Fireside Chat: How Culture Can Eat Your Nonprofit Technology Strategy for Breakfast
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Fireside Chat: How Culture Can Eat your Nonprofit Technology Strategy for Breakfast
Jami is a Client Engagement Leader at Chapman & Co. and Kyle serves as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Lymphoma Research Foundation. They discuss the intentional efforts, large and small, that organizations can do to align culture, organizational strategy, and technology strategy.
Bring the beverage of your choice to ring in 2021 with this video, holding not only renewed optimism, but new insights. Some of the best conversations are inspired by sitting around the fire and thinking of possibilities and visions large and small.
As with all our webinars, this presentation is appropriate for an audience of varied IT experience. And Build is scrupulously vendor-agnostic—this fireside chat explores many ways to create culture that aligns with technology strategy, so your project won’t be eaten for breakfast.
Kyle Haines co-founded Build Consulting in 2015, after working in and with nonprofit organizations to improve their development operations and technology for over 20 years. Kyle’s consulting work at Build touches all nonprofit operational areas—but has a strong focus on using technology to enhance constituent experiences, which leads to improved fundraising and greater mission impact.
Kyle has served as interim CIO for several organizations, where he enjoys tackling deep-seated challenges. Internally, Kyle leads our efforts to create and maintain a strong corporate culture in which staff can grow and flourish.
Kyle Haines’ entire career has been working with nonprofits, and that gives him a unique perspective on what it takes for an organization, at the deepest cultural levels, to have long and fruitful relationships with both donors and program beneficiaries.
Once described as, “The person in the room with the most best friends,” Jami Dix is a Client Engagement Leader at Chapman & Co. Jami plays a dynamic role leading people, facilitating and developing new content, most recently on diversity and inclusion. Motivated by people and connection, Jami’s role allows her to leave work energized. When asked about leadership, Jami’s response is that “Leadership can be found in everyday, simple moments. You don’t have to have a title to be a leader, you just have to make the choice.”
Jami is a certified coach with experience in leadership, development and consulting. Jami has a Bachelor of Science in Education from The University of Kansas.
Kyle: All right, let’s go ahead and get started. Welcome to our Fireside Chat Series. Thank you for joining. We’re excited for everyone to be here with us. I’m Kyle Haines, a founding partner at Build. And these chats are an opportunity for me to have conversations with leaders with influencers and experts in the nonprofit technology sector and beyond. And truthfully, there are opportunities for me to learn more from our guests and broaden my perspective. So, I’m just super excited today to be here with my friend and expert in culture, Jamie. And Jamie and I met a long time ago, and the story is probably really only interesting to us. It’s been about a decade that we’ve known each other, and we have a friendship that’s steeped in humor, and also sharing a desire to have thoughtful and productive dialogue. It’s going to be really hard for us to not be jokey and tease one another today. But we’re really excited to be together, we’ve made a commitment to try to be as professional as possible.
So, Jamie is a Client Engagement Leader at Chapman and Company – nobody knows really what that means. She’s a certified coach with experience in leadership, development, and consulting. So Jamie, thanks for being here today and I’m excited because our topic is culture. It’s obviously a relevant conversation these days. I just really appreciate you making time.
Jamie: Thanks for having me and Matt also said he is here for the joking. So, you know what? It’s on!
Kyle: Yeah. Is he funny?
Jamie: Is Matt funny? I don’t know. I’m funny.
How Do You Define Culture?
Kyle: Okay. All right. That’s all that matters. So the title, Jamie, for a webinar that we came up with is How Culture Can Eat Your Nonprofit Technology Strategy for Breakfast and for people who don’t know, that’s a play on a famous expression that culture eats strategy for breakfast. I know a lot of your work centers around culture and that there are a ton of definitions for culture. And I’m curious, how do you define culture?
Jamie: There are a million ways I think people define culture. For us, we actually keep it pretty simple and that we just say, it’s the sum total of all behaviors – good, bad, right, wrong. Whatever they are is who your culture is. They, at times, I think when people want to do work on their culture, they recognize that how we actually behave inside our organization are really different things then what we say is on our wall and where our vision values are. So, we just keep it pretty simple. It’s the sum total of all behaviors.
Kyle: That’s interesting. I had a client that had their, sort of, a vision statement literally painted on their walls. I was really impressed by it the first time I went in and I happened to be with that organization for a long time. After about six months, I thought, this doesn’t align with my experience of the company in any way, shape, or form. So, I’m wondering, can you say a little bit more about the sum, like the difference between behaviors and words – if that makes sense?
Jamie: Yeah, one of this fun, not fun. I don’t know what the right word is or example, we use for sum in our content, is we’ll put up these lists of words. So, it was integrity, honesty, trust and we ask our participants, does anybody recognize these words? Does anybody recognize these values? Well, they were values of Enron, which in the United States, famously went down in flames. So, we can say a lot of who we think we might be, but that’s not always the case. What we say, what we do, literally in the behavior, so for me, it’s like separating that out. Like I can say, I’m an honest person. But if I say something and then I do the opposite that trust is gone and all of a sudden, I’m not that honest. So, behavior literally is what we say and what we do. Does that match up with who we say we are as an organization, collectively?
Kyle: You know, it’s interesting, because when Build formed, we had some of these conversations around values. We tried to stay away from words like honesty, because we thought that was such a baseline behavior. Like, that’s an expectation, I think, of most relationships and most interactions. So. I’m curious, I’m asking for free consulting from you. I mean, does that align with your thinking, that in some ways, honesty doesn’t get to the heart of what your culture is, because that is sort of an expectation when we go into work or go into an organization that people are going to behave honestly.
Jamie: Yeah, I think there’s like a baseline. For me, honesty would be one of those. If I have to tell you I have a value around honesty, I personally, automatically question like why do we have to say that out loud?
Jamie: So, at Chapman & Co., we have three values – show up to serve, which means one thing, everyone’s running at a really fast pace, but are we able to say to another colleague, “Hey, I know you’re running with this, it looks like you might need to help? How can I help?” So, show up to serve, we make it better and we seek to understand. So, seeking to understand is just around, I’m gonna ask a lot of open-ended questions. Not to poke holes in anything, but just to really try and understand, especially if it’s different than what I’m thinking. I don’t want – there’s no surprises here. So, let’s just get it all out on the table and then make it better. So, it’s how do we collaborate and work together? Whether it’s in content, whether it’s in a proposal, whether it’s strategic planning, whatever it is, we need more than one brain on that, because how I think is really different than how some of my other colleagues think. And I know that we are better when we’re all together working on the same thing.
Kyle: Or better on a zoom call.
Jamie: Or better on a zoom call, either way, but yeah, I think there are some basic, like, honesty would be one. Gosh, I’d have to think about this for a second. What are other big ones for you?
Kyle: Trust? I mean, sometimes I see the word trust. And, you know, I think those are the words that I react to. I don’t think that they – I think that they’re good, important values to have. But again, I’ve always thought with my relatively incomplete understanding of culture, that they didn’t really define what an organization was about.
Jamie: Collaborate comes to mind. Not that they’re bad. Like, we want trust. We want honesty. We want collaboration. I feel like if I’m joining a team, I’m going to assume that there is some level of collaboration there. Now, I’m really thinking.
Value in Work/Life Balance
Kyle: Yeah, no, I mean, I think that I think that’s right. And I think that, you know, what comes up for me is that collaboration is something that you experience. I think one of the things that we talk about that I think is one of our values is work/life balance. And I’ve recognized over time that when we’re trying to attract new people to join Build, you have to experience work/life balance, because at this point, it’s become a buzzword. No, very few, maybe other than Wall Street, very few firms, and especially in the nonprofit sector, nobody’s saying, we don’t believe in work/life balance. We believe in work, right? So, in some ways that even that expression has – it’s empty until you experience it in person.
Jamie: And I think something you just said reminded me of a conversation I had years ago, even before joining my current organization. We were running a leadership development program and Chris said, “You know, I grew up with my dad. He ran a grocery store in small town, Illinois, and I remember him telling me you leave your stuff at home. When you get to work, you button it up, you zip it up, you don’t share it.” And she said, just going through this experience made me realize that’s not the case anymore. And so, when I hear work/life balance, I also think so many things that happen in our homes, happen in our world are not just left at the door. So, our ability as an organization, as people within an organization to really recognize that and someone else and see the humanity where somebody may be struggling, is part of that work /life balance.
Kyle: That’s really interesting. And I think that the last year 2020 and into 2021. I mean, talk about the challenges of leaving the broader world at the door.
Jamie: Yeah, I joke with people. But in all seriousness that I don’t, I literally don’t know how to do that. If it’s been a rough morning at my house, whether it’s spouse, whether it’s kids, whether it’s generally the world, you will see it written all over my face when I walk in. I say that, and I also like I’m not walking into work sobbing or crying or anything, but I’m just really quiet. And my colleagues know that if I come in and that temperament, they’ll give me some space. And then there’s a check in like, “Hey, how’s it going?” And I can unload just a little bit. But, I mean, there’s a balance of that. But I just think we need to really recognize it for some people, it’s not that easy, including myself.
Kyle: Do you think the time at work gives you some space to figure out, it was likely your fault that whatever happened at home was probably your fault.
Jamie: It gives me so much time to reflect on how I shouldn’t blame and shame myself through the entire day.
How Culture and Change Intersect
Kyle: Perfect. I wanted to ask another question. I want to ask, we talk a lot at Build about the importance of change management in the projects that we work on. We have this saying that technology change is really organizational change. And I’m wondering, can you help me understand more about how culture and change, how you think about those things and how they intersect?
Jamie: Yeah, I think I really think they go hand in hand. So, if we remember that all that culture is the sum total of all of the behaviors. When we think about asking our team or organization to go through significant changes, whether it’s technology or any other change, how they’re feeling in that moment really reflects on the culture of the organization. So you know, if it doesn’t feel like it’s a stellar or healthy culture, change can happen, but it may feel forced, it may feel shoved down, you might create resentment. But if we’re going for a really meaningful change, then how we communicate that change is really important. And that’s where I tie the culture and the change together, is that if I speak from, I’ll just use Chapman & Co. as an organization, there’s a big change coming down I know that our leaders will frame that conversation with our core values.
So, you know, we’re an organization that shows up to serve and here’s the change, it’s about to happen, blah, blah, blah, that allows me to really sort of buy into it first. Just at an initial level like that makes sense because it aligns with who we say we are. So that’s the first one, I think a lot of leaders come into it and forget that piece. There are two pieces of it. So, there’s this like technical change. So, if it’s a technology, there might be some new training that needs to happen, there might be some new skills, we might be changing processes, we might be changing literal team structure and that’s a really important piece.
But so is our ability to recognize that as leaders, we may have known about this change for months. We’ve accepted it. We know what it’s going to look like, but you’re giving this information to your team. And so how much space can we give them to not only learn about it first, but then try and figure out what it means for them. And if we can constantly go back to our organization’s mission, vision values, whatever your North Stars are really communicated from that place, it allows people to maybe better be able to tag on to understand it. Does that make sense?
Kyle: It does. I mean, what I’m thinking about is that in some ways, the work that you did at Chapman & Co. to define your culture, subsequent work becomes really easy to frame around that and it becomes a litmus test, if I’m hearing what you’re saying, right? Like, if it doesn’t align to these (cultural values), then we need to come up with an explanation as to why. You know, maybe if we were talking about changing out a timekeeping solution, maybe that type of technology change is not one where you’re really working quite as hard as one that you feel like, is going to impact the way that you work or the way that you deliver the services, whether you’re Chapman & Co. or whether you’re a nonprofit organization, delivering services, delivering impact – whatever that looks like for different nonprofit organizations.
Jamie: Yeah, no, I think that makes sense. And I think what you just said is like the level of change, but something small, I mean, I think there still needs to be a level of communication. But it’s especially when it’s those big ones. And I think for a lot of people we describe it as learning about something for the first time, a lot of people just go into the box, like they’re not really sure what it means for them. They’re not sure if it impacts their day-to-day job, it may impact who they even report to as a leader. Like there’s a lot of stuff going on for people and as leaders, if we can give people some space to recognize that check in with them. How are you doing with this change? I know this is going to impact you in a significant way, how can I help you? What do you need, just demonstrate some real care for the folks that are in your span of care?
Kyle: For people who have not had the opportunity to go through an exercise where they try to articulate what their culture is, or for us when we’re going into a client and it hasn’t been articulated, we don’t have that North Star. Going back to the idea of change management, are there things that you might ask before you start getting into the tactical parts of change management? And by tactical, I mean, figuring out what a training plan looks or like a communication plan. Are there things that absent that broader conversation that you might say, let’s try to come up with an informal articulation of what your culture is, so that we can come up with a better change plan?
Jamie: Yeah, I think we would start just by asking people. One, we would start by hosting listening sessions and just asking people like, what does our best day look like? And we’re talking from C-suite level to people who, especially people who are closest to the work and maybe interact with our customers even more like what does our best day look like? Who are we on our best day? Who are we on our worst day? What’s something about your job that I really don’t know that we need to know? What are our behaviors look like? We’re really trying, and I think the behavior piece is really important, because coming into an organization, there’s behaviors there. It’s already happening. So, can we start naming them and articulating them?
We’re looking for stories, as well. So, we start seeing some common threads. When we asked a group of people, what are who are we on our best day? What does our best day look like? Give us a specific example, a specific time, we’ll start hearing some things. Then we’ll take all, you know, it’s a lot of gathering of information, grabbing those themes and putting some words back out to them to see what resonates with the folks who are actually in the organization. We’re there to facilitate and pull the information out.
Kyle: I know that I’m peppering you with questions, which makes it much easier for me because I can just listen. But in some ways, when you have those listening sessions, are you learning a lot just simply by how people are engaged in those listening sessions? I mean, it seems to me that sometimes those listening sessions would be a flop from a perspective of you’re getting very low engagement or people are just sort of parroting something. Is that telling you a lot?
Jamie: It would tell me that there’s maybe not a whole lot of psychological safety happening in that organization right now. People do not feel safe to speak up. They don’t feel safe to ask questions. And so that would make me a little bit – that would make me wonder, it wouldn’t make me anything. It would just make me wonder like, what’s really going on here? I would say from – I think the benefit of bringing in somebody from the outside is, I don’t really know. I’m just, I’m here, I am putting on my coaching hat. I’m going to be really curious. In this moment, I think what we do really well is that we create spaces for people to be truthful. Whatever that is, it could be hard to hear. It could be great to hear. And it’s everything in between. But we create the space for people just to be really honest.
Kyle: Yeah, I like that. That seems like if you can do that successfully, the rest sort of flows from that.
Jamie: I think that’s probably what I love most is just, whether it’s one on one or it’s with a group of people. I love hearing, like how it really is in an organization. And I think the question I like to ask the most is, what do I not know about your job? Because I think there’s a lot of leaders who have been so far removed from the frontline and that’s okay. They’re doing big picture, really important culture work stuff. And yet, maybe not know some of those old processes and procedures that have been around for a long time aren’t serving as well anymore. So, how am I getting that information from sitting up here on the org chart?
Kyle: I just want to do a quick check in, I think is the longest we’ve ever gone without you ripping on me or cracking a joke on you, is everything okay?
Jamie: I just haven’t had anything to drink yet.
Kyle: Umm, got it.
Change in Technology
Jamie: I realize you’re asking so many questions. And then it’s causing my brain to really work today and think about how I’m going to respond that I haven’t asked you any follow up questions? What’s going on for you? Is this making sense? How do you see change showing up in technology?
Kyle: Well, I mean, I think, as I’m listening, there’s a couple things. One is not to toot my own horn, but I think that I have high EQ and oftentimes I can sense the culture. But I also don’t always know how to articulate the culture and identify what to do with that information. I think it does inform my work. I think I’m really curious about change management. And that’s something that we’ve integrated more and more into our work.
So, you know, I don’t know if you know this. But when we start projects, we like to start with an assessment. So, even if somebody comes to us with a really specific ask, we want to do an assessment. And in that assessment, I wish I came up with this expression, but we talk about implementation starts at the assessment because at that point, you’re engaging with stakeholders and you’re doing learning. We don’t do listening sessions. I think we have done listening sessions, but we also do interviews, you know, it sounds like it does, it is aligned with how you do your work. I think our outcome just looks a little bit different.
But I’ve really come to understand that if you feel your way through a technology project, and you believe you have a good sense in your head of the scale of change ahead of you, you probably don’t. If you believe that you really understand and when clients say to us, you know, I appreciate that you want to do this, but I have a pretty good sense of what people’s needs are an what their what the impacts are going to be that. For me, that throws up huge red flags. Nobody can do that because that would mean, in my view, you’re standing on everyone else’s rock. You’re not just standing on your rock. You’re capable of hopping from rock to rock to rock, to see their perspective of the world to see their view of the world.
Jamie: That was going to be my question, is what other red flags come up for you? So, when somebody says, “Oh, I know, this is gonna be hard. I have a complete understanding of this.” What are some other red flags that you see in your work?
Kyle: I think you know, just real specific on that when we start talking about who we want to meet with within the organization. When people say, “Oh, you don’t need to meet with that person or that group or that team” because, you know, for whatever reason there is. I mean, honestly, red flags when people say we want to sift through all the interviews with you, because I want to hear what people are saying. I think it creates, if the issue that I forget how you articulated it, but if there’s not the safety for people to say, I mean, let’s talk about it. If people feel like they haven’t been served by IT and the Director of IT is sitting in the interview, they’re not going to say, I just don’t feel like I can get what I need. I don’t feel like I have the tools I need. So those are the two that leaps to mind around the red flags.
Jamie: Yeah, I’m trying to think what I would add to that, because those are really good ones. When I hear somebody say I want to sit in on the interviews. I need huge red flags. I think, oh, you don’t trust what’s about to come down and you’re going to sugarcoat, maybe isn’t the right word, but you’re going to somehow make what this person said all better. You’re going to reframe it, so it doesn’t seem as bad as what this person said. Yeah, that’s a good one.
Kyle: I mean, the most extreme example is we had, we were in an interview with a stakeholder group and we asked the question, and the Director IT said, “you don’t need to ask that question.” And I mean, we just simply had to say, “Yes, we do.” I mean, we actually do need to ask that question. But I think that the, you know, and I think it’s representative of how many people join the call today, I think, my sense is that people are more and more appreciative of the type of work that you do and more appreciative of the need for change management. I just think that oftentimes people are unaware of what how big of an undertaking that is, right?
And that, I think the other thing that I’d add is, it’s not a one-time exercise. Change management is an ongoing exercise. It’s not something that you do at the beginning of a project and we hand you a plan. That plan needs to be looked at evaluated, you need inputs along the way, check-ins, surveys, whatever the tools that you use, it’s different for different organizations, but it’s probably tailored to your audience.
Jamie: That’s how I also see culture being tied to change management. Is that do we have a culture that allows all of that to happen? So, we may have had this plan? It’s a nice three ring binder? Do people even use three ring binders anymore?
Kyle: I hope not.
Jamie: I still love printing things out and our printer crashed because of COVID. So, I’m really missing out the hard copy. But I think that opportunity, like if something isn’t right, are we in a place that I can go and say, hold on, raising a hand here? This doesn’t feel right anymore. This isn’t working and here’s why. Are we in a space to do that? So, I think that’s another place where culture shows up in the change management.
Who We Are vs. How We Behave
Jamie: I could not look at the little red thing that said three, three chats. So, I pulled it open. And there’s a question in there, I think similar to, what happens when who we say we are and the behaviors we see don’t match. And so, when I read that and if I’m not asking the question or you’re answering the question, just tell me I’m not answering the question.
We may have – so, we say again, I’ll just use us as an example because it’s easy for me to speak to. If we say that we value show up to serve, but I just joined the team and every time I’m asking for help, no one’s saying yes or no one’s offering for help, that’s a gap. So as a team, do we know what that actually means?
Jamie: Do we name that? Do we define it? Do we give really specific examples of when we do that? And then, even perhaps more important, when we’re not showing up that way? What’s my relationship to call, not call a colleague out, but just to say, hey – that doesn’t feel like us when you did XYZ; that didn’t feel like show up to serve. Here’s the impact it had on us as an organization, that ability to really communicate that back and forth is important. So, there probably will be gaps for people if they’re new to the team, but also just holistically, do we check in and make sure that we’re still living those values behavior wise?
Kyle: What are those check ins? What form do those check ins take? I mean, is it really scaled based on how big the organization is?
Jamie: That’s a good question. Like we’re at like 25 people, I think now. So, for us, it looks like checking in with a leader. We do quarterly all team, all hands-on deck team meetings, where we do check ins that way. So, I think there’s a couple things, I think the most important relationship is your one-on-one meeting with your direct leader. What does that look like? Are you able to give feedback in that space? Does your leader listen to you when you do get the feedback? So, it’s a two-way street there.
On a large scale, I think you just talking a little bit about the assessment piece is a good call out. There are ways to really get good data from the organization, as a whole. Are we who we say we are? We have an assessment where we measure people, purpose, like how am I connected to the vision and then performance. Because I think sometimes the frustration, or in any organization, is just in the sheer process of it. Like if I have to, you know, go through seven layers to get one thing done, that’s really frustrating. Are there better ways that we can do it? So, I think that was a long. Did that make sense? I feel like I sort of went on. Do you feel like I went off the road on that?
Kyle: No, no, it did. I mean, what I was thinking is we could probably do an entire five Fireside Chat on effective one-on-ones because, you know, I think that what I’ve seen is for some people, one-on-ones don’t create that environment. And in some ways, at the risk of turning this into a one-on-one, a Fireside Chat about one-on-ones, I just think you said something really interesting about the importance of that in creating safety and space to make sure people are aligned around culture.
Jamie: Yeah, do I know and I hesitate to say this because it feels really soft and I know we are talking about business. But do I know that my leader cares about me as a person? Do they know what’s going on with me? Do they ask? Do they care? Can I give them feedback? Is there a level of trust, because I know when, I have been very lucky in my career to work for leaders who do care about me and that makes an enormous difference. I cannot imagine being out there and not feeling like your leader really cares about you as a person. I think it’s really important and speaks to the culture of any organization is how those relationships those one-on-one relationships are.
Kyle: Yeah. And they’re an investment of time, right?
Jamie: They are and I think that’s the other piece I’m like, I think about. I think about sort of bringing it back to change management and culture. We, and I’m using the big collective “we” here, are all moving at a pace that at times feels really uncomfortable for me. And I know as an organization, we have things that we want to do. We want to implement said change. Technology is a great and we want to get this done.
But the quicker we are done, are we bringing people along as we’re going? That does take time because it’s people and whether that changes technology or not. It has people’s hands all over it. So how much time are we willing to give people to really get bought in, even though everything about us is saying go, go, go, go, go?
Culture Changing the Nature of Work
Kyle: Yep. I’m wondering, you know, I alluded to this in the introduction, or maybe not in the introduction. I think I alluded to this, that 2020 was a challenging year. And you and I think talked right around the time of George Floyd’s murder. And we were talking about the impact on being a leader and also conversations around culture. And I’m wondering, what you, sort of now that we’re seven months out, like, how is that how have those conversations continued? You know, just curious, how did that change your work? Did it change the nature of your work? I’m just curious about how people, perhaps with new awareness around how culture might be experienced by different people. Has that impacted your work?
Jamie: Yeah, I think, we have talked a lot about George Floyd. I think about that almost every day, not our personal conversations, but just that incident and what it did to the country as a whole. I think a lot of leaders recognize, I hope that a lot of leaders recognize, certainly the ones that call us. We’re saying, what do we do to recognize that there is a lot of work to be done in this space.
We have had the pleasure of partnering with a gentleman named Fred Fokker. He’s been in the diversity and inclusion space; he’s local to St. Louis for probably 40 years. I don’t want to age him too much, but he’s been around a while. And one of the things that he said that made such an impact on me personally was, when George Floyd was murdered, he said this, not necessarily that incidents happen all the time. And every time there’s something happens, we hear outrage and then we sort of get back into the like, you know, everything’s okay. They sort of start to calm down. So, from an organizational standpoint, he said, I’ve seen this pattern repeated over and over, and I’ve been now on thread long enough and been in enough of these conversations, to see that the pattern still exists. Something happens, organizations want to do better, so we often see organizations making some statement, condemning the events, we need to be better – whatever that is. It looks like generally, the leadership team getting together perhaps will involve the marketing team so, we don’t say the wrong thing and they put out the statement. A lot of places just stop there.
But Fred said, you know, if they’re really committed to the work, they then will go on to a second step, which is we’re going to look at our internal processes, we’re going to see hiring, promotions, any sort of internal process that we have, is it fair? So, they might hire a consultant to come in and do an audit of that. They may do an assessment at this point, to see where they are.
And then thirdly, they will get more invested into the community. We’re going to collect money for this. We’re going to make a donation here. We’re going to do “XYZ”. And Fred would say that those are really easy things for organizations to do. I think from a leader standpoint, that might feel different. But Fred said, it’s easy to say things, it’s easy to make donations, it’s easy to sort of look internally. But building an inclusive organization, really creating the change that we all want to see, it is the day in, day out work of our individual behavior. It is showing up every day. It’s not just including the people we already include, not including, like the easy people. The people that are expressive and like willing to share that conversation. It’s how willing are you to go talk to somebody who you view is really different. And not just approach them, but really listen to them and get to know them on a personal level.
And that’s hard for everyone on different levels, on different days, but that is the work and it’s interesting to hear. I know, we’ve had conversation with some clients that are like, well, what’s next? What do we do after we take your class? There’s no magic wand for this.
Jamie: There’s just not. And so, I think as we bring more and more people into the organization, and people leave the organizations, new people come, it is a constant reminder that this is the work. It can be really hard, especially, you know, we all have feelings and think things about different topics and how willing we are to listen. So, I would say that’s been the biggest part of the conversation. And it’s funny, like driving home and this has been a while. You know, I don’t know, if you ever struggle with self doubt. Sometimes I’m like, Am I really qualified to be talking about this? Doing this kind of work? And I realize a lot of the other classes that we teach are they’re all fundamentally relationship based.
So how will I know somebody? How will I know somebody’s story is just as relevant, whether I’m trying to pull out their core values or whether I’m just getting to know them so that they feel like they’re part of something. It’s all about my connection to another human being. Did that even answer your question?
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Kyle: It did. I mean, it did. I mean, I think I have a really practical question. I mean, how many people called and said, “Oh, my gosh, we need to revisit our entire the things that we have painted on the wall in the kitchen?” How did it impact at that level, where people said our culture – they believed that their culture was attributable to a less than ideal environment for people of color in the workplace, as an example?
Jamie: No, I don’t know that I was on any phone call where somebody was like, “Oh, my God, we said, we value less equitable rights for other people. We need to do better.” I think that didn’t happen.
Jamie: I think, there were definitely some aha moments. So, we have a diversity and inclusion assessment on our website. You can take it for free, up to 40 people. We had this person sign up and I don’t know how she found us. She did it. She signed up with our team. She found out and presented it to her leaders that on average, African American employees were paid less than their white counterparts. And the company immediately remedied that and so that, for me was like a really important – like again, though, I think about Fred. Like, that was an easy one. That’s not fair, we should be paying equal based on performance, not based on race and so. But that, to me was like a really easy one. Now, we’ve remedied the pay, but do those African American colleagues feel included? And this is another really big one that I think about Fred all the time, is he says policies don’t create inclusive environments. Now, he will quickly qualify that and say, we should pay attention, we should make sure that things are equitable, that things are fair, and that people are included. We need to make sure of all of those things, but just creating the policy doesn’t make somebody feel any more included. So yes, the pay raise is great for those folks. But do they feel any more included than what they did before?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, where I want to go is that financial compensation is only one piece of workplace satisfaction. I think, was it Daniel Pink, who said that it’s also feeling a sense of autonomy, purpose, all of those things that are much less tangible. They aren’t a pay scale. You can’t with a stroke of a pen, make everybody feel like they have a sense of purpose. And it just makes me assume that if I felt marginalized within an organization, um, my sense of purpose is going to look much different than somebody who doesn’t feel marginalized.
Jamie: Yeah, I think Fred would say in addition to that – you’re absolutely right – is that it goes back to, do I feel cared for by my leader? When I feel cared for by my leader, then I feel empowered to go care for people around me, as well. If I don’t feel cared for, I’m not going to be inclined, necessarily to care for those around me, because I also need to feel that, as well.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, I’m just hearing about it sounds like organizations just in general, across all of these topics, the intentionality takes time. And it’s, you know, I think everything from everything from whether your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are really meaningful to engaging on one-on-ones. I mean, that’s just the theme that like, in order to have the culture – that’s what I’m hearing at least – in order to have the culture you want, it’s an investment of ongoing time and energy.
Jamie: It feels like – I have no data to back this up so, you can delete this part of it.
Kyle: Oh, all of the things that I ever say, rarely have any data behind it. It’s just all my feelings.
Jamie: Oh, you should never say that out loud. Ok, I’ll put my glasses on for this one. No, I’m kidding.
Kyle: Okay. That’s why I have mine on.
Jamie: Right? I have a sense, I have a feeling that a lot of organizations recognize just setting diversity quotas or goals for numbers sake, isn’t cutting it anymore. And I would offer, you know, whether or not your team is racially diverse or not, there is diversity in lots of other ways. But does our existing team, do the people who currently work at our organizations feel included? Because if there’s not an overall sense of inclusion among folks that already work here, I am really hesitant to bring in more diversity before making sure we’ve got our house in order so, that everyone feels safe. There’s a whole turnover thing, you know. It’s like, bring diversity in but, if they don’t feel as if they really belong, they’re going to find someplace that they do.
Jamie: And they should. We spend a lot of time in our organizations. Why would I spend time in any organization that doesn’t make me feel like I should be there?
Kyle: That’s a really good point.
Jamie: Thank you.
Kyle: It took till 3:37 Eastern Standard for us to get there, but I appreciate you finally getting to a point. Very well done.
Jamie: Yeah. What about for you guys, what is Build hearing in the diversity and inclusion space from your plans?
Kyle: We don’t. You know, I don’t know that we hear it. I mean, I think that the places that we hear it is oftentimes when people are asking for us to assist in a hiring, and they want to identify candidates that meet either, you know, a female candidate or a person of color. And it’s challenging because our environment is dominated by white males. And I think for us, we always were really aware that we need to place an emphasis on building a diverse workforce. And I think that the events of this past summer, at least, I shouldn’t say, at least for me, for all of us, created a greater sense of urgency. And so I’m thinking about, well, you know, well, what did we what did we actually do? We did some of the things that you talked about, we put out a statement. You know, I think it was important for us to stand up and be seen as allies to the African American, black community.
The other things that we’ve done, and my brain is sort of thinking and talking at the same time, which never goes well for me, but one of the questions that we have in the technology space, I’ll talk about myself personally, I have a liberal arts degree. I don’t come from a technical background. So, what are the things that have made me successful? What are the experiences that I’ve been able to have, that make me successful in the role that I serve? And so in doing the hiring, thinking about how important is that somebody has the identical experience that I had. And so that’s a really complex way of saying, that experience in what we do can look different for different people. And it may not be for some roles, it may not mean going to college as an example. Because some of the things that I do, I think there’s a lot of eight-year-olds out there that could do. It doesn’t really require advanced degrees. We’re not seeking an accreditation. I’m not getting a licensed and bonded plumber or electrician. These are people, we need people with relevant experiences.
And I think, for those people that haven’t had those same experience and to the extent those experiences include some technology expertise, what role can we play in giving them that experience? So, we do make donations to organizations that emphasize people of color, veterans, communities that don’t typically have access to technology training, we do make donations.
Then the last thing that I think that we do, or I shouldn’t say that I think we do, I lost the last thing which is probably endemic of me thinking and talking about the same thing. I think rolling all of these very tactical, practical things, I think, we all want a culture in our organization that has a diversity of perspectives. And we recognize that it’s going to take intentionality you got there rather than luck. And I remembered my last thing. We’re recruiting in more diverse places. So, I think some communities maybe they haven’t had luck on the nonprofit committee on Idealist and maybe they haven’t had luck on Indeed. So, we try to seek out those communities and put our job postings there, so that we can attract a more diverse candidate pool.
Jamie: You know, as you were talking, I was listening, but I was also thinking this diversity and inclusion space for some feels like a giant change. I think, you know, as a white person and you as a white male, we do a lot of reading, we pay attention – not to say that other people don’t pay attention – but this idea of this is a shift for some. And I heard from folks that I’ve worked with in previous jobs, and you know, where’s my voice, especially the white like, do I still have that space? And I would offer – yes, you do have a space, but you also have a responsibility to listen to others.
So, I think, when we think, like coming back to this change, like, it isn’t changed. It is a shift in how things have always been done to be intentional about who we’re talking to, and all the things you said, and even organizations putting out statements and making donations. So like, those are all things we should be doing. I don’t want anybody to walk away saying you shouldn’t do this. We should be doing those things. And those first three don’t include – don’t create an inclusive organization. It is our individual intentional choices to make sure everyone’s there. I was trying to get us back on track to change management.
Conforming vs. Informing Culture
Kyle: No, you did. You absolutely did. And I mean, I think, you know, just bring it back to culture, I think that the question that comes up for me for an organization, I don’t know that it’s a question for you, but I’m curious what your perspective is. To what extent are we trying to get a diverse community to conform to our culture or to what extent are we letting a diverse community inform our culture? I mean that’s, that’s what comes up for me and the difficulty in that, you know, as a white male is, that’s my life experience. It’s hard for me to understand the experience of others. And so it’s work to remind myself and its intentionality to remind myself that all of us, whether you’re an African American woman or a white female, the experience, you know, best is your own, right and just making the time.
Jamie: It’s a great question. And I think when you set it, I was immediately thinking of the fit. Like when we talk about hiring people, like are they going to be a good fit? And that often is just a gut feeling. And I don’t know that that’s the best gauge especially we’re talking about somebody who has a really different life experience coming to the table.
Setting Appropriate Boundaries During One-on-Ones
Kyle: Yeah. There’s a couple questions that came in, and I wanted to ask those, and I think that they’re going to be best answered by you. This is the best Fireside Chat, ever. It’s a question about and I think that I’m assuming that this takes the form that the person who asked us wanted to know in one-on-ones, how do you set appropriate boundaries around caring and empathy and respecting people’s privacy and those sorts of things?
Jamie: Yeah, I would definitely put my coaching hat on for that one. So, let’s so scenario is somebody of my span of care comes into my office and has some stuff going on in their personal life. Um, and honestly Kyle, I don’t have good boundaries.
Kyle: I knew that I would. That’s why I laughed at you. I was like, let’s see whether she tries to claim – Jamie’s got really solid boundaries.
Jamie: I don’t. I have barely any and they’re flimsy at best, especially when somebody brings something really personal to me, that they’re either struggling with or whatever, but I would do my best to put my coaching hat on. I would really listen. I would really try and ask some open-ended questions. I would try and get them to see if there are other perspectives they could have. So you know, what would “XYZ” person say about this? What would your partner say about this? Like, just to get them to try and shift their perspective a little bit and then I always end something like that with, how can I serve you? What do you need from me? If it’s so hard with it being so vague, but I do think there’s a space to just be in service to that person.
You know and this sounds kind of cold. But I think for larger organizations, there are a lot of really good HR employee support programs that if it really is something in that vein, you should definitely connect them to a place, you know, whether it’s a therapist, or like whatever it may be, connect them as best as you can. And then I just think as a leader being available when you can’t really listen and see how check in with them.
Kyle: You know, you said something at the beginning. And I wish I’d written down the exact term, but I think I’ve heard you use it a couple times in today’s chat, you called it like a circle of care or…
Jamie: A span of care. Yeah.
Kyle: Span of care. You almost sound like a health care worker when you talk about that. And so I’m interesting, like, what does that mean? Someone in your span of care.
Jamie: So, for those folks who don’t know anything about Chapman & Co. we’re part of a larger manufacturing company called Barry Wehmiller and Bob Chapman is our CEO. He wrote a book called Everybody Matters. He fundamentally believes that when you look around, the people around you, they are somebody’s kid. They’re somebody else’s kid. So, how we treat them is really important to wouldn’t treat our kid, you know, in the way that sometimes we think about treating other people. So, I don’t know if he framed or you know, came up with this, but rather than manage or direct report, we talk about people’s if they’re in our span of care. If you reported to me as your leader, you would be somebody in my span of care, I am responsible for making sure that you know you’re cared for.
Kyle: Interesting. Is that something in your engagements that you, do you bring that from sort of Chapman & Co. is that something you try to bring that concept to the organizations you work with?
Jamie: Yeah, for us, that’s just our language. That’s how we talk about people. I should have defined that, when I first said it because I think it is not the norm. So that is definitely how we talk about people and whether an organization chooses to use it, there is totally on them. But that’s we’re trying to get leaders to understand these aren’t just your direct reports. These are people that you have been entrusted to care for, therefore, we call them in your span of care.
Importance of Self-Care While Caring for Others
Kyle: Got it. So, the next question, I think this is appropriate shorthand, but whoever asked it, please let me know if I didn’t capture it. I think that the essence of the question, really, is that what we’re talking about requires a huge emotional commitment from the people who are doing it and how do you take care of yourself, when you’re sort of being the person who is stewarding all of this? How what she said was or what this person said was, they said this can be challenging, and it can actually create distractions for you.
Kyle: That’s the short answer.
Jamie: That’s the short answer. I think it’s a great call out. I think everyone goes about their day, sort of a balance of this logic and emotion. If we’re looking at a pie chart, I am probably 90% emotion, not crying in tears, but just like, I feel a lot. And so, when I think about engaging with people, whether I’m facilitating or I’m leading a discussion on change or I’m leading a discussion on, you know, figuring out an organization’s mission and vision, like I feel all of that. My ability to dial that down and just listen to the word requires way more energy than what it might require you. So, how I’m caring for myself is important, whether it’s exercise – I’m up generally by 05:30 in the morning to get that done – whether it’s meditation, whether sometimes it’s laying in bed, just trying to remember to breathe and try and keep the thoughts out of my head. I think, you have to define that for yourself, what that looks like. It’s easy for me to sit here and say, like, I’ll make the time get up early. You, whoever asked that question probably is really different than me. So, you have to define it for yourself and it just will look different depending on who you are.
Kyle: It’s interesting, I didn’t know that you did mindful meditation. My coach actually introduced that; I’m going to say maybe nine months ago. It’s just very interesting the challenges of staying with it, but the benefit – the difference in the quality of my day is when I make the time to do it and all of the things wrapped up sort of, because that’s a commitment of time in of itself. And I don’t know about you, I wake up in the first thing I think is I got to get going on my day and meditation is, it hasn’t yet for me become part of my day. It’s like a luxury and I’m looking forward to making it more integrated into, in order to be present for my work, whether it’s in one-on-ones, whether it’s just in my day-to-day work that it’s really important. So, I might be reaching out to you for coaching.
Jamie: I don’t personally, mindfully meditate. It’s an aspirational goal for somebody out there who is interested in that, you totally should. I literally will lay in bed and try and take like four deep breaths. And then it generally like just goes off the rails very quickly. It is a place I think would be enormously beneficial to my brain.
Jamie: I’ll reach out to you; you need to work on it and then you give me the CliffsNotes version of how to do that.
Kyle: I’m coming up with a ton of Fireside Chats that you and I can do in the future. Maybe you and I could lead a mindful meditation. I would love to see an attempt by you and I to stay quiet in the same space for 8 to 10 minutes.
Jamie: These are my favorite webinars/Fireside Chats, because I feel like it’s coffee talk. And I dream of doing these like, let’s just have people log in and ask us some questions.
Jamie: Non-data filled answers. Here’s my opinion on.
Kyle: Yeah, no, absolutely. That’s why I love doing these so much is because I get to engage with people through my professional and personal life that bring really rich knowledge that hopefully is going to inform the way I work and inform the way that our clients work. So, I’ve been having a ton of fun. We only have about eight minutes left. And I wanted to ask another question, if I can, if I haven’t totally, I see frantically drinking water. So perhaps you’re like I am so talked out. But can I pepper you with another question?
Jamie: I’m ready. I’m ready.
New Leadership’s Impact on Culture
Kyle: So, I’m thinking about how often our work immediately follows a big leadership change and a new leader comes in whether, it’s a departmental leader or an organizational leader, and they identify the need for a technology change. I’m assuming culture changes with new leadership at the very top. So, I’m curious about how do you work with leaders that they themselves might be trying to change the DNA of an organization or figuring out the DNA themselves? What does that look like? How would you counsel Build Consulting in an engagement like that to get a better handle on what the culture has been and what reasonably it might look like in the future?
Jamie: You know, I talked a little bit about this earlier, but I do think it’s relevant for this question as well. If I’m a new leader coming into an organization, I’m making the assumption that I’ve, you know, done my due diligence, I’ve talked to, you know, I’ve interviewed X number of times with different leaders within the organization, that sort of gives you I would say, oh, what’s the word? Like the sunshine and rainbows view of the culture, like, here’s all the great things and you should definitely come work here, and now I’m working here and all of a sudden, I’m feeling like I didn’t get the full picture.
It feels cliche to say this again, but it is, you have to go out and build those relationships with those folks around, you know, not necessarily the ones you may be working in the closest with, but really listening to their experience within an organization. You want people, if the DNA of the organization needs to change, you might feel that pretty quickly. And so, if you want it to be an organization that people do feel psychologically safe, in a place where people trust one another, your behavior has to demonstrate that right off the bat. So, inviting somebody in asking them some questions about the organization, listening to them, taking notes while they’re talking, so they know you’re really engaged with it and following up on what you’re hearing, what you’re seeing reporting out, you know, as a whole to the organization. I hosted X number of sessions and here’s at a high level what I’m hearing and here’s what we’re going to do. I think is really important to sort of solidify your leadership style, whatever that leadership style is. I think people, again, this is super, super opinion. I’ll just use myself if I go into an organization and I feel like the leader is really cold and is mostly just focused on the bottom line, it’s probably not a space I’m going to go.
I need to know I am saying that’s not to say, I know we all have businesses to run and the financial success of an organization is really important, but so are the people. So, I want to have both. I want it both ways. I want to have a really successful business and I want people to come to work every single day, working their tail off knowing that they’re cared for, so that they’ll come back the next day and do it again.
Kyle: It’s so you know, what leapt off the page of the remarks that you just made was that, you know, for nonprofits, most people are not called for a bottom line. They’re called for the mission and so many times I think the mission becomes a proxy for having a well-defined culture, or it becomes acceptable to not pay attention to a lot of the things that you’ve talked about today because we have a mission to do. It’s the organizations that invest in the things that you’re talking about, that it pays dividends in terms of how that mission is executed on, to sound like a consultant or like a military leader. I feel like I just sounded like a General when I said that.
You know, it’s just so interesting, because I think nonprofits – you came from a nonprofit environment – it’s not where you go to become highly compensated, right? And so sometimes the culture itself becomes a proxy for the compensation and there’s not enough emphasis put on the experience of the people working there and the culture of the organization because there’s so much urgency around the mission.
Jamie: I think what you just said to reminded me, I think nonprofits get the mission piece down, most nonprofits get the mission piece down unequivocally. We are very clear about the work we are here to do, whatever that work is, and business is. Again, this isn’t all businesses, but businesses are often really focused on the financial piece of this to be successful to perhaps make more money, whatever it is and sometimes forget about why we’re here and what is the mission of our business. So, I think there could be really beneficial learning both ways. Businesses can learn a lot from nonprofits and nonprofits can run better, perhaps looking at some businesses and how businesses run. I think they could work really well together and learn from each other.
Leadership Tone and Buy In
Kyle: Yep, absolutely. There’s one last question, I want to be respectful of your time, is the questions about the importance of tone at the top around culture and the need to get buy in from those at the top. So, maybe blending that with my remark earlier, my question earlier about a new leader. How would a new leader get buy in for a new cultural vision for the organization among senior managers and senior departmental leaders? How does that work?
Jamie: You know, the first thing that comes to mind is I’m curious about how those other leaders feel about the culture. So, if I’m new into an organization, and you know, let’s say, six months in, I’m feeling like, I think there’s some real work to do here, the first thing I would want to do is ask for feedback. And I would want to hear from all of the folks at the top, are they feeling this way? Are they like, what’s their sense in terms of our culture? It just gives you so much information, like Kyle may experience the culture really different than the woman down the hallway, because of I don’t know. There could be a million reasons why people experience it different, but I think having those conversations and this is where, again, I’m not here to sell anything, but I think having a third party come in to be able to facilitate those conversations is important. We don’t know the players very personally. So, I can say, “hey, you’ve been really quiet. I’d love to hear your perspective”, because that may be a perspective that’s been missing a really long time that we need to hear.
Kyle: It’s the quiet perspective sometimes that the most like, they dropped the mic. It’s the person at the end of the meeting, who says something in two sentences that distills everything.
Jamie: And they hate people like me because I talk a lot. There is a balance of like having somebody come in just to say like, we haven’t heard from you or hold on, Jamie just said something that Kyle just talked right over. Can you repeat that? Like there’s some real benefits to having somebody come in and facilitate that conversation because I have to believe in this might be like the super hopeful part of me, that if a leader a new leader is feeling that the culture is in need of some change, he or she is probably not alone.
Jamie: Did that answer.
Kyle: You did. I can see that we’re at time. That was a very quick hour.
Jamie: That was a super quick hour.
Kyle: Yeah. And we didn’t even have an alcoholic beverage or a fire?
Jamie: No, no curse words.
Kyle: No curse words that I heard. Yeah, Jamie, it was so good to connect with you today. And I really, really, really appreciate you making time.
Jamie: Thank you for asking me. It was really fun. I’m always happy to talk about culture and to connect with friends. So, I appreciate the opportunity.
Kyle: Yeah, and I’m hopeful that 2021 doesn’t have any external events that need us to revisit questions about cultural competency and defining culture, that we have more than enough work ahead of us, that hopefully we can have a quiet 2021.
Jamie: That’d be dreamy.
Kyle: It would be. Thank you again. Great to see you. And thanks, everyone for joining today. So, we will make this recording available. It’s usually available in the next couple days. We had a couple people who dropped off early, but thank you again to everyone who joined today’s Fireside Chat.