How to Reflect on the Year as a Leader
value mapping

How to Reflect on the Year as a Leader

The new DX, (which I say tongue in cheek as we are only 6 years old, and reinvented ourselves in 2020) is all about culture. Helping our clients move their organizations to be more human-centric.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of our culture at DX Learning so far.

But... it is far from perfect. It's ok to admit this because there is no such thing as workplace culture perfection. As long as you are continuing to make the effort to improve, that's what matters. 


Why I am so proud? How do I know it is so great?

  1. We have not lost one person since Nov 2019.
  2. We just had a record-breaking year with revenue
  3. I got asked to officiate one of my team members weddings

 

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How can one person set the goals and strategy for a whole organization?

They can’t and shouldn’t.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Period.

I say that, as in our brief 6 years of existence, every December we plan for the next year and this is the first year where I had minimal say in the goals for 2022. The team now creates their own process for creating and defining their goals.

This is the first year where I have heard general excitement for the next year. This is the first year where I feel extremely confident that we are going to exceed all expectations.

When you get the right people on the bus with the right beliefs and behaviors, they will step up and do more than what is expected of them. It's now their goal. Their KPIs. Their strategy. That’s why culture eats strategy for breakfast. You get the right team with the right mindset, with the right metrics, they will do the strategizing. And they did.

For our 2-day strategy offsite in November we did a culture survey. Even the facilitators of the event said the results were off the chart. And the thing is, the most amazing part of it all is that I know my team boast of our culture to their friends, and I know my team receive other job offers (they tell me), and yet, they want to stay, they want to belong to DX.

 

71% of professionals say they would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company that aligns more with their values. 
(LinkedIn)

 

Culture is worth a lot of money. We will never be a company that sheds out $100,000’s in high-paying salaries. We can’t afford to create the golden handcuffs that large companies can to keep their employees. But what we lack in financial clout, we gain in culture. And that’s worth something to my team.


Millennials would take an average pay cut of $7,600 if they could improve:

  • Career development
  • Purposeful work
  • Better work-life balance
  • Better company culture

(Source: CNBC).


So how did we get to the team taking ownership and accountability for their future?

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With a 50% profit share, people now feel part of the company. They can own their career, as you have the opportunity to create your own path.

I feel I have earned their trust and confidence, because despite being weeks away from bankruptcy, I kept every person employed with food on the table, as well as making the right decision at the right time to re-invent the business.

We genuinely CARE for each other shown in how when someone is sick or in need, we immediately drop everything to help them. The team has unlimited PTO and when one of the team asked for how much maternity leave they would get, it took me less than a day to say 6 months full paid leave, which is now our policy.

With the help of a fractional CFO, we are now well run, and with more mentor's than I have ever had before, well managed!
In 2022, we now have an expected behavior that ensures everyone is a constant learner and shares their learning.

Korn Ferry’s top 5 predictors of retention, DX has worked hard on a culture that delivers on all 5.
Not just deliver, exceed.

For our offsite we got 12 clients to do homemade videos of what the DX difference was.
The consistent message? We are like an extension to their team. Our culture is felt in those we serve too.

We CARE as much for each other as we do for our clients and suppliers. It's that care that led to some huge client wins and will be the reason DX continues to grow. We doubled revenue from 2020 to 2021. We aim to double again in 2022, and we celebrated surviving 2020 when our in-person-only business came tumbling down.

We did all this down to creating a high-performing culture that CAREs. This comes from the culture playbook we developed in 2019 from Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage”. It's an intentional and deliberate stated culture and one that I model and believe in. That’s the difference.

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What’s the leadership lesson in all of this?

Firstly I am the culture. As Founder and CEO, I have to model the culture I expect of others. Culture starts at the very top. But I didn’t get it right the first time. Failure is where success comes from.

For the first three years, I led DX, I lost every employee. 100% attrition. For the last 3 years, I have not lost one. 100% retention.

What changed? Me.

Working with the team on the playbook changed everything. We co-created a culture that everyone believed in and as a leader, I had the north star to help guide me which I did not have when it all began.

What really helps me be the great leader I am today, is that growth mindset. I am totally fine with failure. But what really defines me is my ability to learn from failure.

For every employee that left, I learned the mistakes I made, and I refined how I lead from those mistakes. Every bad decision I made, and like you, I make them, I sit back and reflect on that mistake, learn from it, and ensure I get better as a result. I just made a lot of mistakes early on, which means I don’t make as many anymore! The accumulative lessons from previous failures allow us to get where we’re at.

 


Never stop learning. Accept you are not perfect, never will be perfect.
Accept you will make mistakes, and accept you will make bad decisions.


 

What really matters, and what differentiates the mediocre from the great, is really taking time to reflect and learn. I pride myself on that action. To have a great culture, you need a great leader (s). A team, and a business, needs leadership.

Great leaders believe in the culture, behave in ways that align with the culture, and are continuous learners that embrace the growth mindset.

Do you have a well-defined culture, with a set of values, behaviors and that is sustained by rewarding people for aligning to those beliefs and behaviors? Does your leader believe in them? Model them? Hold others accountable to them? Do you lead with a growth mindset?



We’re not there yet… what do we need to do now? What’s next?


We work with a lot of clients where the values and behaviors have not changed in 15 years!
The world changes every year. Every generation is different. Culture is about people, and like people, we need to adapt.


We did our first playbook 2 years ago. It was agreed in our 2-day offsite that we needed to renovate the culture.

We isolated specific blind spots that needed to be addressed and are now working on aligning the values and behaviors to where we are now. I mean a lot has changed from 2019 to 2022!

We have a more flexible approach to where people work, which means even more ownership, extreme ownership, is needed.

It's that autonomy that drives the modern workforce. But for autonomy to be effective, you need more clarity than before and ways to foster human bonds and relationships to ensure silos don’t manifest, which ultimately lead to that fair and equitable feeling teams get when the culture aligns to their values, and that’s where the magic of psychological safety occurs.

That’s what we have here at DX. For one of our three new team members to write a blog on how much we walk the talk with CARE, you know the culture is real here. And with that psychological safety comes continuous improvement.

As I move from my CEO role of old, to my new role of Chief Empathy Officer in 2022, as let go of more and more and let the teams take ownership, I can spend my time coaching, empowering, and listening. From that comes the learning that will help DX just get stronger and stronger. 

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What am I really excited about in 2022?

More learning! Like how not to slouch and how to ensure I look at the interviewer when doing TV spots! Officiating Matt’s wedding and doing my first live TV spot was nerve-wracking, to say the least! But what use is doing these things, unless you look back and go, “what can I do better next time.” Like, don’t forget to say, “I pronounce you husband and wife!”

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I look forward to the team taking ownership of the business and growing our fan base. We do great things for ourselves, and for those we serve. We CARE.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays, and wish you all 2022 of learning.

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