Create Your Ideal Work Environment
All of you are running out of time, running out of sanity, running out of mental bandwidth, running out of energy to run your business. We need to talk about hiring and I know that hiring can be kind of a scary proposition as small business owners. Not only is it a commitment of time and energy and mental bandwidth but it may not fit in the original vision that you had for your business. So, one of the places we started this class was actually re-thinking what our vision is, what our operational vision is for our business. We re-thought what our identity is as a business owner. We had some a-ha moments in here, I've heard about some a-ha moments from you all online as well, so thank you for sharing those with me. In the last segment we talked about our organization as a whole. What kind of teams are on our part of our business, what those different areas of responsibility need to be, so that we're not just hiring to get things off of our to-do list. But instead, we're hiring to give pe...
ople the ability to create value with you and for your company so that they're not just checking things off a list but that they're actually getting creative and taking ownership and responsibility for moving your business forward. Now because I know hiring can be kind of a weighty subject. We've really designed this class to be more of a retreat style, more of a campfire conversation. So, I want to just go ahead and call out our phenomenal audience right now and say thank you for how much you've contributed already to this conversation. Don't worry your contribution is not yet over. (audience laughing) You will be put on the spot many times yet in this lesson especially but thank you for that and as always, if you're watching online I'd love to hear from you as well and get you in on this conversation too. Now, in this lesson in this session we're going to talk about creating your ideal work environment. Because part of the process of getting your business ready for hiring is actually getting your business ready to be a better place for you to work too. You're employee number one in your business, right? You might not think about it that way because you might think about your business as your job but your business is actually the thing that employs you. And so, if it's not set up to take care of you, if it gives you a bad working experience, if it makes you exhausted, it makes you angry, it makes you stressed out. How do you think it's going to make other people feel too? And it's one of the, that's one of the big roadblocks that we run into when it comes to hiring. If your business isn't taking care of you, how is it going to take care of anybody else? If you're not confident with the way you feel in your business and feel taken care of, how can you expect or how could you feel comfortable introducing someone new into that environment as well? Now, if you're like the vast majority of freelancers, small-business owners or founders in the early stages, you're probably working under pretty extreme conditions. (laughs) What's your average workday? Anybody?
12 hours, anybody else?
Crazy, just crazy. (audience laughing)
Crazy, just crazy? How many days a week are you working?
Every day, six days a week. Yeah. Guys, out there, I'm not glorifying these numbers, I'm saying they're nuts and we need to change them. Just to be clear. This is not a place where we glorify the busy lifestyle, the kind of entrepreneurial, you got to put in your 80 to a hundred hours a week like Elon Musk has suggested we all do. Keep in mind, he runs three different companies. Like, of course he works 80 to a hundred hours a week. You run one company, I think working 40 hours week is fine. Anyhow, the reason I bring this up is because one of the reasons that your working conditions have become so extreme is that you never really got clear on the kind of working environment you wanted to have in the first place. As many of you said, you know you wanted to create meaningful work for yourself, you wanted to explore your creativity, you wanted to create a new identity for yourself as you started out your business. You probably didn't really think about the kind of schedule you wanted to keep. Megan talked about having flexibility. Just 'cause you have flexibility doesn't mean you have a great working environment, right? (laughs) I know a lot of people with "flexible" work but work their butts off, right? I mean, here we're in San Francisco right now and yeah, there's some Uber drivers here that do pretty well for themselves, certainly but they're working nutter hours. Sure, it's flexible but that doesn't mean it's the kind of thing you really want to be doing for the long term. So how do we start to reverse that? What do we need to do to create a great work environment? Not just a great work environment but your ideal work environment. So that you not only feel good about working for your business but that other people can feel good about working for your business too. Well, that comes down to company culture. And, company culture or call it whatever you want. I'm going to call it company culture. Company culture matters whether you're a team of one or a team of many. The more effort, the more intention you put behind actually the culture of your business. What the expectations are, what the values are, what the vision and the mission is for your business. The better your working environment is going to be. You're going to make better decisions. You're not going to make decisions based on assumptions or sort of, underlying beliefs that don't really reflect what you want. You're going to be a lot more intentional about the systems that you set up, the kind of expectations you set for yourself. And that's going to allow you to do a lot of really cool things. Strong company culture allows you to transform your own work environment. It allows you to build a more compelling offer. It allows you to be more productive. Organize your priorities. Make better decisions and feel more fulfilled at the end of every day. Now, you might look at that list and say, "Tara, what does company culture have to do with that?" The thing is, company culture has to do with everything. Right? It has to do with the nitty-gritty decisions you make, in terms of product development. It has to do with the kind of attitude you reflect when you answer customer questions. It has to do with the kinds of people you're going to hire. The kinds of, just the values that you're going to put out into the rest of the world. So, really your company culture has and can impact every single area of your business from top to bottom. So the fact that so often we don't think about that as small business owners. We certainly don't think about it maybe when we're freelancing. That really impacts all of these things. It's sad that we don't think about company culture. So, we're going to change that today. We're going to start thinking about the company culture that we want to create. But before we can start thinking about the company culture we want to create let's start thinking about the company culture we don't want to create. So we've all had negative work experiences, right? We've all had a boss that was just not good. We worked for a company that just didn't have it together. Maybe their values were one thing but the way they operated was something completely different. Maybe it was a team that was really dysfunctional, so I'd love to hear some of those stories but I'll tell one of my own first and it's one that Shannon and I share. We used to co-manage a Borders Books and Music together. Now, Borders was awesome and in a lot of ways it was a phenomenal work environment. You were surrounded by books and coffee and music all day long. But as a company they were a little spastic and I can say this now because they don't exist and I'm not hurting shareholder value or anything like that. And I truly believe this is one of the reasons they don't exist anymore. When I first joined the company and definitely when I first got promoted to management there was an almost a small-business vibe to the way each store was run. We had a lot of control over merchandising and operations and hiring and scheduling and just pretty much the whole gamut. And we, as a leadership team would work to make good decisions for our store even if they weren't the same exact decisions that people were making in the rest of the company for their stores. But as time went on, one week we'd get leeway on things like that and then the next way it would be, "No, you must do it the corporate way." And then the next, is this ringing a bell? Yeah, and then the next week would be like, "No no, you make the best decision for your store." And then the next week it was, "It must be this way." And so we never knew what to expect. We never knew what we were being graded on. We never knew whether that was the day that they were going to come in and audit the whole merchandising, I was the merchandising manager and so this is very, kind of traumatic for me. But like, are they going to say like, "That end cap is not right and you're fired." Or are they going to say, "That end cap is "what's in the planner but that doesn't "make any sense for your store. "Why haven't you made it something custom?" Right? I did not know, Shannon didn't know. We all didn't know what we, what was expected of us from time to time. We had great bosses, we had great leadership on a district level, on a regional level but on a corporate level, on a cultural level there just wasn't the consistency of expectation to make our jobs easier. I would have been fine either way. I can be a very good role follower, believe it or not. Very good. Ask Sean. (laughing) 'Cause sometimes to a fault. I can also be super creative and strategic and think toward, you know, what is the best choice for our store? What I can't do is flip back and forth at lightning speed. And so, I hope that's a work environment that I'm not recreating now. You know, we have a value for experimentation and you know, and obviously creativity and trying new things is a huge part of our business. But I hope that our expectations or my intention is that our expectations and that our goals are consistent so people feel free to explore those values within that consistent expectation. So, what's a negative work environment story, example that you want to share that's something you don't want to recreate, don't want to repeat in your business? Cheryl.
So I came out of the education space. I taught in public elementary education for ten years and I went into education because I wanted autonomy and I wanted to use my creativity and I wanted to make a difference in kids lives. And that was great, I quickly moved out of the classroom and I was a technology resource specialist for seven of those years and for a couple of them, like I had a great boss, he was encouraging me to use my creativity but we worked in a low income school. We had a lot of second language learners and about five years into that job we started failing standardized testing. And so there were a lot of like, mandates that came down from the government and it was like, you have to do it this way and you have to track this data and we need you to use these computers for this specific program instead of being creative. And it was ultimately what drove me out of education. It was, okay now I'm a glorified secretary who's scheduling people into the computer lab instead of, you know supporting these kids in their creativity and supporting teachers in their creativity. And it was definitely this defining moment of like, oh I don't have this autonomy and flexibility in my business anymore or in my work anymore. And so, that's been a big thing that's been incorporated into what I'm doing as an entrepreneur.
Beautiful, and is that something that you have, you know documented somewhere? That autonomy and flexibility are an important part-- [ [Cheryl] No.
Okay, good. Well, we're going to do that! (laughter) Excellent. Jen's going to be very excited to hear about these things. (laughter) Who else has a negative work experience they don't want to recreate? Shelley.
So I had a boss who I was his only subordinate. And so, he used to make a lot of rules for how he wanted things done--
But they only applied to me. And so, I had a really good relationship with his supervisor from the early days when I started at the job and I would say to him, "Like, is this actually standard for the department?" And he would say, "No, why is he making you do that?" And I'm like, okay well let's have a discussion and we constantly went around this merry-go-round where he would make a rule for me, I would double check with H.R. or his boss and they'd be like, "No, he can't do that "unless it's standard." And eventually, it's what, like I got so frustrated with the position even though I loved what I did and I loved my clients, my participants. I was just like, I can't do this and when I ended up leaving it was right around the time I had my review and he did this very like, page and a half review and I wrote a 12 page rebuttal.
To just give you an idea of like what that relationship was like.
So I don't want to recreate that for any of my employees.
Yeah, so what do you think that, what does the opposite of that look like?
Kind of having like, very defined expectations for my employees across the board. Again like, leaving some autonomy, leaving some, almost open ended-ness so they can play within their space and probably come up with better ideas than what I have. And also just being open to listening and if I need to change stuff to have the conversation and say, "Hey you know, could we maybe "do this a little differently because it's not working?" And then have a communication instead of just saying, "This is the rule and this is what you're going to do."
Yeah. Excellent. So, so far values-wise we've got autonomy, flexibility and openness. Love it. Well, at least one more. Sharon.
Any kind of really sterile corporate work environment where it's just rigid and all about serving 1.5 ounces of cheese on every salad and--- (laughter) You know, just zero room for any creative thought whatsoever and just all about maximum profit for minimum effort and expense on our part. That whole thing.
Yeah, do you have a, like I mean, other than 1.5 ounces of cheese, like is that a specific example from your life?
From my own life? You know, I've been self-employed for most of my adult life so I guess that comes from way back when working in like, a fast food kind of restaurant--
Or a restaurant at a mall kind of a place.
Yeah, well I think there's a lot of media narratives around this as well. Cultural narratives. So, even if you don't have that like, Office Space boss like, "Give me the TPS Report. "Yeah, we're going to need you to come in on Saturday." Kind of experience. (audience laughing) Like, you all giggle because you know exactly what I'm talking about, right? Like, you can, you almost feel like you are the Office Space worker and that horrible boss is your boss. And we ingrain these narratives into our minds, into the way we show up and so, recognizing that and saying, "Okay, yes I want to avoid that." But then what does that look like? And how do I intentionally create something that's not that because I think this is another place where fear really comes into hiring, is that we don't want to be the bad boss. We don't want to be the rule creator. We don't want to be the, you know, kind of, Cheryl yours is like profit at all costs too but it's more like standardized test scores at all costs, right? And so we don't want to be the person who's fixated on a particular metric that's not as important as something else. So, what does that look like? And that's going to be different for each and every one of us but throughout this session of the class I want you to be thinking about what you are intentionally going to be creating as a positive work environment. That it's not just avoiding being a bad boss because the easiest way to avoid being a bad boss is to not hire help. (audience laughing) Right? And that's what, that's that rut that a lot of small-business owners get into. I don't want to be that so I'm just not going to hire anybody. But then you continue to treat yourself like crap. Right? So, this is all about not only breaking out of that rut but understanding, and this is what Nicole Lewis-Keeber was going to get into as well in a little bit with us via Skype, is creating a healthy relationship so that you can thrive in your business as well as someone else so that you're not the bad boss to yourself. Ellen.
I just want to also add along the lines of what you were saying, Cheryl. Not just that there's this, you know, this very cold environment but that there is also a mis-fit between say, a company's values and mission versus the way it's run. I've worked for organizations that, you know, the whole purpose and mission is to support families. And yet, the workers who are supporting those families are in a cold, unhelpful, unsupportive environment which of course, is not useful.
Absolutely. I'm curious if anyone has any examples on the opposite end of the spectrum? A work environment that was so touchy-feely or you know, whatever that looks like for you or like, management by committee, that it just didn't work. Any, Shelley?
So, I'm working in a group now where it's... Let's just say they didn't do enough research or R and D up front before launching the program and they start hiring people and they hired the people that they want to go out and execute. But they don't have things in place and so when you come back and you give feedback, you get this, like nod and a smile of like, "We're listening, totally hear what you have to say." And then you think like, "Oh great, they're listening. There's going to be some change because we're so fluid right now maybe there's going to be a quicker change. And then, it's just like we're two weeks now and it's like, the same problems are happening and you're like, "Hey guys, like, "you have engineers on this, "like let's change these things." And they're just like, "We hear what you have to say." (Tara laughing) And we're sitting all around the table and now there's more people involved and the program is growing and growing as we hire more and more people and now we're up to like four hundred some people and these problems still exist.
And you're just like, why am I here? What's the point?
'Cause you're really just nodding and smiling. (Tara laughing)
So it sounds like, maybe responsiveness is something that you really value too. So, it's not just the nod and the smile but it's like, I hear you, I'm going to get back to you in 24 hours with a change to that.
Yeah, or even like, just to say like, is it even possible to make that change? Maybe in the span of time that we're running this project or program this may not be a viable point of even reference and you might just say it's not doable right now but maybe for the second generation we can consider that.
I mean, I would like there to be a little action behind the words and maybe just a little clarification, so.
I love it, yeah.
I was just going to say I also haven't been, I'm lucky that I haven't been in a situation where I've had a lot of negative experiences but I feel like any relationship, any boss, any contractor, you know, anything that we're, when there's not that fundamental communication, you know, that that I feel like that is such, like such a root of so many, so many, and when I think about, like I started jotting down like, okay, what do I want my company culture to be? And like that just, communication that yeah, maybe a change can't happen but just communicate about it. Or maybe it has to be 1.5 ounces of cheese. But let's just have--
And there's a darn good reason.
And there's a reason for it and let's just have a conversation about it and not that it has to be like you said, management by committee or you know, that we have to like hash everything out. But just that open, you know, line of communication I think just solves so many problems. So, that's something I want to make sure I focus on.
I love it.