ship be turned around, I guess, is, is the question.

Speaker 1 (20:39):

Yeah. Yes. The answer, the short answer is yes, absolutely. Um, we are doing some work with the DC public library right now. And, um, they did, they sort of, they, they, they realized, came to the kind of awareness of, uh, oh, we need to work on our culture because they engaged in an, a HR, um, research report. And they went around and did all these interviews. And they found that not nobody, not one, there was no one definition as to why the li like, why are you working here? And what is, what is the role of the library in the world? There was no story. Um, as, you know, as you know, and, um, that was really one of the elements is the idea that there wasn't a clearly articulated purpose. And I think what's interesting that libraries have been around for a long time.

Speaker 1 (21:30):

And they're at this interesting. Um, you might say, you know, pivot point where they have to, they like, what is their new role in the world? And so there's PE there's legacy people, there's new people. And so it's like, how do we bring these people? How do they bring this organization together? So when you're asking, okay, this has a particular challenge and they don't know why they exist in the world. Well, if leadership is bought in, it's really compelling and really important to establish a, uh, a purpose statement, why do you exist? And that's really, really important to, to, to have a unique and single singly defined way of articulating the value of this organization. So that would be from the top down, right? So if you have this, like, "uh-oh this report that we just paid a lot of money for says, our culture is in trouble," or whatever, it might be not saying, that's what DC said, but it was like, "Hey, your, you need to work on your purpose and value is then great."

Speaker 1 (22:29):

You have this authority and ability to come in and think from the top down, okay, what is it that, why are we here? And how do we choose to get there? The, how is the values? You know, why purpose is the, why values are your, how? And then of course, tying back to the beginning, when we talked about the definition, that's all defined by behave. That's the reason why we're doing this. How should we choose to act between choice a and choice B? Um, if the other challenge that, um, emerges is in larger organizations and smaller ones, but larger organizations where they will have a group or, or a department where a manager or supervisor or leader will say, we don't have any sort of official, um, mandate to do this, but I believe we need to start shifting our culture. We need to change the way that we're acting with each other. There's a lot of rolling eyes and there's a lot of disrespect and we don't, we, we, um, uh, sideline conversations and talk about it afterwards, right? Where it's like,

Speaker 2 (23:37):

Take it off line,

Speaker 1 (23:38):

Take it off. Exactly. That's what this take it offline

Speaker 2 (23:41):

Well, I was actually like side note to that. I was gonna ask if you, you, you have clients that the issue is sales are faltering, or projects are slip, deadlines are slipping or anything like that, where it's actually an impacting the business. And then they come to the realization that the answer is not to hire more sales people or to do more advertising or to change the product features. The answer is actually to work on their culture.

Speaker 1 (24:11):

Um, I wish people would draw that conclusion, but that is too far removed. Right? I mean, it is true to get people engaged and be able to articulate. I mean, we are building, um, a training program for managers for this international organization and helping them articulate why, you know, like how they should be training their employees and how that'll, that'll work towards their sales, you know, to the sales enablement, which are kind of the last bastion. Right? Of like, that's just a whole end of the kind of end of the, the line. What, what typically happens is we have just gotten another round of funding and our board says we have to double our numbers. How do we do that? How do we hire the right people? Or the founders will go, will look around and be like, what happened to this place? I don't, I don't, it's just not the vibe isn't there.

Speaker 1 (25:01):

Right. Vibe. Um, and so there's, there are kind of more immediate, um, elements. I mean, to your point about people are leaving and you're like, crap, what do I do? And I think odds are, you know, 50 50 that they go, oh, something, something culture, people, right? Like, it's like something, something they say, say it's like something about the culture. That's like, okay, great. That's, that is, that is definitely the starting point for that conversation. Mm mm. And, um, but when we're talking about, um, productivity or engagement, I feel like the conversation is just starting to get there. And mostly the, the high leverage point are the managers. And I think that's gonna be when we try to go in and think about activating, um, rolling out a new, um, culture program, we really look to, um, dig in deep with the managers so that they understand how to use those values and those culture, the culture playbook as a management tool. And that's really where you're gonna start to see get the kinda rubber meets the road and you're allowed to, right. You're not allowed to go in and talk to the sales people. Well, even if you were, it would be hard to go in and talk to the sales folks about culture. That's a, that's a very different, um, you know, challenge, I would say.

Speaker 2 (26:25):

Yeah. Well, and this idea of, I've always been curious, and I know a lot of people working in the culture space, I've been curious of, if you can create a culture or are you really just finding what works within an organization and amplifying that and systematizing that.

Speaker 1 (26:46):

Yeah. Um, well, every organization has a culture.

Speaker 2 (26:51):

Yeah. Whether they, whether they like the culture or not, they haven't. Right. It's like every organization has a brand, whether they intentionally work on it or not. Right.

Speaker 1 (26:58):

That's exactly right. I mean, that's exactly, you know, I come from brand strategy. That's exactly where, where I got that, you know, I was like, oh, is this the same conceit? Um, so it's whether it, it is whether it is something that you feel is working or not. And I think you've articulated exactly right. Which is when we go in, we really try to identify what's working and, or, or what if it's small enough organization, then it's like, the leaders are like, here's what I think I want. And that's fine. You know, that's, that's a decent way to do it. But like we described before you get those ambassadors in the room, and they're gonna tell you what is gonna be the best, you know, it's what is working, what kinds of peers they have that really, you know, this is what we need from leaders.

Speaker 1 (27:44):

This is the kind of choices. This is the support we need. This is the, this is what we believe the message should be. And that is gonna be, um, go a long way towards developing that culture. And then the caveat being, it's always gonna evolve. You're a different organization when you're 2200 it or 2000 or 20,000. And so I definitely recommend that organizations reevaluate their values as a, as a sort of the sharp point. Um, every two to three years values should, they're not indelible. Um, they can evolve and they should and leave that they're a great tool to, to help establish expectations around what behaviors, um, people should be exhibiting. And they are the kinds of that. They, we prioritize values are exercise and prioritization. And so we, we ask our clients to prioritize what are the three to five most important things that we are working on or stretching towards that are gonna make us be the best organization we can.

Speaker 1 (28:52):

If it's, if, if you really don't have that diversity equity inclusion element, and that's something that's gonna make a big difference for you, and you want to, you really wanna work on that, then that needs to be one of those pieces and we need, you can articulate it, you know, really compelling, unique ways. And then maybe 2, 3, 4 years down the line, you're like, this is really working. Everybody gets it. And so maybe we can, um, start to articulate another challenge, because like I said, at the beginning you have a system, the culture is a self-reinforcing so system. So once you start moving in the right direction, um, you're gonna get that momentum in inertia. Yeah. That is gonna enable you to support and people get it. They go, oh, this is, this is commonly accepted. I'm coming in as a new employee. I see. Everybody's allowed to speak up and they're not gonna be fired.

Speaker 2 (29:47):

So, and I see that it's actually happening, like, like going back to what we said earlier, it's not just the poster on the wall. And it's inter you know, you, as you said, you come from a brand strategy background as well. And when I talk to my clients about articulating used from the brand perspective, it's about also articulating the value in a way that, how is that of benefit to me as an employee, but how is that a benefit to me as a potential customer, that your organization holds that value and that they operate in that way, and it's helping them articulate it, not just, just something that motivates and engages their employees, but also attracts the right kinds of clients and customers that are like, I wanna do business with a company that operates that way. And we've you and I have both seen all the data and research that show that consumers, whether B2B or B to C are increasingly buying based on values alignment.

Speaker 1 (30:44):


Speaker 2 (30:45):

So, I mean, again, if you don't have that articulated, they can't tell if you align with their values or not, because they don't know where you stand.

Speaker 1 (30:54):

Yeah, that's right. I mean, what do I, what do, what do we stand for? I mean, it's, it's a really, this is, and how do we articulate the, how do we choose our partners? And, and that those values should be aligned with, you know, internally and externally that, that you should be able to put your purpose and your values up on your website to be,

Speaker 2 (31:13):

And you should, yeah, you should absolutely cause that, that is actually a competitive differentiation as well. That, you know, there's a lot of other people that do what we do. Here's what we believe and here's how we do it and how we get it done. So I, this is a great segue into, uh, another question for you is how do you actually evaluate if your company values are helpful or harmful?

Speaker 1 (31:41):

What I would, I would ask the question, what is it that you are trying to achieve? What kind of culture do we want to foster is the place that I would start. So if you are looking to, um, you know, if we think about Amazon as, uh, an interesting case study, I would never go work for Amazon because those, their values and the expression of those, it's not that they're not effective, but they're just not, I don't feel, um, include the employee. They're not employee centric, they're customer centric. So if you wanna be extremely customer, we focused, right. Which is the stated goal. Um, then those values are gonna be exactly right. But if you are about supporting, you know, long term careers and long term, long term value building, and the humans inside the organization are a part of your vision for the future.

Speaker 1 (32:44):

Those are not the right values for you. So again, you are looking at values as the three to five things that you are trying to improve your organization in, what are the critical next steps to get to that goal? What are you trying to achieve now? Most companies and most of our clients are like, yes, all of these things we want to, we want to sell more and be more innovative and be more diverse and da, da, da, da. But the truth is that you can't be all of those things all at once. You can't work on all of those. They're not priorities. If you can't choose the kind of the, you

Speaker 2 (33:16):

Can't have 40 priorities. Yeah. You

Speaker 1 (33:18):

Can't have priorities. So I don't think any, you know, is, uh, is in a vacuum, is any particular value good or bad? I mean, I think it can be articulated poorly, like if it's not articulated. So I have another, um, client that we're just beginning phases. They they're like, oh, we have values. And it's like, here they are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And I'm like, well, what do they mean? I don't know. I don't know what it means to be, I don't know, whatever it is, you know, innovative or collaborative. Like, what does that mean

Speaker 2 (33:48):

To what does that mean to you?

Speaker 1 (33:49):

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So that would be, you know, that's a, I think a, an unhelpful value is just like, okay, everybody be more innovative,

Speaker 2 (33:58):

Integrity, honesty, customer service. Exactly. And it's like five bullet points on the website with no, I call it the narrative. What's the narrative. That actually that's exactly

Speaker 1 (34:07):


Speaker 2 (34:07):

It's, what that means here. And can you give an example? Yep. Can you give an example of that value in action yep. In the company. Yep. Um, yeah, I, I, when you were saying that it brought to mind that when I started my business this 14 years ago, 2008, you know, or one of my values was work hard, play hard, cuz that was actually one of my values in my twenties. Right. This work hard, play hard, like extreme. And I realized that that was actually not a helpful value for me in my late forties with a child and a marriage and a life. And so, you know, I adjusted that of like, that was, that was actually an expectation that was harming me at that point. And I was more interested in seeking balance and, and fostering intentionality in my business. So I, I could see another, you know, especially with unicorns and startups, where the everything is like, go, go, go. We do, you know, I worked with a company a couple years ago where one of their values was that and it still was. And I was exhausted after having my brand workshop with them because I thought, oh my gosh, I could never work for this company. It's just too much. It's just too, too intense. And

Speaker 1 (35:16):

Some people, some people will be drawn to that.

Speaker 2 (35:18):

Exactly. And it, and it worked for them, right. It at, but at least they were clear about it. So if you're a new hire or you are a recruit yeah. You know what you're getting into. And it's the same thing for some, some companies that have gotten lambasted for some negative things they've done with their culture, like Coinbase and, um, base camp where they have made some, they've put some stakes in the ground around, around what they wanna focus on. And they don't wanna focus on things outside of work, at work. And they're only gonna be focused at work. And I said, you know, well, they're gonna attract those people that for whom that resonates. Yep. But at least, you know, now going in, you can't go in and then be miserable because you don't know where they stand.

Speaker 1 (36:00):

Yep. You can, you can, uh, sail their choice, but you can't criticize the fact that they made a choice, which is fine. Hey, it's capitalism, baby. You know what I mean? Like capitalism, Baby.

Speaker 1 (36:11):

Whatever you want. But you know, it's like, I'm, this is how I'm running my company and okay, fine. Then that's you

Speaker 2 (36:17):

Have to, and you have to be willing to take that stand and deal with the consequences of taking that stand and making that statement.

Speaker 1 (36:23):

Yeah. Yeah. Right back to prioritization and choices. You can't be in all the markets at once. You

Speaker 2 (36:31):

Know, you just can't. Right. So our last question is, um, something we were discussing a little bit about is where you see the future going. Um, and I'd really love you to share a little bit of your take on the differences between employees and customers, but also this idea of the consumerization of the employee experience.

Speaker 1 (36:50):

Yeah. 20 years ago, um, there was an emergent trend that ended up being identified as the consumer of it. So enterprise, um, software 20 years ago was terrible. And if you're old enough to remember them, it was very, it didn't evolve like, um, the apps and software that consumers, uh, consumed, right? So the launch of the iPhone and the app store and all these wonderful be apps. And so, um, the folks inside of organizations and companies were like, why would I use this software that doesn't work very well when I can use this one over here? And so they would essentially what they would end up creating is what they called shadow it, which is not secure and not a good idea, um, for organizations. So software providers had an opportunity and a motivation to actually invest in user experience and user and UI and all those pieces.

Speaker 1 (37:46):

So creating consumer grade enterprise apps. So that was that's the quick history of consumerization of there's been a bunch of other consumerization of, um, so that's not my necessarily necessary my frame. However, I realized recently that the work that we've been asked to do by our clients is pointing towards the consumerization of an employee experience. Now, what do I mean by that? A creation of a highly curated, extreme, strategic, well thought out, um, employee experience that matches the experience an individual will have out in the world when they join other communities. So your yoga studio or your co-working space or the

Speaker 2 (38:41):

Boutique boutique hotel, is what comes to mind.

Speaker 1 (38:43):

I love that. Exactly.

Speaker 2 (38:45):

It's this is how I'm treated when I go there. And that's why I'm loyal to this brand.

Speaker 1 (38:49):

Exactly. So you're looking, I mean, you're gonna start, you're gonna continue to see the prolific of communities. You Bejo a community, and that is exactly the, now the competitive, the competitive benchmark for attracting and retaining employees. And so when an employee gets or, or a future employee, a can it experiences, um, a highly refined, uh, process. Welcome in here's what it's like, let me tell you, da da, da, da. Here's the materials here's do. Here's here's what we stand. Here's our, here's the five PS. Yeah. All those pieces. Um, then they're gonna go, wow. They really care. They really thought about this. This is some, this is an expectation that I, I get, if it's, if it's, um, you know, herky jerky and like, oh my God. So sorry. I'm running late for your in interview. Uh, I forgot about you entirely. What kind of message did that send?

Speaker 1 (39:53):

Hey, I don't, I mean, honestly I have 10 other offers. I, I don't, I don't care. So it's really this element of fit and finish that we need to expect, and we need to a cont it needs to be continuous recruitment, re recruitment of our employees. Here's your, again, the culture playbook here is our expectations. Here's what we stand for here is really well thought out online resource for our culture and what it means. And here's some videos and here's some comp, you know, it's like, give me that experience as if I'm learning a new piece of software that's really well created. Right?

Speaker 2 (40:33):

Right. It's, it's almost design thinking applied to the employee experience. And, and that also includes, you know, the elements that you need to take care of recognition, rewards, performance, evaluations, feedback, all of those things. What, you know, when you're, when you're young and scrappy and you're startup, and you're kind of throwing these things out there and experimenting with them. Great. But how can you codify them? So they're repeatable and sustainable.

Speaker 1 (41:00):

Exactly. Exactly.

Speaker 2 (41:02):

Well, Josh, this has been such a great conversation. I could talk to you for another hour about this stuff, where our world

Speaker 1 (41:08):

Collide another, another decade, perhaps

Speaker 2 (41:10):

Another decade, but first, uh, we'll have all the links to you and to great Mondays and to your book Mondays, how to design a company, culture employees love in the show notes, but real quickly, can you just share how folks can get in touch with you if they're listening while they're on their Peloton or something?

Speaker 1 (41:29):

Sure. Head to There's a bunch of free resources, um, links to the book and, um, ways to get in touch with me. You can click that link and we can set up a 30 minute quick call if you wanted to chat, happy to do it.

Speaker 2 (41:44):

Awesome. Thanks for your time today, Josh.

Speaker 1 (41:46):

My pleasure

Speaker 2 (41:47):

And thank you everyone for listening as always, please share the podcast. If you love it, rate and review, those really help us out and never forget that cashflow, creativity and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Thanks for listening tune in next time and be kind

Speaker 2 (42:08):

Thanks for listening to this episode of the empathy edge. If you're enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. And don't forget to share the show with others who want to redefine success and change the game for more on how empathy makes you and your brand more successful. Visit the empathy There you can download a free guide, outlining five business benefits of empathy and a sample chapter of Maria's book, the empathy edge until next time, remember that a more empathetic world starts with you and leads to tremendous success.

67 views0 comments


bottom of page