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Episode 35:

Love as a Commitment Strategy

While there are a million reasons to invest in your company's people and culture, there are always going to be reasons not to. This week, we dig into some of the common excuses we commonly hear about why business leaders choose not to take on a culture transformation in their organization. This may just be our saltiest episode yet. 

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Host

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MohProfile

Mohammad Anwar
President

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ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Frank Danna
Director

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma
Hello, and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business. But we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma, and I'm a director at Softway, a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offers services that help build resilience and high performance company cultures. I'm joined today as always by Mohammad Anwar, President and CEO at Softway. Hey, Moh.

Mohammad Anwar
Hey, guys.

Jeff Ma
Chris Pitre, Vice President. Hey, Chris.

Chris Pitre
Hey, guys.

Jeff Ma
And last but not least, Frank Danna, my man, how's it going?

Frank Danna
Hey, guys, can you hear me okay?

Jeff Ma
We had a lot of technical, we had a lot of technical difficulties setting up this episode. Frank is still recovering from that. But today, we have a fun one. We have a fun episode, guys where, you know, having worked with 1000s of leaders and organizations around the world, we've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. And we've talked to a lot of people about adopting, you know, our culture of resilience and adopting love as a business strategy itself. And when we come to the table, with business leaders, we're always encouraging them to prioritize their people and their culture. And they're often they often come to us trying to prioritize their people and their culture, right. But we try to encourage them to prioritize, but not just prioritize, but invest right? in their people. In when we say invest, we often also mean time and money. And sometimes, even when a business is trying to improve their culture, they're unwilling and or unable to invest in it. And today, we kind of wanted to share some of those experiences and stories and talk a little bit about essentially what excuses we've seen and heard, and why those matter. So before we begin, we have to do some icebreakers. I'm going to try this format, where we all get the same question. So I'm gonna start with Chris. Chris, who is your celebrity doppelganger?

Chris Pitre
I used to be told that it was Bobby Valentino. I don't know if you recall him. He's an R&B artist from like, the 2000 era.

Jeff Ma
Frank's Googling that.

Chris Pitre
Yeah.

Jeff Ma
Frank's Googling it, you can see him.

Chris Pitre
That was who I was told I look like when I was in college.

Chris Pitre
Okay. Okay. Uh, looking at Mohammad's face. I'm gonna jump to Frank first, cuz Mohammad needs more time to think about this. Frank, who's your celebrity doppelganger?

Frank Danna
So if I take off my glasses, people say I look like Shia LaBeouf.

Jeff Ma
Huh? Okay.

Frank Danna
Let's add that Maggie just said Oh, snap in our private chat.

Jeff Ma
That's high praise. Muhammad. Who is yours celebrity doppleganger?

Mohammad Anwar
I don't, I've never really thought about it.

Jeff Ma
Well, I just gave you two other people's returns to think about it.

Mohammad Anwar
I am serious, I don't know. Maybe you guys have to help me out here.

Jeff Ma
Okay.

Chris Pitre
I feel like that's a setup.

Frank Danna
That is a setup.

Jeff Ma
That's a trap.

Chris Pitre
I won't be able to recover from that because even with the best intentions...

Mohammad Anwar
Nobody's ever come to me and say, Hey, you look like this celebrity like, No, I've never had that situation, do you even think about it?

Chris Pitre
There is a character in my head. But I don't want to say it. Maybe we'll do this off air.

Jeff Ma
YouTube, is not our primary channel. But if you're watching on YouTube, go ahead and leave in the comments who you think Mohammad looks like just kidding. Don't do that or do. So let's move on. Awesome. So as I mentioned, as I mentioned, we're talking about commitments, we're talking about love as a commitment strategy. And really, what we what we want to kind of talk about to start is the excuses. And I say that kind of dirty laundry in a in a very direct way. Because we view them as excuses. And we want to kind of just air that out right now. So kind of want to go around the room a little bit, and maybe share our favorite. I mean, we have many to pick from in terms of excuses, we've heard and maybe share some of the favorite or favorites, the greatest hits, if you will, around what we've heard when we come to the table, about addressing culture. I'm going to pick on Chris, to start us off. Chris, do you have a have a favorite excuse?

Chris Pitre
It's like, we I use favorite in air quotes. But fun to engage with. But so as we've been talking about a lot on this podcast, you know, the D&I space is one that has gotten a lot of interest and a lot of a conversation happening at the executive levels, organizations. And, you know, we've been involved in a number of those conversations over the past few months. And it's really interesting, because I think that there's a lot of excitement, a lot of interest in a lot of executives are making these, you know, really big and grandiose commitments out externally, to their teams. And, you know, you think you get into the room with them, that that's that that commitment is going to be there. And while Yes, verbally, it's there, when you start putting up the expectations or requirements on their time, you actually start getting I call it the Heisman where like, everything starts coming up, like start getting thrown on the play, you know, you get all the resistance, and you know, they start telling you, I only have this amount of time, but I still want the same outcome results, you know, success metrics, etc. And we're trying to, let's say, for instance, we're, you know, helping leaders really think about how they, how they can become more inclusive, or we're talking about there is behavior change. And I don't know anybody that can come in and change their behavior in two hours. Like, it's just not gonna happen, right. But that sometimes is what executives think is, quote, unquote, ideal or comfortable for them. But really, when you are making these large commitments around the DNI space, that is behavior change that you're ultimately signing up for. And so while I understand that, you know, leaders are busy, and the larger organization, and the more strapped for time you are, but unfortunately, you vote with your time, especially in the executive, you know, sort of section and that was something that previous leaders that I worked for always said, like, Chris, I vote with my time where I spend my time is where I think it's priority. And I might need to give more of my time to areas or efforts that I know, I'm committed to, or I've expressed commitment to. And I think sometimes that, that disagreement between those two things, what you say, but what you are willing to do, is sometimes one of the biggest issues that we have to overcome, as we're working with the executive teams around cultural issues or D&I issues. Because it is it's squishy, right? It's not, you know, a hard thing where I can say you do this, you get why, right there is this idea in the executive space that I will get my time if I know the exact return for my time that I'm going to get. And when you're dealing with cultural behavioral things, that's not always an easy thing to commit to and promises. They're like, well, you give me two hours, and you'll get four hours back in terms of people loving you. Right? Like, there's no equation that I can put on that kind of thing. Yeah, my favorites.

Mohammad Anwar
I'm gonna piggyback on that. And I think the other area is similar to that is they want to know, how do we measure this. Everything you bring up to these leaders, as recommendation is like, so how are we going to measure this. And what they don't really understand is, we can measure all day long. But if you really want to see change, you got to put in the effort, you got to put in the work. And you can see all the reports fancy reports with numbers and dig into it look smart by presenting it on your presentations all day long. But if you're not going to put in the effort to really see real change, then don't expect those numbers to make a difference. So at the end of the day, you have to lead with the commitment that you make And stick to the commitment and put in the effort. And the numbers will speak for itself. But if you're leading with numbers, and you're so worried about how the numbers are going to look, then put in the effort for it. And that's like another constant excuse. And I think it's, it's like, ingrained in organizations where everything has to be measured, I get it. But there's certain things that you, you just can't lead with metrics. Things like culture, things, where how people feel at work, how they are treated at work, how they are valued at work, and how they are inclusive, or included. These kind of things are not easy to measure. And even if there are abilities to measure, you don't lead with it. And when there are solutions being brought to you, instead of considering the solutions for what they are and ideas to what they are, they are so hung up on, you know, the measurements and metrics, and what's the proof this has worked in the past? And how can you prove it, and so forth? That I'm almost wondering at times, like, are these guys ever going to be original, if all they want to know is who's done it before. So I can like just copy, like, everybody has a unique situation unique problem, and every solution is going to have to be unique. And while there might be similar situations that we would have solved, and brought in solutions to your solution is unique for you. And you have to take into consideration the value of that solution, not asked for evidence that it works before even trying it. And those are some of the kind of excuses and quite honestly, frustrations we have with some of the decision makers and leaders and cultures. And there's very cultures that we're trying to transform come in the way of transformation with these attitudes or these excuses with these questions. And they they're the biggest obstacle in their own way, for most part of the time.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, there's a big difference between when a leader says, I want my survey results to come back and say that they love working here, and we're like, do you want them to actually love working here? Like they're more they're more concerned with the survey results than they are just how happy are your actual people in a real way? And that is, it has been a huge frustration for me, because I'm sorry, Chris, go ahead.

Chris Pitre
I was gonna say goes back to a quote that, um, one of our clients was talking about, and she said that, at some point, you have to realize that weighing the calf doesn't fatten the calf, and in Texas, we do caffrey like, you know, we raised cattle for no beef. Yes, like, yeah, sorry, in advance to any vegetarians, or folks who are not a fan of this idea of calf raising and eating beef. But when it comes to measurement, right, we can measure everything. But it doesn't mean that you're actually doing the things necessary to change those metrics. And so many executives, as Mohammad has mentioned, put the focus on the on the measurement, and not on the work required to change said measurement or metrics.

Jeff Ma
Awesome. Yeah.

Frank Danna
I remember there was a foreign exchange student in high school. And she was utterly shocked that we didn't all ride horses in Texas, like she was convinced that we all rode horses to and from school. And she was very disappointed that we drove in cars.

Jeff Ma
Did you say utterly on purpose was that?

Frank Danna
I did. I did. I'm glad you caught it. So. One of the one of the other excuses that we've we've heard, and this is something that goes back to our culture of love, right? So like, as we're talking about this, you know, Softway has this philosophy around what it takes to build a culture that is that is loving, Love is a business strategy, right? But instead of just we're not talking about romantic entanglements when we're talking about love, or like hugs per day quota. That's creepy. What we're talking about is tangible, actionable steps that people can take to showcase care. And, you know, it's it's the six pillars. It's inclusion, empathy, vulnerability, trust, empowerment, forgiveness. And when people hear those words, they typically almost automatically we've had people look at it and say, well, we already have a set of values and our values, are courage, bold, kindness, right, like, they're not the...

Frank Danna
Okay. So, what I'm saying is that we when people say that they already have values, most of the time these organizations are creating these values to be public facing. Like, because when when we've talked to boots on the ground about how much the word diversity really matters to them in the workplace. What they say is that there's just there's misalignment there. So when folks talk about values, what they're afraid of is that we're going to overlay these words that we talked about when we define the culture of love, and somehow replace their values. What, what we try to help explain is that the reality is, if you're trying to create kindness inside of your organization, what steps are you taking to do that, because you can't just say we're kind, you actually have to create action plans around that to create an environment where kindness can be fostered, right. And so when you take these words of our culture of love these six pillars, they're not values, they're action statements. And what we've tried to help showcase to our clients is that these words actually enhance your values, they bring your values to fruition to where people can actually say, I actually believe in that value that this company has, that it's not just a mantra that's showcased to create public awareness. But it's actually something that people can believe in. And what we've heard in the past is that, you know, because we're using different terminology, it's not going to sync up with the way that we're trying to approach things in our company. But in reality, what we're trying to do is build a foundation where their value system is actually practiced and preached and lived out in a very tangible way.

Jeff Ma
Where these things stand out the most to me is when we're talking to, you know, decision makers, but those that are under the pressure of higher decision makers, right, you have middle management, or even, you know, higher management, but still, they were kind of handed this task or even this position was created to do this. And you see so many, so much evidence here, of of the reality of the, the level of effort this business wants to put into what they outwardly say they want to do, right? Because either that position was given no power, or no real decision making ability, or that the person who's running this initiative or trying to figure this out, is operating basically under fear or basically unable to move anything, because they're more concerned with how this will optically look, then producing real, tangible results. And we see that in so many ways when it comes to, you know, sharing what it's going to take in terms of that effort we talked about in terms of that time, and let's be honest money, right, to make this done to get this done, right for a lot of businesses. And as soon as they get to that conversation, they're like, Well, you know, that's not gonna look good when I bring that, that that price tag, or when I bring up that time commitment, that's going to disrupt our business a little bit, and that's not gonna look good. And that's when you start really questioning what it means for business to say they prioritize something are that they, you know, that this is their number one objective. And, you know, actions are just not speaking, you know, as actions speak louder than words every time. And that's kind of part of our huge frustration. Right?

Chris Pitre
Yeah. And I think the, the times where I've experienced what you just talked about, Jeff, like, it's, it's really unfortunate when you are partnering with someone who, quote unquote, was empowered. But the recommendations come forward, right, we worked with them to build those recommendations, they go to their executive leaders, and those executive leaders, it's not just the, you know, we're not committed to this or limiting our time, but they start to recreate and redraft the recommendations from the expert they hire to come and give them recommendations. And all of a sudden, it's like, you know, when the assignment is given is given, like, I trust you, you're the expert. Let's, let's hear what you have to say. Recommendations come out, ooh, let's redo the redo. We write that one. We're not comfortable with that one yet. Like, we need to do this. All right. And they get redrafted to the comfort levels and the preferences of the executive leaders, which to me is oftentimes the death nail to the success of whatever initiative that person was hired to do.

Mohammad Anwar
I think another example like that is if the executive team is like serious about an element of culture, let's say, for example, D&I, right, like we've seen a lot of that happen, where there have been public commitments made by corporations are committed to diversity and inclusion. And for that purpose, we're going to come in and assign a very, very creating a position, an official D&I position, and we're going to assign this person more than likely a minority background person, you know, assigned to that position. And then you look at the real authority and powers that this person has. It's like their five or six levels down to the executive team. They have to report into the very organizational functions that are probably guilty for making their place not inclusive to begin with, aka sometimes HR. And so you have a leadership team that's committed to transforming their organization to become inclusive yet, they'll create a D7I position, assign a dedicated person to it, and place them in the function that they're supposed to literally go and audit and say, Hey, listen what you've been doing, it ain't working, you need to change, like, that's gonna work. And then that information never gets to the executive team. And it's like the very systems and processes and structures organizationally that you've put in place that have been oppressive, and marginalizing minorities and or any group that's marginalized, they're placing that very person to work against that system to solve that problem, where to go. I mean, like, your commitment is never going to come into fruition, because you are pretending to act on this initiative and commitment, but you are placing them into the very oppressive systems that you're trying to change. And you're asking them to work within those systems to change those systems. That ain't gonna happen, guys. You want to make a commitment, you better be there, you better be there by the side of the person that you're empowering, give them full autonomy, give them empowerment, not placed them under the very oppressive functions that may have created the problem to begin with.

Chris Pitre
I will tell you that this is a it's a conversation that is rising up in the D&I practitioner space. But it's still controversial, because right now, typically, D&I falls within HR. And if you study HR practices, like they are the ones who have created a lot of the oppressive systems, a lot of the processes that undermine and marginalize underrepresented persons of color, women and other minority groups and communities in the workplace, and expecting them to want to a admit that they are the ones who created that, which is a big step. But to want to fix that proactively is a second step. And whether we like it or not, it does dismantle or undo the work of D&I when you are reporting into a function that is not willing to reconsider everything that is on the table, and sort of allow for the right mindset and the right, you know, I would say conversations to take place to ensure that everyone in the organization is treated equitably, when it comes to access and opportunity. And so what a lot of D&I practitioners are asking for is to report directly to the CEO. So that way, DEI is just not sitting in HR, but it can touch every business line equally equitably across the business, right? Because right now we focus just on the HR side, but there's still procurement that has to have a D&I sort of been in perspective, same with legal, same with operations, customer support, all those areas, still have D&I issues that are are not always connected to an employee. It's also related to how you treat customers, how you respond to the community, how you purchase and procure goods, how you treat legal issues, like all of that is impacted. But when you say you're committed to D&I, you're saying that you're committed to all of those things, not just to making sure that you're recruiting minorities, and you're promoting them in your organization. That is a huge part of it. But that's not the only part of it. But unfortunately, in in these times, and because it's so it's a newer conversation than merging inside of the executive leadership team. And I will say in a real way, unfortunately, that insight, and that desire is not always accompanied with the interest.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah. But it's not that complicated to understand, right? Because this is not this kind of issues, like quality. When you think about quality assurance, you know, organizations have figured out that you don't put QA inside of your production lines, you don't put QA inside of your project management groups, like they have to sit outside, they have to be this independent group function that can without bias without conflicts of interest, come in and do the job they need to do. Right. So it's it's not that complicated to understand why it needs to be its own function, independent of pressure, or conflict of interest. But yet we see this organizations and leaders Oh, well, it's part of HR. So put it in HR. Like, don't you get it, like you're having problems because of the way you've been operating in HR? You can't solve this problem by putting the solution in the same basket. Like, let me keep it outside, like let it let it come from an outside perspective to solve this problem. They obviously haven't been aware they're not self aware of what they've caused. And it's and to be honest, it's not an intent issue. I believe these leaders have good intent. I believe these HR functions have good intent. They really do want to make a commitment to solve the problem. But they're unable to do it because of lack of self awareness, and, and their unconscious biases that had that consume them. And, and for as long as you're going to keep this type of initiative, under those same functions, it's gonna be really a challenge for whoever you put in that position to try and fight the very same mindsets and systems and lack of awareness to bring about this change.

Chris Pitre
Yeah. And I also think, you know, getting to some of the things that we've been talking about, I think one of the other, it's not just an excuse, but it's also sort of a out that people have is when, when you are about to partake in a culture initiative, it also means that leaders have to start embodying and changing their behavior. And that is a very tall order to ask someone. And if that if that CEO is not requesting that or demanding that sometimes it does fall flat, no matter how well intentioned the stakeholder is, or the executive sponsor is, because going to a CEO who has no idea that by saying they want to change their culture, they have to change it with themselves first. It's just it's a hard thing to get people to that stage of one introspecting, to a place where like, you know, I think in my, in my philosophy, everyone wants change, but few people want to change. And when you are saying that you are changing your organization. And if you say that D&I is important, you're saying that culture is important, which means that culture is going to change to fit, a more inclusive and state of belonging for every employee. And if you're not willing, as a leader, and as leaders, the full leadership team, to understand that we have to embody this change before we can expect it from anybody beneath us. Which means that it doesn't make sense to start rolling out change management, if you haven't changed yourself in this phase.

Jeff Ma
That reminds me reminds me of the group we worked with, where were we we already went through this huge back and forth trying to offer we're talking about Seneca the product we offer, which is a leader transformation session, right? And it takes it takes the sessions we were offering them were two full days of in person facilitation to help kickstart their transformation. And after finally kind of getting them to say, Okay, yeah, we see that we can commit to this, we're going to do this, we're going to get all our leaders into these sessions. They come to us and they said, well, by the way, though, the boss, the big guy, he's just going to attend half day on day one, and he'll be late to day two. And we look at him we're like, how do you think that's a gonna look to all the other leaders that this guy doesn't need to do these things? And, and and be what does that saying about commitment to this to this change? And it's just, it's mind boggling to see that kind of that they said that with a straight face as if Yeah, we literally had to go back to the drawing board saying no, if this is going to be a problem, let's literally reschedule this to something that this leader can make, because I don't think you realize that when he committed to it, he was the first to have to show commitment in a real actionable way.

Chris Pitre
But what's so funny about the organization is they were always worried about optics, when it came to spin when it comes to how, you know, initiatives are being introduced, right, like optics mattered. When it came to culture behavior, you know, leadership training, that was not even a consideration. You know, I remember going to some of their events where leaders would be off to the side, doing everything, but paying attention to what they're, you know, reports were listening to or receiving. And it was always like, for an organization that cared about its optics, like that was a huge miss.

Frank Danna
Yeah, that's, that's do, as I say, not as I do. And the problem is that that has incredible consequences. Because you're showing people that, you know, number one, there's this like this level of, of ego, essentially of like, Hey, I already know all this stuff I don't need to worry about I don't, I don't need to change, but you do. Right. And if if there's an opportunity to talk about culture, transformation, behavior, transformation, and folks are not embodying that it's seen as a flavor of the month, and then people don't trust the organization even less, because leaders aren't willing to commit.

Mohammad Anwar
The other funny thing that leaders do is like, oh, you're committed to change. So let me pick the person that I like the most to help with change from within my organization, who probably is very close to you behaves like you act like you reminds you of you. And you want to put them in charge of culture change. And this person is never going to come and tell you, hey, you are responsible to change first. And, you know a lot of these organizations have internal initiatives to change their culture. And but these people who are assigned to help with culture change internally, don't have the courage, don't have the conviction to go to their bosses and tell them what they need to hear. And so they try to play around the politics, they try to figure out how to play with the system. How do you maneuver around the system of getting the time from the executive getting a yes to buy into something getting a yes to approve into something, and they barely make a difference, they cannot move forward. They cannot go speak the truth to their leadership, because they are scared for their jobs, they are scared for what these bosses are going to do to them. And so you're really assigning people to fail, you are setting them up for failure from the get go. If you think you can change culture from within. No, it's not possible. You can't set people inside of the very systems and the very culture to change the culture from within. Sometimes you have to have external parties to come in and let you hear what you need to hear. You need to hear the truth. And sometimes your own people cannot tell you the truth for sometimes valid reasons because they're threatened by the fact that they could lose their jobs. So if you really want to institute change inside of your organization for the betterment of culture D&I, I think it is in your own valid interest to bring about a third party consultant who can tell you things you need to hear, so that you are bringing about self awareness for yourself and your organization to change. But if you're not willing to do that, and you are assigning people, these amazing titles of culture manager and chief culture officer and chief D&I officer, but don't give them power authority, or the security to be able to do what they're set out to do, then do not expect to see a difference. And that is something we are seeing quite a bit. Because they don't want to prioritize this truly. And a lot of the times they may do it to heed the demands of the public or their people that Oh, there is a need, or they just do it. To be honest, all my competitors are saying this, so we need to do it too. But they really don't believe they need to change. And so we see this all the time. And we have to, like really dismantle that and dismantle those excuses and those mindsets and those attitudes, which, quite honestly, is why they are where they are to begin with. If they have toxic cultures. It's it's why they do that's very telling.

Jeff Ma
So let me see if I can wrap up and close out this the saltiest episode ever since. So, I mean, and and there's good reason for the salt, right? Like we we get frustrated when we're in this business, because we have a very real passion for this for not just our own organizations, but everyone we meet everyone we work with in the world at large, when it comes to bringing humanity to the workplace. And this is such a big part of it. And it is frustrating to hit these walls, where we realized that people aren't, you know, aren't committed. And so why do we share this? I mean, this episode is intended to kind of share that with you. So you can help could help understand what commitment might really look like when you commit to a change when you see someone commit to a change. If you are in an organization that is committing to change, what should you be expecting? And seeing? What are the actions, not the words that are around you? And what can you do, because I think we all have a potential role we can play in putting, you know, action into motion here, when it comes to change. So it's a real investment. It takes effort, it takes, you know, a willingness, it takes time. And it takes a real case for change. It takes for a real like desire for your force for something to really happen. And we were really inspired by that message. We hope that you guys out there also kind of see that in your world and find your own your own truths around it. So with that, I'd like to thank Mohammed, Chris and Frank for this deliciously salty episode. And here at Love as a Business Strategy, we're definitely gonna keep posting episodes every Tuesday, if you like what you heard, stopped by Softway.com/LAABS. And and let us know and if you really enjoyed this episode, you know, share it with a friend. You know, don't forget to share the love as a business strategy podcast. And with that, we'll be signing off and we'll see you next week.

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