Stephen Shedletzky, aka 'Shed' is a speaker, writer, coach, facilitator and advisor who has worked with Simon Sinek for a decade and now helps leaders listen to and nurture the voices of others with the aim of developing cultures where people feel safe, encouraged, and rewarded to speak up.
In this episode of the StartWell Podcast we hear about how Shed's career brought him to working with Simon Sinek some of the impetus behind writing his forthcoming book "Speak- Up Culture: When Leaders Truly Listen, People Step Up" - which comes out in Fall 2023.0
Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript
Workplace relationships and communication
Stephen Shedletzky 0:01
especially in large organizations, or any it can be a small organization. There's a pecking order and there's politics. Now, I think the worthwhile conversation is, are you in a healthy relationship? Or are you in a toxic relationship? A toxic relationship, the way I define it is, the more you invest in that relationship, the worse that seemingly gets, and the only person who is responsible for that result is you. A healthy relationship is one in which multiple all parties take responsibility for the health of that relationship. Where the more you invest in it, the better it gets, doesn't mean it's going to be easy all the time, you might have to have really hard, vulnerable, transparent conversations. But the more you invest, the better it gets. Sometimes in our organizations, we need to be mindful of politics. But there's a fine line between being toxic and being healthy. If you want to form bonds of trust and cooperation and gain from the innovation and creative ideas of your people. You need to create an environment in which people feel that it's safe and worth it, to stick their hand up, stick their neck out and share ideas, concerns, disagreements, and even mistakes.
Qasim Virjee 1:14
All right. Welcome to the studio shed.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:16
Thank you. It's great to be here.
Qasim Virjee 1:18
It's a pleasure having you here because I think there's a lot that our audience is going to enjoy hearing about your career history, but also how that's informed your maybe nuggets of wisdom that you share and help people kind of unveil from their own experiences. I'm really excited to hear about this book you got coming up to
Stephen Shedletzky 1:37
thank you. Me too.
Qasim Virjee 1:40
Because it's still coming up, right?
Stephen Shedletzky 1:41
Well, people say I can't wait to read it. And I'm like, Yeah, same here.
Qasim Virjee 1:44
Yeah. After the 75th edit my editor wants me to do. Okay, so shed, yes. What do you do, man?
Stephen Shedletzky 1:51
What do I do? I mean, everything I do is to help people love the work and life more. Okay. So for me, it's about engaging with people in meaningful ways so that we connect with depth and live in a more fulfilled world shows up with writing shows up with speaking, workshops, coaching, and really just trying to help people build deeper relationship with themselves, with the people around them with the world around them so that they experience more fulfillment.
Qasim Virjee 2:20
And where did this come from? Like where did your personal and intent to encourage you know, people's kind of relationships and communication to improve
Stephen Shedletzky 2:28
pain? It always starts with pain. How much time do you have? Oh my god. So a couple of big influences. One I grew up with a stutter. Okay. Mayor to speech pathologist good choice more so for my was
Qasim Virjee 2:45
it your the speech pathologist that helped you as a kid because that would be as a romance story for Disney?
Career development and cultural legacy in a merger
Stephen Shedletzky 2:51
Yeah, she's 25 years older than I am now. So I know what it feels like to be voiceless. Yeah. The second sort of big influence was I went to bed school at Ivy down the street at Western University had an amazing experience experience what I later would call fulfillment, right? The way I define fulfillment is when we use our strengths of which we all have strengths to contribute towards something bigger than ourselves and bigger than profit that we care about. And when we do those things, we feel fulfilled and we get into flow right time standstill. I got my first job out of business school and on my first day, 1000 people were let go post merger. What company was on it was Petro Canada. Suncor. Okay,
Qasim Virjee 3:34
so gas company for our non Canadian friends listening and watching. Yep, that was at the time. What are we talking about? You're the same age as me.
Stephen Shedletzky 3:42
Maybe like 2009. Okay,
Qasim Virjee 3:45
you're younger than me. Yeah. Whoa.
Stephen Shedletzky 3:48
Yeah. Doesn't look it. I don't I am. So, so yeah, I got recruited out of IV to Petro can. And it's not that I was passionate about the industry, but it was a leadership development program. And I'm like, Yeah, that's interesting. So it was a rotational management thingy. And I was hired, gosh, it would have been around this time of year in 2008. Okay. And then I was starting the next year. And between my in my pre boarding between when I signed the offer when I joined merger happened with with Suncor and on my first day, which was September I think it was September 7 2009 1000. People were let go.
Qasim Virjee 4:33
And these are people from the business unit. Like how, I guess how did you interact with those people to what are they from across the organization? Were in the office you walked into? Yeah, it impacted them as you came in there. We're literally walking out with boxes in hand crying.
Stephen Shedletzky 4:52
Yeah. Well, so I didn't get to form obviously meaningful relationships with the people walking out. But I saw the impact of Have that uncertainty on people who are still there? Well also because
Qasim Virjee 5:04
like this is an energy company. Sure there was an m&a or whatever going on. So there's going to be some collateral damage because of culture change or whatever. Sure,
Stephen Shedletzky 5:12
but or efficiencies and synergies was the official announcement.
Qasim Virjee 5:16
But that industry is one that that really is like a career track industry. So I would assume that it's, you know, those people walking out were really, really, really surprised. Yeah,
Stephen Shedletzky 5:27
I mean, it had been months leading up, the merger was announced, I think, in March of 2009. And so some, you know, five, six months later. But yeah, I distinctly remember, because so often when we talk about layoffs, and there's a lot of layoffs happening now, especially in tech, you know, we we feel for the people who are impacted, but it's also the people who stay there.
Qasim Virjee 5:47
Yeah. And then you're like, you lost all your peeps, you lost all your peeps,
Stephen Shedletzky 5:50
there's still uncertainty, you know, and if it isn't managed, well, it can cause a lot of harm. I mean, I've done work with a with an airline, and there were employees still grieving, and still nervous and having PTSD from layoffs that happened almost 30 years ago. Wow. Right? Because it was it was mishandled.
Qasim Virjee 6:11
Yeah. Well, cultural legacy. Yeah. It sits in the subconscious of generations. I mean, this is the interesting thing, right. And most organizations don't consider what that you know, cultural legacy for the organization is ever, you know, brand is just something that you use to sell
Stephen Shedletzky 6:28
things. Yeah, rather than brand as it is inside out. And so
Qasim Virjee 6:33
that would be a very interesting introduction to your career. How did that play out for you?
Stephen Shedletzky 6:41
So a couple things. So one, I just begin to bear witness to the impact of that uncertainty, that turmoil, that lack of communication, or even transparency, because a lot of the senior leaders didn't know what the future held. And I just saw how I mean, I distinctly remember one person who was a 37 year veteran of the of the company who was in the cubicle next to me, and just heard her trepidation. I mean, she was waiting for her pink slip to come. And of course, that affected her productivity, but it also affected her mental and physical well being. And so I felt very blessed in a sense that I had such an odd experience on day one of my career, because a I didn't have 37 years facet and in this company, did
Qasim Virjee 7:26
that relieve you? If that's the first day you walk in, does that relieve you of a sense of responsibility to commit to that position? You know, day one fresh out of school? You're good joining this company? Is this a sense of like, Great, now, there's more opportunity for me here? Or is it like,
Stephen Shedletzky 7:41
ah, perhaps a little bit? Or
Qasim Virjee 7:45
is it like, Okay, well, maybe the next things around the corner.
Stephen Shedletzky 7:50
I didn't join that job thinking that I'm going to be here for a short period of time, I thought I'd be there for years. One of my first cousins worked at the company who had been there for years, you know, I envisioned like this is the place I'm gonna grow my, my career. The thing that was interesting was the employee value proposition I was recruited on. Yeah, it was it was a cultivation program. You said, right, yeah, it was a leadership development rotational management thingy. But the very nature of the organization changed from when I was recruited and signed and when I joined. And so it took about, I would say, five, six months for me to get to this point where this wasn't it for me, not saying the company or the people or anything was bad or wrong, it wasn't the right fit for me. And that was really hard. Then I entered, like, I was totally lost, I was totally unmotivated. The first person I made wrong was me. Why am I not motivated? What's wrong with me? As opposed to hold on a sec? Like perhaps why is this environment or why is this job or company? Maybe not for me?
Qasim Virjee 8:53
Yeah. How did you rationalize that ultimately,
Stephen Shedletzky 8:57
at first, it was exceptionally hard again, I made myself the problem. I was depressed. I was not I was not a good person to be around. I was still, you know, a top performer in my performance evaluations, but I was, you know, lying, hiding and faking. Why
Qasim Virjee 9:13
do you think you had that expectation to kind of make good personally, like, is this something you saw in your relationships? Otherwise?
Stephen Shedletzky 9:22
It say more about that? Why? What like, like,
Qasim Virjee 9:25
your upbringing, what
Stephen Shedletzky 9:25
what do your parents do? Or did my dad is a physician, my mom's an interior decorator? See
Qasim Virjee 9:30
the physicians. My wife's a physician? Yeah, they have a commitment to the profession. That's sort of a difficult one, to kind of parse out of your brain. Yeah,
Stephen Shedletzky 9:41
I mean, for me, and I'm working on this now around like, My identity is so tied up to my work. And so for me, my job wasn't just a three letter word like it was. I put pressure on myself that my job had to be something that gave me pride and joy. You know, that was the expectation. Now, I'm good with that, because I believe I don't think our work should be 100% of our identity. I don't think that's healthy. And I think some of the shifts and trends that that we're seeing in work today, I think work should be additive to our lives. But I don't think it should be the main and or only thing in our lives. I think we ought to be defined by more than that.
Qasim Virjee 10:19
And of course, you say work but prophecy mean job? Yeah, yes. Because there can be work outside of
Stephen Shedletzky 10:25
job. Yeah, or work
Employee burnout and organizational responsibility
Qasim Virjee 10:26
done. I mean, this, again, is something that has come up in our, in our podcast so far, is talking about retain knowledge, despite churn in organizations and how organizations are typically poor at knowledge basing. So when organizations think of their staff as just human resources that are cogs in the wheel, and can be replaced out when they break, so much opportunity goes out of the window with those people. Yeah. And then so this is something that's kind of come up is, is this idea that the body of work that people perform, create, contribute to at an organization? If it's not adequately, you know, archive celebrated communicated internally, you're losing a lot of ideation, capital. Yeah, totally.
Stephen Shedletzky 11:20
Well, it's even I chuckled at the, you know, when the people break, you know, so the good friend of mine is retired Navy Seal, rich Divini, wrote a great book called The called the attributes around, don't just hire people on skills, hire them on attributes, characteristics, right, you can put the most skilled person, but they may not be right at or fit to the team. Right? So Rich makes a distinguishment between leaders and drivers. So drivers view people as cogs in a machine, they fulfill a duty, like if your brakes ran out on your bicycle or your car, do you mourn the loss of your brakes? No, you bind brakes, and you move on, like, that's just maintenance of the machine. That's how drivers view people. And though they may be able to get short term driven results at the expense of long term health, and often drivers are typically narcissistic, believing that their view is the right view, you know, very sort of impenetrable to other people's point of view. Leaders, on the other hand view their teams and organizations of what it actually is a living and breathing organism, right? Are our places of work, our organizations are not bricks and mortar or cloud, it's the it's the human beings who go in and contribute and make it what it is. And so I just find it interesting of when, you know, this notion of when people break, it's like, well, what's the responsibility of the leaders of the cultures of the environment of the system that cause people to break?
Career path and inspiration with Simon Sinek's team member
Qasim Virjee 12:51
Right? timely discussion on that note, given that the whole world, you know, at least in North America, the whole North American world, which is our myopic sense of the global context, here in Canada, in the US with this kind of, you know, let's say, rapid adoption, the last couple of three years of distributed work and remote work, the sudden kind of shift into people working from home, but connected over the internet, and not having a central place to meet and to socialize and to like, get to know each other. Yeah, this is becoming a massive topic now, which is like employee burnout. Companies kind of having no clue how to support. And I think kind of like, it's a bit of a catch all. And I don't know the other kind of phrase for this, but it's kind of a little silly. I think, the way that very easily. Companies are quickly saying, oh, mental health, mental health, mental health. Yeah. And it's like, we signed you up for benefits. You could talk to a therapist to fix yourself in your own time outside of your job, but do your job. Yeah. And it's like, well, maybe I just need someone to talk to, you know, yeah, we we
Stephen Shedletzky 14:06
are a social animal. Yeah, we need community. So I've worked distributed in for remote teams for the vast majority of my career.
Qasim Virjee 14:14
Okay, so then what happened after the gas company? So I did a
Stephen Shedletzky 14:17
stint at Petrick and Suncor, I was fired on my one year anniversary. Mozilla.
Qasim Virjee 14:22
Thank you. Wow. I made it a year. I made it a
Stephen Shedletzky 14:26
year. I was a top performer but I was mentoring a number of interns who turned down full time job opportunity, citing conversations with this guy. So that's a great way to be around cause Yeah, little little cancerous inside of potentially not not the most perfect culture. But anyway, I went from that I really knew what I wanted to do, which was I felt unmotivated, uninspired, disengaged, I want it to feel the opposite. And somehow probably because I'm human. I figured the greatest way to feel that way was to help others feel that way. So I knew I wanted to Make my work that I, I was I was a little bit too young though didn't have enough experience to figure out how to do that figure out how to do it or did you know I was I was both qualified because of my experience and passions but not qualified because that was a year into my career. And what did I know? I did a quick stint at Ernst and Young doing change management consulting, which was great learning.
Qasim Virjee 15:24
Because you had a year of experience. Yeah, exactly. And
Stephen Shedletzky 15:27
now I can consult. But it was it was a really good learning on on. Just I had learned how to make a good PowerPoint slide. years later in my work with Simon Sinek actually worked on a partnership with Ernst and Young. So that was good, fun, full circle. When I joined the Simon Sinek. Team, I'd been on the Simon Sinek team, I still contribute there than on that team for more than a decade. Sounds
Qasim Virjee 15:49
like a sounds like a real estate brokerage. Would you say that way? The Simon Sinek. Team? Yes. And we'll get to that or where maybe we'll jump to that now. Yeah. Well, how know how so what was the path that led you to working with Simon Sinek I guess, I
Stephen Shedletzky 16:04
was introduced to a great person who quickly became a mentor, a guy by the name of James Powell. And I was working at the oil and gas company and I said to him, I'm moving into a marketing role and I'm afraid to do marketing for an organization or I don't believe what they sell or, or how they sell it. And he said, well watch this video. And he sent me Simonson X Golden Circle, TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. And I watched I remember I procrastinated for three months and then watch that video.
Qasim Virjee 16:36
Like you were afraid of watching it night just Oh yeah, you forgot about it. It landed
Stephen Shedletzky 16:41
in my email inbox. And I just didn't do anything about it for you know, three months. And then I watched it went like, that's good. I went to hear Malcolm Gladwell speak at an art of conference here in in Toronto art of management in November of 2009, I guess. And Simon spoke just before Malcolm Gladwell. And it's like, I met my order. I was already drawing golden circles on napkins and explaining it explaining you know, the concept of why why how what, to anyone who would listen and right time right place. So I heard Simon speak bumped into him and into the hall in the hall at the Toronto Metro, the Metro Toronto Convention Center. You know, build some really big
Qasim Virjee 17:22
event. Lots of people around. Yeah, yeah. And you're up there with your pad of paper and you're saying Simon sign this sign this I want your autograph? How did you get his attention? And like what did you guys talk about? You remember,
Stephen Shedletzky 17:33
I asked a question during q&a guy by the name of Ron tight who's a tight Ron's awesome. So
Qasim Virjee 17:42
Ron, for anyone that doesn't know Ron tight, Ron tight is like Ari Gold. In terms of his energy, and his height, his aesthetic. And he's he's a super, super smart marketer.
Stephen Shedletzky 17:57
Yeah. Jeremy pivot, Canadian, Jeremy pivot. There you go. So Ron was emceeing. I asked Simon a question around authenticity, I forget the particulars. But I had a chance in a sea of 1500 people to ask Simon a question. And he answered it. And then I bumped into him into the hall randomly. sent him a note on LinkedIn, saying, I really enjoyed your talk. I'm gonna read your book. Now. He wrote back to that message. I later manage the team who responded to those messages years later. And one thing led led to another I mean, I was young, I was mid 20s. But I had found someone who was helping to advance the world, I wanted to live in a more inspired, safe and fulfilled world. And I got lucky right time, right place, right, people joined Simon's team as the fourth person to join that team. And contributed there for a good, Gosh, 10 years.
Remote work and virtual communication
Qasim Virjee 18:53
So what does the Simon Sinek team do? What does Simon do for a living asides from, you know, inspire people through talks? Or is that there's Yeah, I mean, that's it. But like, that's a lot of things.
Stephen Shedletzky 19:04
So there's, obviously I mean, there's Simon's activities, which is keynotes and online courses, and advising and consulting. And then there's a team of speakers and facilitators. They have a meaningful online business now as well, both Simon's ideas from people like myself and others who share his work, as well as other people on that platform as well. But the interesting piece, as well as the fact that team has been remote, so I've worked from home or on the road being part of a distributed remote team.
Qasim Virjee 19:39
And how did that work for you guys over that decade in terms of the tools that you use to stay in communication, as well as let's call it like IRL? touchpoints? Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 19:49
So, you know, we use all the same tools, the slacks and the Mondays and the zooms and the Skypes we used to use Skype.
Qasim Virjee 19:58
Remember, does it exist anyway.
Stephen Shedletzky 19:59
still does is it? Okay, yeah, it's a good way to make really crazy international calls, you buy some Skype credits, and you can call Oh,
Qasim Virjee 20:06
I used to love it. And I used to have Skype. I forget what they called it, but I had a number of different international destination numbers. And I had that not, you know, like being a cheeky consultant who would say, I have an office in the UK, and an office in Zimbabwe. But instead to make local callers in those regions, where we had clients when I was running, my agency called Design grew like, a long time ago. Yeah, people could call and not have to pay money to call me. Yeah, nice. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 20:35
Yeah. But I think I mean, you know, you can, technology and connecting in a, in a virtual remote world, it's good for a few things. It's good for speed of transaction and ease of access. Right, it's good for information, there's data at our fingertips, whether it's true or not. And it's good for connecting. But it's not great for building relationship.
Qasim Virjee 21:02
It's good for connecting, but not good for building relationships with so what do you mean by connecting? Meaning
Stephen Shedletzky 21:08
you and I could have this conversation and I could be in Australia right now.
Qasim Virjee 21:14
What? What does it?
Stephen Shedletzky 21:18
So it's good at forming connections, but it's not as good as
Building relationships through shared experiences in remote work
Qasim Virjee 21:22
people who otherwise through you know, for? Yeah, as an alternative physical, like IRL global flying around the world stuff. Yeah. The immediacy of how people can get together is valuable. Yeah. And I mean,
Stephen Shedletzky 21:38
I think we saw something really interesting that when everyone went or not everyone, but a lot of people went from being an office and then going home and working from home, we got more of a sense of their real life. In many instances, that's
Qasim Virjee 21:50
a weird thing. I was I keep finding it strange.
Stephen Shedletzky 21:54
I mean, you see people's cats and dogs and children and beds, like,
Qasim Virjee 21:58
the bed thing is very strange to me, for so many reasons. Like sociologists will be picking this apart for decades. Yeah, this era of like, we've never met, but I seen where they sleep. Yeah. And for the most part, what does that say about you? And then how constructed do people's like backgrounds become? And then what does that mean? If they blur their background? And are you allowed to ask them as I do? Because, you know, I try and be filterless. Why do you have a background on turn it off? Man? I want to see where you are, man. Let's see. Yeah. Oh, I can't turn it off. Now, that's an odd situation, your mouse click here? No, no, and it's not a technicality. It's like people have their backups, because they're online on these calls so much. A lot of people I speak with, and I rarely will do video calls. And if I do, I mean, I often will do it in a studio like this. So perhaps there's a bit of an ego thing, where people feel a little self conscious, because they've got, you know, their kids toys in the background or a dog, you know, sitting behind them or whatever. Yeah. But it is a very interesting thing that keeps coming up, which is this perspective amongst team members that has been unveiled in the last few years, which is a very personal perspective on their team members lives. But yet the means of communication is almost like a barrier. Because, yes, we connect, but we can develop a relationship over these staccato conversations where I'm looking at you face on, you know,
Stephen Shedletzky 23:24
I mean, so I have a small team now, and I have one, one person who's my business partner, head of operations, named Alejandro. He's currently in Chile. And we've never met in the flesh. But we have a close relationship. Right now. It's, it's heightened. Right? When we're in person. So I mean, there are certain things that I think heighten relationship and one of those is serendipity. Right? So we break from from this conversation, we go into the next room, and there's a there's a pastry table, and there's one cranberry muffin sitting there. And we both go to reach the cranberry muffin. And I'm like you like cranberry muffins? Like I love cranberry muffins. I'm like me to the antioxidants, you know, perfect level of, of tart and sweet. You know, we bond over antioxidants. Right now we're in a meeting five years from now a contentious client conversation. We're hitting our heads against the wall, it's not going well. And there's this moment of pause and I go, Gosh, I could really go for a cranberry muffin right now. Right? And it goes back to that moment five years ago, where we both want to grab the same thing, that serendipity that's building relationship. And so I think even if we are working primarily over video sync and, and and async, we still need to build these moments of relationship and serendipity where we're not just working. And when we can get together in person. It's really important and getting together in person. I think we need to build just a relationship building component not getting together just to do more of the same work. But to have experiences and get to know one another, I
Qasim Virjee 25:03
think that's the key word, the experiences. Yeah. It's a word that has been difficult for marketers to capitalize on, from my vantage, okay. You know, the most obvious one, of course, being being today being Airbnb, and where they've tried to productize the word as the non alternative to a hotel room. So everything that they're trying to kind of like sell. It started from, from what I've seen at that company as a means of promoting the destination and promoting it kind of like, enticing the customer base to book in particular places because if they could package you know, experiences with those places, and recommend essentially activities, wasn't really about the experience doing the activity that Airbnb sells. They're just using that word because it sounds great. But they're selling access to activities to take whether it's like rent a bike and go for a tour of Copenhagen while they're staying at this Airbnb, or, or whatever, doesn't matter. But the word is enticing to marketers because it connects with all people. Sure, it's, it's a very I don't know how to explain this clearly. But from my vantage, and especially here at start well in the work that we do when when people come together. I see it like this. People come together for meetings of whatever reason and functional output expectation. But when they come together, and they have that guard that they might have in common corporate contexts, shedded because they're in a comfortable environment. Yeah. And they actually humanize that interaction. And you see emotions at work. laughter,
Stephen Shedletzky 27:01
joy, joy, frustration,
Remote work, relationships, and work-life harmony
Qasim Virjee 27:03
reaching for those cranberry muffins. Yeah. I think then they share an experience. You know, and then that's something that builds relationships. Yeah. So how I guess, this IRL thing? I mean, when you guys were working remotely for for that decade? How was that facilitated?
Stephen Shedletzky 27:22
I mean, we prioritize relationship, we knew that relationship was a foundation of accomplishment. And so we've prioritized it, we would have calls devoted to building relationships. It wasn't just calls only to focus on work.
Qasim Virjee 27:37
But did you fly down to England and stuff often? Or is it where's the core of the team? It
Stephen Shedletzky 27:43
was New York, it's now LA. There's Yeah, I mean, it's, there's some people in the UK as well, you know, pre COVID, we would make it a priority to have a full company retreat, hopefully once a year, right. And also, I mean, part of the business model was travel for client work. And so we would just find opportunity for people who would be in the same areas to get together as well. And so, you know, through the pandemic, when traveling wasn't a thing. It's still possible to form connection and relationship over zoom and slacks and all the things you just have to work a bit harder at it. You have to be intentional at it.
Qasim Virjee 28:28
That's exactly the word. Yeah. You have to be intentional. Yeah. Yeah. Because if you have a functional kind of call about a particular problem that you're solving or something, and then you kind of like want a sidebar, people are like, no, no, now we need to work on this thing. I don't want to change mental focus. I don't want to tell you about my weekend. Yeah. My weekend doesn't matter. We have to meet our quota.
Stephen Shedletzky 28:49
Yeah. Yeah. But sometimes the weekend does matter, because it helps me meet the Meet the meet the quota. Okay, so that's another topic.
Qasim Virjee 28:57
Absolutely. This kind of like work life balance question.
Stephen Shedletzky 29:01
Yeah, I like to call it work life harmony or work life integration. It's not a it's not a balance. I think it's a it's a harmony. It's a weave. I think one of the things that's really good about distributed work, is it's far easier to be like, Oh, I got to take the kids for late for an appointment. I'm going to be offline for 90 minutes. Right. As opposed to like, I'm not anti office. I'm not anti getting together in person. But I'm also pro what let's design what's the intent? You know, I am not for mandates.
Qasim Virjee 29:40
By mandates, you mean like return to work, and you
Stephen Shedletzky 29:42
must be in the office, four days a week, three days a week. It's like, you know, really, I think if you're, you know, the nature of your work, I think should dictate where it takes place. Which means if you're a leader of people whose work day Tate's that they're, you know, in an office or in a factory or whatever it might be, you should be there. But yeah, I think it's doing wonders for work life integration for us to have the flexibility to work from where we can and where we need. Yeah, I
Toronto's office culture and repurposing empty spaces
Qasim Virjee 30:16
think it's kind of funny that this topic has been raised only in the last few years. And also sitting here at Toronto, we have a very unique kind of perhaps predominantly nine to five culture that's existed, you know, Anglo phonic heritage, perhaps framing it contextualizing it in the city. To the point where, when I moved here, 2005 from New York, I was very surprised to see that like, a majority of playgrounds in the city, were technically closed to the public, like you weren't supposed to play in them on Sundays. Even as recent as that, and then LCBO was right. So you couldn't buy liquor, except for like two locations in downtown Toronto. Is that right? In 2005?
Stephen Shedletzky 30:58
I obviously don't buy enough liquor. I love liquor on Sunday, but now it's open. But now everything that was outside of Ontario, the LCBO is our local booze shop. Exactly,
Qasim Virjee 31:09
exactly the largest second largest or largest, perhaps global single buyer of alcohol in the world, because it's a centralized, buying distribution system for the province for sure. Cool. But yeah, so we've we've, our city has changed quite a bit, and it's becoming more funky. And it's certainly a diverse population that we have living downtown and working downtown. So we hope that that liberalization kind of Oh, is continues to expand. But it's interesting for me to just say that kind of like cultural heritage of office culture that maybe got strengthened through the, really the 50s to the 70s 80s. In the city. Yeah. Always meant for me, as someone who moved to the city by choice, and didn't grow up here. It was meant for me that like the fringes of the financial core, were more interesting to me from a pedestrian reality, you know, and the financial core itself was culturally bereft. It was simply in this city and for anyone outside of Toronto listening or watching, you know, the kind of like structure the urban topography of Toronto is, is interesting, because we've got this like financial core that is connected to the transit links, so that all of the workers who are in office cubicles, you know, can find their way to the honeycomb through defined paths, but our transit doesn't permeate throughout the Greater Toronto Area with the same kind of access. So as like a New York as an example. Yeah. As New York is London even Yeah. Is any kind of other great city that has this many
Stephen Shedletzky 32:46
people in Sure. Tokyo. I've never been, but I'm can imagine. Yeah. So
Qasim Virjee 32:49
it's interesting, because it's it's like downtown was destination. I guess its purpose as a workplace destination was a predominant function that that, you know, for the greater city. And then the the interesting about that, I think, is that, because of that it hasn't, it's a very difficult thing to repurpose. Yeah, so it's tough for Torontonians to kind of like stake claim to the core. And I've been having a lot of talks with people in commercial real estate about this where, rather than trying to multipurpose, you know, financial core office towers that are now 40% empty, because also, they're owned predominantly by REITs, large, slow, you know, investment vehicles for pension funds. And some of Canada's pension funds are like the largest in the world, right, like teachers and other ones. Those assets, if they get repurposed, are being like a rebuilt to multi use, where they're putting in commercial, they're like knock down, there's a few projects where they're knocking down like a 2030 storey building, replacing its office square footage with a redeveloped project. But adding to that some residential, and then some sort of like fun retail thing. So it's like office retail and residential in one redevelopment, but how that space gets used is still always going to be left up to the quote unquote tenant. So encouraging interaction with the ownership and use of space in the city is biased towards Office usage. And otherwise the private sector paying money to experiment on that innovation. Landowners, landlords are not doing that. So I find that very, very interesting because what it means when you look at the macro picture of work in Toronto, is that you know, everything skews towards being in the office or being out of the office, the in between spaces in Naturally provided by our typography, nor is it encouraged by the purveyors of space. So of course, I say I'm saying this because I sit in the middle, and I'm providing your 20,000 square feet of creative and innovative and collaborative space for people. Which is an expensive proposition. Especially when you're pushing, you know, the rock up the hill. For the people down below, who who will run out of the way when it rolls down.
Stephen Shedletzky 35:27
Yeah, but you're, you're, I mean, I'm picturing the downtown core right now. And it's all office buildings that to your point 40% occupancy, like what's going to be done with that space, there needs to be more creative, whether it's meeting leisure, social living, retail,
Qasim Virjee 35:45
given the connections to it, like the transit links, like, Okay, so the majority of critique I hear of this return to work problem. Problem. Yeah, as some people will call it, you know, like, the banks, maybe not so much the banks in which
Stephen Shedletzky 35:59
I hate calling it return to work, because we've all been working. Yeah, return to the office. Yeah. Like, I
Work-life balance and third spaces in Toronto
Qasim Virjee 36:04
guess this big question that we hear from a lot of people that are responsible for teams within large organizations, corporate bodies downtown that have 2030 4050 100 200,000 square feet. They're really quiet, trying to figure out how to entice people to make the journey downtown. And coming up against internal backlash, you know, in their corporations about to what degree can they outlay budget for repurposing space. And yet, you know, we mentioned a mutual contact friend is Dave Karen's right from CBRE who was on this podcast just the other day. And we were postulating about how companies can provide an urban experience for their suburban workers. That kind of rebuilds a vision of what their expectations are for the city anyway. You know, and I think that that's like, that's kind of an interesting problem that a lot of tech companies for the most part, because, you know, maybe the margins allowed for it, but like companies like Google have been kind of doing that. Yeah, with mixed intent. It's more like captivate your worker so that they're more engaged with the workplace, to increase productivity, increase emotional connection to the company, and really make their whole life float. So there's, there's two sides of this coin. One is about encouraging, you know, people's lifestyles to flourish, and include work in that. Yep. And then the other side of it is, make your whole lifestyle about work. And like, brand your employees. And and that's, that's really what we don't want, I think. Yeah,
Stephen Shedletzky 37:44
I mean, you look at so so I think, I think, you know, what do people want, people want to be paid fairly, they want to be treated as human beings, and they want choice and flexibility. And so I think to say, You must come in to the office every single day, eight to six, and sit on Zoom meetings. It's like, what
Qasim Virjee 38:09
if you're coming to the office to replace to do your work the same way you would do it in a more comfortable environment.
Stephen Shedletzky 38:14
And less people choose because their home environment, whether it's with children, or they live in a shoebox downtown, and they want to get out. But there's also more people who are, who are moving away from downtown for cost and lifestyle being closer to nature. And so I think, you know, to have people to come in, it needs to be for a reason. I don't think it's right to bring people in just so they can sit on a Zoom meeting with people next to them in the same Zoom meeting. Like that's idiotic.
Qasim Virjee 38:44
Taking a step back even further, what are your thoughts on how societies can provide third spaces?
Stephen Shedletzky 38:52
See more? I mean, I think yes, but what like, tell me more about your view? I'm sure. Well,
Qasim Virjee 38:57
yeah. Talking about talking about the kind of like, office focused culture of workers, office workers or white collar workers in in Toronto. Yeah. You know, and this, this kind of dichotomy between home versus office. Last, really, in the in the period of secularization, maybe the last generation, we've seen a kind of an over focus on the work environment, to replace perhaps time and space in people's daily lives. So of course, this has loaded the experience, it sounds like from other guests that I've been talking to, it's loaded the experience and the responsibilities of someone at home working, because now everything is home. So certainly, that's, you know, that's tough to deal with. But I wonder about whether we can revive our libraries and our community centers and these sorts of publicly provided space CES to make them more attractive to people to not only take breaks from home and from work but possibly to become supportive of work being done at. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 40:08
And I think both from a public space, province, city, municipality, you know, whatever it might be, as well as private space. Meet my meeting before here I met a friend at a coffee shop where people were meeting people were working. It's also a grocery shop. It's also a dry cleaner. You know,
Qasim Virjee 40:27
Creed's? Yeah, Creed's at the new location.
Stephen Shedletzky 40:31
Qasim Virjee 40:32
That's actually an interesting company to spend a moment on.
Stephen Shedletzky 40:35
I don't know too much about it. I know, there was some recent publicity I don't know about. Okay, so
Qasim Virjee 40:40
you mentioned one of the things that space does, can we run through the list again,
Stephen Shedletzky 40:44
from what I saw, there was some it looked like some high end grocery, it looked like there was definitely a dry cleaner. There was so that's eating space and co working space. So I'll
Qasim Virjee 40:54
stop you on the dry cleaner. So the history of that company is that it was a man with the last name of creed. Who was there this morning? One of the family. Yeah. So years and years ago, I as far as I know it in the 20s or 30s. There was, you know, the importance of dry cleaning for people who didn't have laundries at home. Yeah, was really high. Yep. Especially office workers. Creed's was the city's best, luxury, dry cleaner. And one of the reasons why they were luxury, a capital L was that they also provided cold storage for furs, from what I understand. So they geographically were located right next to Forest Hill, close to Roseville, affluent neighborhoods in Toronto. And it became this epicenter of of kind of care for clothes that were required to establish status in society and maintain a presence at work, right, very important to the culture at the time. And that's kind of some of the backstory to how, as they shed a kind of a need for real estate with the cold storage of furs. They've turned a lot of that into kind of shared space at their own location.
Stephen Shedletzky 42:11
Where do you put your first?
Qasim Virjee 42:15
I put them on animals, I leave them on animals. That's what I do at answer. Yeah. Yeah. So it's kind of an interesting, that's, that's one of these rare Toronto businesses that's been carried on. And it's cool that you went to the new location, because that historic location, I don't know, what their plans are for, I think, is getting redeveloped into condos. Yeah. But they've just moved into this new development down the road. And they took a retail space in this condo development. And yeah, for a while, I think that coffee function, like Creed's became known as a coffee shop, and is a brilliant idea that like in the back, they kept the dry cleaning desk, you drop your dry cleaning, and you have a coffee, and it's a community center. Yeah, absolutely, totally Community Center. And so I think you're right, like private sector led initiatives to provide that function, which is always
Stephen Shedletzky 43:01
going to be the most nimble and quick as private. Always.
Qasim Virjee 43:06
Yeah, and certainly, there's an opportunity in the next, I think, just a short term of the next few years with the recession, with the availability of real estate, for people who want to, you know, experiment in these business models, to get real estate at a cheaper price to be able to try those things. We're locked in a rates here, unfortunately, that are pre pandemic. So that's not changing our game.
The importance of living organizational values
Stephen Shedletzky 43:30
But I wish I could help you that.
Qasim Virjee 43:33
But let's go back to this idea of kind of, like, you know, and I think that ties into what I understand to be the topic matter of your book, but how corporate culture can evolve. And how I guess I'm gonna leave it there. Okay. How can corporate culture evolve? Yep. For the better, and what opportunities are there today for that to be catalyzed?
Stephen Shedletzky 43:58
So, I think of culture in an equation, okay. So for me, culture equals, in brackets, values multiplied by behavior, to the power of influence. Say that again, culture equals values multiplied by behavior to the power of influence, I shall explain. So, the strength of your culture is the degree to which your values are behaved, your values are lived. I'm a fan of values, you can call them guiding principles. You can call them ethos, whatever you want to call them. But here are some things that are the way that we behave here. My family, we have our own little organization or own culture. And we my wife and I talk about an attempt to embody values that we have described as treat every human being, treat every person as a human being that that they are people with respect. We also talk about how we can talk about our emotions, especially the hard ones. So like the two main pillars, Is that really defined and that my wife and I, like really connect on and that we try to embody to our kids? Now what if it guests, a guest comes into my home? And they're a prospective client, invite them over for dinner? And if this dinner goes, well, there's going to be another zero or two in my bank account, right? And this person treats my wife or children with disrespect. What do I do? Do I tolerate it? Or do I have the heart intervention to say to this potential client, that's not the way that we treat each other here, either clean it up or get out, which might cost me business. But if I don't do that, I'm actually putting money ahead of my values. Not a very strong culture. And so, you know, Enron had values, I believe they were respect, communication. Integrity, which is hilarious and excellence. Excellence is my favorite, least favorite value, because it means nothing. Do me a favor, because seemed like more excellence this this afternoon, please. It'll be 20%. More Excellent. Yes, yes. So I'm a big fan of values articulated as verbs or action phrases, because we're more likely to live them. Yeah. So let's take Enron's values. Respect treat people like the human beings, they are communication and sure that you communicate your ideas in which they're in which they're heard or understood. And you listen and hear understand others, excellence, do more of your best work integrity, say and do the right thing, especially when it's hard, especially when no one's looking. Integrity is interesting, because right is very subjective. What's right to a Boy Scout group is very different than what's right to ISIS as an example, both in integrity, but very different. So we ought to have clarity of our values, then we have to behave those values. Yeah, you can say that you value collaboration, you've made a space devoted to collaboration, but I'll only see it through your actual behavior, are you collaborative actions speak louder than words? There you go. And then the kicker is the more influence one has in a culture in a society, the more their values individually, and their behavior amplifies. Because if I'm a junior new hire, and I don't live the values of of the organization, that's not a big deal. But if a senior leader doesn't live it, that's a huge deal. Yeah.
Leadership, influence, and culture change in organizations
Qasim Virjee 47:20
And I think there's also that kind of like, question, it's changing a lot these days. But how leaders are more visible, thanks to social media, thanks to the ability to share voices with digital media in general. So that's a very poignant, kind of references that cultural values, if not put into action also, in front of the people that they are shared with. Yeah, you know, don't translate as effectively.
Stephen Shedletzky 47:51
Yes, and I use the word influence on purpose, because it's not necessarily title or authority. So I've been in roles in organizations where I didn't have title that I had influence, but by the role that I was in, I didn't have authority, but I had close relationship and could influence people who had authority. I
Qasim Virjee 48:10
got fired for that once. Go on, there should be a whole podcast series. I got fired for that once. That'll be that's what it's called. And it's all about this. It's about power dynamics. Yeah, it's interesting, right? Because if you have influence, like I, when I was running IBM startup program, which is this fledgling program, that culturally, IBM didn't really support startups because it's a sales organization primarily in the Salesforce saw any freebies given to any potential clients because anyone who's not a client as a potential client, to IBM salespeople, the Bluecoats, the, the startups were seen as kind of like an our program that gave free stuff to startups was seen as cannibalistic by the organization at large. And so our program was seen as a cancer. And it was, it wasn't something that was in you know, the organization wanted to support. So kind of like turned all of the people who worked globally on this program to support startups into criminals. Yep. And we had targets on our backs. And when I was called into this, like middle level, you know, manager, who somehow I think had the title of like leading cloud in Canada, which was a much larger title than I don't know me at the time, IBM didn't even know what cloud was. So they just gave it to him. At some point. He got down ranked after after he fired me apparently. But yeah, the reasons that that he cited for for letting me go from IBM, were extremely personal. And they all spoke to his fear of my influence within the organization. And on behalf of the organization in the community that I worked. Yeah, the startup community. And it was crazy because the official Usually the organization didn't share that perspective with this particular person, because on the documentation for, you know, whatever canceling my contract that was not written. Of course, there's no liability on paper. But that's a whole nother thing is about procedure of kind of like bringing people on and letting them go. And how inauthenticity, you know, is often related, I think, to this, this issue of of kind of influence.
Stephen Shedletzky 50:29
Yeah. But it's also, you're also speaking to leading change and innovation inside of these very old, big Titanic type organizations, which is possible, but you need to do it with appropriate protection. So I once worked with a regional leader for a medical device sales company, and a fairly young vP was handpicked and brought in. And the most senior leader, I think President said, experiment, we know things need to change, we don't know how we think you have a better idea of how they should change, then we do go, and you have runway and like, make it happen. And it was almost like this mini, like hack. It was like a, it was an elongated hackathon. Yeah. But they were given free rein, I went and spoke at their sort of annual leadership conference, it was about a 250 person organization, okay, about 200 of them are salespeople, maybe 175. And then the rest were accounting admin support, not salespeople. The first year, he had to, for political reasons, invite the top performers from sales metrics and volumes. But in his set in an in his first year, that conference, this VP laid out his vision, spoke about purpose spoke about people spoke about how we're all equals, we're not gonna put, you know, salespeople on a pedestal just because they bring in all the money, it's the accounting, and the admin of the opposite helps help support it. And the pervasive message from these top performers were, stop wasting my time, let me run my business and leave me alone, right, and he went great. And so next year, when it was time for the leadership conference, he only invited the people who are contributing toward culture, regardless of their sales numbers. And when they didn't invite the top performers as as traditional metric. He got phone calls from these people, why am I not being invited to the Leadership Conference, and he said, Oh, we're just going to talk about more of this stuff about how we're putting a quality people in purpose first, like all the stuff that you said, you didn't want to be a part of. Right now they were clamoring to be there again, for and garments and status from our previous conversation with a dry cleaner. They wanted to be there. But he was putting the people there who were behaving the way that he wanted to incentivize that behavior. So that's a way that you can actually create culture change. And in this circumstance you're describing as you're given an agenda, but it wasn't made public, it was viewed as a threat. As opposed to someone a senior leader, someone with influencing this is the way of the future. It's gonna be scary. If you have questions come to me.
Communication and power dynamics within IBM
Qasim Virjee 53:24
Yeah, and it's super interesting, because there's a lot of miscommunication assumption, and a lack of communication in these super large organizations like IBM is, what 400,000 people globally or something. And, and then, you know, there's power dynamics, of course, that come into play with this or to deeply related to this lack of communication internally, where I had a direct line of communication with like, third to the CEO, right, who was giving me these, like unofficial mandates to do cool stuff. Yeah. And we were very fact that we had an open line of communication, when it got kind of like discovered, because apparently, that something is like this, you know, something that wasn't allowed. By my immediate report, you know, people got scared that like their positions in the various rungs of the ladder between us, we're getting threatened. And I had found a track to like, upgrade my position and status within the organization. Whereas for me as a as a kind of, like, former CEO entrepreneur, in this corporate reality, yeah, I didn't think anything about this, I was not biased to the political shank machine. So it was a really interesting scenario where I was working on some great projects to take, you know, a much further step for IBM to support startups in the Middle East and Africa. And it was actually discussion discussing fact going on a fact finding mission to tour the region and to establish offices For for IBM to support startups in that region. So a pretty big step forward for this massive organization. Yeah. When Yeah, again, when that kind of trickled down to my direct report, there was, there was a panic response. Yeah. And because he felt he would have to explain to the various levels of management above him and below who I was talking to, about what I was doing. And so that kind of like, you know, culture is corrosive at odds with what I'm sure IBM is values are printed on some piece of paper somewhere. Sure. Yep. And so communicating these these kinds of cultural values, and then also encouraging that action at all levels of an organization is extremely important. Yep. Totally,
Creating a speak-up culture in organizations
Stephen Shedletzky 55:52
both rewarding and recognizing when it happens, because in our culture is we get the behavior we reward and we get the behavior that we tolerate, tolerating is a form of reward as well. And then when people live outside of those values, that's first and foremost time for feedback, coaching, support or discipline if necessary, you know, and if someone regardless of their performance continues to live outside of the values, offer them to the competition.
Qasim Virjee 56:19
So great way of phrasing and offer them to the competition. So tell me about this book that you've, you've been writing,
Stephen Shedletzky 56:25
yes. Speak up culture. When leaders truly listen, people step up. And so for me, it's all around, you know, what is a speak up culture? Why is the speak of culture good for business? And how do we venture to create one.
Qasim Virjee 56:39
So what is a speak up culture, a
Stephen Shedletzky 56:41
speak up culture is an environment in which people feel that it is safe and worth it, to share their ideas, even if they're half baked, to share their concerns, even if they're unpopular or personal, to disagree, especially with people more senior to them. And to admit mistake, believing it will lead to improvement as opposed to being ignored or being punished.
Qasim Virjee 57:02
And see, that's exactly what we're talking about this idea of collapsing hierarchies and power dynamics, by encouraging dialogue and encouraging communication.
Stephen Shedletzky 57:14
And we are a hierarchical species. Like that's normal. But we take cues from the behaviors of those leaders. So I'll give you a fun little example of this. I once did a gig for and by gig I mean, a keynote, a talk for an organization who employs about 20,000 people, and they help keep a country in this world safer. Okay, say that. I had the pre engagement call with this senior leader who is the executive sponsor of this event, we had a pre engagement call. And he was lovely. I enjoyed them. We listened to the same podcasts. He described it his wife listen to the same podcast to like, I really liked this guy. Sure. As I often like to do I show up early. It was a virtual event. So I logged on early, and I had a chance to hear some of the end of his open. I've his opening remarks were fine. You know, oftentimes, when the people speak before me who are internal to the to the company, it's, you know, status updates and numbers. So it's pretty dry, which is great for me. Yeah. And then he opened up to an open q&a, the event was for all 1500 managers within this organization. The second question that came during the q&a q&a was anonymously asked by someone saying what is being done to address the continued issue of manager and employee burnout? It's good question. Very good. And this senior executive said, Well, we implemented this this in that solution. We've had these findings in June, I think, I don't think it's an issue. Next question. I went, Oh, it's like we're dealing with it. It's cool. Not even we're dealing with it, it's been dealt with. And I'm like, No, man, like you just lost it. Right, which is you can say thank you for the question, quite frankly, I'm disappointed that you had to ask it because we have done this, this, this and this. These are these are the results that we've seen. But the very mere fact that you've had to ask this question, and that if you are asking it, I'm sure many others are feeling it and asking it to, I regret to inform you that our work has yet to be done. Exam. There's more that I and we Though it pains me, though I don't I wish this weren't the reality. The mere fact that you've that you've had to ask this question mean means it still is. The next time we gather in said months. I really hope and it is my commitment to you that you don't need to ask this question. But if you do need to ask this question again, please keep it coming. That's the answer. And so by the mere fact that he made the question, incorrect, invalid the wrong question. He inadvertently kind of gaslit a significant percentage of the organization not as intention And but there's a difference between the behaviors of a leader and the the the impact. Right. But leaders own their impact, even if it's unintended.
Qasim Virjee 1:00:11
Yeah, and it's a tough situation, because I think there's this like legacy color corporate culture. This is something I saw at IBM, I never heard this phrase. It's funny. I've never heard this phrase until I worked at IBM. And someone very early on, and a senior executive gave me this tip. And he was like, Look, Qasim, you're very smart. You see things that like 400,000 people don't, that are typically things that can lead us to do better at our business. And it can help us however, you're now in a corporate environment, and you're going to need to learn how to eat shit. And I said, What the hell does that mean? And he's like, you will have to eat shit. And make sure when you eat it, you finish your meal. And it took me a long time to kind of figure out what the guy was saying, yeah. But by the time I figured it out, I had been let go. And it's interesting, though, I think there's this pervasive culture in corporate North America where, you know, leaders, that's the wrong word for them in this context, you know, high level kind of managers and C suite, kind of go by that philosophy. And, you know, they don't want to eat shit all the time. And they want to choose who they're doing it for. Yeah. And again, in this, just to spell it out. I mean, what I mean by that phrase, or what that guy meant, was simply saying that you're wrong and admitting, even if you're right, admitting to the person who thinks you're wrong, that you're wrong to validate their control over you, their perception that everything's okay, and that you're not calling out something that's wrong. And so when a leader, you know, steps on stage in front of his peers, and his is his reports. To have to admit, did you know that something is wrong is very difficult when it's on the spot. And so it's kind of like, I don't want to deal with this right now. I'll deal with this later. Or I will never deal with this. And they're dismissive and that's gaslighting I guess.
Toxic workplace culture and gaslighting
Stephen Shedletzky 1:02:20
But well, yeah. I mean, the gaslighting is when, you know, I deny someone's emotional experience. Okay. So if you were to say, you know, I feel so frustrated by this, and I go, No, you don't. That's gaslighting.
Qasim Virjee 1:02:37
Right? No, you don't. It's just cloudy outside today, man. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:02:40
So I think there's the there's, I think what you're speaking to sometimes, especially in large organizations, or any, it could be a small organization. There's a pecking order, and there's politics. Now, I think the worthwhile conversation is, are you in a healthy relationship? Are you in a toxic relationship, a toxic relationship, the way I define it isn't, the more you invest in that relationship, the worse that seemingly gets, and the only person who's responsible for that result is you. A healthy relationship is one in which multiple all parties take responsibility for the health of that relationship. Where the more you invest in it, the better it gets, doesn't mean it's going to be easy all the time. You might have to have really hard, vulnerable, transparent conversations. But the more you invest, the better it gets. Sometimes in our organizations, we need to be mindful of politics, but there's a fine line between it being toxic and being healthy. Right.
Creating a speak-up culture in organizations
Qasim Virjee 1:03:34
Okay, so let's go back to this book. Yes, stand up culture, speak
Stephen Shedletzky 1:03:38
up culture, speak up culture. Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 1:03:42
What are I guess what, what can we expect from this and how does it relate? You know, the content of your work? How does it relate to your practice, as a speaker consultant, your your larger body of work?
Stephen Shedletzky 1:03:55
So the book opens with the case of the Boeing 737 Max eight, which is a documented speak up culture issue. There are people internal to that organization. The most prominent is a senior manager by the name of Ed Pearson, who spoke up repeatedly to the right people. General Manager of the plant that was building the 737 in Renton, Washington, went to the CEO went to the FAA went to the NTSB like he went and spoke spoke to legal counsel at Boeing spoke to all the right people saying we should shut down this production line. This is not safe, we need to investigate. And he was ignored. And it was only until mounting international pressure after the second plane went down Ethiopian Airlines plane that the plane was finally grounded in the in the US. And so that's the opening of really how can seemingly good people enable such a catastrophe to happen. I speak about how speaking up is good for business. And if you want to form bonds of trust and cooperation and gain from the innovation and creative ideas of your people, you need to create an environment in which people feel that it's safe and worth it to stick their hand up, stick their neck out and share ideas, concerns, disagreements and even mistakes. I speak about how we need to better define leadership, we need to better select leaders against that definition. And even support leaders better. Talk about how the two main components of a speak up culture is encourage and reward that leaders and our cultures must encourage people to speak up and then reward them when they do, especially if it's not good news, right? Bad news never gets better with with time as a quote from Admiral Bill McRaven. So it's really around. Yeah, that definition of what a speak up culture is why it's good for business with creativity and innovation, and then how can we actually create it? And yeah, I'm already given talks on it and working with organizations to help them actually create a speak up culture. And the beauty of it is you never arrive? They're always arriving. Right? There's no like on Tuesday. Okay, great. We have a speak up culture. What's next? It's like it takes constant work, constant maintenance,
Qasim Virjee 1:06:16
what are some of the the kind of like highlights of that methodology? Or, I guess, how would you empower XYZ company, let's say, a generic company, with the ability to celebrate this and develop this speak up culture at their organization? What are the things people can do? Yeah,
Stephen Shedletzky 1:06:35
I think first and foremost, so I've seen change in organizations occur across three interconnected levers, which are mindsets, actions and systems. So one of the places you can start, and hopefully leaders are already there, but they already have this belief that hearing ideas, concerns, disagreements and mistakes from people is good for business. Right? You know, there's a quote from the Kinky Boots song. You can change your world when you change or change your mind. I'm not talking about psychedelics, I'm talking about a transformative experience, where you believe that hearing ideas from other people, even if it's bad news is good for business. Now, what's really interesting is, while it's effective to start with a shift in mindset, or having that as a mindset, you can actually start in the other two. So you can act your way to new thinking, I've seen this from a colleague of mine, Jen Maher, who does work and teaching people how to care more. I've also seen this from a retired naval captain David Marquet, who wrote a great book, turn the ship around. So in both of their instances, they equip people with tools that have them back into a feeling, which is really interesting. In the case of mark A, he wanted to create a sense of pride on board his submarine that he was captain of. And so I can't just say, Hey, can you feel more proud to work here, please? Right. It's not a sweat. She Excellent. Yeah. And so what he did is he was committed to creating a great culture, but he wanted to create quick wins. And so he knew that they were going to be evaluated by a random sort of mystery shopper and auditor and evaluator, who would come on board but wouldn't make them selves known as an evaluator or on a submarine on a submarine. That's a high, tense situation. Now, they were in sort of parked in Pearl Harbor. And they were like, there it wasn't, you know, out and out in the middle of the ocean. But Mark a made a rule. He said, anytime there is a guest on board, any guest, every member of this crew as they see a guest because you know, have your 150 person crew, you know, that crew, if there's a guest on board, you have to stop them in their tracks, make eye contact, shake their hand, say Welcome aboard. The Santa Fe, say what your name is, say what you do on on, onboard what your role is. And when it was the evaluator, after every single person stopped them in their tracks and said, I'm this person, this is what I do. And welcome aboard. The Santa Fe they wrote on their evaluation. Wow, everyone feels proud. Must be proud to be on board the ship because of this greeting that I pervasively received. Marquis would share the evaluation with the crew. Hey, look, the evaluator said, we're proud to be here. And they go, oh, yeah, I guess we are, right. So you can actually create a system or set of actions that can act your way, right? You can teach someone who is low on empathy or compassion. You can say, ask someone this question and see what happens. Even if they don't have the mindset or predisposition to care. Be compassionate. When they just get a little bit of taste of it. They're like, wow, that was powerful. I want more the reaction
Qasim Virjee 1:09:45
to that action is what prompts or Prime's, them even maybe for for continuing that culture. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:09:52
And then the last piece is systems or culture. I call it pickle Brian theory. So you and I can take the best of both. award winning cucumber in the world and put it in some awful pickle brine, and we just made an awful pickle. Similarly, we can take a mediocre or maybe even not that great of a cucumber, put it in some excellent Brian and we have a great pickle, meaning the environment that we're in impacts our behavior and impacts our results impacts people more. And so often we blame the person without examining the brine that that person is in.
Design thinking, work culture, and parenting
Qasim Virjee 1:10:24
Yeah, it's something we're thinking about a lot here. This is something that we do right at start wells, we provide this new context, when teams come to start well for a collaboration session or whatever the purpose is, right? Because we're we've moved from coworking in 2017 into more of a on demand meeting space function. But then the meeting spaces themselves, like I showed you a couple before we jumped on the mic will range from boardroom setup where people are, you know, essentially looking at each other around the table to have a conversation. And then, you know, maybe with the screen to dial in other remote people, to something more loungy, where they're very comfortable sitting on couches, having different kind of conversation, occasional conversation, and then mixed function where people are socializing, standing up sitting, it's all different, really formats for arranging their bodies. And that's an interesting thing. But But what we, what we find is that the context we offer in kind of enabling teams to meet even if they have a regular office, and they're coming for an off site here, or meeting a client here, it changes that dynamic just by nature of being a different environment, and an environment that is obviously hospitable. Like when you walked in, you get welcomed, you get offered tea or coffee. Yeah, whether that tea was made by a robot, or the coffee was made by a barista, right? And you feel automatically like you're, you're, you're made comfortable. And and you could just be,
Stephen Shedletzky 1:11:52
but this is the this is the impact of design, thinking and space, like designing a meeting, whether virtual or in person designing an agenda, designing anything with intent, doesn't mean the intent will always come across, but it's worth the effort. So totally.
Qasim Virjee 1:12:10
Okay, so let's talk about when this book is coming out. Yep. And also the kind of work that you want to be doing in 2023. Yeah.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:12:19
And beyond and beyond. The book will come out in October, October 3 2023. Is the current release date subject to change. But that's the current schedule. We've done the second draft of the manuscript. So we're almost done.
Qasim Virjee 1:12:36
And where is it going to be released? Is this is a printed book? Yep.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:12:39
It will be bookstores. Yeah. bookstores, it'll be Amazon, Amazon. It'll be online. It'll be physically in book. It'll be audiobook. It'll be ebook as well. So Oh, who's doing the audiobooks? Start? Well, I'll be the voice. Yeah. But I'm gonna be doing the book. Okay. Yeah, I've been told to have a great face for radio. So this is our video very hard for me. But, yeah, I'll be doing the audio. And, yeah, I mean, love to do talks on it to coaching and work with organizations on it. And also, you know, I'm committed to building a business that doesn't have to have me on planes all the time, because I'm family. And so we're also exploring online education, other other things that we can create that do value in the world without us having to show up and be there all the time. Because we're a small and mighty team. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:13:30
I think that's awesome. And I think, you know, far too often, we're, we're kind of there's this like, cultural backlash against saying that you want to just kind of like, turn off parts of the world in terms of your IRL interactions with it for work. Yeah. But if you really think of like honing your tools for communicating and educating people as digital tools, and expanding their reach because of that, the turning effect is much larger. Yeah. Yeah. So you plan on impacting more people beneficially next year, that's the
Stephen Shedletzky 1:14:02
hope. And yeah, I mean, my number one, my most important job is a dad. I mean, that's my number one job. And so it's hard when I tried
Qasim Virjee 1:14:11
telling that to your wife.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:14:15
Well, we work we work hard at that. But you know, I do travel a lot. It goes in fits and spurts. But you know, I, I want to be home more than being you know, on the road all the time. And so
Qasim Virjee 1:14:29
the most fulfilling thing, isn't it? Yeah. I absolutely love it. But it's, it's like my daughter is four and a half. And she is the most awesome person to hang out with ever. We just have so much fun, nice. And it's kind of like it always reminds me it's a constant reminder. I think as a parent, I have a different perspective than I used to have before being apparent on also, what work should enable, you know, in terms of your emotive response to it, work is really it should be Do the same as play. And I don't mean play for the sake of play. But in terms of how people come together to be creatively inspired to solve problems, obviously, there's there's like, repeat process and dearth and like boring stuff. But it should be fun and people should enjoy being together.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:15:21
Yeah. And this is why I call it work life integration or harmony as well, because our work impacts our life and our life impacts our work. I mean, it's, it's our work life. And so if we have a bad day at work, we're bringing that home, especially if we're working from home from
Qasim Virjee 1:15:35
home. Yeah, it's already there. People come home to it. Yeah. Which is a crazy thing. Yeah. Okay, well, I'm really excited to read this book when it comes out. Thanks. Further involve you in our programming for the gathering series.
Stephen Shedletzky 1:15:48
Thank you very much.
Qasim Virjee 1:15:49
Thanks for joining me in the studio today. Great. Great to be with right oh man. Cheers.