The Most Crucial Elements for Building a Vibrant Organizational Culture | Glenn Akramoff

EP160 Glen Akramoff square

How can unwritten rules impact workplace culture?

It’s Nicole Greer, your guide to building a vibrant culture, and I’ve just wrapped up a riveting conversation with Glenn Akramoff, the mastermind behind Akramoff LLC and the insightful book “The Human Centered Team.” I’m buzzing with excitement to share the golden nuggets from our latest podcast episode, and trust me, you won’t want to miss this one.

🔍 Unveiling the Unwritten Rules We dove deep into the heart of workplace culture, unearthing those sneaky unwritten rules that often govern our teams more than the official playbook. Glenn’s eye-opening insights reveal how these rules can protect or poison our work environment. Curious about how to spot and rectify these hidden guidelines? Tune in to find out.

🌟 The Human Touch in Government Work Glenn’s journey from a seasonal municipal job to a 25-year career is nothing short of inspiring. His passion for human engagement shines through as he shares his experiences with municipalities and the birth of his transformative book. If you’re looking to give your employees a reason to live, not just work, this episode is your roadmap.

🏛️ Six Pillars of a Thriving Workplace We didn’t stop there! Glenn and I dissected the six pillars of workplace culture, starting with the critical role of culture and structure. From the importance of aligning individual roles with personal gifts to the necessity of adaptable systems, we covered it all. Want to know how to tailor every job to the individual and why your organizational chart might need a makeover? Press play on our chat.

🔄 Adapt or Stagnate The world is changing, and so must our businesses. We tackled the tough topics of external forces like market shifts and technological leaps, and how they demand our agility. Learn how to future-proof your organization against the tides of change and keep your team’s morale sky-high.

📈 Measure What Matters Performance measurement isn’t just about numbers; it’s about the story they tell. Glenn shared his expertise on selecting the right KPIs and the art of learning from setbacks. If you’re ready to make data-driven decisions that truly reflect your organization’s heartbeat, this is your moment.

📚 Dive Deeper with Glenn Intrigued by Glenn’s wisdom? You can connect with him, explore his book, and continue the conversation beyond our podcast. His insights are just a click away, and they’re the key to unlocking a more human, vibrant culture in your workplace.

I’m so grateful for the chance to bring these discussions to you, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Remember, your feedback fuels our journey to a brighter, more engaging work life. So, hit that play button, join the conversation, and let’s transform our workplaces together! I can’t wait to continue this journey with you. Until next time, keep leading vibrantly!


Welcome to my latest blog post, where I, Nicole Greer, your guide to building vibrant cultures, share the profound insights from my recent podcast episode with Glenn Akramoff. As the founder of Akramoff LLC and the author of “The Human Centered Team,” Glenn brings a wealth of knowledge on transforming workplace environments, particularly within municipal governments. Join me as we delve into the unwritten rules of workplace culture and the pillars that uphold a thriving organizational environment.

The Unwritten Rules of Workplace Culture
In every workplace, there are rules that everyone knows – the written ones. But lurking beneath the surface are the unwritten rules, the ones that are created by the team to protect itself or by individuals to safeguard their own interests. These rules can be easily corrupted, and it’s here that I often find the root of many problems. When people talk about toxic employees or workgroups, it’s typically a reflection of how these unwritten rules are self-enforced.

My Journey with Glenn Akramoff: From Seasonal Worker to Culture Expert
During our conversation, Glenn shared his fascinating journey, which began in his hometown in upstate New York. Dropping out of college led him to a seasonal municipal job, which unexpectedly evolved into a 25-year career before he transitioned into consulting. This path laid the foundation for his book, “The Human Centered Team,” a tool born out of necessity to share his program and philosophy with a broader audience.

The Six Pillars of Workplace Culture

  1. Culture: The Bedrock of the Organization
    Culture is increasingly important, especially to the newer generations like Gen Z and millennials who demand a positive work environment. Unwritten rules are a significant part of this culture, and shining a light on them is crucial to understanding their impact on the team.
  2. Structure: The Framework for Success
    Structure in the workplace has a dual meaning. It encompasses the rules and boundaries, as well as the physical layout of the work environment. It’s vital to ensure that the structure supports the human beings within it, tailoring every job to fit the individual.

The Importance of Structure and Ratios in Teams
Glenn and I discussed the necessity of maintaining the right structure and ratios within a team to ensure effective leadership and support for employees. Clear organizational charts and the impact of restructuring on job titles and responsibilities are paramount. Aligning individuals’ gifts, skills, and passions with their roles is key to enhancing productivity and job satisfaction.

Addressing Outdated Systems and Embracing Adaptability
We also tackled the challenges of outdated systems and processes, particularly in municipal government settings. The detrimental effects on employee morale and customer experience cannot be overstated. Efficient systems and documented processes are essential for consistency and knowledge transfer, especially with the looming threat of retirements and the loss of institutional knowledge.

Navigating External Forces and Measuring Performance
External forces like inflation and gas prices can wreak havoc on businesses. Having a strategy to deal with these challenges is crucial for reducing stress and improving sleep for leaders. In municipalities, election cycles bring their own set of pressures and uncertainties. A strategy to navigate these forces is essential for organizational stability.

Performance measurement is another critical area. Using key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress and make data-driven decisions is invaluable. However, identifying the right KPIs requires ongoing attention and adjustment to ensure they accurately reflect the organization’s performance.

Connect with Glenn Akramoff
For those eager to learn more about Glenn Akramoff’s work and dive deeper into creating a human-centered team, I encourage you to visit his website, connect with him on LinkedIn, or explore his book, “The Human Centered Team,” available on Amazon and at

Final Thoughts
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Glenn Akramoff for joining me on the “Build a Vibrant Culture” podcast and sharing his invaluable insights. To my readers and listeners, I invite you to share your feedback and engage with us as we continue to explore the facets of creating dynamic and human-centered workplace cultures. Together, let’s transform the way we work and live.

Mentioned in this episode:


Glen Akramoff:  A workplace culture, what I found is that I talk about quite a bit is there’s the unwritten rules. So you have the written rules. Everyone gets to know those. They’re in a manual and everybody’s like, yeah, okay. But the unwritten rules are created by the team to protect the team or by an individual to protect themselves, and they’re easily corrupted. And that is usually where I find the problems. And that’s where people will label people toxic employees or or a toxic work group. And it usually comes from how they’re  self enforcing their unwritten rules. 

Voice Over: This is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, your source for the strategies, systems, and insights you need to turn your dreams into your destiny. Every week we dive into dynamic conversations as our host, Nicole Greer, interviews leadership and business experts. They’re here to shed light on practical solutions to the challenges of personal and professional development. Now, here’s your host, a professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Nicole Greer.

Nicole: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach. And today, I have, yes, another fantastic guest on the show, and his name is Glenn Akramoff. I am so excited to have him. He is the founder of a Akramoff LLC, author of the Human Centered Team. And look what I have right here with notes and highlights and everything. The Human Centered Team, you gotta get you one of these on the Amazon. Alright? So let me tell you a little bit about him. Not only is he the founder and the CEO, his expertise is rehabilitating and revitalizing municipal government workplaces and has developed a program that will improve any organization by returning humanity,  don’t miss that, to the center of focus because here is the truth. If the aliens come and take all of us out of here the rapture happens. Nothing’s getting done. We have got to have the people, and so that is the bottom line. Glenn’s life experiences and core values are at the center of his purpose. This is a guy on a mission here. He has been working from seasonal maintenance to city manager. Oh, I love this. And he is a consultant and business owner with a thirty year career. He’s observed a connection between fulfillment at work and happiness at home, and he has an intense desire to improve the lives of everyone he works with. Glenn creates environments that are innovative, inclusive, growing, and rich in communication and respect. His human centered program empowers teams and leaders to overcome and succeed together. He is about making work work. Oh, that’s so good. Glenn, I’m so glad you’re here. 

Glenn: Thanks for having me. 

Nicole:  Yeah. Yeah. So I work with a lot of municipalities here in the Charlotte North Carolina area, all around here. These are the hardest working people that keep all of our little citizens happy and our streets clean and our swimming pools going at the park and all the stuff. So  I love your focus on the government. How’d you get your first job in a municipality? How’d that happen? 

Glenn:  It was actually in my hometown. In Upstate, New York. I dropped out of college and needed a job, and they did a seasonal work and so I took it and actually stayed there a couple of years, which was not common. And I learned a lot, l liked it. And then but I like most of us, when our careers start, we don’t necessarily think of it as a career. It was just a job, and it evolved to a job.

Nicole:  Yeah a J.O.B

Glenn: Yeah. It evolved over a period of five or six years, and I moved to Washington, and my experience got me another job in municipalities, and I did a twenty five year career before I went to being a consultant. 

Nicole: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. Yeah. So I work a lot in HR circles and so I work with HR directors and in municipalities and they’re just some of the greatest people that I know. They do such good work keeping the people, the firefighters, the police officers, y’all are you all getting what we’re saying here? Like, this is a big deal. Keeping our people safe and keeping our employees of our cities, doing great things. So this book, how did this book come about? So, I’d love to know how you got yourself in a chair and got this written. 

Glenn: Well, that that’s an interesting,  that’s always an interesting occurrence. I think the biggest thing is, you know, most of us, a lot of people know they have a book in them, and I did. And it was on my list for, like, twenty years. And this program kinda developed, you know, I’ve been developing this at work, and then it’d become a consultant and realize, you know, I  need a tool to use when I’m teaching, but also, I wanna share it with more people. So I worked with a publisher and an editor. And it took one year exactly. 

Nicole: Wow. Congratulations.

Glenn:  It happened to be, yeah, it happened to be a busy year business wise, but, you know, thankfully, my editor, Jonathan, was fabulous, kept me on task. We were bouncing back and forth. He was patient when I couldn’t quite get to it as fast as he wanted me to.  Um, but, um, it was a, I really enjoyed the experience. The one thing I’ll say about it is it is much more personal than I thought it would be at the beginning. 

Nicole: Yeah. This is like you said it was in you. It’s like you gave birth to it or something. Right? 

Glenn:  Yeah. Absolutely. That’s how it felt through the process for sure. 

Nicole: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, in his book, he’s got lots of nuggets. I mean, serious nuggets. And again, we’re talking about the book, the human centered team, and it’s how to relate, connect, and give don’t miss this. I love this. This is a subtitle everybody. Relate, connect, and give your employees a reason to live. I mean, this is so important. 

Glenn: Yeah.

Nicole: Right? Alright. And with employee engagement, everywhere I go, Glenn, I don’t know if it’s the same for you. Everybody’s talking about employee engagement, employee engagement. And that’s really what you’re talking about in this book overall. Don’t you think? 

Glenn:  Yeah. I think it’s,  I take it to the human engagement part.

Nicole: Yeah

Glenn:  Because I don’t believe that we can separate our job from our personal life that much because we’re one human being. And so we won’t want both of them to be a good experience for people. 

Nicole: That’s right. And I love what you’re saying because, you know, I’ll ask people a question, you know, while I’m coaching them and they’ll say, you mean my personal life or my professional life? And I’m like, it’s all one life because whatever’s happening at work, you bring it home and whatever’s at home, you know, you’re you’re bringing it in the door even though you might think you’re not bringing in the door, your mood, your energy, all of this stuff. It’s all one human experiencing all these things. 

Glenn: Yep, absolutely.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Alright. So I think on this podcast, you might have to come back for another one, but, I’d love to talk about the six pillars of Workplace culture. And so the first one, is the word, culture. So we talk a little bit about that? 

Glenn:  Sure. I think it, I mean people are starting to realize after, you know, as COVID happened, how important culture is. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: Especially senior leaders that may have not paid attention to it that much. Now it’s becoming a big thing. I also think that’s driven by our two newest generations. The gen the, Gen Z and millennials, they don’t tolerate poor culture, which I applaud them for. Most people don’t, but I do. I think it’s fantastic. And they’re gonna lead us to a new way, and they already are and I think that’s a big part of it. So when you’re talking about culture to me, there’s a lot of different things that go into it, especially in a workplace. And a workplace culture. What I found is that I talk about quite a bit is there’s the unwritten rules. So you have the written rules. Everyone gets to know They’re in a manual and everybody’s like, yeah, okay. But the unwritten rules are created by the team to protect the team or by an individual to protect themselves. And they’re easily corrupted. And that is usually where I find the problems. And that’s where people will label people toxic employees or or a toxic work group and it usually comes from how they’re self enforcing their unwritten roles. And so that’s one of the things I believe in as you go find out what those are first. You bring them to light, and now you’re, now, you know. It’s always interesting when you bring them to light. You can see in the room which person uses them as a tool because they oh, I’ve been found out. Right? And and like I said, it usually starts for a good reason. A lot of times it’s to protect the team from a poor manager. And then it gets corrupted by an employee who can take advantage of it. So, I also believe we do not, I do not ever dispose of human beings. So a lot of times people wonder well, you know, if you have a toxic employee or they’re, you know, can you change them? Well, I can’t change them. They can change themselves. 

Nicole:  Mhmm. 

Glenn:  But you’ve gotta help guide them to where they need to be. And sometimes it’s not in the work unit they’re in. So, um, as a leader, I think culture is about, um, I say this often, you don’t you’re not gonna like your people every day. If you gotta love them, and if you don’t, then you’re in the wrong position. 

Nicole:  I love what you’re saying. Yeah. So let’s look at what he’s just laid down here. He said there are unwritten rules. You gotta figure out what they are and you gotta put them in the light. I love that. That’s why I wanna have a vibrant culture. I wanna all lit up. Right? 

Glenn: . Right Absolutely. 

Nicole: So we can see what’s going on. Yeah. And, sometimes people are having to protect themselves, um, which I think is so true. Like, you know, this the big thing out there you’re hearing this too, I’m sure Glenn is like, you know, it’s gotta be psychologically safe for me. And all these kinds of things. So, I think that people do. They start putting rules in place so that they feel like they can survive, which don’t miss, like, I’m at work, and I gotta worry about my survival. I mean, you know, we can have a much better mindset, which is we’re gonna, like, be super productive today or knock this project out of the park. 

Glenn: Yeah. Yeah. That’s, tell me how it helps an organization or a business. And certainly in municipalities, you’re in the service industry. You serve. That’s what you do. 

Nicole: Hundred percent.  

Glenn:  How how can you serve at a high level when you’re scared about what might happen to you emotionally, and sometimes even physically, how can you, How how can you serve at a high level when you’re scared about what might happen to you emotionally, and sometimes even physically, how can you, there is no logic to that whatsoever. And I’ve said for a long time that when that type of workplace existed and was common, which it’s more common than I’d like to think it is today, but it used to be the norm. Right? That’s how you behaved, in the workplace. It didn’t work then. What makes us think is gonna work today. 

Nicole: Right. Right. And I love what you’re saying too about no disposing. This is what I wrote down: no disposing of a human being, you gotta guide them. So I have this little program called the Vibrant Coaching Toolbox where I teach people how to coach. And, I say to them, you know, you gotta coach them in or you gotta coach them out. 

Glenn: Right. 

Nicole: And here’s the thing. What is your heart? Your heart is to help this person. I’m always like, please, let me help you understand what’s going on. Let me help you. Let me hold up my mirror so you can see, you know, this very important question: what it’s like to experience you. You know, I’m here to help you. I’m here to guide you. But, but some people will always push back on me Glenn and say, what if they’re not coachable? And I’m like, well, you keep trying until they self deselect. It won’t take long. 

Glenn:   It doesn’t. It doesn’t. 

Nicole: Yeah. 

Glenn: And I think that’s true. There’s the people who don’t want I think that’s one of the secrets to changing your culture when you do and those those folks who don’t want to to be in that environment They don’t wanna be in a positive upbeat productive environment. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: There are people who are afraid of that. They do self-select themselves to exit the organization and go somewhere where they feel more comfortable. I’m a believer that I will help them do that. And not in a negative way, not in a hammer way, but a, you know, a virtual hug of I’m here for you, and I will help you do what you wanna do and be successful how you envision it because it’s not how I envision it. I do like your mirror thing. I do that to the organization. 

Nicole: Oh, very good. 

Glenn: I do it to individuals too, but I do it to the organization. I hold up the mirror and say, this is how you look, and this is how you’re behaving. Is it the way you want to do it? If the answer is yes, then okay. But most of the time it’s not. That’s why they’ve called me

Nicole:  Right. Right. Yeah. They’re like, something’s off. Something’s amiss. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it and we know that it’s amiss because we can look at KPIs we’ve had turnover. We’ve got employee satisfaction surveys. It’s hard to hire people. We’ve got a bad rating on Glassdoor, whatever. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: It’s all sorts of things.

Glenn:  Those are all keys. I  also think the most organizations I go into are operating at forty percent efficiency. Maybe less. And so I say, well, think about if you doubled it to eighty. You’re not going to a hundred. You never will. 

Nicole: Right.

Glenn: But think about how that would look in your business, your bottom line, your service. I mean, it ‘s all about the people. It all starts with the culture first. 

Nicole: Yeah. And so, like, a little little subsection of that first pillar is character. And, you know, my methodology is, you know, you gotta build men and women of integrity. And to me, integrity and character go together like peanut butter and jelly. So, will you talk a little bit about why character is so important in the culture? 

Glenn:  Yeah. It’s especially in leadership, but I think when you, one of the processes I use as dealing with and helping a team go from, you know, survive to thrive is to help them identify what their values are. And values generally start to talk about your character, right, how you’re going to do. And everyone, when they talk about values, there’s always some common ones. Right? Honesty in some form or fashion is there. 

Nicole: Yeah. 

Glenn: But it’s interesting, you know, using that as an example. It’s interesting to watch people who are, want honesty from other people. And yet they don’t provide it in there. So when you start having the discussion and define the value, you see a, you know, you can watch people kind of start to realize wait a minute. I am not living what I say I want. And, and then they beat themselves up, which is not what we’re trying to do, but I think they start that’s part of the process. And  I think then you help them narrate their story. And kind of using the nuance of character. They create their character, and then they help define, hey, you know, I’ve been through a lot of things. And we as human beings each have an individual experience. And I’ve come out on the other side. And so a lot of people don’t give themselves credit on how much character they really do have. And it is hard. It is very difficult to do something that you know is right, even though it’s not necessarily great for you at the moment. And to me, that’s the definition of character. 

Nicole: Yeah. 

Glenn:  And I am in, you know, I have, I do that on my own. Right? I’m looking at it, and that’s when you, when you look at at how these things evolve, that’s really where it came from, as I started to realize, you know, early in my career that as I was still in the field that I was not living up to what I said I wanted  the the person next to me to do. So I stood up and started doing that. And, a quick story if I can. 

Nicole: Yeah. I love stories. They’re my favorites, actually. 

Glenn:  I had a really close friend. We were coworkers. And, he got himself in trouble, and he was supposed to cover after hours. He was. He got in an accident. His wife called me. He had been drinking. And so his wife called me so I could take the call and cover for him, and I did. And then the next day when he came in, you know, all of this was gonna start to blow up with HR and all that stuff. 

Nicole: Sure. 

Glenn:  But I had a conversation with him and I said, you let the team down. We count on you to cover and you didn’t do it because you were, you chose to drink. and we all know you can’t do that. Now this is a close friend who I care a lot about, and I know he’s hurting. But I had to, as a member of the team, hold the team character and the team value up. And what made it harder for him is he was usually the standard bearer of our team. So it was a very difficult situation, and I didn’t wanna do it. Right? But I knew I had to. And as part of my character and my living, what I said I would do, I had to do it. And I actually took some heat from a couple of the other team members who said, how can you let your friend down like that? And I said, well, I’m not letting him down. I’m holding him to a standard that he needs to be held to. And, it didn’t cost us our friendship, but he did move away because he knew he’d let me down, and he didn’t wanna do that anymore. So he had to make some choices on how he did that. But it was to me, that was the character part for me. And I realized right then that I could and would become a leader because I could hold that standard even when I didn’t want to. 

Voice Over:  Are you ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference, or organization to help them with their strategies, systems, and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy, and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email her at and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

Nicole:  Yeah. And, you know, you said, values and one of them is honesty. And, like, all you’re doing is being honest with this guy. You know, and and, you know, what I find one of the most difficult things for people to do is to hold people accountable, which is really what you’re talking about.

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: You know, like, I had to hold this guy accountable to the standards, right, and accountable to the team. The team agreement, you know, we all count on each other to be off when we’re off.

Glenn: Right.

Nicole: And be on when we’re on. 

Glenn: Right. 

Nicole:  And, you know, feedback is just all about honesty. You know, given this guy feedback, it’s like, let me be honest with you. You let us down. So, you know, if you choose, you know, that’s the other thing about values, Glenn, sometimes people pick things that are huge, you know?

Glenn: laughing RIght 

Nicole:  Like honesty. And it’s like, okay. Well, we really gotta toe the line on honesty. We gotta be able to give feedback, hold people accountable, you know, do a really good job on performance reviews, you know, hold the goals as something very serious. So, I love your story. It’s really great. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: Alright. So pillar number two is structure, don’t miss. Glenn already has been talking about structure, you know, like, standards, right, and values. These are all kinds of structures that tell us a little bit about why you’ve got to have structure. 

Glenn: Yeah. So I think it and structure has those has a dual meaning here. Number one is 

Nicole: Okay. 

Glenn: Exactly what you’re talking about is having those rules, those boundaries, those things in place that allow people to know where their boundary is, where they can push and where they can’t. So that’s number, a big part of it. But the other part is actually the physical way your environment is put together. So that can certainly be the office space and how it’s laid out, but also how you how your hierarchy is. It’s interesting that I have found in my career that most of them are created organically. You have one person leave. You kind of evaluate that piece of it, and then you maybe change it maybe you don’t. I also know and I believe in this is that every job is actually the best way to do it is to fit it to the human being who’s doing it. So if you have one person who’s doing it and another one who comes in, they’re not gonna do it the same way. And so I think, the structure has to always be evaluated as a whole and we don’t do that. And structure actually incredibly impacts your culture. If you have too many supervisors or not enough of this position and, or too flat an organization where you have one leader overseeing twenty five people, which I’ve done. 

Nicole: Crazy. 

Glenn: And that’s pretty much impossible. 

Nicole: Just flat out crazy people. 

Glenn: Yeah, it is. And so when you do that, you actually hurt the culture because as a leader, I’m overseeing twenty four, twenty five people. How can I spend the time with them to know what they’ve got going, what they don’t? 

Nicole: You cannot. 

Glenn: I can’t. So you have to make sure that structure, your ratios are right. And to me, it’s, you know, eight to ten max and ultimately, you know, the best teams are four to eight. And so it’s keeping those dynamics going that allow people to produce at the highest level and for leaders to, and managers to be able to provide the resources they need, including the emotional support for them to be able to do the work. And so it’s so incredibly important. And I look at some of them when I go in and I go in ones. You know, a lot of times, they I asked. One of the first things I asked for is the org chart. And they’re like, yeah, I don’t know where that is or we don’t have one or something like that. 

Nicole: And you’re like, oh, I’m gonna really help these people. 

Glenn: Right. And so I’m currently working with a team, and it’s clear that the org chart is not, the structure is not there for them. We’re gonna create the other structure that you’re talking about by doing some chartering and some things like that, but there’s some positions that need to be moved around and some balancing done with the team and all that. And that is the change that actually scares people the most. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: They don’t mind doing culture, but wait a minute, you’re changing my job title. I don’t, what am I gonna do? Is that gonna mean I’m not qualified and all these other triggers that happen? But, yet, to me, structure seems like a very simple thing and in some ways it is, but it can really disrupt what you got going on. 

Nicole: Yeah. And, here’s the thing, our business changes. The market changes. COVID happens. All this stuff. 

Glenn: Right.

Nicole: And so of course, people are gonna take on new responsibilities. They’re gonna ditch things that don’t matter anymore. And that’s what you’re talking about is you know, taking all of these things into account, which I think is really, really huge. And so I’ve got a story for you. 

Glenn: Awesome. 

Nicole: I work with a gentleman and he’s beyond frustrated, he oversees an entire shift in an organization, but he has a dotted line, this dotted line thing to all the people on the second shift. And so I said, well, what’s that dotted line mean to you? He says, well, I’m responsible for everything, but I don’t have any power over anybody. 

Glenn: Right. 

Nicole: I know. It’s just like, what? And so if one of the people misbehaves on his shift, he has to go to somebody else, do a report, and now we have this thing, that everybody remember this, everybody from psychology class, the triangulation 

Glenn: Right.

Nicole: It’s this huge I mean, like, you’re just creating such a mess. Anyway, I just think this is actually, like, revolutionary probably for some people listening. And one more thing I’ll add Glenn is when I was working for a company called Summit Properties. They realized you would have one person in one job, you’d have another person in the same job, but one person’s way more seasoned, has higher skill levels. It’s just a matter of experience, a matter of training. So John Gray, the president of our company, he did this thing. He said,, this is your job description, but here’s your position description. And you would put this circle or circle on a piece of paper right on your job description and say and in addition, because you are more seasoned, been here longer, I expect you to do all these things. And, It was wonderful. And that also justified why this manager in the same role would get paid more than that manager. 

Glenn: Right. Right. Yeah. I also talk a lot about gifts, skills, and passions. So we all have things that we know how to do that we have no earthly idea how we know. We don’t learn, right? 

Nicole: Right.

Glenn: We just know them. And those are your gifts. And then the skills are the things you’ve learned and become really good at, and sometimes you’re not good at them. And then, and then your passion, where is your where are you passionate about? What are the things that really energize you to perform? And I believe that that’s really what you’re trying to do is find that all three of those things for each person. And when you do, you light them up and they are happy. And that’s kind of what they, you know, the whole statement of, If you’re doing what you love, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life. That’s really where that comes from. You’re spending your time in those areas. And, so when we go and you see we talked earlier about a toxic employee, that’s the first thing I do. Well, what do you love to do? What are you good at? What are you know, how are your gifts used? And a lot of times you’ll find they’re not even using them in the workplace. 

Nicole: Right. Right. They are sitting at a desk, but they’re really good at interacting with people or something. You know, you just yeah. And people will take a job or take a position because again, they need to eat. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: They need to have a roof over their head, and they’re just trying to navigate, you know, the personal side of life. They’ll think they’ll make some sacrifice on the professional side of life, and it doesn’t serve them like they thought it would. You know, oh, and we gotta get them reoriented. 

Glenn: Yeah. And you find that a lot in municipal government because people, all their friends and families, say what a great job. 

Nicole: Yeah. Benefits, benefits.

Glenn: Oh, yeah. Benefits and you make a steady salary and all of these positives, and they’re all positives. I totally agree with that. But, if you’re in the wrong spot, they don’t matter. 

Nicole:  It’s exactly right. A hundred percent. Yeah. It’s this old thing everybody, fit. You know, you gotta put the right shoes on. Absolutely. Okay. So pillar number three is systems. 

Glenn: Mhmm. 

Nicole: Systems. Talk a little bit about systems. 

Glenn: Well, systems are the things that you use to do the job. So it depends on what your job is. If you’re in accounting, it’s your financial software. Is the system one of the systems you use or in some cases multiple ones. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: When you’re a maintenance worker, it’s your tools and your equipment and your trucks and in everybody’s case, it’s also their physical space. So if you’re in a building, and we have found certainly with COVID and all that, that, some of the systems were not working as well as we thought they should or could be doing. So, when we’re looking at systems, that’s it, it really can really tear your morale apart when you’re, when you’ve got systems that aren’t working or functioning correctly. And municipal governments in particular are really, although I found this on the private side as well, is they’re not great at keeping up with the technology. So it’s a cost thing and a visual thing for their constituents, which I totally get. But, when you don’t do that and you don’t keep up with it, then you have breakdowns and you have inefficiencies. I had a company we looked at before they had wonderful software and they had used hardware. And the hardware would not load the software. So they were losing about 

Nicole:  Right. Slow as molasses. Oh my gosh. What load, load.

Glenn: Yeah or crash. And so they were losing about twenty five percent of their day across every employee. 

Nicole: Oh, forget it. 

Glenn: Think about that on the bottom line. So on the frustration level, you know, that it caused, it was just off the charts. So I think that’s when you’re talking about systems, you want them to be able to work well. You want them there’s a certain point where the useful life is over with and you need to plan for that, no matter what your business model is. And, I have it’s so interesting, though, when you try to change the system. People are tied to their workarounds. So they come up with a clever workaround to be able to get their job done when a system does that. 

Nicole: Oh, yeah, people are very industrious. They’ll figure the way because they want to get their job done so they can go home. 

Glenn: Yeah. And then right. And then once they figure the way, they don’t want to change it. Right? Hey, I was clever and they are. 

Nicole:  That’s right. There’s some pride in the workaround. Right? Look, really. I’m creative, innovative. 

Glenn: Yeah. And they are. But, you know, if we use the new system, we can still cut your time another twenty five percent and your frustration level by, you know, eighty. That’s gonna really help you in the long end. But that’s where, you know, when you’re talking about change and how people adapt to change and don’t want to, That’s one of the keys that I see. They’re okay changing culture. They they, you know, structure, maybe not. You know, that’s always a thing, but, boy, you start messing with their systems in their workarounds, and they are that’s where they’re going to put their foot in the ground and just say, no. I’m not moving.

Nicole: Yeah, I heard this great thing. I was teaching a change management four hour kinda introductory thing on Monday, to a financial institution. And, the one gal on there was from Oklahoma, and she said, oh, I just went into another change management thing. I said, well, what did you learn there? Teach me something, and said, well, she said the instructor of the other class she was in said, there’s two things in change. People don’t like the change, and the people don’t like you. And I was like, oh my gosh, that is so good. That is funny. Cause it’s true. Right? You know, so back to character and the things that you’re talking about at the beginning is like, if Glenn tells me, we’re changing the software, well I don’t like Glenn. So I’m just gonna be stubborn as I’ll get out during this process in a problem and ask way too many questions and get in the way. Or, like you said, I did a work around, and I’m proud of that work around. So I don’t like this new change. So I don’t like you, and I don’t like the change. So I thought that was great. 

Glenn: Right. No, I think that’s right on point. I think you can go back and forth between those and to and to doing the change. I mean, I have called out the road map to change, and you can go back and forth on that road anytime you want to, right, and people do. But it’s amazing that that’s very true. I think that is really what has helped me and my team be successful is we we’re not trying to be liked. We’re trying to be respected. And so we know no matter what we’re gonna do, we’re working with an organization, we need you to trust us and respect us. If you don’t like us, okay. But I think that’s what you’re talking about. Right? Is well, if I respect what Glenn’s doing and how he behaves and he shows character and he’s consistent and he doesn’t waiver, then I can see that he’s trying to help me. And because why else would he be here? There’s nothing else. Yeah, we make a little money, but, you know, that’s just the transaction. The reality is, you know, how I interact with them. So I like that too. I probably will keep using that. 

Nicole: Yeah. Isn’t that good? Yeah. And she was a doll. And she and she had the software thing going on at her financial institution. She’s like, we are, in y’all. I know that y’all listening. Y’all. That’s how we talk in Charlotte, Glenn. Y’all. 

Glenn: It’s okay. My mom was from Asheville. 

Nicole: Okay. Oh, gosh. What a great town. Love some Asheville. Hello listeners. Get a trip to Asheville, North Carolina on your calendar ASAP. Gotta go to the Biltmore. 

Glenn: That’s right.

Nicole: Oh, everybody look up the Biltmore. Anyway, so, that gal was saying, she told me that the software they were using was getting sunsetted, meaning that we’re not servicing it or we’re not sending you an update ever again. It’s over. I really, you know, you have to buy the new stuff. And if you wanna keep rolling, and she said that we had been receiving those messages for several years. And here we are, like, the sun is going down. It’s getting dark. 

Glenn: And so many do that. It’s incredible how often that happens.

Nicole: It’s crazy. Yeah. Yeah. Alright. So, everybody check your software situation. That’s all we’re saying here. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: Okay. Pillar number four is processes, processes. Talk about processes. And maybe how that’s different from systems. People might be like, didn’t we just talk about that?

Glenn: Yeah. No. No. We talked about what we use to do this. This is the how. This is the steps you take to do your work. And it’s interesting you know, this is actually a big place for conflict in the workplace. 

Nicole:  Oh, I bet. 

Glenn: And in that you have the same people. So say you have, we’ve been talking about finance. So say you have, you know, four different accounting techs. They’re they’re in a bigger city. They’re doing all very similar work. They all do the same process differently. One person may do it in twenty two steps, the other in twelve. The one who does it in twelve will say, oh, he’s too slow. You know, he doesn’t doesn’t do it fast enough so he’s not doing enough. And then the one who does in twenty two, well, you know, she doesn’t have an attention to detail. And so they stay 

Nicole: And when a customer calls about the water bill. We gotta look it up for twenty minutes to figure out what’s going on. Yeah. 

Glenn: That’s right. And so it’s interesting to watch that dynamic play out and that they will share that not with each other. Or sometimes they will with, you know, nonproductive ways to share that. But most of the time, it’s sharing it with their coworkers.

Nicole: Which he means fussing and fighting. 

Glenn:  That’s exactly what I mean. But I bet they will talk to another coworker about it. So you’ve got the four person people doing it. They’ll talk to one. Then the other one will talk to one, and then there’s that kind of dynamic that starts to create that somebody’s less than because they’re not doing it my way. And that totally impacts your customer experience. No matter what business you’re in, it will hurt your customer experience. You just mentioned it. Well, if I call and I need to know what my water bill is or that I had a water leak and how am I gonna handle it? And I and I call somebody and, and I do that this month. And then six months later, I have another leak and I call another person and they do it a totally different way. They’re like, wait, wait, and how many times does that happen? So the consistency is really important for the customer. 

Nicole: Oh my gosh. So important. 

Glenn:  But it’s also important for the four trainees you know, when you’re a trainee and you’re being taught by all four of those people who are all doing a different way. Well, how do I know which way do I do it? Then you ask the supervisor, and they may or may not have done that process recently, so they don’t know. And so it just is a cycle and creates conflict and consternation, and that’s where some of that fear comes in that we talked about earlier where, well, do I need to be scared that that I don’t do it fast enough or I don’t I don’t do it attention to detail enough, you know, what is my, you know, where is my dynamic? So processes are incredibly important, and we find that they’re very rarely documented, fully. And, it’s one of the things that drives me crazy. I will get online and you know, hey, I’m gonna deal with this tech thing and tell me how to do it. And then they skip a few steps because they’re tech people who do it. So I get there and I’m like, okay. 

Nicole:  Where’s the button you click for goodness sake? 

Glenn: That’s right. I’m going from step six to twelve. Where do the other ones go? And so writing those things down and making sure that you get them right is very, is very important to the whole thing. And especially now that we have so many people retiring, especially in municipal government, it’s happening at a maybe a record pace. 

Nicole: Oh my gosh. So much institutional knowledge walking out the door and headed for the golf course. 

Glenn: Yep. And your institutional knowledge is in your processes. And so you needed especially now, I have the work team I’m working with now. Their supervisor will be retiring in May, and their lead worker will be retiring in probably June or May, June or July. 

Nicole: Oh dear mercy. 

Glenn: Yeah. So all of that’s going out. And that’s what I’m working on with them. Okay. Let’s write the processes. Let’s start sharing this information verbally and in writing with the rest of the team and me so we can make sure that knowledge doesn’t go away because you have,  that’s your legacy. 

Nicole: Mhmm. Yeah. So on Tuesday of this week. I had the privilege of going on a tour of the Freightliner location in Mount Holly, North Carolina. And these guys build medium duty trucks, which municipality people know all about. Because they’re the ones that like the garbage trucks are mid duty, some of the firefighting trucks, whatever. So, the freightliner guy that was showing us around his name was Joe and to your point about institutional knowledge. I mean, Joe’s got thirty eight years of Freightliner. And, so he showed me, because I’m a you know, I would do training and coaching. I said, well, how do you get these young guys and gals doing, you know, knowing what you know? He goes, oh, I’ll show you. I got a book. But, this book was so good. Right? And it’s, when you saw what he was doing, you’re like, that’s probably a little archaic. Shouldn’t it be on the computer? And he’s like, my people don’t have time to log in to a computer to figure out what the steps are to get this bolt done or this painting thing done or whatever to make this beautiful truck. And they take this truck from zero to a hundred percent in four and a half hours. It’s mind blowing. So long story short, Glenn, he pulled out this book. It’s one of those big fat five inch binders, you know. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole:  And it’s got tabs and, And so he says, if you need to know how to do this and he flips and there it was, and it was, you know, how to do whatever the task was, and it had five steps. And then down below, if you had an employee that didn’t know how to do that, they would come in and they would read it. Then for accountability, they had to initial that they had read it. They had to initial that they were shown how to do it. And so there’s this huge accountability in this in Joe’s book. Well, he said now down below, if one of these, you know, new people or somebody who’s been doing this job says, wait, there’s another step. We go in. We write the new step. We sign it off. We print it up again. We put it in the book. And I just was like, You know, it’s just paper and a pen. 

Glenn: Right. 

Nicole: But Joe’s system is pretty damn good. What do you think about Joe’s system? 

Glenn: Yeah, I like the Joe’s in the world. 

Nicole: Me too. 

Glenn: Because I don’t find many of them. But one of the things that we’ve started to do when we do this work is do video. Because the Gen Z generation loves watching videos. I’m using them all the time. You Google, you know, how to change my front light bulb in my car. And, oh, okay. There it is. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: And then I can figure it out. And so, to me, that’s, you know, The newest generation, the Gen Z-ers, they had started their their entire life. They’re the first generation with a phone in their hand. 

Nicole: Right. 

Glenn: From almost probably almost from birth for many of them.  

Nicole: Right. Two years old at the restaurant watching this show.

Glenn: So they may be intimidated by Joe’s book, although I love it. We build books like that. But I think the video thing is also the next thing. Here’s how you do it. So if I’m working with Joe and he’s getting ready to retire, I wanna take his book and put it in the video. And I want Joe being the one in front of the camera.

Nicole: Oh, yeah. Oh, and he and this Joe would love it, by the way. Yeah.

Glenn: Awesome. Awesome. But, yeah, those are so far few between that, they really shine when someone like that does something spectacular like that.

Nicole: Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah. And the other thing he was telling me is that they do, like, micro learning which I don’t know if those of you who are listening know that kind of phrase, but, you know, he’ll do a little teaching video and they have, Teams like most of us do. And, so he’ll shoot that out and say, you know, here’s a tip, here’s a trick, here’s a strategy, here’s a technique that’s, you know, we put it in the book, but here’s, you know, so he’s using the micro learning, and doing some videos that way. Alright. Pillar five. I’m just having so much fun. We gotta hurry up, Glenn. Pillar five. It’s my fault. External forces. External forces. Tell me about external forces. 

Glenn: Well, external forces are the things that impact your business or your organization that you have no control over. So when and those are many and certainly in the municipal business, there are tons of them, but in every business, you have those. Inflation is one right now that’s wreaked havoc with a lot of people. 

Nicole: Oh yeah. 

Glenn: And have no control over it, but they need to have a plan. Most of us don’t have a plan. So, especially for leaders, your first most frustrating area is external forces. They’re putting these pressures on you and you can’t do anything about them. So you wanna have a strategy on what how am I gonna deal with that? Example of inflation or actually gas prices in particular, a lot of, we’ve had spikes over the last two decades where it’s been challenging, and a lot of the trucking companies have put a surcharge on. They take it off once it drops a certain to a certain level of prices, but they put it back on when it goes over that price limit. And then they have kind of steps. They put it on the bill. They’re very transparent about it, but it’s the way they make sure their business is still viable when that external force shows up. And that’s a wonderful example of how to do that. And for me as a leader, I looked at those and it was frustrating, and those are the things that kept me up at night, and I said well, I need to have a strategy for each one. And when I did, my stress level dropped, I actually slept every night, and so that’s really with the intention of that. 

Nicole: Yeah. And sleep. It is a whole thing about performance sleep. I’m telling you. That’s fantastic. Yeah. And you know that you know, the thing too that I’m thinking about with external forces is, our municipality friends. God love them. They have this thing called an election. And they get a whole new sometimes group of people who come in and wanna change what that city manager and all of his directors are doing in a hot second. And so it’s almost like a built-in external force get ready. It’s election day. I think it was election day. Was it election day yesterday? 

Glenn: It was Tuesday. 

Nicole: Yeah. And, so, I mean, like, that’ll just have you quivering in your boots about who’s gonna who’s gonna get it? Who’s not gonna get it? If you’re a municipality professional.

Glenn: Yeah. That is one of the major differences. Between a business and municipalities. The municipalities deal with that. The businesses have to deal with the profit margin. So those are the two biggest differences. But boy, when you have council members and you get to know them and you you’re looking at how they’re working to when during the election and, you know, that does put fear into everybody, and not just the directors, the frontline people are concerned about how that’s how’s this gonna make it look when this person. So, yeah, that is an external force that becomes an internal force.

Nicole: Yeah. And really, you know, so I have so much respect for the folks that weren’t free municipalities because they just, especially if they’ve been in the biz a long time. Right? It’s like, you know, they’re on their fifth election cycle or whatever. You know, they’re just like, you know, and they’re just like, well, we our job is to work with the people the public gives us to work with, you know. 

Glenn: Yeah. 

Nicole: And if you have all these other pillars in place and can clearly articulate and demonstrate to these new leaders that have been elected. Oftentimes, I think that would really help you navigate that external force. Right? But if you don’t have your ducks in a row. And the new people come in and say, these ducks are not lined up. 

Glenn: Right. 

Nicole: And then that’s all. A lot of advice.

Glenn: Yeah. Then it is on. That is for sure. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. Alright. Last one. Pillar six. Is performance measurement. So, boy, do I love a balanced scorecard and a KPI or two. So tell me a little bit about that, Glenn.

Glenn: And a lot of a lot of people do, especially as, you know, it’s an accountability piece. Right? So that’s the first thing. But, we as human beings, and particularly in the US love to count things, and we like to count everything. It’s baseball, it’s everything.

Nicole: Yeah, we are a little competitive.

Glenn: Don’t mind those things, but you want your performance measurement to actually tell the story. Tell the story of what you’re doing, what you’re not doing, and be able to give you the ability to make decisions based on data. Data driven decisions tend to be better in most cases. So you know, if you’re counting everything, then then you’re counting nothing in my mind. And so you want to  identify what those key things are. And so, you know, you don’t want them to change once you get moving. Right? So I like to have, you know, five or six really KPIs that really tell me so that when my year is over, I can say we had a successful year. I used the, I use the football record as an analogy a lot of times. Were we nine and eight? Were we, you know, four and fourteen, what was our record? And you can identify what your record was for the year because you’re not going to win the championship every year. But and then why? Sometimes it was like we’re talking about that financial situation where they’re changing all of their systems. You’re not going to have

Nicole: It’s going to cost you a lot now.

Glenn: It is, yeah. And it’s and it’s going to cost you time, and you’re not gonna be as effective as a unit. Okay. You acknowledge that that happened. You say we’re not going to let it go so far next time, and then you have less of an impact. But you know, sometimes there are things that happen, you know, certainly everybody looked at it during COVID and and lockdown, you know, it was almost a throwaway year and they just kinda said, okay. But, what can we learn from it? That’s really the thing. KPIs are the way to teach you the lesson you need to learn as a team, learn the lesson, and then move on. That’s the key. But I

Nicole:  Right. And maybe double back to your processes and your systems and your stuff and tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak.

Glenn: It’ll take you all the way back through the other five.  Okay. Well, we, you know, we didn’t meet this goal. Why is that? Well, do we have a toxic employee? Do we have a structure problem? Do we have a system that’s not functioning or processes, you know, you look at all of them. 

Nicole: Yeah. 

Glenn: And so that’s the sustainability part of this process. If your KPIs at the end of the year will tell you, and they need to tell you. And if they’re not telling you that, you’re using the wrong ones.

Nicole: That’s right. And that’s the thing about KPIs. People are a little skittish to get this. What do we measure? And, you know, you’re the consultant. You’re like, well, I don’t really know. 

Glenn: Right, right. 

Nicole:  Here are some good guesses to get us out the gate. Right? Cause you can look at these numbers or these things that we’re measuring over a six month, twelve month period, and it’ll start to tell us what we need to measure. But, you know, nobody has, I always like to say when I work with people, I don’t have any magic spells or pixie dust or, you know, serums you could take that help you figure all this out like that. But we, we can make some educated guesses and we can really, you know, get to work on paying attention to what we’re doing.

Glenn: That’s the key there is paying attention because a lot of times we don’t. We get into automatic mode. And that doesn’t help you improve year to year or day to day even. 

Nicole: Yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah. So, oh my gosh, y’all. Have you learned so much from Glenn today? Everybody say yes, go down in the comments and say we learned so much. Put a little nugget in there something that you have learned. If you all would do that. And would you do Glenn and I a favor and click the like button? Give us a heart, do something, that you loved this episode of Build a Vibrant Culture. We’ve had Glenn on the show, and his book is called The Human Centered Team and listen to the subtitle: relate, connect, and give your employees a reason to live. Which I think is so clever. Alright. So, I’d love to have you back, Glenn, and I’d like to go through the eight keys to building a human centered team. Would you like to play that game with me in the future sometime? 

Glenn: Yeah, I would love to. That would be awesome. 

Nicole: Alright. Awesome. Alright. Well, everybody that’s been another episode of the build of vibrant culture podcast. And again, if you liked it, please tell us you liked it. Give us a little love. Give us a little piece of feedback. And Glenn, if people wanted to get up with you and have you come in and help them get these six pillars in place and get going. What would they do?

Glenn: Well, you can find us at, certainly. And there’s a link there to get it directly a hold of me. You can find us on LinkedIn. We’re pretty active out there. And, we have a YouTube channel as well, with some videos that we’ve made of different things. And then like you mentioned, you can find the book on, on Amazon and also at, 

Nicole: Fantastic. Alright, everybody. It’s been another wonderful episode at the Build a Vibrant Culture Podcast. Again, thank you so much, Glenn. 

Glenn: Thank you very much. 

Voice Over: Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. If you found value in today’s episode, please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps us improve and reach more like minded listeners. Remember, the journey to building a vibrant culture never stops. Stay inspired. Keep nurturing your vibrant culture and we can’t wait to reconnect with you on the next exciting episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

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