Clarity Breaks!

Clarity Breaks!

#confidence #clarity #focus #gettingbacktoourbestself

I recently had a conversation with a visionary, and I ended it with the question, What else can I do to support you? His response – Anything you could do to encourage our team to continue their clarity breaks™ would be really helpful. He went on to say that they had all started doing them, and while the team was enjoying the new habit and experiencing the value, he worried they would stop.

Instead of getting preachy with you, let me share some feedback from two EOS® leaders I work with.

  1. In his blog post, The Power of the Clarity Break, Mike Kren (Operations – Bizstream) shares his journey from thinking Who has time for that?! to the realization that In the extremely fast-paced and busy world we live in, it is important to take time to relax and refocus no matter what you do for a living. Here is Mike’s full post.
  2. After just starting the clarity break habit as the assignment from our discussion on the LMA tool, Kelly Plawinski (Integrator – Adamy Valuation) shared: Yesterday’s clarity break lead to a breakthrough on something I have been pondering for a while no. Love it!!!

It has been called lots of different things, and if you have investigated mindfulness, been a regular at the practice of yoga or meditation, or read extensively in the self-help section of a bookstore, this is not a new topic. It is also a topic that was recommended by the likes of Stephen Covey and Peter Drucker.

The pushback I get from you most often is that your clarity break is in a pool or on a run. My response is always the same – it only counts if you document some sort of actions after so your thinking time results in increased clarity, confidence, and focus that you feel and the people around you see/experience in your actions. Keep exercising, taking breaks during the day, and days you unplug from the office, but those are not clarity breaks.

As things go fast, and the uncertainty results in you spending lots of time doing the things you don’t like to do (scrounging for cash, being ignored by customers, furloughing or firing team members, etc.) it is easy to get stuck. My passionate plea is to take care of yourself and stay focused, and clarity breaks are designed and endorsed for doing just that. If you need a reminder, take a look at page 25 in your Leadership Team manual or page 73 in How To Be A Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene Boer. If you don’t have either of these email me and I will send you copies.

Let me leave you with a great quote to ponder:

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.

Henry Ford


Stay healthy! . . .  and lead from that healthy place. ~ Scott

A few of extra links for continued learning:

  1. A video I made describing my clarity break. Don’t copy me, make it yours!
  2. Blog post: 5 Tips for Building Resilience (and we are all going to need more of it)
  3. NEW: A video from some of my experienced peers – some great tips and learnings! It is called Clarity Breaks in a Crisis, so it is very focused on the conditions you are leading in today.
5 Tips for Building Resilience (and we are all going to need more of it)

5 Tips for Building Resilience (and we are all going to need more of it)

I am not an infectious disease specialist or an economist, but I am confident in predicting that our current challenges will require us to have resilience. The thing I have learned about resilience is you either have it or you have to build it. The only reason I don’t give a third option (not having it) is that I believe we all want to have it, so I am not letting you off on this one!

The good news, resilience is built. The bad news, the process of building it is hard because it is not a lesson that comes from a book but from our own experience.

As I look back at my own blogs, I realized that was a big topic for me in 2011. It was my second full year of operating my own consulting practice and it was my hardest year, both financially and emotionally. A friend of mine who is a pastor once told me that if you listen to sermons of people you can always tell what they struggle with the most because it becomes a theme that shows up often in their sermons. 2011 was my year for growth and pain, and it is obvious because I blogged about it a lot. As I look back, I realize I learned some important lessons through that season of my life. These lessons have become the foundation of a strength in me that has allowed me to see experience the current events in a very different way than 2011. To save you from reading all the posts, here are 5 lessons to help you grow your own resilience:

  1. Resilience can be built: The US military put millions of dollars behind research and a program to help equip leaders with the tools they need to demonstrate resilience in their lives and leadership. The steps are simple, but not necessarily easy. We should all review them and practice them over the coming months. (blog #2 below)
  2. Learn to measure your current state: For me, it became a simple formula: Hope > Fear + Anger + Despair + Frustrations + Worry + Hunger + Mistrust + fill in the blank. (blog #1)
  3. Find a friend: Being alone with a big life challenge is not a good place to stay. Go find a friend. If you see someone experiencing one of life’s top 3 stressful situations (death, divorce, job loss) seek them out. (blog #3)
  4. Schedule recovery time: A secret we all need to learn is finding a way for each of us to reflect and recover along our journey. Resilience is a marathon, not a sprint, so have the courage to carve out this time for yourself. (blog #3 and #4)
  5. Practice transparency: Everyone gets knocked off balance by life. The resilient ones are just skilled at getting back to center. The best thing for everyone, leaders included, is to be transparent about their challenges so people feel safe to admit they need help. Transparent conversations are the key to this. (blog #5)

Starting this journey requires us to reframe our setbacks into opportunities. A friend recently shared some wisdom with me. They have two questions they review several times a week: Why is this a gift to me? What is it offering that I don’t see? I now have both of those questions on my computer screen and a ponder them often. After all, there is no such thing as being too resilient!

Lead well, and from a healthy place!

Here are the posts from 2011 that will help you take a deeper dive into the points above.

  1. The Resilience Formula – for Leaders . . . for Followers      
  2. Resilience – What We Can Learn from the Military
  3. Developing Resilience – 4 Ways to Process the Pain
  4. Silence and Resilience
  5. Resilience – The discussion starts (and continues) with transparency
  6. Resilience – 4 Steps to NOT make it another initiative
Responsibility or Accountability?

Responsibility or Accountability?

The short answer for any leader working in an EOS® company is – Yes.

But these two words are not equal, and two leadership gurus I respect have pulled me both ways.

Patrick Lencioni included Accountability as layer number four in the pyramid made famous in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Seth Godin muddied the waters for me with a recent post:

Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.

Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.

Seth Godin – seths.blog.com

First, let’s look at the definition of these words (courtesy of Merriam-Webster):

Responsible (adj) – liable to be called on to answer. Able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations. [Responsibility is the corresponding noun]

Accountable (adj) – subject to giving an account: answerable. Capable of being explained: explainable. [Accountability is the corresponding noun]

merriam-webster.com

The definitions make responsible an individual thing, and accountable being imposed on us. Seth Godin’s point is that the stronger word is responsible because it triggers action inside of us and we take on responsibility for our work. That is what we all want in our kids, our team, our friends . . . right?

In working with dozens of leadership teams as an EOS Implementer®, I don’t agree — especially when we apply this to leadership teams. A culture of accountability will have a greater impact on a team and a company.

In EOS® we stick with the word Lencioni presents us because in the context of a healthy team, accountability becomes the culture of the TEAM. It’s critical to have individual ownership, but having an accountability culture within the team will help get individuals back on track when they start to fail at responsibility. We all get tripped up and fail.

Leaders, imagine how it changes your job when the team drives and supports each other to be accountable!

In the end, we want individuals to be responsible for their work — to have something happen inside of them where they are able and ready to answer to and own their work (responsible). The bigger goal is to have a culture of accountability, starting at the leadership level. The trick is to do that and still have it feel kind, supportive, loving, and trusting, not like the industrial system Godin describes.

Lead well, and look for evidence of responsibility and accountability this week — and recognize it!

The Biggest Barrier to Delegation

I can’t let go of that; if I don’t empty the trash, who will?

These young people have no work ethic; if I don’t mow the lawn, who will do it?

People have to get paid around here; if I don’t double-check all the time sheets, how will it get done?

In my Delegating Greatness post, I share language to listen for and one action to start the work of learning to delegate. The reality is that there’s a first barrier I see leaders struggling with, and that is the fear of letting go. It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you won’t.

We need to be open and honest with ourselves before we even start the journey of delegating and elevating. The risk, if we don’t, is that there will never be any time to lead, or the world of “a genius with a thousand helpers” will continue to exist. If you have more than 5 people in your organization, you can. I will share a story later where I prove that even a seemingly “solo-entrepreneur” did not have that as a barrier.

Whether you think you can or you can’t — you’re right!

Henry Ford

First, I challenge leaders, when teaching the Assistance Track™, to look at their time as being worth somewhere between $100 and $1000 an hour. The next step is to take an open and honest look at all the work they are doing and identify all of the $15 to $30 an hour work. The latter list is the work that someone else needs to do. The aha! for most leaders, if they are open and honest with themselves, is that the people they delegate to are better than them at doing it and they LOVE doing it! The other aha is that when we thank them for helping us and really helping the company stay on track with their work, they feel rewarded because we trust them with something we have always done.

My delegation story had to do with email/scheduling and balancing my checkbook. One requires 1 to 2 hours a day and the other 1 hour a month. In the first quarter of this year, I gave both away — one to my admin lead (Emily) and one to my accounting team (Simply Counted in Holland). The impact was 20 to 30 hours of work per month off my plate. My first action: breathe a little more, work a little less between 6pm and 11pm. My second action: focus on higher value work of spending more time in one-on-one conversations helping clients and building tools to guide leaders through changes the EOS® Journey asks them to make. (FYI — I thought the latter would be the immediate result, but I learned there was a middle step. 🙂 )

Hear yourself say won’t or can’t, and change it to will and can. EOS gives you the tools, and if you need a guide you know where to find me.

Note: If you are not familiar with EOS® or the tools I mentioned, they are all free on the EOS Worldwide website. Here is a little more about me and the EOS® journey, and if you want to learn more let me know and I will send you a free copy of Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman or I am happy to give you ninety minutes of my time to walk you through it.

Honest Listening: What Peter says and one practice

Honest Listening: What Peter says and one practice

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

Peter Drucker

When she walked into my office, she was clearly nervous. We had worked together for six months. In the next five minutes, she shared a very personal medical condition, how the treatment would take her out of work, and her concerns about her job and her health. There were tears.

I heard the words – and knew the next step was to leverage the policies we had in place to help all of our people get the same level of support and organizational compassion.

Somewhere in those five minutes, I heard some other unspoken messages:

  • I want to be a mom more than anything
  • I am scared
  • I love this job
  • I trust you to help me Scott, that is why I am sharing this

Within the unspoken words is the space where empathy happens, where we get to really understand what matters to people, and where the passions and fears exist that help us truly know someone.

The next time you have a conversation, listen for the unspoken messages. What do you notice? This is the real practice of honest listening, and it takes putting them first.

Honest Listening: The data behind psychological noise, and 1 experiment

Honest Listening: The data behind psychological noise, and 1 experiment

I was listening to a speaker recently who shared some startling statistics on our brain activity:

  • We all have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day
  • 95 – 98% are the same we had the day before

So I tried an experiment: at the end of every day, I wrote down the thoughts that seemed to be clogging up my brain during that day. The kind of thoughts that I kept thinking about, but did nothing about. As an EOS® implementer, I have been taught by Gino Wickman to call this stuff head trash.

Funny thing happened – after writing down the head trash each evening, I slept better, and after a few days those thoughts became a lot less prominent in my daily 70,000.

Honesty Quote

Honesty Quote

A great nugget that I wanted to share with you today. A quote from a friend around the sharing of difficult truths:

Truth without love is mean.

Love without truth is a lie.

Rodger Price, Leading by DESIGN

One of my core beliefs is fear only motivates for the short term, but love motivates for the long term. (p. 20 – People-Centered Performance)

There is lots being written about honesty today, and I want to make sure no leaders in my community forget the Love part, because the outcome is tragic to a relationship.

Lead well!

Lessons in Honesty: My Menlo Tour

Lessons in Honesty: My Menlo Tour

Recently I took advantage of a culture tour of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor. While I have been on the tour seven times over the past seven years, I always leave with a key lesson or two that I can practice in my own work. This time the word radical hit me as I thought about their commitment to transparency.

Menlo’s business is software development, and they are recognized as a leader in workplace culture. If you want to know more, Rich Sheridan has just published a second book to give you a glimpse into their culture, Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear.

Here are three ways Menlo makes their goal of transparency part of their daily work:

  1. A project manager shared why/how projects that get behind are discussed – “If a project is going to get behind, I expect them to tell me right away. Our practiced response is to smile and ask one question: What do I know now that I did not know earlier? I cannot help fix it if I don’t have visibility to the issue.”
  2. They work really hard to avoid hallway project management which is the side conversations where decisions get made after the meeting. Avoiding this is a cultural norm.
  3. Pay levels are posted on the wall, so everyone knows who is classified where and salary is transparent.

I am always amazed when companies open the book on pay and levels, creating transparency in an area that many people find very hard to openly share. This is radical transparency, and it is a commitment to honesty that I have to believe sets a standard that makes people think “If we are open with that, then it should be safe to share ______________ (fill in the blank).” It also makes me ask the question of myself, “How can I practice radical transparency?”

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

We get busy.

The ‘To-Do’ list on Monday often starts with what was left on Friday. Then the messages start coming in from the people that depend on us for things — boss, peers, customers, kids, spouse, aging parents, our team, and friends. Then we respond like we have on every other Monday — we get to work.

If you stood back and considered your day, how confident are you that you are working on the most important stuff? How confident are you that you are successfully balancing the competing priorities in your life?

I was coaching a highly intelligent and capable leader who was struggling with this feedback: “You are not following up with some of your peers on key work, and are getting the reputation of not following through.” Her life was much like what I described in the first paragraph. I simply asked the question, “How do you prioritize your work when the list gets long?” Her response: “The list is always long, so I just get to work.”

The good news — she did not need marriage counseling, a spa weekend, or even a job change. She just needed to practice managing herself.

For this practice, I asked her to set aside an hour a week to step back, reset her priorities, reset herself, and THINK about the work/business that was being entrusted to her. The result? The top 2-3 priorities started getting done every week, her follow-up was more timely with key peers, and she made time for the important things while letting a few other things go. The feedback from her leader three months later supported the impact: “The sales team is feeling more connected to your work and the impact you are having on our business is exactly what I expected when we hired you.” Her feedback was: “I feel like I am having an impact and I worry/think less about work when I am not there.”

This is a practice Stephen Covey called sharpening the saw, and Gino Wickman calls a clarity break™. The people targeted with this solution are leaders who have big goals, many resources to get focused, and a world that wants a great deal from them because of their position, personal capability, personality, and power. The simple solution? Spend an hour or two a week to reset yourself and make sure you are focusing on the things that matter to you, so the barriers that are getting in the way of your own focus and joy get removed. Is your life more like this last sentence or the first paragraph of this post?

In working with and coaching leaders who live that first paragraph every week, and ironically becoming that person, the only habit I have found that allows us to be our best is to stop doing and spend some time thinking. To work ON our life and take a break from being IN our work. Try it — get away from your desk to a quiet place, turn off your phone, and spend time to review your priorities, think about the people that matter, solve a couple of big issues you or your team has placed in your hands, and plan your return to work with new focus.

I am still working on being 100% successful on that one hour a week,  so expect it to be hard.

Here is a short video where I explain the form I have created for myself to use during my TRU time. This is named after my focus of generating TRUst and facing some of my important TRUths that I want to live by.

Our work as leaders starts with us working on our own clarity, confidence and energy/joy for our work. Start making that a priority this week by practicing a clarity break!

Extra resources to learn more:

Matt Jung: Finding a Better Way | Part 3: Culture Guest Blog Series

Matt Jung: Finding a Better Way | Part 3: Culture Guest Blog Series

I was introduced to Comfort Research before I ever met Matt Jung. The first time was when I moved to Holland more than 20 years ago and heard about these poof chairs being made by some Hope College students. The next time was through their support of a charity event that I was part of. I experienced their commitment to community.

The most recent connection was when I learned that a human resource leader whom I had a lot of respect for joined their team. I believe that great companies attract great people, so I knew they had something special going on at Comfort Research. More recently, Matt stood out to me because of his tireless efforts to talk about culture and leadership through his frequent blog and LinkedIn posts. Describing Matt with the normal business titles would not do his passion justice, which is why you will hear words like “culture-catalyst” and “disrupter” used to describe his role. I will let Matt tell you the rest of the story.

Thank you, Matt, for your willingness to share your wisdom.


My name is Matt Jung, and I am an entrepreneur, business owner, leader, culture-catalyst, disrupter, and industry-leading producer of the Big Joe Brand, the coolest consumer products in the universe.  Founded in 1996 with my college roommate Chip George, our company — Comfort Research — is a lifestyle, product design, engineering, and manufacturing company based in the heart of West Michigan. We have evolved from selling foam beanbags (the patented Ahhsome Fuf Chairs) out of our college dorms to selling disruptive products through the likes of Wal-Mart, Meijer, Amazon, and Costco.

I am a big believer that culture and strategy go hand and hand, and we live that mantra at Big Joe. We have worked tirelessly to recognize, reward, and repeat those that are living Big Joe values. Our Core Business Values include:

  1. Finding a Better Way – this is not a ‘suggestion box’ company!
  2. Expect the Best – of yourself, of your peers, our vendors, and our customers.
  3. Do the Right Thing – not just at work, but also in life.

We believe that simple messages and thoughtful products create strategic alignment. In order to achieve these things you must rethink everything. And that is what we do on a daily basis. Through the principles above, we do our best to lead the company and the 200+ amazing Ambassadors that make up our team. All of our hard work is paying off, as Forbes added us to the Forbes’ definitive list of the nation’s best small companies for 2018. Forbes highlights Comfort Research as a philanthropic company that donates 10 percent of our profits to local charities.

Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

I started the business in 1996 with my good friend and current business partner Chip George. We were attending Hope College when we came up with this concept for a huge foam-filled beanbag we called the “FUF Chair.”

We thought this beanbag thing was pretty cool, and everyone around us had a similar reaction. All of our classmates wanted one, and we’d have tons of kids crashing in our room and hanging out. It really opened our eyes, and we knew then we were on to something. We were obviously far from a serious business at the time, but the FUF Chair was a pretty good start.

I came from a family filled with an entrepreneurial history. I was always writing down business ideas from a young age. Some were decent, but most of them were pretty bad. With the creation of the FUF Chair, Chip and I saw an opportunity to start something big while we still had nothing to lose… and it didn’t hurt that we thought it was awesome and the most comfortable chair we had ever lounged in.

Together, we had always wanted to have a thriving business that was willing to do things just a little differently. And we wanted it to be big… like one billion dollars big. We thought, since we “obviously” had this cool product, it would be very easy to grow a huge business. Who wouldn’t want a FUF Chair? But, like most college kids, we had a lot to learn. It was much harder than we ever could have imagined, and we eventually adopted the “Rule of Three”: Everything took 3X as long, was 3X harder to do, and took 3X the amount of money than we thought it would. In spite of all this, we just really wanted to make cool things and lounge.

Now, more than 22 years after the first iteration of our chairs, we‘ve gotten pretty good at pushing the boundaries of what is possible, all the while building the Big Joe brand. In doing so, we focused on:

  • creating a great workplace where Ambassadors can thrive by building an infectious culture of passionate and empowered people
  • minimizing waste to lessen manufacturing’s impact on the world by being lean and green
  • investing 10% of company profits back into local and global communities
  • engineering awesomeness from the product core to the factory floor
  • sneaking in bonus design elements that surprise and delight
  • designing affordable greatness

We have a unique approach toward strategic planning. Instead of vision statements and mission statements, we have a Why/How/What statement:

Why do we exist? Comfort for All.
How are we doing that? Delivering Unexpected Awesomeness.
What are we doing? Revolutionizing Affordable Branded Consumer Products.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

We were pretty lucky to be blessed with so many helping hands, guides, and mentors along our journey.  It seemed like whenever we needed help, someone (anyone) was willing to pitch in and help us take the next step. After three years of running our business, we were fortunate to partner up with George and Jason Julius. George had had tremendous experiences at his previous company, where culture played an important part of its growth story. We had always talked about culture together, but we weren’t actively engaged in sculpting an awesome one.  As we grew our business, we decided to change that. Very early on, we decided that we wouldn’t just make great products, but we would work hard to craft a great place to work. We were hiring these awesome people to lead different parts of our business. So our roles changed from being hands-on co-founders to having to figure out how to lead without doing the everyday stuff.  I realized that if we wanted the business to be a billion-dollar enterprise, then I had to transform as well. So I shifted my daily routine to leading through strategic planning and alignment, focusing on I&D (Innovation and Internal/External Disruption), and, of course, building an environment that amazing people would want to be a part of. That is when things really shifted for us.

It was through George’s guidance that we really got serious about focusing on culture. But even then, there wasn’t exactly a handbook on culture that you could read and quickly follow. It was more of a pie-in-the-sky idea.  But, I decided that I would find a solution, and eventually started a “culture system,” because good systems are often the foundation of great business. If you can implement a system to run a business, you can surely do it in a way that creates a kick-ass culture.

I started by creating the FAB award. This award recognized someone in our business who implemented our core value of Finding a Better Way. The idea behind the FAB award was, we wanted our Ambassadors living the culture each day to be part of suggesting and introducing the idea of Finding a Better Way to do EVERYTHING.  We didn’t want to be a suggestion-box company where someone offered their written feedback and then just walked away relying on management to implement their “great idea.” NO chance!

We wanted our team to be part of making it work or finding out that it didn’t work, but learning from the experience. We really don’t care either way, so long as our team is an active participant in the process. We started by creating a form where Ambassadors make a suggestion on Finding a Better Way to do something.  We’d put the idea in front of a panel on a quarterly basis. We’d then award $2,500 to the participant with the idea receiving the most votes. But, that wasn’t enough. We then added an annual “FAB Idea” award, and shelled out $10,000 to the best company-wide idea. We announce the winner at a monthly all-company meeting, and share the idea with every employee so our entire team could see a real-life example of how just one team member was working to improve and shape our culture by actually living it.

We present the $2,500 or $10,000 payment in the form of an oversized check, take pictures, and then post the picture and a description of the idea on the “Wall of FAB” for everyone to continue to see the person who represents our core value of Finding a Better Way. Over time, we rolled that out to our other core values and added more awards, like celebrating the core concept of Expect the Best with the Awesome Award, a peer-to-peer award where one Ambassador brings up another in front of the entire company and shares why this person Expects the Best and is generally awesome. They receive a one-week paid vacation, and their picture — along with why they are awesome — on the Wall of Awesome.

We do the same with our core value of Do the Right Thing. The DiRT Award goes to someone who is doing the right thing at work and in life. Ambassadors nominate participants who are really walking the walk. The winner gets $1,500. To dive even deeper, we now have a rhythm where, each month, we feature one of our core values and use real life examples of people living it. With only three fundamental but crucial core values, we feature each core value once per quarter. We are consistent in this practice, and our people have an opportunity to be recognized on a monthly basis for living the culture and our values. You just cannot escape all the fun.

Q: Can you identify some key successes and a failure or two in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

Using our Core Value Awards as an example, we have implemented a system focused on Recognize, Reward, and Repeat. This is our biggest key to success in driving the culture for which we strive. It almost becomes second nature, and part of a routine. There are numerous other things we do to reinforce our culture, including specific messaging on Ambassadors’ uniforms in the plant, messaging on walls and handouts, hiring for culture and other thoughtful practices that can really plant the seeds of a positive environment.

We aren’t perfect, and have made plenty of mistakes along the way. But we learn from our challenges, and we’ve found that we also needed local awards so that people from each of our three locations are winning and no one ever feels left out. We also do a listening tour where we ask 12 participants to tell us what we should stop, start, and keep doing. One mistake we made during the first listening tours was to get defensive when someone was critical. We have learned over time that the most important thing was that we were listening to them, regardless of how we felt about their comments. We have now changed our response to meet criticism with a simple “thank you.” It is powerful when someone knows that you are listening, even if it is just for them to unload or complain about something that has been bothering them.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through your business today?

We work very hard to have signage and messaging throughout the plant reinforcing our culture, strategic plan (the actual plan is posted on one page throughout all of our facilities), and the walls celebrating our awesome Ambassadors living our culture. But the real, obvious proof of culture in action is just how each of our Ambassadors interacts with one another and care for their specific responsibility or job description within the business. Everyone takes pride in what they do, and it shows by how they do their job and interact with their colleagues. You’ll notice smiles, mutual respect, and a common alignment towards exceeding our goals. You don’t just see it; you really feel it.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

We use NPS (Net Promoter Scores) to measure our culture and find out if we are moving in the right direction. We ask everyone to rate us on a scale of 1 to 10 with regard to how likely they are to recommend Comfort Research as a place to work for friends and family. We then track that score over time. If we are seeing lower than normal scoring, we start to dive deeper and work to find out how we can improve the environment to increase the score. We aren’t satisfied with an average culture. We want the best.

Simultaneously, we do a Start, Stop, Keep survey so we can gauge why things are moving in one direction or the other. As one could imagine, we have seen both. Over the long term, we have seen trends rise and fall, so we adjust accordingly, based on the feedback we receive from those surveys. This constant measurement affords us some pretty helpful insight into ebb and flow with regard to the challenges and obstacles any business could face. In the end, we just aren’t happy with anything below cultural excellence. Over time, we have learned that a happy and positive culture builds a great business model that can face the rigors of everyday business. We are built not just to survive, but to prosper.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business?

Keep your core values simple, and interject them into the foundation of your business. Have only three to five core values, and make them personal to you. If you believe them and live them every day in everything you do, your team will respond.  No doubt, it will show if you are half-assed in your core values. Choose memorable principles that carry through your business. Don’t over-complicate them, because they will have the opposite impact on your development. Your organization doesn’t need to be a place for everyone, but it should be an amazing place to work for a select few who fit within your culture. Once you find those people, snatch them up and do all you can to keep them.

Systematize your culture. Create processes and rhythms around recognizing, rewarding, and repeating your core values. It has to be something that is part of the very heartbeat of your business, and not just fly-by-night ideas you talk about every now and again. Honor those who are living it publicly and openly. Don’t hide great ideas. Rather, make them part of your daily rituals. Be consistent and you will be able to drive and align your organization around your core values.

Most importantly, don’t settle for anything less than excellent culture. You can achieve it. Sure, it takes time. And energy. And a bunch of bullshit you might not particularly enjoy. But, as you work hard each and every day to align your business with your core values, you will start to see a monumental shift not just in the way you do business, but in the way people feel while doing business. Whether you’re manufacturing beanbags, running a restaurant, building a tech company or even coaching a sports team, it is your culture that acts as the glue that holds it all together. Don’t forget that when the times get tough. And when they get easy — which they will with a great culture — celebrate the people who helped forge the path.


Thanks, Matt, for sharing your journey from startup to successful company and how culture played such a huge role in making that happen.

If you want to learn more about Comfort Research, I recommend:

  • Signing up for a culture tour
  • Reading Matt’s blog (Mold Your Own) = this has the appropriate tagline of “inspired strategies and insights for anyone working to build an employee culture that endures”
  • Considering Matt when you next need an engaging speaker = take a look at YouTube for a sample of the energy, excitement, and easily implementable steps that Matt brings when he speaks

The next time you are visiting one of the retailers he mentions, make sure you take a seat in one of their products. You are guaranteed to stay a while! Thanks, Matt, for sharing.