In this episode, Culture Amp’s Work Culture Evangelist Damon Klotz sits down with psychotherapist and best selling author Esther Perel to explore what makes up the fabric of work culture: relationships.
Esther shares ways to develop relational intelligence in the workplace, explains where trust originates and how to cultivate it, and gives us insight into how cultures of innovation can be fostered.
You’ll also hear the lessons Wade Foster (CEO and Founder of Zapier) and Courtney Seiter (Director of People at Buffer) have learned when it comes to creating fully remote Culture First companies.
Listen in at an Ampersand event and meet CEO and Founder Elizabeth Eichorn to learn about how she’s helping others deepen relationships at work.
As a gift to our podcast listeners, we’ve partnered with Esther Perel to offer you a highly valuable tool to engage relational intelligence: 8 questions you should ask when hiring someone, by Esther Perel.
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Here’s a resource to go further: 8 questions you should ask when hiring someone, by Esther Perel.
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DAMON KLOTZ: Hi, everybody. This is Damon Klotz, host of the Culture First Podcast. Before we start the episode, I wanted to make sure that you knew that we’re offering for free Esther Perel’s “8 Questions You Should Ask When Hiring Someone”. Esther is an expert in her field, and she’s fantastic in today’s episode. So you’ll definitely want to take a look at it. You can find those questions at www.culturefirstpodcast.com/relationships. All right, let’s get started.
DAMON KLOTZ: What is a sign of a poisonous relationship at work?
ESTHER PEREL: Contempt.
DAMON KLOTZ: I’m Damon Klotz, and this is Culture First. Today, we’re sitting down with psychotherapist and best selling author Esther Perel, to talk about relationships at work and in life. And we’re going to get to that amazing conversation in a second. But since this is the inaugural episode of Culture First, I figured we should just take a moment to talk about how this show works and what you can expect.
DAMON KLOTZ: Now, I promise this isn’t an ad. But this show Culture First is made by Culture Amp, the leading people in culture platform. So we know a fair bit about what makes employees feel fulfilled and engaged in other organizations creating culture, and that culture can and should be intentional. But what can be difficult to truly understand is how, how do we create the cultures we want within our organizations? And how can we empower people leaders to create the teams and the team cultures that they desire. With that in mind, this show, Culture First, we’ll talk to experts and thought leaders to help us explore both the how, and the why of creating culture.
DAMON KLOTZ: Each episode will contain an in depth interview, and one or two additional segments that we hope will amplify the topic being discussed. Most of the time, I’ll be the one out and about interviewing guests. And other times. It’ll be from our producer, Sarah Lessire. Say Hi, Sarah?
SARAH LESSIRE: Bonjour
DAMON KLOTZ: So that’s our plan. We hope you subscribe to the show today and join us on this journey of understanding how culture works within organizations.
ESTHER PEREL: Here we are.
DAMON KLOTZ: Here we are. So today, I’m joined by Esther Perel.
ESTHER PEREL: Hello, hello.
DAMON KLOTZ: Thanks so much for being here.
ESTHER PEREL: Thank you, me too.
DAMON KLOTZ: I’ve got a couple of questions that I want to do more rapid fire with you. When I’ve told people that I was having a chance to have this conversation, a lot of people who has some questions that they suggested. I hope I do some of them justice. What is a sign of a poisonous relationship at work?
ESTHER PEREL: Contempt. Contempt is the number one, this is John Gottman’s work as well. Is the number one horses of Apocalypse.
DAMON KLOTZ: When things go sour between members of their team, should a manager intervene or stay out of it?
ESTHER PEREL: Intervene. I think managers should intervene. But the intervention should be the encouragement for the two people or the three people to work out that which is standing in between them. If the manager can lend themselves as a facilitator of a reconciliation, or a clarification process between the others, they should do it. They shouldn’t let things fester. And they should not also try to just solve the problem themselves, neither of these two. But hold the space for people to duke it out.
DAMON KLOTZ: What role does love play in the workplace?
ESTHER PEREL: Much. You may love your manager. Your manager may love you. You may love a colleague. You may love your team. You love what you do. You may love the way your company has supported you when you were going through hardships at home. I think love is friendship, love is collegiality. Love is support, love is a verb that is very active that permeates all of these different types of relationships.
DAMON KLOTZ: Should work culture feel like a family, a sports team, a classroom or something else?
ESTHER PEREL: Work culture should feel like work culture. Sometimes it has elements that feel very familiar. And sometimes it may feel classroom-y. Sometimes it may have an element of solidarity of a sports team. I think the groups that you mentioned are identified by certain experiences, right? The competition, the solidarity, the unity. The familiar thing can mean a lot of things. In this instance, I’m a man It’s meant to be positive elements of families. But families produce the best and the worst of humankind.
ESTHER PEREL: So, I think workplace should be workplace, it is a unique thing that hopefully you want to go to when you wake up in the morning. That can be really hard sometimes, but that you want to feel that you have dignity, that you can look at yourself in the mirror and you don’t think what am I doing there? That you don’t feel disrespected, or devalue, that you feel that you have a reason, that you contribute in some way to whatever the contribution is that you make. That’s the meaning of this, and that it gives you the opportunity to feed the people that you are responsible for. For many people, that is still the primary reason to work. And the fulfillment doesn’t necessarily come from what they’re doing at work. The fulfillment comes from the fact that their work is able to feed six children at home. I think we have to not forget that.
DAMON KLOTZ: Yeah.
ESTHER PEREL: When you become a white collar, you think about the work as the fulfillment. But for many people, the fulfillment comes from being able to be a provider, a protector, a parent, a nurturer, a parent, or a devoted child who is feeding six other siblings who could not come across the ocean, or things like that.
ESTHER PEREL: I think fulfillment is essential. But the meaning of fulfillment is not always intrinsic to the work. It’s sometimes extrinsic to the work, for what it can afford us in other parts of our life.
DAMON KLOTZ: In our conversation with Esther Perel, we talk about a concept called Relational Intelligence. It’s a term that she coined in the world of interpersonal relationships. But many leaders are finding it very useful within organizations as well. So let’s just get to the part where Esther explains what relational intelligence actually is.
DAMON KLOTZ: One of the core concepts that you talk about is Relational Intelligence.
ESTHER PEREL: Right.
DAMON KLOTZ: So how would you describe that to someone simply? And then I want to dive into how that shows up in teams?
ESTHER PEREL: Well, Relational Intelligence is about how you connect. It’s about how you establish trust, how you overcome betrayal, how you either engage or avoiding conflict. It’s how you manage the interaction, the interpersonal relationships that you have with other people. It’s the stories that you tell yourself that determine that the way that you will communicate, either with curiosity and collaboration, either with reluctance and suspicion. And it is the ability to see from a multiple perspective, meaning you look at a situation, a relation situation. You need self awareness, and you need relational awareness. It’s talked a lot, especially the people who did work on emotional intelligence. It’s about self-awareness.
ESTHER PEREL: I think…that’s… Plenty of people have gone and know themselves very well. What they don’t know is the effect they have on others.
DAMON KLOTZ: They’re kind of blind to it sometimes.
ESTHER PEREL: That’s a relational perspective, right? It’s like when people come to me and say “I’ve done a lot of individual therapy”. That’s great. That means that you’ve looked at your own belly button. But couples therapy, relationship therapy, is not about what’s here. It’s about what’s here.
DAMON KLOTZ: The space between.
ESTHER PEREL:It’s the space between, and you can feel all kinds of things, the effect of those things on the relationship for example, depression, negativity. I can feel low and inside I feel helpless and I feel deflated and I may even feel defeated, and I feel no energy and I feel … But interpersonally, I wield so much power. Because everybody on my team, when there is one person like that is busy trying to push me, to motivate me to get me to see something better, to lift me. And my gravity is ultimately often going to make all these other people feel as low and deflated as me.
ESTHER PEREL: So the weakness on the inside is sometimes the power interpersonally, and all kinds of … That’s the shift of perspective of thinking relation is, what’s happening between, what’s your effect on others, not just what do you feel inside?
DAMON KLOTZ: What are some of the ways that you would encourage teams to actually build a stronger sense of this inside of their team? And is it something it has to be done as a collective? Or can just two individuals within a team actually work on this?
ESTHER PEREL: Both. I think some things are done in pairs. Some things are done in triads, some things are done in the whole group. I think the power of groups is incredible. And it’s often not nearly taken into account, the power of being supported by a whole group. I just went to men’s retreats. I was alone, one woman with 60 men, for three days. And I saw these men basically working on developing emotional intelligence and relational intelligence. That’s really all they were doing is, learning to be vulnerable, learning to trust, learning to open up, learning to not just live by code.
ESTHER PEREL: This happened to be, and their code is, their code as a man at home and as a man in the workplace. It was an incredible thing to watch. But I think sometimes you do things two people together. In the old way, the old schools, they used to have people walk in the morning, take walks and talk. I think that would be an amazing thing to bring back, is to help people connect and relate while they move, while they move. We are sitting now, but it’s static. It’s like if we were walking, and we were actually both walking and looking in parallel. We would be able to probably say all kinds of things that we know necessarily going to say when we do this. So you need both, attend to nothing. It’s either this or that. But sometimes there is too much of this, another none of that.
DAMON KLOTZ: How much does the environment play? When I think about environment, I think where you’re actually meeting, is it happening in an office, not in an office, the type of meeting, room that you’re meeting in, whether you can see someone. So many meetings happening around the world now, are virtual.
ESTHER PEREL: Me too. At my company, we do it too.
DAMON KLOTZ: Yeah. How do you build Relational Intelligence when you’re actually lacking a lot of the in-person?
ESTHER PEREL: You don’t, you flatten the relationship. The screen life is 2D, it’s flattening, and you don’t get to see the nuances. And you know instantly when you’re talking on a zoom call, and somebody is actually reading their message at the same time, and you are put on pause. And you realize that, I mean, look, there is a very important term these days. I didn’t even talk about it in the talk today, but I do think it’s one of the very important concepts. People have often talked and are talking more and more today about loneliness, and that people feel isolated. And the virtual communications of work is part of that.
ESTHER PEREL: I really think that the 3D needs to be recaptured in any way we can. They’re taking surgeons now to museum and to art classes in order to give them back the touch and the sensation of the tip of the fingers, so that they can do the microsurgery that they need to do. I think it’s the same thing for people who work together, or they should cook together. They should do real physical things that involved the sensors, because that’s how we relate. We see people, we hear them, we touch them, we smell them. And if all of that becomes asepticized, it does change your experience of the social environment.
ESTHER PEREL: So I think we all live the reality that people work remote, that’s fine. And as much as you can… There is nothing replaces it. And I know it, because as a therapist, I work still in my office in one of the only techno free environments. And I do Skype sessions and I do, but with people that I know. But every time they’re in my room, I can do this.
DAMON KLOTZ: When you hear Esther say “Do this”, she puts her hand on my knee.
ESTHER PEREL: And when you’re upset, and I do that, that has no connection with anything that I can try to do through the damn screen that I can’t get. We can’t live without touch.
DAMON KLOTZ: You can’t show that you’re truly there for someone in a way that only touch.
ESTHER PEREL: No, plus it calms the nervous system when I touch you. If I do the bony hand or the shoulders, the knees, the places where you anchor a person, the back of the neck like we hold the baby. It says, “I’m here for you.” It’s like, “What the hell we talking about?” Trust is the basic way that people learn to trust that you’re there for them is when you are physically there and you put your hand on them, in a loving and caring way. It’s like we use a word, but we have taken away the basic ways that word actually gets imprinted on us.
DAMON KLOTZ: This idea around the importance of proximity that there is value in being closer to work colleagues, is fairly uncontroversial. A group of people who spend considerable time together will have some organizational culture. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good culture, that still comes down to leadership and being really intentional. The fact is that remote teams and remote organizations, despite not being physically close, still have to address this question of how can we intentionally develop meaningful relationships, without being in the same physical space? Now at Culture Amp, we analyze millions of data points each year, and we have a lot of research to draw from.
DAMON KLOTZ: But there’s two particular questions from our benchmarks that I want to highlight when it comes to building trust and relationships. 79% of employees answered favorably that feeling genuinely supported, if they choose to make use of flexible work arrangements. While 78% of employees said that their company enables them to balance work and personal life. You might more commonly notice as work life integration. Trusting companies starts with leadership, seeing their employees as people and valuing them as people. That includes creating an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work. Instead of struggling between their work and their personal lives. This is accomplished through a culture and policies that really facilitate this work life balance. We see that many companies recognize this reality, but there’s still a quarter of companies out there who could be doing a much better job.
DAMON KLOTZ: Just because the company has a policy in place to help manage work life balance, doesn’t mean that the culture is necessarily supportive of that policy. We see that most companies do actually support employees to take advantage of these types of policies, such as flexible work arrangements. Since most organizations have some element of remote work. We reached out to fully remote organizations to find out what works and what doesn’t.
COURTNEY SEITER: I’m Courtney Seiter, I’m the Director of People at Buffer, and I’m coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee.
WADE FOSTER: I’m Wade Foster. I’m the co founder, CEO of Zapier and I’m based in Sunnyvale, California.
COURTNEY SEITER: It is a challenge to create a true intense, deliberate culture when you don’t see one another in the same physical space every day. So we talked a lot about having to engineer moments of serendipity, those water cooler at the coffee maker kind of moments, where you might just drop into a chat with someone you wouldn’t normally talk with and come up with a brilliant idea that could sort of changed the trajectory of everything.
COURTNEY SEITER: So we have to work hard to create those serendipity moments and engineer them. And we do that with a lot of tools. We’ve got slack is our water cooler, and it’s mostly for chatter and having fun and talking amongst ourselves.
WADE FOSTER: Remote control makes it easier to put culture first, because you know it’s going to be hard. Everyone knows going in that it’s going to be hard. And so it forces you to work on it out of the gate. Whereas when you’re in an office, a lot of times folks take it for granted that culture will develop, they sort of figure out that, “Well, if we just have snacks in the conference room, or if we have a pool table somewhere, culture will magically develop.” And that’s not really how culture develops. When you’re in a remote facility, no one comes in thinking that a pool table or snacks are going to magically fix our culture. So we know that we’re going to have to work on it.
COURTNEY SEITER: We do a lot of pairs. So we’ll pair people together once a week, for what we call a pair call just a little check in what’s going on in your world. And then we have a deeper pairing that we call a mastermind. And that’s someone who’s going to be your partner, hopefully for many years, and you’re going to talk about achievements and challenges. And if it’s really working the way it can, that person maybe will know you as intimately as a therapist or as intimately As a partner or a best friend. And they’re going to be a support system and a cheerleader and accountability partner.
WADE FOSTER: There’s a couple big challenges remote workforces have to do all predominantly around communication. You can’t be lazy and tap folks on the shoulder. And so you have to develop new communication methods. And these will end up being things like how to use slack? How do you use zoom? How do you use these tools to make decisions to guide structured conversation that in an office you might already have, people already have an intuitive feel for how that works. But in a remote company, you have to actually work on developing those mechanisms and best practices.
COURTNEY SEITER: One big challenge of our remote workforce is being spread out across a variety of time zones. So often we’re spread out across 11, 12, 13 different time zones, and that means your day in Sydney could look a lot different than someone else’s day in New York. We’ve got relatively small number of folks who are in the Asia Pacific Time Zones right now. And I do worry that they might feel a little bit isolated or feel like they’re a little bit on their own, and maybe are having a different Buffer experience, than then someone who might be in a more populated time zone.
COURTNEY SEITER: For having an all hands or a town hall or any sort of big company meeting, we’ll try and make sure that we switch around the times and the time zones. So it doesn’t feel like they’re always having to miss or they’re always having to wake up in the middle of the night if they’re really keen to come watch. And then when we do more social gatherings, we’ll make sure that there’s one for the every time zone and that makes sense, so that there aren’t folks who are being left out.
WADE FOSTER: So working around time zones, figuring out where you can use time zones to your advantage. For example, things like your support team can have 24/7 support, if you take advantage of time zone diversity, versus where will time zones going to be something that hinder you, maybe a product team that has to have faster iteration cycles needs to be in tighter time zones.
DAMON KLOTZ: Next, we have a conversation about trust, and the different ways that that word can be interpreted. We had a bit of a debate about the linguistics of it. But the most interesting part is where we got to from there. Where does trust originate?
ESTHER PEREL: What is meant here?
DAMON KLOTZ: It’s probably also the most the one that people struggle with the most, because it’s also about decision making. And in a truly global organization, people will be making decisions when you’re asleep, or where maybe you have more context or less context or maybe you’re the expert on that subject. But to move fast, you need to trust someone else to make that decision based on the globally discussed workforce.
ESTHER PEREL: Yes, but you could make a decision to fire 200 people. The point is that I want you to make decisions that involve me. When you are … Do you have a pen?
DAMON KLOTZ: Not on me, no.
ESTHER PEREL: Or give me this watch.
DAMON KLOTZ: Sure.
ESTHER PEREL: I’ll show you something.
DAMON KLOTZ: During this part of the conversation, Esther actually asks if she can take my watch, shows it to me, then hides it from my line of sight, and then shows it to me again.
ESTHER PEREL: At eight months, you do this. And then suddenly the baby looks and they realize for the first time that the watch still exists, even though they’re not seeing it. And then they start this incredible game where they throw it on the ground, you pick it up. They throw it on the ground, you pick it up. And they realize that they can bring something back, even if it’s not part of their awareness. It’s called object constancy. It is the thing that allows us afterwards to begin to do peekaboo, right? This is the foundation of trust. Even when I don’t see you, I know you’re there. And even though you don’t see me, you know I’m there. And then we do peekaboo, this is universal, universal game. There’s not a child in the planet that hasn’t played that. And it is the thing that allows the kid to move away, and to know that you will be there when they come back, or for you to leave and for them not to panic.
ESTHER PEREL: That idea that you are carried inside others, you want your company to make decisions in which you feel that they were thinking about you and that they were thinking about how much you’ve invested here or whatever you’ve done for the company, et cetera, just to make decisions is not enough. It’s my interest that you need to also demonstrate.
ESTHER PEREL: I think trust is what lends relationship a foundational truth that is timeless, and that allows me to know that I can rely on you, even when I’m not there. It’s exactly the child and the parent, so that I can go and take risks and be vulnerable in a way that makes me feel protected. That’s I think one of the definitions of trust that I think we can translate across cultures.
DAMON KLOTZ: What do we not talk about enough at work?
ESTHER PEREL: I think so many things, I really sometimes think that we talk about the stuff that doesn’t really matter. But what do we not talk about? We don’t talk about enough at work, the fact that, I don’t know, the number something like 47 millions of Americans are caregivers. We don’t talk enough at work that caregivers of their parents, of their family members, of their children. That people are not just responsible for themselves and the stress of caregiving.
ESTHER PEREL: I think we don’t talk enough about the vulnerability indicators, the index of what are the things that make people vulnerable, because of their housing situation, because of their financial situation. I don’t think we talked enough about the stressors that compound the way that people show up at work, are able to perform at work and what happens when they leave work. So that we don’t get a holistic picture of people’s lives. You have to prove yourself, you have to show that you really mean it without the context. I think what is often missing in a lot of the conversations at work is context, the broader context. If you go back home to a dangerous neighborhood, it’s not the same. And that means that in the morning, by the time you get there, your cortisol levels have already risen. And people don’t pay enough attention to the broader context.
ESTHER PEREL: I think the same thing is true in relationships. Relationships take place in context, rather than with what happened and this kind of very concrete manifest way of dealing with things. I think that sometimes when people leave, or when people are not showing up at work, there is not nearly enough checking in, or when people have a loss, it’s not enough to do an emoji on Facebook. It’s just not enough. And I think that the managers could use the rallying of their team in support for the person who is going to some degree difficulty. Imagine, I mean look, you lost your parents or your mother is sick and you have to go take care. If you have a good social network, the people in your life are going to organize around making sure that somebody comes to cook, that you have meals, the basic stuff that people really need help with.
ESTHER PEREL: Imagine that as a manager, you took your team, and you said, “We’re going to support Damon.” Right? So that for the next two weeks, and … Do you not understand how people would work differently?
DAMON KLOTZ: Yeah.
ESTHER PEREL: It’s like use life to create a stronger team, rather than hope that you can create a storm a team by creating a separation and a segregation from life.
DAMON KLOTZ: Or asking people to go to a team building, as opposed to actually just being there for each other in the team.
ESTHER PEREL: Correct. Correct, exactly.
DAMON KLOTZ: So many of the things we create false environments-
ESTHER PEREL: That’s right.
DAMON KLOTZ: -to build relationships, as opposed to actually just fostering good relationships with each other.
ESTHER PEREL: I can’t agree with you more. That is my philosophy. I don’t … You tell me, because you do the research, if this proves itself to be accurate. But in any case, it’s how I see it.
DAMON KLOTZ: People are always looking for more opportunities to learn and to feel like they’re growing, and to build relationships at work. But when we take people off site to do that, we’re actually lacking that … What actually happens between someone, because it’s one thing to do it in a training session or in a classroom, it’s another thing just to be able to show up and actually build a relationship with someone in the moment. So I think with the work that you’re doing, and the way that the world’s going, we need more skills like this and conversations like this, to inspire people to do it in the moment as humans, as opposed to trying to remove ourselves into a different environment to try to be more human.
ESTHER PEREL: But you need managers who can do it and who can … We’re asking companies, which is the managers in the companies, to do something which they themselves sometimes don’t do for themselves. So you need to teach the teacher.
DAMON KLOTZ: Yeah, definitely.
ESTHER PEREL: So you need teacher training.
DAMON KLOTZ: I want to paint a picture of a situation that I’m happens at organizations around the world. I’m a manager, I manage someone who then manages employees. But I also have a relationship with the employees. And they tell me that they’re not really liking maybe the management style or this person, or that they’re not getting what they need from this manager. In this situation, do you use that information that you have access too to then coach, and build a better relationship with the person that you’re managing? Or do you actually try go straight to the employees and fix that for them?
ESTHER PEREL: No, I actually have a beautiful example of this where the manager … You bring it to the manager and you say … And you prepare that manager to actually do a 360 with the employees and have them tell it, but not as in what am I unhappy with? But as in what could make you a better manager? What are the things that we know that you could do that would really change things for us? And you facilitate the conversation between the manager and the team.
ESTHER PEREL: I’ve seen it done and when it’s done respectfully, it’s not easy to listen to. But man, you know what to do afterwards. You’re not busy, who said what, and who said that? No, but that person doesn’t really have validity to say that because … And then you discredit everything and because it becomes gossip rather than … We believe that the things that you do well as this, but there’s a whole range of things that so many of us here have had some real challenge with. And to be given the opportunity to say out loud, first of all, I can talk behind your back plenty. But if you invite me to actually say things to you in person, I’m going to think about what I’m going to say.
ESTHER PEREL: So now I’m becoming responsible. And so I have to articulate very clearly and why am I saying this and in what way am I saying it? Then you have 10 people, eight people, whatever the number on the team. And you hold that manager, you’re behind them, you literally hold their back and then you say, “That’s the direct route of the information.” Rather than you tell me, then that… a broken telephone.
DAMON KLOTZ: One of the things that I’ve taken away from this conversation, one of the many things I’m taking away from this conversation, is actually the link between therapy and what’s happening, the workplace is in therapy. You’re opening a space for people to have a conversation they need to have with each other. I think also in the workplace, the role of the manager is to open a space where people can have this conversation with each other, as opposed to in a place like you said, behind closed doors or through gossip. Actually just creating a space for people to have a better relationship, but that also means that the manager needs those skills to know how to hold that space.
ESTHER PEREL: That’s right. That’s right, because otherwise you have triangulation. Otherwise, you have coalition’s. Otherwise, you have dark alliances. Otherwise, you have splitting with people, and all these, everybody understands that these are the corrupt dynamics of relationships. They exist in every relational system, families, friendship. But communication or these conversations is as much about training the speakers, as it is about supporting the listeners. That’s the piece that is really important to understand. You stand not behind the person who talks, you stand behind the person who has to hear it.
DAMON KLOTZ: To a different type of support.
ESTHER PEREL: That’s the thing that I had to teach when doing with the couples therapy, I say, support the person who talks. But the minute they started, and they’ve got it, and they bold enough to do it. Now move and go and literally do this for the person who has to receive all of this. Because the challenge is not what is being told, the challenge is what will happen with what was said.
DAMON KLOTZ: Most people would agree that relationships are vital if you want to have the kind of culture in our organization that will not only help us execute on our goals, but also bringing joy fulfillment and even love to our lives. Here in 2019, it can be very hard to step away from our job titles, educational attainment, certifications, awards, you name it. There’s a way to label us these days.
DAMON KLOTZ: But what if I told you that there’s a way to network and meet people, but without all that extra baggage?
SARAH LESSIRE: My name is Sarah Lessire, and I’m the producer of the Culture First Podcast.
DAMON KLOTZ: We sent Sarah to an Ampersand dinner, a networking event where last names and job titles are left at the door. To find out what do people talk about when work talk is not allowed.
SARAH LESSIRE: Hi, my name is Sarah [loud beep], and I’m the [loud beep].
DAMON KLOTZ: While she was there, she got to talk with Elizabeth Eichorn, CEO and founder of Ampersand.
SARAH LESSIRE: Why no last names and why no titles are work talk?
E. EICHORN: Yeah. So no last names initially was because one of the women who I had invited to the dinner, her company was named after her. And so I didn’t wanted her title to be given away when she’s talking about introducing herself. And so I went ahead and made that rule from that point forward. And as I have gotten older and seeing where the world has gone, I have seen this shift and myself of recognizing that we have a title within, we’re given a title as at children, as when we’re born, and it’s our name. And so, if I’m not allowing you to talk about your title for work, why should I allow you to have your title for who you are as a person? And so our goal is to connect people and do it in a very short time span. And so I try to eliminate what I can in a short amount of time, so vulnerability can happen.
SARAH LESSIRE: Yeah. [crowd chatter]. In an environment where you have to speak, to talk about work, a.k.a work…
E. EICHORN: Right.
SARAH LESSIRE: How can we hold space for people to engage in conversations and grow into relationships that go deeper? And that goes beyond what you can do for me in my role, what you’re doing for the company.
E. EICHORN: A year ago, I decided to start implementing an Ampersand corporate. So we actually go into work to help with this exact question. And I want people first and foremost to know that Ampersand, even the word Ampersand means connection. And so that is what I always lead with, is that in a job setting where you do have to talk on a regular basis about what it is that you do, the bottom line, the organization of it, the infrastructure… t hat is great, but that is also eight to 10 hours of your day, that you’re doing this. And it is fact that if we’re not connecting with the people who are helping us do the job, then we’re actually not producing as great of a product as we could.
SARAH LESSIRE: So next, Elizabeth talked about this idea of working for someone else’s Why. And I really love that. I think there’s a lot of pressure around my own Why, my mission statement and this idea that I should be feeling like that’s it, and I’m connected to it every day. The truth is that, I am a human and every day, my body, my mind, my emotion, my thinking are a little bit different. The way they articulate around this why might be different as well. And then there’s the authoring part, I get to decide what that is and in a way that makes it always up for grabs.
SARAH LESSIRE: But I feel like working for someone else’s Why lets us off the hook a little bit. I don’t need to author their Why. All I get to do is, listen and trust what they tell me to be true for them, and be of service to that. And I really resonated with that.
E. EICHORN: The way that Ampersand does this when we go into businesses is, is that we come back in and ask people why they’re there at the job. And we do it in smaller groups, but we do have the CEO or the manager sit in this space of, we need to hear each other’s Why. So I have people and their teams write down their why. And it’s on index cards, and then I have them exchange it with other teammates. I have them put that up as a reminder that for this week, you’re not working for yourself, but you’re working for your teammate’s Why. And then the cards get exchanged every week. At the end of the week, I encourage the team to go to a coffee together, do a meal together. But something over food, because connection and food, you have to have food to then have a piece of something shared, right? Warm beverage, just that tangible aspect. And that’s then you can have a better business and work community. [crowd chatter].
DAMON KLOTZ: That’s our producer Sarah Lessire. She spoke to the founder and CEO of Ampersand Dinners, Elizabeth Eichorn, check out what they’re doing at ampersanddinners.com.
DAMON KLOTZ: Before we go, we thought it might be a fun idea to give you a sneak peek of our next episode, which explores how we can scale culture during fast growth, by allowing that guests to ask our episode 1 guest, Esther a question. So you’re going to hear from episode 2 guest, Ambrosia Vertesi. If you want to hear more of this amazing interview, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
DAMON KLOTZ: You mentioned Esther Perel and you recommend any book that she’s written or any content she’s put out there. If you could ask her one question, what would it be?
AMBROSIA V.: I think the question I would ask her if I had the opportunity would be, what do you think is the most powerful behavior to help a culture be innovative? Because I think that we can talk about it, but I have a feeling she just has in her back pocket, just a laundry list of learnings that she could bring in from a relationship perspective, that maybe we’re just not thinking about. And from a behavioral perspective, and I would be fascinated to hear her response.
DAMON KLOTZ: Here’s Esther’s response.
ESTHER PEREL: I think this thing about innovation, it’s really the question in every system at this point, right? What is a thriving relationship? It’s the relationship that can flexibly thence between our need for security and our need for adventure, between what has been continuous and what is new and disruptive, between tradition and curiosity, basically. I think these are the two sets of fundamental human needs. They are the two sets of fundamental needs of any relational system.
ESTHER PEREL: So what promotes this novelty, it’s basically a culture that welcomes newness, that welcomes the stuff that doesn’t fit. Which is … I come from Belgium, a country where actually for a long time, you would say to somebody of innovation, they would say in Belgium, “pas possible!” But the moment you said, “Why don’t we?” They say, “We’ve tried it, it didn’t work. We don’t do it this way.” And they would basically reinforce the past. It’s the circus, the past, the present, the future. And then you have cultures or societies that have a big future, and a small past, in which a new idea is always welcome. And I think it really needs both. And some periods more of one or the other, it’s not a static equilibrium.
ESTHER PEREL: Equilibrium actually is never static, to put it like that. So it’s about curiosity. It’s about taking risk. It’s about pushing through even when you’re not sure and sticking to it. Staying with it, because there is actually a promise, but it’s not immediately available. Being able to say out loud when you’re afraid that it may not work, even though you continue to stay in it. And it involves new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone. So you’re … I think that whenever you have divergent conversations, you don’t put all the engineers in one room, you put the engineers together with the sales people together. The moment you speak with people who look at the world differently from you, you see things.
ESTHER PEREL: I mean, I had just had an incredible experience where we were hiring and we were five of us. I am more intuitive relationally, and I have this genius director of product, but teaching systematically. Things are studied, there is research behind the things he says, you don’t do a little thing because you need to know the effect of diluting on the whole thing. So it’s another way of being in the world. And we would have meetings with potential employees and what she saw, I was like, “Where did you hear that?” And when you asked that question, she answered, “It was like being at the movies and seeing another movie.” And I thought, “This is what makes it so rich.” And we ended up hiring somebody completely different than what I thought was going to be the person we would hire. That’s innovation, when you land in a completely different place and it feels completely integrated.
DAMON KLOTZ: Thank you to Esther Perel for joining me in conversation. If you want to learn more about her and what she’s up to, visit www.estherperel.com.
DAMON KLOTZ: That’s it for our premiere episode of Culture First. Thanks again to Esther Perel for speaking with me. If you want to hear more about Relational Intelligence, then make sure you check out her podcast, How’s Work, just head to estherperel.com/how’s-work.
DAMON KLOTZ: Now because we love our community and want to provide as much actionable value as possible, we are offering you one of Esther’s incredible resources for anyone who wants to implement more relational intelligence into their hiring process. 8 Questions You Should Ask When Hiring Someone by Esther Perel is available right now at culturefirstpodcast.com/relationships. And the best part: it’s free. Again, that’s culturefirstpodcast.com/relationships. Additionally, you can find the entire transcript of this episode on that exact same page.
DAMON KLOTZ: Also, special thanks to Wade Foster of Zapier, and Courtney Seiter of Buffer, for sharing their experiences managing remote organizations. What connects these two companies is not just that they’re amazing, but they’re also both customers of Culture Amp. It’s a shameless plug, but it’s true.
DAMON KLOTZ: Culture Amp is the leading people and culture platform and this is our podcast, Culture First: Stories for a better world of work. I’m your host Damon Klotz, the show is produced by Sarah Lessire. Editing by Nick Jaworski, of Podcast Monster. Designed by Nicole Dominic, Amelia Chang, and Christine Tapawan. Data and research by Vivian Woo. Video, which you can watch at culturefirstpodcast.com by Kyle Doan. Original music by Sarah Lessire.
DAMON KLOTZ: And those people saying Culture First in our intro, well, they are the some of the amazing Culture Amp employees, currently working to create a better world of work. Find out more about how Culture Amp can develop your people and culture at cultureamp.com.
DAMON KLOTZ: We’ve got so much more planned for Culture First, so make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss a single episode. And if you really liked this episode, it would mean the world to me if you were to leave us a review on the podcast platform of your choice. Leaving reviews and subscribing is just one of the ways that we can make sure that more people get a chance to listen to these episodes.