How can you help your team to do the best work of their lives? By building a conducive culture that allows them to thrive.
Gustavo Razzetti is a sought-after speaker, culture consultant, and author of three books. He realised that most companies don’t lack ideas, resources, or talent, but rather an advantageous culture.
And so he created Fearless Culture, a workplace culture consulting firm, to help organisations become purpose-driven, agile, and innovative. He’s also the creator of the Culture Design Canvas, a culture mapping tool used by consultants, coaches, and organisations worldwide.
In this interview, Gustavo discusses the book he wrote during the pandemic, Remote Not Distant, which takes the concept of deliberately designing a culture and applying it to a new normal hybrid workplace.
How do you design a culture that helps everyone thrive when not everybody is office based? Read more to find out.
Today's interview addresses the following topics:
Determining the work model
Why you should care about culture
Creating rituals when remote working
The benefits of feedback
Decentralised decision making
Gustavo Razzetti is the Chicago based CEO and founder of Fearless Culture, a workplace culture consulting firm that helps organisations become purpose-driven, agile, and innovative. He’s also the author of three books, his latest one being Remote Not Distant.
So, how do you design a culture when your organisation has adopted a hybrid model of working?
“I think that the pandemic accelerated lots of shifts that we were already seeing. So in that regard, I think that we need to see that question through a different lens…[because] it’s not one or the other, we need to stop thinking in binary terms, the office versus remote, and rather think, when shall we use which?”
Depending on the type of work the team needs to achieve, says Gustavo, will determine what model will work best.
For example, if you need to do deep solo work i.e. write a presentation or put together a proposal, doing it from home with fewer distractions is likely going to yield better results.
Whereas when you want to build a culture, sure, you can do it remotely, but nothing beats doing it in person.
Making decisions, says Gustavo, can be done from anywhere. In fact, it’s probably better done asynchronously because it gives every person time to reflect on what needs to be decided. And it’s more effective than being in a room and talking across one another, because then everyone tries to impose their perspective, and nothing gets decided.
On the other hand, if you want to do a sprint to come up with new ideas, getting people in a room for five days non stop without interruptions is going to be great. Yes, you can do that remotely, but for most companies, it works better in person.
“So we just start with a question: what kind of work does this team need to achieve? And then what’s the best way, or a way to achieve it?”
Pre-pandemic, there was the notion that if you weren’t in the office, it would negatively impact your promotion prospects. Because if you were out of sight when it came to making promotion decisions, you would be out of mind.
That may be how it was done before, says Gustavo, but what are you going to do about it now? Because this idea of rewarding presenteeism isn’t going to result in a high performing team.
In a hybrid workplace, you need to find a way of making sure you’re promoting the ‘invisible’ people too.
You have to bear in mind, says Gustavo, culture amplifies and magnifies everything. The good, the bad and the ugly, within your organisation.
One obvious example of this was during the pandemic when people started having countless Zoom meetings, they were exhausted and fatigue was a very real problem. That wasn’t the result of COVID, argues Gustavo, that was because there was a bad culture in place pre-pandemic, and that bad behaviour became amplified and the whole workplace suffered as a result.
Culture doesn’t just concern people, says Gustavo, it’s not just ‘the way things are done’, it’s also the way you don’t do things. It also encompasses mindsets and emotions. I.e. the way you feel, the way you think, and the way you behave.
And culture is a system, meaning there are processes and aspects of it that can be changed. For example, you can change and improve behaviour. You can change and improve emotions.
Whether your workforce is remote or in the office, every employee wants to have a sense of belonging. And while there are some elements of designing a culture that are organic, when you’re trying to instil a sense of psychological safety, you need to set up certain parameters.
One of the great ways to approach designing a sense of belonging, says Gustavo, is to think of culture at the micro level. In the past, we had a tendency to think about belonging at a macro level. But the culture of an organisation is the result or the sum of lots of subcultures.
“Usually, when we talk about subcultures people get a little bit uneasy, because they feel subcultures are like silos, they’re divided. But in the end, there’s a difference: all silos are subcultures. But not all subcultures are silos.”
Establishing a sense of psychological safety in a remote environment or hybrid is a big ask. One way to help it develop is to train managers on how to facilitate meetings. Because that’s an art form, says Gustavo, that can and needs to be learned.
The other thing about creating culture, even when the team is remote, is that you should never be fully remote. Slack, the startup that literally wrote the book on remote working, the poster child for how to do it well, gets people together at least once a quarter.
Even if your team works around the globe, create rituals that bring people together, advises Gustavo. Insist on specific moments that bring people together, for example a daily sign in.
Whether the team is remote or not, feedback is like a muscle – it gets stronger when you work it.
And the best feedback is given regularly, says Gustavo. That doesn’t mean it needs to be every day, but it does need to be more frequently than once a year. Once a month or in a weekly one on one is just fine.
The feedback conversation needs to go along the lines of: How can I help you? Is there something that’s not working?
And if you don’t have anything to discuss, don’t force it. Just reschedule for the following week.
One of the things you have to be wary of when developing the culture in your workplace is that you should focus on developing the team, not just individuals. Because no great feat of humanity was achieved by just one person.
The majority of work in a workplace happens in teams, therefore you need to focus on building a culture of delivering collective feedback.
What does that mean?
“When we turn feedback into an individual thing, we’re trying to basically either find someone to blame if the team screws up i.e. who screwed up? Or if the team won a new client, who made it happen? Collective feedback is about discussing things as a team.”
Gustavo gives the example of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. They have developed a habit after every practice and game of discussing feedback as a team. Rather than saying – you screwed up, or you played well, they discuss how they can play better as a team. Because what you do individually is connected to how well your colleagues or teammates do.
And thinking in these terms invites the team to think about collective behaviour rather than individual behaviour.
Finally, says Gustavo, you need to decentralise decision making authority. Don’t just empower one person to make a decision, but encourage all people to make a decision. This way, people closer to the problem can resolve the issue without it turning into a big thing.
“In most of the cases, people don’t have that power, so they get stuck waiting for the manager to come down and make the decision. So they’ll never get that speed on one hand. But also, if you have a distributed team, you’re going to have the manager wading into every decision.”
Dominic Monkhouse is a proven architect of business growth with a demonstrable track record. As managing director, he scaled two UK technology companies from zero revenue to £30 million in five years. Since 2014, Dominic has worked as a CEO and executive team coach, helping ambitious CEOs and their leadership teams reach their full potential and achieve sustainable growth. He is the host of “The Melting Pot with Dominic Monkhouse” where he talks with some extraordinary thought leaders, fellow business authors, and CEOs to absorb their wisdom. Dominic is the author of F**K PLAN B: How to scale your technology business faster and achieve plan A, an exciting blueprint for cultural change and business transformation.