Business Podcast Post

Great Places to Work with Ralf Specht

George Grombacher January 23, 2022

share close

Great Places to Work with Ralf Specht

LifeBlood: We talked about creating great places to work, what’s causing the Great Resignation from an employer and an employees perspective how to create a company with soul where pole love working, and a framework for putting it in place with Ralf Specht, visionary business leader, speaker, entrepreneur and author of Building Corporate Soul: Powering Culture and Success with the Soul System

Listen to learn about two companies doing it right!

You can learn more about Ralf at and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well. 

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Invest in yourself. Bring it All Together.

Work with a coach to unlock personal and professional potential.

Our Guests

George Grombacher


Ralf Specht

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on

one level at this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest struggle powerful ref SPECT, Ralph, are you ready to do this? Talk, I’m excited to be on your show. Thank you very much for having me. So excited to have you on. Ralph is a visionary business leader. He’s a sought after speaker. He is the creator of the soul system. He is the founding partner of Spark 44. And he is the author of building corporate soul power and culture and success. With the soul system, he is on a mission to make soulless companies a thing of the past. Again, excited to have you on Ralph, tell us a little about your personal life some more about your work, and why you do what you do.

Ralf Specht 0:53
Absolutely, George, my pleasure. So

as you said, I was a founding partner of a global marketing agency, which I also lead as a CEO for

until end of 2019. And when I stepped down, it was a big surprise for everyone.

I received a lot of messages from many people in the organization that went far beyond the what you would expect, sad to see you leave and all of that stuff. But went much, much deeper in those messages basically conveyed a sense of belonging that was very unique. And as all of that happened shortly before Christmas, I had a bit of time to reflect upon it and thought, Jesus, this is something that is actually

too valuable to just leave it on my in my inbox, or my WhatsApp account. And I thought I actually have to take this, this topic

further. And because what I felt from those messages was the legacy that we left wasn’t just building a company from scratch to 1200 people in 19. offices, I think the legacy was that we built a company with soul. And so I started to dig into that topic, and started to write a book, which is building corporate. So as you just mentioned,

george grombacher 2:27
I love it. I appreciate that. What was the motivator for stepping down?

Ralf Specht 2:33
Well, sometimes things are not the way they supposed to be. And so things happen. And that’s, that’s part of what what happened here. So

george grombacher 2:48
just just time to move on sometimes in different seasons of life. Well, I appreciate that. We were talking. We were talking offline about how so many of folks here in the United States, and I can’t speak to the way that is in Germany, I suspect it’s pretty similar, are not necessarily in love with the work that they’re doing. And don’t feel that deep connection that sounds like you are able to foster and to create companies with soul. I’m curious what as we’re going through this great resignation, how companies are looking at why people are leaving versus how they actually are why they’re actually leaving?

Ralf Specht 3:26
Well, I think it’s a global phenomenon. I think it’s something that has been brewing, I think for a decade or so. And I think what happened with the COVID 19 pandemic, and the impact on remote work and work in general, has just got us to a point where it’s become more obvious than it did in the years before. So I don’t think it’s just us. It’s not just Germany, I think it’s everywhere is what I hear from folks in Asia. Something similar is happening. And the interesting, there’s many interesting elements to it, I think one is the title has been given. So the great resignation is one. There’s been a great interview a few few days weeks ago with the leadership from Microsoft, who said was actually the great reshuffle. And I think I like that a lot better than the great resignation. Because it’s not that people are resigning from work forever. They’re resigning from their employers and are looking for a new employer a new company to work for. And the folks from McKinsey have just released a study in which they have looked into various lenses. The ones are the employees and the ones are the employers and if you look at it from the employers lense. Employers basically say the most important reason why people are resigning is because compensation is inadequate, and saying, Well, they’re just looking for a better job, there might be a health issue here and there, or they’re being poached by another company. Now, that’s what I would call the traditional view of employers looking at their staff. While when you look into what employees consider reasons for resigning and looking for another job, it’s a completely different set of things. So employees consider the most important element, that they’re not valued by the organization, that they’re not valued by the manager, that they miss a sense of belonging. And then obviously, there are potential for career advancements. So that’s a match somewhat for when you look at the employers, but the first three, I think, clearly indicate what people are looking for. And it’s no surprise, and I think the pandemic and protector people have stayed at home for a long, long time, has just increased that, and brought it to a point where people just took action.

george grombacher 6:20
said enough already, life is too short, or I have too many options. And it’s it’s it’s all these things. So this reshuffling which, which, which, which companies are benefiting from this reshuffle, what kinds of companies?

Ralf Specht 6:37
Well, looking back into what employees are saying, managers and organizations that value their people benefit from that. And obviously, when you start looking into Who are these companies, you get to the topic of my book, which is companies with solid companies that take the journey very seriously. Companies that are clear about why they’re in the business, the first place, they’re clear about their vision and their mission and their entire strategy. And most importantly, they’re not just clear about it, they actually behave like, which is basically the third element of the three levels of the soul system. That is the framework that you mentioned. So the first level is the purpose. And I call purpose, the shared purpose. And the word shared is extremely important. Because very often you find companies with a purpose, but you find companies that keep the purpose to themselves to some degree, right. So it’s a wonderful PowerPoint deck, it’s a wonderful texts at the reception desk, and then it stops. So getting the purpose, right, and making it a shared purpose is the first step into corporate soul. The second is what I call the shared understanding, again, it’s shared, because only if it’s shared, people can know about it, connect upon. And shared understanding contains two key elements of corporate strategy. So what’s the vision of the company? What’s the mission of the company, which are the values, and the fourth element I’ve added, which I think is really critical, which is the spirit of the company, which means what’s the intended culture that the owners or leaders of the company want to see happening? That takes us to the third level of the Soul system, which are the shared behaviors? And again, it’s shared? Because it’s like, what is the common practice? So what is it that if you enter a new company, you feel and see when you talk to people when you interact with them? And what is it that these companies do consistently, to ensure that there’s a high level of integrity between the purpose, the understanding and the behaviors?

george grombacher 9:06
So as you were growing your firm from zero to 1200, people across all these different locations? Did did you start out saying, maybe you didn’t have this framework all written out? But did you just know and were intentional about it? Or you’re just how, how did that work?

Ralf Specht 9:29
Well, when we first found us, started the journey back in 2011. I remember that day we sat in a room in London, that a friend of one of our founders, had provided us with had five flip charts in the room and said, well now as we never get to getting to go and bring this baby to life. What is the culture that we actually would like to have and conversation was challenging. And the flip charts remained empty for for quite a while, until we flop the question and said, which culture do we not want to have. And that sparked the whole structure of the culture that we later on then envisaged. So by basically taking our joint experiences as leaders who had been in other places for 2030 years, and experience a lot of things that we actually didn’t really appreciate that much, we felt well, now let’s build an organization that doesn’t have all of these things. And when we were done with that list, and grouped them into a few buckets, it became extremely clear. And it was extremely easy and simple to draft the organizational structure that we were going to going to have, which allowed us then to build a culture that was so unique, and allowed us to create that sense of belonging with our teams.

george grombacher 11:13
Appreciate that. So I imagine it’s a lot easier to keep a great thing going than it is to stop something or to start it up. But for organizations that maybe they recognize, you know, what, we’re we’re losing some folks, and maybe we are that company that has it on the wall, but we’re not really living it. What is what’s what’s what’s, what’s the starting point? What do they do?

Ralf Specht 11:45
Well, I think the first moment is, or the first point is to realize that that’s, that’s the issue that that’s on the table. And I just had a conversation last week with someone who was running a workshop with the leadership of a midsize company. And they said, Well, I had like 13 people in the room. And they were all complaining about the fact that there are people actually did not show any sign of empowerment. And then he said, Well, you know, I stopped it, I asked him, I said, Listen, aren’t you guys here in the room, the ones that need to empower them. So this isn’t the problem with you don’t, let’s not start talking about your people that start talking about you and how you behave. And that’s exactly what it is. Now, when I started to work on the framework, which actually only happened after I left. I studied companies, big and small startup companies and companies that have been around for 100 plus years, to see whether there were some commonalities, or whether there were some differences that were worth looking at. And I think it’s fair to say, when you look at companies with soul, you find both you find startup companies, which obviously have one big advantage, which is the group that usually the founders still on board. And the founder, or the founding team, as in our case, has a significant impact on the culture and is pretty much the living role model that people if a company’s small, still see every day, or even if the company grows by means of technology is able to connect with people and convey the message. And there’s large companies and I looked at a number of large companies. And two, I think I’m particularly interesting. One is Lego, and one is Hilton Hotels, and Lego. We might all remember a from our childhood, obviously. But then we are 20 years ago, 1520 years ago, similar to Hilton, actually, the company had lost its track. And the leader at the time realized actually that they had lost their soul. And Hilton is a different case, but a similar case in terms of the realization that the basic idea of great people serving great people, which was the fundament that Conrad Hilton had put up more than 100 years ago now had gone lost and both decided on the same thing is it? Well, first of all, let’s refocus. Let’s bring what we were strong about in the first place back into today’s world. And obviously you can’t copy paste what was right in 1920 into 2020. But what you can do is obviously, take the key principles that were relevant, and held them forever. monto started by making sure that they focus on their employees as much as they focus on their guests. And the program that they are put in place has been so phenomenal. It has gotten and taken them to the top ranks in great place to work around the world. And Marriott didn’t have the issue of being in the wrong place, in the first place. have neither serious competitor in those criteria, because Hilton have just made their way up to the top again.

george grombacher 15:40
Yeah, I appreciate that. So shared purpose, shared understanding, and then shared behaviors. I think we’ve all been, or had an experience, if it’s going to a Hilton, or have worked for a great company where you walk in and you just know, because it is. It’s not just that you’re reading. It’s not just people understand it, but they’re actually they’re actually demonstrating that through their behaviors. So I think that that, that that makes a lot of sense. When when people are trying to trying to make a shift or put something like this in place, I suppose it’s an ongoing process. Yes, it’s probably never ending.

Ralf Specht 16:24
Yes, it’s it’s a never ending process. Because what even if you achieve greatness today, doesn’t mean you can forget about everything tomorrow, I think what’s critical is to find a way that an organization itself, not only takes things on board, but actually continues to develop them as time passes, because obviously, what’s contemporary now, is not necessarily contemporary, in five or 10 years. So you always have to go with the times, but you never should get into a situation where you lose your origin, and your source and your, your starting point. So while all of that is critical, I think the the most critical element is that employers listen to their employees. And what I mean, listen, it’s not just open up your ears, and then leave the room and forget about it is really taken serious. And one of the elements that I believe is fundamental to bring a company back on track with regards to its culture, is to connect with employees. I mean, in my book, I call people in a company that are actually the embodiment of that soul, the soul drivers, and those soul drivers are really critical and management leadership need to understand who they are. And they can be in every department, it’s not a question of hierarchy or anything else. Often, it’s the opposite. It’s like people in lower ranks, embody the, the culture very much so and sometimes it’s difficult for leaders who join the company to actually get into that culture. And I can only recommend everybody to listen to those folks, identify them, listen to them, and make sure these soul drivers in the company become ambassadors in their own company. Because the end result is so powerful when you look at it. In terms of companies with strong corporate culture, there’s a wonderful survey that OC Tanner have released, which is called the global culture index, and reveals that companies and they call it a thriving culture, which is a successful corporate culture. It reveals that companies with a thriving culture are 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees and eight times higher incidence of great work and a double likelihood to have increased revenues. And at the same time, we talk a lot about mental health. These days. Employees and thriving conscious are experiencing three times less burnout situations, and the companies themselves are three times less likely to face layoffs. So it’s a it’s a win win. approach. And when I said in the beginning of that OC tena results that they’re 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees. When you look at it, what makes up what makes a great corporate culture. Highly engaged employees are part of that and what you get from those highly engaged employees is a different level of commitment. Now, very often I’m hearing that from from company leaders and say, well, we get into all these programs, and they’re bringing everybody so expensive and all the rest of it. And I’m like, what? Why is this expensive? It’s not expensive at all, if you look at what it brings, and number one and number number two, if you do it in the first place, it actually comes for free. It only gets expensive if you have to run programs after programs to bring the the culture of the organization back to where you intended the spirit to be in the first place. So commitment actually is a free resource if leaders can right.

george grombacher 20:37
Amen. Wrap thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they get a copy of building corporate soul?

Ralf Specht 20:47
Well, you get a copy of building corporate So everywhere you get great books, you can pre order online already. And if you want to learn more about building corporate soul is dedicated website which is both building corporate And there’s all about the book, the program, myself and the team that is working with me on making sure it’s sold as companies are a thing of the past.

george grombacher 21:13
Love it. If you enjoyed this as much as I did, show off your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas pick up a copy of building corporate soul powering culture and success with the soul system. And join Ralph in his mission to get rid of soulless companies and make them a thing of the past. Thanks again, Ralph. Thank you. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Transcribed by

Thanks, as always for listening! If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and we’d be grateful if you’d subscribe as well.

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook.

Our Manifesto

We’re here to help others get better so they can live freely without regret
Believing we’ve each got one life, it’s better to live it well and the time to start is now If you’re someone who believes change begins with you, you’re one of us We’re working to inspire action, enable completion, knowing that, as Thoreau so perfectly put it “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Let us help you invest in yourself and bring it all together.

Feed your life-long learner by enrolling in one of our courses.

Invest in yourself and bring it all together by working with one of our coaches.

If you’d like to be a guest on the show, or you’d like to become a Certified LifeBlood Coach or Course provider, contact us at Contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Please note- The Money Savage podcast is now the LifeBlood Podcast. Curious why? Check out this episode and read this blog post!

We have numerous formats to welcome a diverse range of potential guests!

  • Be Well- for guests focused on overall wellness
  • Book Club-for authors
  • Brand-for guests focused on marketing
  • Complete-for guests focused on spirituality
  • Compete-for competitors, sports, gaming, betting, fantasy football
  • Create-for entrepreneurs
  • DeFi-for guests focused on crypto, blockchain and other emerging technologies
  • Engage-for guests focused on personal development/success and leadership
  • Express-for journalists/writers/bloggers
  • General-for guests focused on finance/money topics
  • Lifestyle-for guests focused on improving lifestyle
  • Maximize-for guests focused on the workplace
  • Numbers-for accounting and tax professionals
  • Nurture-for guests focused on parenting
  • REI-for guests focused on real estate

Feed your Life-Long Learner

Get what you need to get where you want to go

Rate it
Previous post