Elevating Your Culture for Success with Joey Havens

Elevating Your Culture for Success with Joey Havens

In this insightful podcast episode, Jason (Jason S Bradshaw) hosts Joey (Joey Havens), author of the newly released book “Leading with Significance: How to Create a Magnetic People-First Culture.” Joey shares his passion for inspiring leaders to trust and believe in the inherent good in people, emphasizing the importance of creating a culture that serves, cares, and fosters a strong sense of belonging.

The conversation delves into the current employment landscape characterized by the “Great Resignation” and the need for organizations to redefine what work means for employees, integrating personal lives and careers.

Joey explains how a magnetic culture can be created in challenging times, highlighting the vital role trust and a sense of belonging play in building a distinctive culture. He underlines the significance of leaders being intentional and vulnerable, extending trust, and connecting with team members through recognition, appreciation, respect, and understanding.

The discussion expands to define culture as the “soul” of an organization, reflecting what employees experience, and the importance of transparency and clarity in communication.

The episode explores how to create a great culture, emphasizing the need for team members to feel a sense of belonging, and how trust, intentionality, and strong leadership can help establish this belonging. Joey introduces the concept of “benefit of good intentions” and how it can foster trust and communication in a team.

You can get a copy of Leading Significance at https://amzn.to/3MkWBde

You can learn more about Joey and his work at https://joeyhavens.com/

Connect with Joey on LinkedIN at https://www.linkedin.com/in/joeyhavens/

Connect with Joey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/joeydhavens/

Connect with Joey on X at https://twitter.com/JoeyHavensCPA


JASON: Hey, Joey, it’s so great to have you on the show today.


JOEY: Jason, it’s a pleasure to be with you today, and I certainly appreciate the opportunity.


JASON: Well, I know the audience can’t wait to dive into our conversation. So you recently released a new book, Leading with Significance, How to Create a Magnetic People First Culture.


Tell us a little bit about the book and what made you write it. 


JOEY: Well, I think the real reason I wrote it is that I really feel a calling to inspire leaders and team members to trust and inherit good in people and to help people understand how you can be intentional and serving and caring for each other.


I mean, I think that’s the real purpose behind the book. And then certainly with the great resignation, the great reset, whatever you want to call it, you know, we’ve got real unrest in meaning and work today and what people really want to get out of work and how they integrate their personal lives and their careers.


And so I think it’s very timely, in a number of fronts.


JASON: So you open the book with what’s possible. Is it possible to grow a magnetic culture in the middle of the Great Resignation? Is it possible to generate magnetic energy in your organization that creates a competitive advantage and attracts talent?


Now, in both questions, you say absolutely. Why though? Why do you feel so strongly that despite every challenge that is being thrown at businesses today and leaders today, they can still create a great culture?


JOEY: Well, think about it a moment, Jason. They’re not finding that and so the leader, the organization, the group of leaders that really focus on people and really connect and create that strong sense of belonging.


They’re going to be distinctive in the marketplace, and that’s really where the magnetic energy comes from is people start getting discretionary efforts. They help recruit more talent, and so it’s really a low bar today to be distinctive from the culture standpoint because every survey that I’ve studied shows that less than 50 percent of the people have any significant meaning or purpose with what they’re doing and they don’t really feel good about where they’re at today.


JASON: Well, it’s certainly alarming that we see that statistic time and time again, people are turning up for the paycheck, but they’re certainly not engaged in the work that they’re doing. And it does come back to that culture that’s created through the leadership and how that’s lived out.


So help us all understand when you use the word culture, what do you mean?


JOEY: You know, I’m so glad you asked that question because people assume different things when we say culture, and the best way for me to express it is that culture is actually the soul of your organization. I mean, it’s the soul.


It’s the personality. It’s exactly what people experience when they work in your organization, when they’re part of it. And so it’s the soul of the organization. It’s not just your stated values and your vision and your stated purpose is actually what other people experience, what your team members experience and what they see and how they see leaders behave and how they align behind what they say they aspire to be.


JASON: So it’s how people feel. It’s the way people behave. It’s the standards within the organization. I would argue every organization has a culture.


JOEY: Absolutely. Every organization has a soul.


JASON: Yeah. And I love how you put that, a soul. A culture is a soul of the organization.


JOEY: It really is.


JASON: So how do you create a great one?


How do you create one? And I love the term you used a distinctive culture. But my good friend Scott McCain wrote a book called Create Distinction. And you’re here also saying that distinctive culture could make you stand out in the workplace and stand out in the marketplace. How do you create a great one?


JOEY: You know, it starts with a sense of belonging for every team member. And the way that you begin to have that is leaders have to be very intentional, but they first and foremost got to be vulnerable. They’ve got to trust in the inherent good in people. There has to be trust and the leaders have to extend that trust versus thinking about how am I going to control these team members.


It begins with a platform of trust and you have to be vulnerable to do that. And so that centerpiece, that sense of belonging, where people feel safe, where they feel like they’re part of a community, they feel like they’re part of a tribe, and that occurs when they feel trusted, like they’re being trusted, and it occurs when leaders are intentional.


And how they connect to people, that’s all built around recognition, appreciation, respect, understanding, you know, you can’t like this, you know, in our organization, it’s over 2300 people a day, you can’t know each and every individual. But those people you touch and the people you walk by in the hallway and the people that you’re on the Zoom conference call with, those things, there are moments of truth for you to touch those people in special ways.


And so it’s that leadership, being able to connect, it’s demonstrating that trust It’s all built around that strong sense of belonging. People have to have that first before they give any discretion.


JASON: So there has to be trust, and there has to be belonging, a sense of community. The word trust, for many of us, can be quite triggering. I’m sure that many of our listeners have had instances where, unfortunately, their team members or even a direct colleague or peer has broken their trust. Why or how? Do you think that leaders should give blind trust from the outset to people that they don’t really know?


JOEY: Well, I mean, if you’re hiring somebody in your organization, you need to know them a little bit. And you certainly, I call it another way to get people to think about it is to benefit a good intention. Look, something goes awry. They don’t say it exactly the way you would have said it. They didn’t do it exactly the way you would have done it.


Well, give Jason the benefit of good intentions, revisit what your expectations were, and how we got to where we are today. You know, so often, it’s a lack of clarity on the leadership part. The communication is not as good as it should be. But if people come to work, they want to be successful, they want to advance, they want to meet expectations.


And that’s where that trust comes in. If you start there and don’t go negative when something goes wrong, gives people the benefit of good intentions. You’re going to come out in a better spot. You’re going to build trust.


JASON: I really love that benefit of good intentions and privately understanding why something went wrong.


But certainly coming from a point of learning is what I’m hearing as opposed to a point of blame. So I love that great, a sense of good intentions. So we understand as leaders that our job is to create a culture to make, to improve the culture. And you mentioned the need for clarity in our message.


Now, some people are just busy. You know, the minute they wake up, their cell phones going, their emails are going, they’re on the phone and they’ve got a team of people that they’ve got to manage. What tips do you have for them to be able to communicate with clarity in a way that uplifts the culture and avoid some of those negative consequences that you’ve mentioned?


JOEY: I think it’s one of the hardest lessons I had to learn and thank goodness I had team members that continued to challenge me on that, but we have to over communicate. We have to communicate in different ways. And then we have to seek feedback and see if your message is being understood. You know, there’s a, the old saying, you got to say something 6 times in 6 different ways.


That’s a great rule of thumb to think about, you know, have I really delivered this message in different ways so that I know that our team is understanding that, that I’m capturing their attention, because they’re busy too. We live in an exponential world, and everybody has information and distractions coming at them at warp speed.


And so, that clarity, and I would say the transparency. When leaders are more transparent with communications, with the why behind decisions, that builds trust. Even if people don’t agree or don’t completely understand when leaders take the time to explain the why, and they’re transparent about that, it builds trust in organization, starts to create that magnetic energy. People start to perform at a higher level.


JASON: And it creates, what I’m hearing is it creates this momentum, this movement towards the ideal state and that transparency of even a leader not being perfect all the time helps with moving people forward. You’ve mentioned the term magnetic energy a couple of times.


Now I know in the book you go into what you mean by that, but could we get the 92nd version of what you mean by magnetic energy and why does it matter?


JOEY: You know, that magnetic energy is. Think about something that you participated in and you were just all in like, you know, you’ve given that discretionary effort.


You are providing 100 percent focus. You’re really focused on that. External time just kind of goes away because you look up and say, wow, I can’t believe I’ve been reading about fantasy football for a whole hour. You know, it’s that kind of energy, that discretionary effort, and the willingness to share that energy, to help others have a strong sense of belonging, to help, trust others and give them the benefit of good intentions, which again grows a sense of belonging.


That’s the energy that starts to build, because once people receive it, they want to also, they have that energy and they want to give it. And so magnetic energy is all about that extra focus. The discretionary effort that we just simply don’t get from a disengaged team member.


JASON: Yeah. Those sessions where you look up and you go, how is it already?


6:00 PM 7:00 PM absolutely get what you mean now magnetic energy. Now, in the book, you also make a claim that good culture is not good enough. So, how do I take my good culture to make it more than, more than that, to make it enough, if you like? 


JOEY: Yeah, that’s, it’s an interesting statement. It’s just one, very easy for people to see if you really stop and reflect.


It’s a great resignation with people changing jobs with 60 something percent of people saying they might change jobs in the next 12 months. It’s easy to see that our culture is not hitting the mark in most situations. So, first of all, there’s plenty of evidence that says our good culture. And the reason I use that Jason, is I’ve interviewed thousands of people now.


In my presentations and talking about the book and I give them a chance to grade or evaluate where is their culture. Well, guess where it’s right around 85 percent of people and I give them a scale of 1 to 10. With good starting around 5 and 6 all the way up to 8, 9 being great and 10 being magnetic.


You know, over 85 percent of people say our culture’s good or better than good. Well, if that was the case, we would have a lot more team members that were getting meaning and purpose and they would be providing discretionary effort, they’d be engaged. The truth of the matter is, you know, as a leader, that’s part of my self identity, and I protect it.


In other words, when you ask me about it, well, yeah, because I’m seeing it from my viewpoint. And it’s really my intention for it to be the best culture it can be. That’s my intention. But people and our team members grade us on what’s really there, not our intention. And a culture will never rise to what you aspire it to be.


It falls to the behaviors that you tolerate, allow, or demonstrate as a leader. That’s where your culture settles in.


JASON: Falls to our worst selves when we’re not, when we’re in automatic mode and not being intentional. So it leads me to a, to perhaps a controversial question. Surveys. I’m sure you are very familiar, as is our audience with that business survey that goes out to say, how much do you love working here?


And in some organizations, the leaders actually go around telling people how to fill them out. So what is your thoughts on using surveys or similar tools to understand the culture and are they valuable? Can they lead to better outcomes? 


JOEY: Yes. Surveys can lead to great information now, I think the surveys that work the best are the ones that are done internally.


They’re internally, they’re focused on something that the leadership has been very transparent about. This is a problem, or we really want to understand where we’re at in this. In other words, they created that confidential safe way to, for team members to respond and they’re getting that information and they’re taking action on it.


So, whether it’s a survey or a, like, a representative group, a feedback group, a circle of team members that you use to study a certain thing, you can get great. And you’ve got to create those in other words, that’s part of getting that trust going, getting a sense of belonging going, is getting feedback.


Where are we at? What do we need to work on? What are people experiencing? You’re going to find that people are experiencing your organization very differently depending on who they are. Who they work for, or what location they’re in, what department they’re in. It’s going to be different experiences, but you bring up something that was a phenomenon that I couldn’t even believe.


It hit me so much in the face. It was like pie in the face. We were, like many organizations, Jason, we would prepare for those best company to work for, best place to work for. Those kind, when you’re just preparing for that external recognition, you’re probably not getting as much good information to open up.


The middle management is telling people, Hey, we want to do good on this survey and everything. When I saw our organization make the most move, when I saw our culture start to really get stronger, we scored worse on every external survey we did. And I’ll give you an example. Like, we told our team members very transparently, turnover is a problem.


Turnover is getting rampant. Turnover is escalating way too high for our underrepresented group for our women team members. We are not getting the job done. So what we told everybody that transparently and we said we want to get feedback on this. We want to go to work on it. This is what people are telling us when they leave.


You know, we need help. When we went to work on it and started reporting, we started reporting every few months, we report turnover. And every year we do an annual report. Here’s where turnover ended up. Here’s what we did. Here’s the progress we made. Here’s the progress we didn’t make. Well, when they took the surveys for the very first time, every person in the firm knew turnover was a problem.


So every question related to turnover, you got low score. So we went down. But what happened internally is, all our team members were starting to help solve the problem. Think about the power of that.


JASON: Yeah, it makes such a difference in an organization when everyone’s working towards that same goal and understands that while they may not be the leader, they can contribute to the improvement, especially when it comes to things like turnover. We leave organizations, yes, because of our leaders, but for so many more reasons than just that.


It can be just a culture of difficultness, right? If the default position is that we don’t help each other out, that can be enough to make people want to leave. So I love that you were transparent with the team and that you took the time. For things to improve versus let’s just get the good score on that next external survey, because at the end of the day, even if you do become a great workplace, great place to work, sorry, based on an external survey, if people come and work for you based on that score.


Then they’re going to be disappointed, and you’re going to perpetuate your turnover issue. So, a great lesson for us there. Now, Joey, I know people would be interested in following your work. What is the best way for them to stay in connection with you? 


JOEY: Well, I have a website, uh, joeyhavens.com. So, I keep, uh, that real current with, some of my presentations, podcasts, and, updates on the book.


That’s also where you can sign up for my Be Better blog. Issue a blog every week, comes out every Wednesday morning. I’ve had that for over 10 years now, and it’s just common little stories that happen in our life, and then I relate a leadership lesson to that story and it allows all of us to learn and grow, and as I like to say, be better leaders, team members.


We all have the opportunity to grow. You never arrive. It’s one of the things that I I try to get people to embrace is that we never arrive, whether you consider yourself a team member, frontline person, middle management, or top of the chain at your organization, nobody arrives, we all, all will be growing and learning.


JASON: Well, it’s certainly important that we continue to grow and learn. We’ll put in the show notes a link to your website, so people can sign up for your blog, but also a link to each of your social channels and of course, to where they can find, and get their own very copy of leading with significance, how to create magnetic people first culture, your brand new bestselling book. 


Now, I’m really interested to understand how does culture, how does a magnetic culture impact the customer experience and ultimately the profitability of the company?


JOEY: No, gosh, that we talk about a controversial question. You know, so many leaders, want to say it’s a customer experience first and foremost.


And quite frankly, if your team members don’t feel good about where they’re at and the meaning and purpose, they’ll never, never be able to deliver a consistent wow experience. And so it starts with culture that’s once people know you care. Once they know the organization is building something bigger than themselves, they get that magnetic energy going, they give it that discretionary effort, and they deliver that wild client experience.


Now let me say this, there are no perfect cultures, and there’s no perfect, whether you claim client experience is number one, or culture is number one, you’re going to have client failures, you’re going to have bad experiences. Because we are people, we’re not perfect, but in the long run, if you want to truly escalate client experience, if you want to have a wow experience, if you want to have exponential growth, it all starts with culture and people.


And that being your number one strategic priority. 


JASON: Absolutely agree with you there. I remember many a time being challenged in my corporate life as the chief customer person saying we’ve got to look at our employees. And I figured that if people don’t want to be in the room. And customers aren’t going to want to be in the room with those people.


So, could not agree with you more employee experience, which is driven through the culture of the organization is absolutely important and should be given priority in the organization. I can’t understate that enough. Now. Joey, what’s a couple of things? What’s one or two things our audience could do either the moment they get off this pod listening to the podcast or watching it perhaps tomorrow at the latest, but what’s one or two things that they should start doing right away?


To take their culture from good enough to something better. To use your words, to be better. 


JOEY: Yeah, when I question the word good enough, let’s just say we call it good. If it doesn’t make you distinctive in the marketplace, it’s certainly not adequate. You know, the first step and the hardest step is embracing that statement.


You know, our good culture is not good enough to get us to where we want to be. It’s not providing us a competitive advantage and every good culture has areas that it stinks and Needs improvement. So the very first step is embracing reality. Where can we be better? It’s not how good our culture is how good can our culture be?


And getting that feedback and then going to work on it So step one is is embracing where you’re at and realizing that there’s opportunity and where you’re at. And the 2nd, I think is really getting the leadership team bought in to provide the benefit of good intentions to trust 1st, and, you know, there’s going to be people that abuse that and you deal with that at that time.


But start with the benefit of good intentions and communicating, in a way that brings more clarity and better expectations because people, people truly do want to meet expectations and they want to be


JASON: Where do we want to take the culture? How good do we want that culture to be? And you’ve said it a couple of times, rhis benefit of good intentions. I think the mindset alone put aside the words, but the mindset that you’re really talking about there and what that can do in an organization is phenomenal.


So my challenge to our audience today is to face the day with giving people the benefit of good intentions. It’s been an absolute pleasure, Joey, to have you on the show. And like I said, we’ll share all the ways that our audience can connect with you in the show notes. But once again, thanks so much for giving up your time today and sharing your insights.

JOEY: Thank you, Jason. It’s been a pleasure. Have a great day.

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