Why Culture Is Vital And How Individuals Can Influence Culture With Mark Babbitt

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Table Of Contents

In this episode, Michael Gardon chats with Mark Babbitt. Mark S. Babbitt is President of WorqIQ, a community and change management consultancy that helps organizations understand leadership's impact on culture and the company's collective level of Workplace Intelligence (WQ).

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Mark is also CEO and Founder of YouTern, a career-focused community enables college students, recent graduates, and young professionals to find their first or next internship or job with the right organizational culture for them.

In addition to writing the upcoming Good Comes First (September 28, 2021 | Matt Holt and BenBella Books), Mark co-authored the bestseller A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive. Followers also find Mark's advice in Entrepreneur, Inc., Forbes, and many other publications. An in-demand speaker, Mark was named one of Inc. Magazines' Top 100 Leadership Speakers.


  • Mark’s background
  • Mark’s definition of culture
  • How companies mess up culture or develop bad culture
  • How respect impacts culture
  • Mark’s thoughts on what is driving companies to return to in-person work and the future of remote work
  • How leaders can define and influence culture
  • The role individuals have on company culture


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Michael Gardon (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of CareerCloud Radio. I'm your host Michael Gardon. Pandemics, remote work, forced back to the office and the great resignation. There's never been a better time to talk about culture. Today's episode is part one of a two-part series on culture. My guest today is Mark Babbitt. Mark is a consultant author and thought leader on the topics of culture and workplace intelligence. He is president of work IQ, a community and change management consultancy is also the CEO and founder of U-turn a career-focused community that enables college students, recent graduates and young professionals to find their first or next internship or job with the right organizational culture for them. Mark co author, the bestseller, a world gone social, how companies must adapt and survive. And his latest book. Good comes first is out on September 28th. Followers of Mark will also find his advice in entrepreneur Forbes and Inc, where he is also named one of Inc magazine's top 100 leadership speakers in this episode, mark. And I talk about why culture is so vitally important right now, how respect has to be the cornerstone of a great company culture and how even individual contributors can influence culture by creating what he calls contagious pockets of excellence. I hope you enjoy this episode with Mark Babbitt, mark. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here.

Mark Babbitt (01:25):

Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity to share our story a little bit.

Michael Gardon (01:28):

I'm really excited to talk about culture. I think it's a perfect time. It's on everybody's minds from the employees to leadership. So I'm really excited to get into this topic with you, but I start off every conversation, just trying to get a little back story about you and some of the, the, your own career decisions to give our audience a flavor of sort of what's out there. So I really start with the question. Can you tell me about your first job?

Mark Babbitt (01:55):

Yeah. First real job, not counting paper routes and selling grit, magazine and door to door stuff. Yes. It was a maintenance and security job at a nursing home. And my sister who's been a nurse for years when I was 14 said I got a job for you, a weekend job after football. And I went, okay, let's do it. And so for four years, I got to build friends with people much, much older than me.

Michael Gardon (02:23):

Excellent. Are there any takeaways from that that kind of influenced your life or your career track?

Mark Babbitt (02:28):

Yes. One people with experience tell amazing stories and to those people just want to be heard. They just, I mean, I used to get in so much trouble because my boss would walk by and I'd be sitting in a chair talking baseball, or we're talking work or, or life and Mr. Babbitt. That's not what we pay you to do well. Okay. Well, we, I didn't know it back then, but we were relationship building and people loved it when I walked in their room because, you know, we could sit down and tell stories and nothing's changed by the way. I mean, I'm 60 years old now nothing's changed. Except maybe we do it more digitally now than in person, but everybody has a story to tell and everybody wants somebody to talk to.

Michael Gardon (03:10):

Interesting. Yeah. I come across this storytelling aspect all the time and certainly from a cultural perspective, the story really matters and what people gravitate towards and hold onto. So it's vitally important, really interesting story. There you talk a little bit about how you went from kind of that job and maybe meandered or will straight line. I'm not quite sure into the work that you do now. Helping companies develop their culture and you're a consultant. You are a speaker, you're an author. What sort of led you in that direction?

Mark Babbitt (03:44):

First of all, thank you. Mandering. As a polite word. I went in the military right out of high school. Three days after I graduated, I went in the air force, became an an engineer there, let the air force pay for my education and did whatever you military train engineer does. When you get out, you go to Silicon valley, which is where I spent the next 20 years of my life, but only about 10 of it engineering because I realized, and it was on a late Friday afternoon, very frustrating day, working for this old school engineering company based out of Boston. And they weren't at all interested in making it a great place to work. You just show up, do your job, shut up, rinse and repeat. And so one Friday afternoon I went, this is not who I'm supposed to be. This is not what work is supposed to be.

Mark Babbitt (04:28):

And I walked out and that was in 1990. So for the next 31 years, I've, I've worked for myself and get knowing that I gave the corporate culture thing, a, a good try. I knew I could never go back to it. And I haven't. Now it doesn't mean to say that I haven't meandered still, but I happened to fall into the startup world in Silicon valley. After, after I left my engineering position and thankfully did very well there. And from there, that's kinda how I got where I am now is we were competing with monster.com when my startup was competing with monster.com, when, when nobody even knew what online recruiting was. And and so I got entrenched in the career space and eventually became the CEO and founder of my own career site and still alive today. And what I found out Michael was that we were sending people out into the workplace and as sucks is people who didn't find it any more fulfilling than I did.

Mark Babbitt (05:23):

And, and so people are, you know, they're working hard to get their college education. They're working hard to, to build their personal brand and they get their quote unquote dream job. And then they get out there and find out it's really, it's not fulfilling at all. And so between mentoring other startup founders and saying, you can't be that company and doing some executive coaching and continuing on the career world, I found a niche in the leadership world where we could talk very deliberately about creating an uncompromising company culture, where people knew what they were going to get when they showed up from the job interview process all the way until they left that company to, to find a better company or a better situation for them. We talked about culture and, and that's that's where the book comes from this conference.

Michael Gardon (06:09):

Excellent. So let's, I want to set some foundational pieces here. I mean, I think we all sort of, if we worked for a company larger, small, you have experienced culture, but can you give us kind of the mark Babbitt definition of culture?

Mark Babbitt (06:29):

Yes. Culture is in layman's terms. Culture is how we get our work done here. And there's a lot that goes along with that, the personal interactions, the potential personal and professional growth, the relationship with our direct supervisor, of course, but more importantly, it's how top leadership, like up in the C-suite or, or down the hall with the door closed all the time. How do they interact with the people every day? You know, what's it really feel like to work here when you get off the train or you park your car and you shut the door and you turn around and you look at that building, how do you feel like, are you excited to walk in that door? It's like, oh crap. I know I'm just here to pay the bills that's culture.

Michael Gardon (07:16):

So it's a kind of a, it's a feeling generated amongst everyone in the company, or at least that's part of it. What are some elements, I guess, of a good culture that generate positive feelings and how do companies seemingly mess that up so much?

Mark Babbitt (07:34):

Well, they do mess it up so much. Culture is defined by everybody in the company, everybody who walks through that door from the, from the newest intern to the, to the CEO, we all have a hand in culture and how we react to the existing culture, our ability to change culture, one human being at a time. The key thing is, are you a constructive element of the culture, or are you helping the culture not be so great? And that's what we talk about with young careerists all the time is don't just live the culture, figure out how you can help change the culture. So, and we do that by, and it sounds really simple just respecting those around you and especially for leadership, make the showing of that respect. Just as important as the results. We have 8 million ways as leaders to track results. We have dozens of ways of employees to check our productivity and to see how well our boss thinks we're doing corporate. America has very little ways of actually tracking how well their culture is doing. They certainly don't have any way of quantifying the level of respect shown. And that's what we're trying to change.

Michael Gardon (08:39):

Respect is one of those things, I guess it's a little bit of a hot button thing for me right now, nationally and politically as well. Right? It seems like you're fighting an uphill battle in some ways, because I guess the level of discord and just civility seems to be in such a bad place. How are you thinking about that generally?

Mark Babbitt (08:59):

So, Michael, that was the impetus for this book. I wrote about quite some time ago and it went amazingly well, but it's a lot of work and it takes me away. The writing process takes you away from your business. It takes you away from your family. You have to be fully entrenched in that process. And so I swore I'd never do it again. And here we are, you know, here we are doing it again. But 2015, 2016, you could see the tsunami of trolls coming at us. And my coauthor and I, Chris admins just looked at each other and said, we've been talking about writing a book together forever. And I can't imagine a better time, the divisiveness, the polarization, the, the quick trigger to judge people, just because they might have a slightly different opinion than you do. And we said, this cannot impact the workplace.

Mark Babbitt (09:49):

Like it has politics. Like it has social discourse, like it has social media. And so that's what about three and a half years ago, we finally said, we got to write this book. Well, then you get so busy and stuff that doesn't happen as quickly as you like, well, then the pandemic hits and now we've got all kinds of time. Cause we're not going anywhere. We're not traveling. We're not consulting, we're not speaking. And so you can imagine how relieved we were to actually go, wow, we actually have time to do this. And as you know, the civil discourse only got only got worse as we were writing it. And I remember several times writing a chapter or even a page in the book and just going, I mean, I got to turn off the news cause I can't convince people how important it is to show respect and watch the world around me right now because those two things are, are diametrically opposed. And so it was a difficult time to reconcile everything that you just talked about with what we were trying to accomplish with the book. It was a challenge. What is,

Michael Gardon (10:47):

Is the central theme central tenant of the book. Let's get into that a little bit. And talk to me about, we got sort of the why, right? What's the, what that kind of gets through this book. What do you think is going to cut through, I guess this time that we're living in?

Mark Babbitt (11:01):

Well, we talk a lot about Michael is good people doing good work and a good place to work. And we deliberately made that as simple as possible. And if, if we're surrounded by people that we may not agree with all the time, but at least they show us respect. And in turn we showed them respect. If our leaders do make respect just as high of a priority as they do result. So we're not just getting the work done, we're getting the work done in a human fulfilling, validating manner. That's it? And that's where, you know, the title good comes first. Well define good. And so we literally have started the book with, and we can help you define good. You as a company, you, as an employee, you have to figure out what's good for you. And a big part of that now is the whole remote work thing.

Mark Babbitt (11:46):

We have companies that are forcing after 18 months of freedom and autonomy and happiness and more balance are forcing people back to work. And you've seen the news. Some of your listeners, people are walking through the voting with their feet. Why you're making me come back to a culture that sucked to begin with. And no, I'm happy. Now I get to be with my kids, my dogs, my cats, my elderly parents, extended family. I have a voice in when, where and how the work gets done. And now you're going to take all that away. No, I'm just not going to work here. And so we say all the time, Michael, there's no labor shortage. There's a respect shortage. We're just not treating people well. And that's for the leadership perspective, that's what we're trying to ask leaders to do. Just start treating people well, do good. And from the employer perspective or reporting perspective, we're trying to say don't tolerate that kind of culture. You have choices. You've worked hard to get where you are, go find the culture that works just right for you.

Michael Gardon (12:46):

I wanted to ask a question about, I guess, on the specific topic of bringing people back to work. I want to just poke in here a little bit in your view, what is behind that? The forced bringing back to work? Is it, I mean, I, in my head I could see it being okay. We have a lot of legacy assets that we're just not using. And so like it just kind of a backward thinking like, okay, we have to utilize these things. There's also a level of, I need to watch you type thing, which is probably perceived as negative. And then, you know, you can also make an argument for a good, productive reason, which is I, as a leader, believe our company is more productive here. We get more spontaneous things going, you know, all of that kind of thing. Oh, what, in your view, what are you hearing as being the main driver of these companies? Forcing people back?

Mark Babbitt (13:34):

Well, I think there is some good and I'm glad you brought that up because leaders, companies, aren't just trying to be jerks. They're, they're trying to find the right balance for the company. Just like we've tried to find the right balance for ourselves, right? So when we're together, we collaborate more. We learn about each other more, you know, the whole water cooler conversation thing. We, we engage more, we see smiles, we make eye contact. There's a lot of important things that, that happen when we're all together. And I think in general, people miss that, they missed having a one-on-one with their boss, that wasn't on a zoom call. Right. But then when they're forced to come back to work full time, there's a, there they revolt. They say no, where I'm not going to do that. Or they ask the question, why are you making me do this?

Mark Babbitt (14:19):

And unfortunately the answer is too often. Well, that's just the way we've always done it. You know, we've invested a lot of money in the cubicles and the rent space and the building and the infrastructure, the resources, and we're wasting it now. And that's not a great answer. And I'll tell you the people and we actually have a name for this in the book. The people that are trying to force people back to work full-time are mostly older, white male legacy leaders that have been around forever, that aren't at showing empathy, that aren't good at showing some level of understanding that the world has changed, but they don't want their worlds change. That's a disconnect. And so we refer to the people in the book that are really struggling with this return to work strategy as suffering from boomer, male syndrome, most strong dynamic female leaders, a lot of leaders that are, that are people of color.

Mark Babbitt (15:17):

They're saying, you know what? The world did change. And it hasn't always been easy for me. And I want to make it easy for my employees. So yes, I'd like them back in the office because there are all those positives about that. But maybe we can have him in the office two days this week and three days next week, maybe we can let them pick the days that are most important to them. My daughter has a soccer game on Thursdays. I'd like to be home on Thursdays, right? My son plays baseball on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I'd like to be off Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoon and let them, co-create that part of the culture old white guys just aren't into that. It's like, no show up, do your job, go home. And it's not working. It's not working for them. It's not working for the workforce.

Michael Gardon (16:01):

Yeah. There's definitely an old school mentality without a really good sort of logic reason behind it, which is, it's sort of an interesting dichotomy in and of itself. I think for sure. We're seeing, like when you were talking, I was just thinking about like the skills of the future. Like what are the skills that matter? And it's definitely realizing there are these sunk cost fallacy is out there. Right. And seeing that, and then being able to, I guess it's like futuristic thinking, like, where do we want to go? How can I adapt? And I think like, that's where you see the difference in the generations in terms of to generalize, right? The difference in thinking is like, no, there's a industrial revolution. Here's how we do it. Cookie cutter mentality. And then there's a holy cow, really dynamic. I gotta be on my feet and constantly reassessing and adapting mentality. And I think like, that's where we're seeing like this generational turnover, at least in my mind. And when I think about skills for the future, it's all about adaptation, constant feedback and being nimble and on your feet.

Mark Babbitt (17:08):

Well, Michael, I couldn't have said that any of that, any better myself, some of us old white guys have been talking about the future of work for years and yes, I get a little cart going, wait a minute, you're calling out old white guys. You're an old white guy. Yes I am. I can't change that. That's who I am. Right. So, I mean, I remember sitting in New York in 2010, IBM invited a whole bunch of us in to say, what does the future of work look like? This is 10, 11 years ago now. And it was remote working. It was digital leadership. It was communicating socially more than digitally, more than in-person. And we knew this was coming, you know, a decade ago. And yet we have those leaders who were just saying, Nope, that doesn't work for me. That the CEO of Goldman sexist. Well, that, that doesn't really work for us. Well, what your employees don't agree? Your employees don't miss that commute into New York at all. They don't miss the stress. They don't miss the aggressive behavior from leadership at all. And so what a surprise people are, are leaving their jobs.

Michael Gardon (18:10):

Yeah. Inertia is such a big player in this, right? Like when you're talking about going into leadership meetings with CEOs and they're saying, okay, it's just easier to continue on the path rather than create a new entire decision. I already have to make thousands of decisions, right? Like I got this whole new decision, but it sometimes takes an event to really show evidence and really change everybody's minds. I mean, I, again, I've been remote working for myself with a team for years and years. So pandemic was nothing new to us at all. Like we're all doing this, right? And now I'm watching all my sort of corporate peers go, oh my God, what do I need to do? So it's really an interesting time. That's just, it's forced some hands and now leaders, as you know, even better than I am, are kind of scrambling with, with what to do. So just in terms of remote, let's just stick with remote for a second. Do you think the tide has changed? There is the conversation now. Okay. How do I plan for this and build a new rethink my entire workplace? Or is there still this? No, we're going to be in the office and I need to wait and see type attitude.

Mark Babbitt (19:24):

Yeah, there's both. There's both my call it in the old school industry, especially the financial world, the chase banks, the Goldman Sachs the Solomons of the world. They're going, Nope. We're going to dig in. We don't care if you're happy or not. If you want to work for a major wall street firm, you're going to come to the office and it's not working. We're very well for them at all. Other companies are saying the new worlds here, the future of work is already here. Yes. It hit us six years, seven years earlier than we thought, but let's adapt. Let's listen. Let's rather than force people back into the old normal let's work with our employees to co-create the new normal, the next normal. And that's where people want to work. And we all know this, right? If you're in the hospitality world, pretty hard to work from home.

Mark Babbitt (20:09):

If you're a teacher, not impossible. If all your students are also at home, but if their students are in school, you have to be in school. This isn't a global problem. It's an industry or a sector issue. And we'd like to see leaders, especially in the, in the more entrenched, the more old school industries we'd like to see them more responsive to this change. That's what's already happened. It's not coming at us anymore. It's here. And my friend, you got to deal with it and you're not dealing with it very well. And nobody wants to go back to that old culture. Nobody wants to go back to that, that old life. The survey came out best practices, Institute, only 10 of human beings. Employees wanted to go back to work full-time but 83% of CEOs want their employees back. Full-Time yeah. Well, how do you close that gap?

Mark Babbitt (20:58):

I mean, that's not a little bit off. Yeah. That's a major disconnect. And you're really going to tell 90% of your employees screw you. We're out. You're here. No, you're not because that's not good for business either. So market conditions, as you said, reality, changes, minds, reality changes, behaviors. And that's really what we're talking about. When we talk about good comes first, do the right thing. Do what's good for your employees? Because if you do, what's good for your employees. If they're genuinely happy, fulfilled, validated, trusted, they're going to do better work for you. And it isn't just a kumbaya, foo food, make everybody feel good. We're going to come and sit around the fire and play guitar. It's not like that at all. It's treat people well and they'll work harder for you. And so treat people with respect and the results, the level of results go up, not down, not sideways in every single case. All the research we did for this book in our consulting practice. Every time we start letting people co-create their new normal, every time we start treating people with respect and by the way, expect our employees to treat each other and their managers with the respect, they've earned results go up.

Michael Gardon (22:10):

Right. I just love how respect is this foundational layer. And I know that it's still a little bit of, okay, how do we put that into practice? Right. But it's such a good starting point. And so refreshing. I want to ask a couple of questions around individuals and how they can contribute and all of that to culture and cultural change. But you just pulling on that, that respect thread. One more time you, I think on your website for the book, like the process is really, really simple, right? It's define, align, refine. And we talked a little bit about the definition of good and people have to kind of do that for themselves. Companies sort of have to do that for themselves, at least around. Good. But can you expand on that a little bit? Like, are there any guardrails for leaders to kind of start with, how are we just defining our culture today?

Mark Babbitt (23:01):

Well, most of us don't, which is the problem. We see the mission statement. That's nailed to the wall in the lobby. We talk all the time about our quote unquote values, our core values, but let's just say one of the core values is integrity. And then the third quarter report, maybe isn't going to look as good as we've told our shareholders, it was going to, so now it's all hands on deck. Everybody's into sales. We have to drive revenue because if we at least set our revenue numbers, even if we don't hit our profit numbers, now the shareholders won't have a stroke, right? So in that process, we treat each other disrespectfully. We work as people to work longer hours. That's not good own that third quarter report, but let's not beat your employees to death. Let's not lie. Let's not cheat. Let's not steal.

Mark Babbitt (23:45):

Let's not fudge the numbers. You say your core value is integrity, but we're watching you do the exact opposite. That's a big part of it. So there are a couple of foundational elements that go into this defining of good getting right to your question. One, the foundational principle is that respect must be as important as results period. End of story. Or you can have a good company culture. And the data proves that out. Second, the leaders of the company must be chief role models for the values they helped define no matter what they are. And every company's got different values. I mean, yes, there's some overlap as a leader, you have to live the values that you said we're going to run our business by. And if you don't then pretty soon, you're the CEO that gets caught on video. Kicking the puppy in the elevator.

Mark Babbitt (24:34):

No, sorry. I no longer trust you. I no longer believe in you. You're not living the values yourself. So I don't have to either. I don't have to feed people respectfully. Then when you finally get those two layers laid down right now we can start building and we start building my go by picking four or five, not 20, not 30, but four or five core values. And they vary so much between company. We had a company we work with said, well, we want to be irreverent. Well, one, most people don't even know what that word means fun. Right? Well then how do you define fun? And so we helped them. It took a couple of months, but would they wanted to be a fun company to work for? Okay, but you can't just throw out the word fun because funding means to an extrovert fund means something much different than an introvert to somebody that's paying the bills, not living paycheck to paycheck.

Mark Babbitt (25:25):

Fun is much different than somebody that's just barely getting by or you know, the janitor versus the chief engineer. So it turns out you can define fun or integrity or trust or good communication or collaboration by saying, okay, what does collaboration look like? Let's take integrity. For example, we have companies that say integrity is like the hallmark. That's the main core value to them. Integrity is the same as respect is to us. So it's like, like a foundational thing. Well, if you ask 20 employees, what integrity means you're gonna get 19 different answers. So we have to sit down. We had a client who did it quite well. They finally said we keep our promises. Oh my God. So simple, right? To our customers, to our vendors, to our stakeholders, to our employees, to each other, we keep our promises. Well, then we can now survey the employees six months from now and say, how does your manager do on the integrity value?

Mark Babbitt (26:21):

Does she keep her promises? Does she do what she says she's going to do? Does she insist? You keep your promises? We rate that on a scale of one to six and we have very quickly an assessment of quantified assessment of something as emotional, as integrity, or is open to interpretation is integrity. And so that's what we do. Michael is wheat. We say, you can't just throw out these values. You actually have to measure them leader by leader team, by team executive, by executive. You have to measure your ability to live those values. And if you get a 2, 3, 4, right now, you suck and we need to fix that. We're not going to punish you for it. We're going to coach you on it. We're going to mentor you for it until you prove we can't until you prove you're not going to PR you've chosen not to personally align to that value. Now we're going to have a tougher conversation. We're going to lovingly set you free. We're going to go let you succeed somewhere else. But if you can't align to that value in this company, and this is where uncompromising company culture comes in, if you can align to that value, you can't work

Michael Gardon (27:24):

Interesting. Yeah. What's measured gets managed, right? And so you gotta be able to somehow give yourself a rating.

Mark Babbitt (27:33):

And Michael, we've all we've how many years have we talked about this? You can only manage what you measure, but we don't. We don't measure values. Again. We have 400 different ways of, of measuring results, but we don't have any way of measuring respect. And that that's what needs to change.

Michael Gardon (27:48):

We talked a lot about leaders and I want to be respectful of your time, but I want to ask a few questions real quick about the individual contributors, the individual employees, managers, even, and what they can do around making culture better. So, I mean, what role does an individual employee have? I've heard you say the words co-create and I think really early on in our conversation, you said everybody has a role to play. What is that? And what can people do?

Mark Babbitt (28:16):

Well, first of all, we have to find out what the real culture is, not what that first paragraph of the job description says, fast paced, dynamic, blah, blah, blah. That's all crap. It's not real, right? It's what they think they have to do to get your foot in the door. So now they can sell you on the open opportunity. It's not what the about us page says. It's not what the careers page says. You have to dig into this. Don't just settle for going to Glassdoor or indeed, and looking at the employee reviews because some of those are just jaded. They're not objective at all. And some of them are frankly fake, right? So you can't just settle for that. Oh, they have a 93% score. Well, that's great. But who wrote the 93% and were they objective? And, but you actually have to dig in somebody, you know, or somebody that, you know, know somebody who worked at that company, or let's just say, it's a smaller company and you don't have that go to their social media account.

Mark Babbitt (29:16):

How are they treating their customers? How are they treating their employees? Here's a real big one. Because in addition to the major culture, the ideal culture that even the best companies have defined, there are sub cultures and Michael, you know this, how many people accept a job offer? They never even met their boss. Well, how do you know what that OSS is? Subculture is how do you know what their leadership style is? And it's not that hard to find out the first person who interviews you, you know, at some point, they're going to say any questions for me right now. Hopefully you haven't waited until they asked. Hopefully you've been engaging, but they're still, they're still going to ask the question and turn around, sit up straight, put your shoulders back, make eye contact and go. What do you like most about working here? And if it takes them a while to respond, or if they have to formulate their words just right.

Mark Babbitt (30:06):

Maybe there's not a whole lot of good about working here, but if they sit up straight, if they smile, if they just light up, well, you know, that's for at least them, that's a pretty good company to work for. Don't settle there. Now. Say, what do you dislike most about working here? What, what keeps you up at night? What worries you the most about working here? Same process. If they're trying to be politically correct, you know, cause they're trying to sell you. So if they're fumbling for the right words, well, maybe the culture isn't as good as they're trying to sell you on last hands. I know I've gone on way too long for one question, but the last one is say, can I meet the members of the team? You don't even care if the answer is yes or no, if it's yes. Great.

Mark Babbitt (30:46):

Now that's like your second interview or your third interview. If the answer is no, then you know, that's not a culture you want to go into it's no, if I can't meet the people that I'm going to be working with and for why would I come here? What are you hiding? So there's a whole bunch of things. And by the way, all of these questions are going to catch most of the interviewers off guard because most people don't ask these very important questions. And so expect that moment of silence, maybe even an awkward moment or two and let them don't say anything don't add on. Just let them sit there and think, and you'll learn a lot.

Michael Gardon (31:20):

Yeah. Those are some great tips for kind of assessing company culture coming in on the, in the interview process. I would just, I would just add like, this is where networking, like just being good at networking period is a great, great, great skill. Like I've talked about it on this podcast a whole bunch for a lot of other reasons, but just the ability to be able to reach out to someone unrelated to your hiring process that works there or asking for an introduction from somebody else that you know, to someone and getting the real deal, who's got no vested interest in like trying to get you there. Cause you're, you're trying to get to truth. And so if you can just have coffee with somebody and I talk about investing a lot, like investing in yourself a lot, like don't think of it as 10 bucks that you're wasting like that 10 bucks is investment in truth that could make help.

Michael Gardon (32:10):

You decide whether or not the next five, 10 years of your life. And however many thousands of dollars you're going to make over that time period is, is the right choice. So I really talk a lot about to the listeners about to get really good at, at networking. But I appreciate all of those tips for job seekers coming in. What about the employee who's there right now? They're in that culture and they want to see a change or the middle manager who is maybe trying to a different subculture and influence up, like, how does that dynamic kind of happen? Are there any quick tips for people in those situations to influence a culture, to change that maybe isn't quite where they want it.

Mark Babbitt (32:52):

That's the best possible question because who decides whether a culture is good or not, the employees, a CEO will get up in a town hall meeting and they'll he, or she will tell you how great we are. Well, maybe that's not your view, Michael, to answer your question, let's put people in two buckets, let's put some people in the I'm not completely aligned with the culture, but I need this job to pay my bills. Those people frankly need to go find a culture that they can align better. And now it doesn't have to be tomorrow. We don't want you to be evicted because you can't pay your rent, but make a plan. If you're not aligned to the values and the culture make a plan, but don't be that toxic member of the team that just hangs on. Cause you gotta pay the bills. It's not good for anybody.

Mark Babbitt (33:37):

It's not good for you. It's not good for your stomach lining. It's not good for your hair loss. It's not good for your weight gain. Just leave, get out. Now the other bucket, there are people that are aligned with the prescribed culture, the defined culture, but the culture isn't living up to their expectations. They're not achieving personal and professional growth. They're not being shown respect. Well, here's where a term we use in the book comes in contagious pockets of excellence. And we found throughout all the companies that we interviewed for the book that they had some level of those contagious pockets of, I, they had some teams, their subcultures were so productive, so positive. So purposeful that even if the culture of the company wasn't great, which usually means the leadership of the company. Isn't great. They still found a way to thrive. And here's, what's cool about that is not only are they happy, not only are they doing good work, even though maybe the people down the hall aren't happy and aren't doing good work, people will eventually that, that the leader of that group, the leader of this contagious pocket of excellence will go to a meeting with all the other managers in the, and the upper level senior leaders.

Mark Babbitt (34:49):

And he'll have good numbers to report. And eventually at some point might take a couple months. Another manager is going to go to that leader of the contagious pocket of excellence. Well, what are you doing? You guys are just shining. You're just doing amazing work. Your people are smiling. They actually like coming to work. Mike, my team is not like that at all. And once that happens, now we can sit down and talk about, well, this is our subculture. We treat people with respect. We validate their work. We focus on personal and professional growth. We are civil. We have some varying opinions, but we listened to the point that we can. And then we go, you know what, maybe this isn't a workplace conversation. And even on very contemporary issues like vaccine or no vaccine mask or no mask, right? These people are still working amazing.

Mark Babbitt (35:38):

The other, because they're focused on the mission because they've set boundaries and because they're treating people with respect. And, and so that's what I would encourage everybody to do is even if you, maybe if let's just say you are a great role model for the values that are defined, maybe you're a great productive employee, but it's still the culture just isn't right for you. But you want to change it because you like the work. You appreciate the mission, like the product or the service. You like your boss, then go to your boss and go. I want us to be a contagious pocket of excellence. I want us to grow together. I want the team to get noticed. I want you as my manager to get noticed and promoted and to grow. And so let's formalize, whatever this thing is, we're doing. Let's define our own values. Let's come up with our own organizational constitution. Let's agree to treat each other with respect every day, even more than we do now. And let's, let's create our own culture where we're all happy and we're all engaged and we're all doing good work.

Michael Gardon (36:39):

Yeah. I think the key takeaway there is subcultures can exist and they can influence out. I just love that term. You use contagious pockets of excellence. I think that's fantastic.

Mark Babbitt (36:50):

Well, Mike, again, you couldn't have said it any better. Don't settle for what is right. Absolutely. Don't settle for what is take what's working, make it better take. What's not working and fix it. And pretty soon you, you have a subculture. That's like the definition of subculture and every human being on the planet, again from the newest intern has a say in that.

Michael Gardon (37:10):

All right, mark. I appreciate it. Your book, good comes first is coming out on September 28th, I believe. Is that correct?

Mark Babbitt (37:18):

It's after three and a half years of work, it's almost on the bookshelf.

Michael Gardon (37:21):

Well, I'm excited. I'm excited to really dig into it because it's just refreshing and I think needed. And I'm glad you guys are a little bit of the tip of the spear fighting this fight in terms of you know, respect. And I think obviously just not, not just in a company, but kind of in all walks of our in all the nooks and crannies of our country right now, I think it's needed. So I really appreciate the work that you're doing. Can you let our audience know anything else that you would like to leave them with or where they can learn more about your work?

Mark Babbitt (37:50):

The first thing I'll say is every employee deserves. Most employees desire a culture that works for you that may not be where you are now. So you're not a prisoner. You're not a victim, fix it or get out. And that when I'm mentoring young professionals or executives, I tell them the same thing. Like you can't just settle for what it is. You either make it better or leave and go find a culture where you will thrive. So some old man advice there. Second we'd love people to go to good comes first.com and, and not just learn about the book, but actually when you're there, take a moment and reflect and say, where am I at right now in my life? If I'm a leader, am I really putting good first? Am I treating people with respect? Am I expecting other people to treat each other with respect? If not, I need to rethink my career. I need to rethink my leadership legacy. And if you're an employee, just take a look and go, what's my culture really like, and what would I need to do to change that? And then once you have those answers, then decide if the book is right for you, but just take a moment and reflect once you get to good comes first.com. Just take a moment and go, where am I at? And where do I want to be excellent?

Michael Gardon (39:05):

Well, for all of our listeners, we will have a link to the book and links to all of Mark's socials and other, other things that he does on his continued meandering path. We'll have all of those in the LinkedIn, the show notes. So you guys can go check out more. Mark. Thanks so much for this conversation. Thanks for being here. I've really enjoyed it.

Mark Babbitt (39:25):

Thank you, Mike. Very much.

Speaker 3 (39:26):

CareerCloud Radio is a production of careercloud.com. Please review this episode on iTunes. We really appreciate it a lot. And thank you.