Business Podcast Post

Creating Culture with Louis Efron

George Grombacher June 29, 2023

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Creating Culture with Louis Efron

LifeBlood: We talked about creating culture, fostering employee engagement, a framework for driving engagement and culture throughout an organization, and when an organization should focus on this, with Louis Efron, Globally-recognized thought leader, writer, speaker, award-winning Fortune 500 people executive and Senior Management Consultant with Gallup.      

Listen to learn why if you don’t get it right, it’s always going to be wrong!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Louis Efron

Louis Efron

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Oh, well, I’m left with this George G. And the time is right welcome. Today’s guest struggle powerful Louis F. Ron Lewis. Are you ready to do this?

Louis Efron 0:08
I am ready to do this, George.

george grombacher 0:10
All right, let’s go. Louis is a globally recognized thought leader, writer, speaker and award winning fortune 500 People executives and senior management consultant at Gallup, and he’s the founder of the voice of purpose. Louis, this is the fourth time you’re going to be on the show. So welcome back, or refresh your memory. Tell us a little bit your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do.

Louis Efron 0:32
Awesome, George. Well, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to speak to you and I’ve always loved being on your show. So I come from a bigger basically 20 year HR career and senior roles at companies like Stryker was the first global initiative engagement initiative at Tesla spend time in the software industry. And I had a company which brought me to Colorado where I am now at building the first employee experience function over at a company called DaVita. kidney dialysis. So a lot of a lot of corporate HR work in there at many levels all over the globe, with all throughout the US spent nine years in Europe working living there a year in Japan working and living there. So move the family a ton, also did a lot of consulting along with their wrote for Forbes, Huffington Post, and several books on people purpose and leadership. So I feel like I’ve sort of come home to Gallup was a 22 year client from Gallup working at some very large organizations. And I’ve had a chance to use everything that Gallup does from engagement, and culture and strengths. And so it’s great to be now working at Gallup and supporting clients like I was for 22 years, as a little bit about me, I have a 14 year old, a nine year old, a 10 year old girls, and my wife, who’s from Scotland, who we all live here in Colorado, so and that’s a little bit about me.

george grombacher 1:58
I love it. So engagement and culture, those are two super important words, and something that all organizations desire, high engagement and great culture. But that’s easier said than done a lot of the time.

Speaker 2 2:12
Absolutely. I mean, they are the key behind successful businesses, working in a space for many years, different industries. And in many parts of the world, great culture, great culture helps drive engagement, engagement ultimately helps drive business results. And every meaningful business metric that any organization tracks. So it’s important connection between all those. And so it’s great to be working in this space, because it actually makes a difference, which is nice to businesses. So

george grombacher 2:42
there has to be a framework of some kind for because it’s kind of an ambiguous thing. How do we know we have a good culture? We think we have a good one. But if we wanted to design, how to actually foster engagement and culture, how would how, how do you go about doing that?

Speaker 2 2:59
Yeah, so that’s a four step sort of framework around this, I’m glad you brought that up. So it’s the first is sort of define or refine, or refresh depending on where you are on your sort of your your sort of timeline of your business law legacy organizations who started out with remarkable culture and sort of disconnected with it over time, it’s about refreshing, but at first is understanding what that culture is in that sort of defined, refined, refreshed stage. And then it’s making sure there’s alignment with that throughout the organization all over the organization. Once you have alignment from top to bottom, and bottom to top is you need to drive that that alignment and you to really foster and make sure that culture is alive and living. And then finally, it’s sustaining, making sure you sustain that for a long period of time. And those those are sort of the framework when I talk about cultural transformation, or cultural refresh, those are the four buckets that I usually work in and discuss with clients on regular basis.

george grombacher 4:01
How is that defined process? Is that really easy for companies to do? Is that a little harder? Does it depend?

Speaker 2 4:07
well defined, you know, it’s interesting to find can be very, it can be very challenging, it’s probably the most important part of the whole process, because it’s foundational. So and it’s making sure that you have it right. Because you don’t want cultures should not change every year. Right? It’s disengaging for people. It becomes a dissident disingenuous environment. It causes retention issues, town attraction issues. So you want to establish a culture that evolves over time, but has some bedrock, foundational things like your values and your purpose, your mission and things like things like that, that you’re sort of focusing on. So that first define stage is absolutely critical. And it only starts with for me starts the C suite, understanding what we talked about purpose, what the organization, why they exist above and beyond making money, which we’ve spoke about in the past, which I’m very A very passionate topic of mine around organizational purpose. And that starts the suite C suite level, right? And then it needs to be cascaded down through the organization, and back up to the C suite to make sure that it’s genuine, it’s aligned, it really is what the organization stands for. And that’s how you build your, your, your culture. And once you have that, you can do that through surveys, through listening strategies, through all sorts of touch points, but you need to make sure you have it right. And the way you have it right is when you say to someone in your organization, what do we stand for? Why do we exist, and they’re able to rattle it off? What are our values, I’m here they are, and then most importantly, is, give me Tell me a story. Or an example of when our values or our culture has been in play, they could wrap the top of their head, they could espouse what that is, right, they could share a story that how it’s empowerment on the walls, how they’ve used empowerment to deliver some business outcome in the business, the biggest challenge, the biggest, biggest challenge, and the biggest test of this is around that storytelling, right? Um, you want to make sure that it’s it’s lived in the business, and it’s lived through the ability to tell stories. And once you get it, right, you know, that those values and those cultural tenants in your organization are the right ones. If you approach someone that says, you know, we stand for whatever it is integrity, and no one could think of anything that anybody’s done in the business, that’s, that’s that rises to that level, you have a problem, right? And you end up in the Enron’s of the world, right? We have these facades of organizations, but the key is to make sure you get it right in that defined stage. So I would say it’s the most labor intensive, the most thought intensive, and the longest part of this entire process, outside of obviously, sustaining it, which goes on for for decades. But if you don’t get it right, it’s always going to be wrong.

george grombacher 6:55
If you don’t get it right, it’s

Unknown Speaker 6:57
out there. I thought that’s a that’s a really good quote, a really bad quote.

george grombacher 7:02
That is a really good one. I’m going to write that down if you’re not scripted in any way. So definitely, when you’re asking people who are working within your organization, yes, one of our core values is integrity. Can you tell me about a time where you felt like we’re delivered on that? And they look at you with sort of a blank stare? Or they just have no idea? versus somebody who says, Well, yeah, that that that’s easy. I have these interactions with our clients all the time, or our customers? And here’s, here’s a specific example. I mean, that is night and day.

Speaker 2 7:43
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s and it can’t be a scripted process, you need to the best way to analyze this is to stop somebody in the hall cold, and say, Tell me a time when we’ve you’ve done the right thing. And immediately, they’ll say, Yes, we had an issue with a customer recently. And this would have been maybe the best financial thing to do. But it wasn’t the right thing to do. So we shifted, we did the right thing. That’s how we live our integrity or safety, right, where you stop some of the haunts and tell me a time when you have value of safety on the on the walls where it’s actually live. And they say, Yeah, last week, we shut the entire manufacturing plant down, because we saw an issue that could have caused harm to someone and we stopped production, even it was going to cost a lot of money for the business. Those are type of things that are their most valuable assessment of a good culture and values when people was genuine, right? It’s real.

george grombacher 8:40
Is it reasonable to expect 100% of people to be able to do that 25%?

Speaker 2 8:46
Well, I’m a very idealistic thinker, and I love the perfect world scenario. So in a perfect world, I’m always pushing for yes, 100% of the great, it’s not realistic, you know, I always talk about the 8020 rule, if you can get 80% of your employees to function to be able to send a story out. But you know, it starts with a manager because the manager, that’s a great quote, which is a really great quote, where people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. So the local manager is a key to great cultures and talk about values, everything we’re talking about, because it’s the face of the organization and teams, hopefully, they’re, you know, within 10 or 12, span of control, they’re not huge. And that gives so if you have every manager that’s that’s effectively trained Good Good leaders and managers in place, they could do this at a local level. And they can make sure they’re always connecting the two and the storytelling part is about connecting those values to day to day work. And that happens at the manager level. And that’s why it’s so it’s doable, that nearly 99% Let’s say, even my idealistic world is doable to get there. But imagine the power that imagine if everybody comes to work each day because they’re supporting the values organization they believe in it. They is a connection. And imagine if you’re hiring people, right that believe in those values. And that’s the goal of having genuine values. Because if you put them out there in the world, and then you hire people that don’t that come to your organization for those values, and don’t don’t experience them, they become bitter. And they leave. And there’s lawsuits at VA, that happened as a result of it. And it’s not a pretty picture at all, then your employment brand gets to tainted as a result of that. So the more you can live your values, the more you attract the right type of people, and people that come to work because they believe in what you do. They believe in your bigger purpose, or the people that work harder. And it’s not just a paycheck connection, because we all know, the weakest link is a paycheck, someone could always pay you more, or people were leaving employers all the time now for less pay, and a better connection to purpose. So organizations that get this right, that could really align the values with who they’re hiring and live it, um, you have a really rich situation becomes create very successful businesses.

george grombacher 11:01
That makes so much sense to me. It makes sense to my head, it makes sense to my heart, I spend a lot of time thinking about why it is that I do things. And I spend a lot of time thinking about purpose. And then I read about how an organization told their employees that everybody could work remotely, and then they went back on it. And now everybody’s really mad. And I’m sure a lot of people are going to leave. And I wonder, you probably hold on to a lot more of those folks, if you had a really, really, really good purpose driven workforce and folks that were really engaged.

Speaker 2 11:38
But you know, it’s interesting, you bring that up the hybrid remote. So this is a work that Galston a ton of studies on who’s determined that hybrid is the best model, when also when there’s flexibility for teams to decide when they come to work, and when they don’t. But the most important part of this, this whole movement, is again, back to the why. That’s why I’ve been so passionate about purpose, for so many decades in my career, is it’s all about understanding the why. So if you want people to come back to work into the office, it’s not about just because a CEO says, We want you back because I think it’s good for you to be in the office. And that’s how I want to run my organization that creates disengagement. But if you explain why it’s beneficial, and and doing it the right times, for example, innovation, when you have ideation meetings, when you’re in a meeting, and you’re discussing new new products, or things like that, it helps it’s helpful to have people in the room to whiteboard things, the energy, there’s a benefit to that. But there’s times when you have you want people back in the office, and they come, they get dressed, they spent an hour in a commute, they get to the office, and they get into their little cubicle, and they sign on to a zoom call with everybody else who’s remote. That’s pointless, right. And that creates disengagement. It creates disruption in someone’s personal life. So anchoring everything, whether it be your organization, or your practices or your your policies in that why and making sure people understand it, it changes the whole game. It’s pretty powerful.

george grombacher 13:05
It’s super powerful. And it’s it’s possible for for every organization to do this.

Louis Efron 13:14
Absolutely. It’s leadership. This is leadership. This is setting the tone at the top is leading by example. It’s not lip service. And that’s the key, you can’t go out there. And we all work for organizations, right? Where where leaders will say all the right things sounds great. And the minute the meetings over everybody do something entirely different, right? So if you want to change a culture and a dynamic is leadership, by example, you got to say the right things, and you got to do the right things. And people have to see that. And it’s got to be visible. And that’s not only for your employees, but it’s for your customers with a whole ESG movement. It is so critical that what you do inside and outside the organization, there’s an alignment, I always talk about, I love chocolate cakes, I talked about the chocolate cake analogy analogy. You’re looking at a chocolate cake, it’s chocolate cake on the outside is chocolate cake. And inside no matter how you cut it, it’s a chocolate cake. Genuine great culture is about right. And that’s what we’re trying to create an every organization that wants to do this can do this with the right leadership behind it. But it can’t be plastic, you can’t look on the walls and see the values that you stand for. And no one can think of an example of it existed. It doesn’t work. And it’s just it’s disingenuous. So that’s so I do believe and again, my idealistic mindset of life, I believe every organization could do it. And again, why wouldn’t you want to do it, the power behind it? And the analysis, quite frankly, we have gallops done, you know, they’ve been in business 80 years and has been analysis on every important business metric. And it shows that when you have higher engaged employees, you have higher top line, stronger bottom line, you have better quality, better safety, productivity, better retention, all those things that matter. There’s it improves with engagement and great cultures drive engagement, living values, drive engagement. So if you want If a leader in a business wants to drive their top and bottom line, which most leaders want to do, then you’ve got to buy into the concept of the connection of engagement. So every organization should do it. They must do it, if they want to run a great business.

george grombacher 15:15
Did your love of chocolate cake? Did it exponentially go up when you came to that analogy? Or where? Have you always been aware of that?

Speaker 2 15:25
You know, I’ve always been aware, it’s just something I was born with George, I just I don’t know, my parents gave it to me very early in my bottle. I’m

george grombacher 15:33
not really sure. Okay, right. Chocolate cake. I think that that’s awesome. That it makes perfect sense. It’s a, you know, it really is a great, it’s a great analogy for for culture, that it’s through and through inside outside top bottom, it really is, is kind of the genuine article. So an object in motion tend to stay in motion. So once you have a great culture and great engagement, it’s easier to keep it moving. But how often do I need to be refreshing or checking in on it?

Speaker 2 16:03
Your content has to be daily. I mean, culture is a living, breathing thing. And the cool thing about culture, it’s the only thing that your competitors can’t steal, they can take your employees, they can take your products, they can take your ideas, everything but they can’t see your culture that makes it makes you unique. That’s what drives people to your organization. That’s what drives customers to your organization, especially again, with the sort of the ESG sort of movement. It’s really, really important. But it only happens it’s like engagement, it has to be something that’s lived and breathed every day, something you talk about something you constantly every meeting, you talk about whether it be client stories or employee stories that connects to your culture and your values, how that plays out. It’s about rewarding and recognizing the these types of tenants, it’s about holding people accountable. And the great thing is when you run a really good organization around this, that is constantly living it, it’s a bit of a self management tool as well, because people feel very uncomfortable if they’re working against the grain, right? If you’re very established values, and someone comes in, that sold themselves, let’s say at an interview, that they believe in all these values, and they get in, they do things entirely different. They’re rejected quite quickly and fill, they don’t sort of belong. And so it’s something that you need to be actively doing every day. It’s not something you do at a project and forget about, it’s woven into everything you do. If you have a manufacturing site, for example. And you have shift change meetings, you remind people why you’re there, right? You’re producing a product that let’s say, goes into a car that gets a family safely from their home to a dinner, or gets people to work on all those type of things. It’s reminding people the purpose of your organization, the values that support that every single day, visually, verbally. And that’s how it’s sustains itself.

george grombacher 17:55
I love it. Louis, thank you so much for coming back on where can people learn more about you? How can I engage with you?

Louis Efron 18:01
Sure, definitely. I’m always loving people connecting with me on LinkedIn. So please check me on LinkedIn. And as far as Gallup is the place to go. I’ve written several articles for Gallup. That’s there, we have all our content. And so definitely reach out that way. But connect with me on LinkedIn is always fantastic. And if you want to ever chat, you can contact me directly through my email at Gallup, which is Lewis underscore, F So feel free to email me I always love to talk culture and engagement and I love to make a difference in the world supporting organizations doing that, so feel free to reach out.

george grombacher 18:38
Awesome. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, shall lose your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas find Louis, on LinkedIn, it’s Liu aye, s Efron. Find GALL and Lewis underscore F Thanks again, Louis.

Louis Efron 19:00
First Thanks, George. Thanks for having me on.

george grombacher 19:02
Until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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