The Evolving Workplace

In this, The Faces of Business, Kevin Mulcahy, Director of Professional Education, Future of Work, Scale Up, Assumptions Matter, discusses the evolving workplace and the new realities employers need to accept and incorporate into their businesses.

In this, The Faces of Business, Kevin Mulcahy, Director of Professional Education, Future of Work, Scale Up, Assumptions Matter, discusses the evolving workplace and the new realities employers need to accept and incorporate into their businesses.

Kevin is a long-time student of, teacher, and author on the future of work and learning. As an executive coach on leadership behaviors and lecturer on entrepreneurship, Kevin helped leaders and students navigate their careers and the workplace. As the VP, Future of Work and Learning at the Future Workplace Academy, he led the efforts to produce courses, conferences, insights, and a community dedicated to helping HR leaders understand “what’s next” in working and learning.

Kevin is a future of work evangelist and helps leaders make better decisions to be prepared for this future.

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Damon starts the Livestream with unparalleled energy. He excitedly welcomes Kevin and begins the discussion requesting the guest to talk about his background.

Kevin says he is a business advisor who helps executives make better business decisions. He has a management consulting and corporate strategy background and was previously the CEO of a business with operations in six different countries.

The guest believes that a successful business is built on sales, employee engagement, and a culture of cash rather than just focusing on profitability. Kevin has also written a book on the employee experience, emphasizing the importance of engaging employees to build a sustainable business.

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While talking about the challenge of managing cash flow in a fast-growing company, Damon gives an example of an e-commerce business that was doubling its revenue but not seeing any cash flow. The reason was that the owner had an affinity for buying inventory on habit rather than need, resulting in millions of dollars of inventory sitting on the shelves.

The host emphasizes the importance of managing cash flow intelligently to avoid getting stuck with assets that cannot be turned into cash.

Kevin, agreeing with Damon, stresses the importance of taking cash flow seriously and negotiating everything in the business to keep a positive cash flow and accumulate cash for funding initiatives, engaging employees, and building outreach to the right customers.

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Furthering the conversation’s agenda, Damon asks Kevin about his decision to start his own business instead of continuing to work for larger corporations.

Kevin explains that starting a business requires an initial aptitude and a desire to lead as an entrepreneur. Opportunities may present themselves whether one is ready, but the decision to take on an opportunity comes down to feeling ready enough and being willing to learn as you go. Kevin’s opportunity came from France Telecom, who was offloading some assets that Sprint, a company where he worked, did not want. Kevin saw potential in the assets and believed he could make different decisions to turn the business into a higher-growth one.

The guest suggests various ways to manage cash flows with customers, suppliers, and inventory management. He highlights the need for a process to raise prices regularly and charge for everything that could be charged for. Kevin also suggests being a chief extraction officer by finding the customers who value the services the most and price as close to the value delivered as possible.

Similarly, he notes that the phrase “thank you” from HR can dramatically affect the employee experience.

Likewise, Kevin identifies three drivers of the employee experience: emotional connection to the business’s purpose, culture, and technological tools. Companies should hire people who care about the business’s mission, promote and reward desirable behaviors, and remove those who frequently exhibit undesirable behaviors. Moreover, if companies don’t tolerate mistakes that are likely to happen anyway, they will never improve.

Damon agrees with Kevin’s point about training employees to use the tools that drive business, especially given the security concerns and the many options available for file sharing and communication, such as Slack and Teams. However, he notes that many employees may only learn enough to do what they need and miss out on the opportunity to utilize the tools to their advantage fully.

Kevin believes that employees should not only be learners but also teachers. To scale up a company, everyone must scale up. The most effective training can sometimes come from peers teaching peers. Kevin also advises screening for people with a natural orientation towards upskilling others during interviews and promoting and encouraging them.

Damon finds Kevin’s suggestions thoroughly agreeable. He, too, believes that organizations should prioritize developing their employees, not just hiring them. Organizations that do this are more likely to generate long-term success because they are adaptive and creative in finding better solutions.

Damon asks Kevin about his thoughts on the future of the most successful workplaces concerning the workplace experience discussed in Kevin’s book.

In Kevin’s view, employees’ experience at work is the most essential aspect to consider in the future. He suggests that senior executives must be “listening for what is the pulse of their employees.”

Kevin recommends that the company tolerate the new habits employees have formed post-COVID pandemic. Instead, the company should continue to adopt practices that have been successful during this time. For instance, the roses and thorns and buds conversation can be an effective way for managers to connect with their employees emotionally. This approach involves checking in with employees about their work and personal matters, which can help them feel more engaged and supported in the workplace.

Damon is deeply impressed by Kevin’s approach to evolving the workplace. He finds the conversation full of key takeaways for managers and leaders. The host remarks that the discussion started with the topic of cash flow. However, it eventually delved into investing in employee development and creating a better experience economy for employees and customers.

As the Livestream comes to a close, Damon expresses his gratitude towards Kevin for sharing valuable insights.

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business, people, employees, cash, cash flow, customers, talking, experience, working, tool, teaching, damon, scale, written, listening, hire, senior executives, tolerate, post, engage


Damon Pistulka, Kevin Mulcahy


Damon Pistulka  00:01

All right, everyone, welcome once again to the faces of business. I am your host, Damon Pustaka. And we are happy to have with us today, Kevin Mulcahy from assumptions matter. We’re going to be talking about the evolving workplace. Kevin, how are you doing today?


Kevin Mulcahy  00:21

I am doing excellently Damon excellently


Damon Pistulka  00:24

Good, good, good. Well, Kevin, let’s get going here today. Let’s start talking about as we always do, let’s talk about your background and how you got into what you’re doing today.


Kevin Mulcahy  00:41

Okay, so the, the, what I’m in the business of doing today is advising executives on how to make better business decisions. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we as executives do, and the better a decision, the better decision you make, the better your business will tend to perform.

So I got into that initially, true management consulting. And from management consulting, you go into corporate strategy, so I joined sprint in their department, that corporate strategy to advising the senior executives on trends that they need to anticipate and take advantage of. And post spring, I purchased a set of the assets from Sprint, I mean, you can be an advisor to executives all you want.

And you can ask, I always thought, well, for my business, I do X or I do y. And then one day, the opportunity for it to be my business presented itself. And I bought a set of assets, telecom assets from France Telecom, and entered into business myself. And so over time, was the CEO of a business with operations in six different countries.

Uh, huh. We spoke four different languages. Wow. I don’t advise this for anyone at home. Yeah. Anyone, no doubt. And, and just an N A business that was 90% customers outside the US. And, and so we scaled? Yeah, we scaled that business and had to migrate that business true. Almost moving every customer from a Legacy product up to a new product. So so that was my first taste of being a CEO.

And being dropped into the deep end of the evolution from business strategy to business operations. And it’s wonderful and easy when you’re on the strategy side, and it’s two by two matrices. But once you get to the sharp end of implementation, and you you live, you realize the business lives and die by cashflow. And you your strategy is fundamentally to build the most profitable and repeatable stream of cash flow that you can build.

And there’s a few ways to do that. One, you’ve got to be meticulous on your I’ll go on sales, not necessarily a marketing, marketing is just awareness. Sales is asking for the order. And to on on the employee experience, and on the people side of the business. And that was a subsequent business in a book that I wrote on the employee experience specifically, because if you don’t engage employees, heart and mind, you don’t have a sustainable business.

Yeah. And then the third one was really once you had sales, and once you had people you got to focus on on the cache, and building a culture of cash. And does everybody understand the difference between cash flow and profitability? And so we can we can dive into that. But to me, everybody was looking at our p&l and making decisions based on the p&l. And to me, the p&l is nothing more than promises made, minus promises made to you, minus promises you made to other people.

And in theory, when you net out all those promises, in theory, that’s how much profit you’ll have. And businesses. I mean, that’s interesting, but you, frankly, can’t run a business on the p&l. You can’t, you shouldn’t. And we can dive into that you run a business on the cash flow, and you run a business on the level of employee engagement with that business, and on the level of customer engagement with your business and if you get those three things right to your boomin


Damon Pistulka  05:01

Yeah, yeah, well, you’re right, because cash flow can be a challenge in growth. And that’s I tell you, when you get into an extreme growth company, cash, you can just scratch your head because you can say we are growing so fast. And our p&l says we are making so much money, but I have zero cash in the bank. And if you’re not watching cashflow, it’s a it’s it’s an it’s a hard thing for people to swallow. Because if you’re aggressively growing, you can go a long time with very little cash. And watching the value of your business increase watching the everything else is increasing and doing as it should.

But you got your like, I’ve got I’m cash poor, basically. And, and you I like your idea, your concept of talking about cash flow management, because when you manage the cash flow, you’re intelligently growing your business, because I’ve got a specific example where you had a customer of a number of years ago here that was an E commerce and they imported products that were manufactured for them and resold them.

And the owner looked at me and we had doubled plus their business and said, we’re making all this money, why don’t I have any have any money? Well, the owner, while we were helping them to manage cash flow, he had a very, he had an affinity to buy on habit rather than buy on need.

And I said, Well, it’s because your inventory went up by $3 million, or foreman, I can’t remember how many millions of dollars inventory went up. Those are just dollar setting out there on the racks, those are dollars sitting on racks, and you got so much that you had to you had rent another space to put even more of that inventory that’s just sitting on the racks. And it’s It’s scary how that can happen. And scary how also, if you’re not managing to the cash flow, that if the market turns, I’m then stuck with that cash in assets that I can’t turn into cash.


Kevin Mulcahy  07:21

Yep. And I’ve I’ve never met a business yet that ran out of business because they were unprofitable. But every business I ever met that didn’t make it, they ran out of cash, not because they ran out of profitability. And and you realize, look, depreciation is the difference. And so now I coach, business leaders on how to make people decisions and how to make business decisions. And, and really how to lead their management team true to true a culture of cash and all the elements of a culture of cash, because that’s, that’s what makes the different makes or breaks a business.

And you get everybody aware, and engaged and acting on cash flow, then that shapes culture. And you build a culture of cash and culture. Is that fundamentally, two things to me? One, it’s how we do things around here. But secondly, it’s what are we going to fire people for? Like, your culture is the worst behavior that you tolerate. And when you frame it like that, and you say, look, here’s what we’re not tolerating in the culture of cash.

And we can we can make business decisions once that costs us some cash. But if we start repeating those cash, punitive decisions, then somebody is getting fired around here. And we take her, you have to take your cash flow very, very seriously in a business. And there’s always ways everything’s negotiable in a business when how much people pay when they pay. If who’s going to pay everything is negotiable. And the smarter. I mean, fundamentally, every business is a cash generating machine. We sell to different people.

We sell different products. We sell in different geographies, but we do it all. All of our businesses have one thing in common we keep our score in or we ought to keep our score in in positive cash flow and cash accumulated into the business. And cash is what we use to fund our initiatives. And cash is what we use to engage Your employees in cash is what we use to, to, to build our outreach to the right types of customers.


Damon Pistulka  10:12

Yeah. So as you as you got into business, and you know, because you’re working for some bigger companies, and you’re doing some some international things there, what really got you thinking about, hey, I need to buy a business, I need to try this, and do it out on my own, rather than continuing to work for the corporations?


Kevin Mulcahy  10:40

Well, part of it is an initial aptitude, you have to have the desire to want to take on a business in the first place. So you have to be aware and going, Yes, I’m interested in being a CEO or, or leading a business as an entrepreneur, and you start to open your eyes to where could or might those opportunities be? And, and to be ready for you can either generate opportunities or you can, but the other part that happens, I think, to a lot of people is opportunities, show up, whether we’re ready or not. And that’s, to me the nature of an opportunity is it presents itself? And do you feel you’re ready?

And none of us are ever ready often for the opportunities that present ourselves? So the second question we have to ask ourselves, then, and I think the real bar is, yes, but I’m ready enough to take this on. And, and unready enough, now, you’ll never be perfectly ready. And you just have to feel like you’re ready enough. And you jump right in. And, and you you learn it as you go. And as long as you can frame for others what the priorities are. And, and, and recruit a team around those priorities, that the business has a shot.

And I think the opportunity that presented to me was a telecom, France Telecom was the was the business, they were offloading some assets. And I was working at Sprint, and they were asking it, sprint if sprint wanted those assets. And sprint said they didn’t want the assets. And I was looking at these assets going, you know, this, these assets were being managed one way when you’re the tail of a multibillion dollar dog, but in the hands of somebody who would just be dedicated to just that part of the business, you’d make some different decisions.

Yeah, if you don’t if you’re not wearing to France Telecom brand and and by itself, is the business of this business viable? And are there some decisions that could be made differently in this business? To make it a higher growth business? Okay. And you just have to see opportunity? Where others don’t? Yeah. And, and, yeah, that’s how I got into that first business and nice.


Damon Pistulka  13:27

So you, you talk about a culture of cash, culture of cash flow. So give me a couple examples of different decisions based on a culture of cash flow. Okay, so maybe in regular business, we do a one way, but when you’re really thinking about cash flow, you’re, you’re thinking of it this way.


Kevin Mulcahy  13:49

Alright, so one is, if you think about how well do we manage our cash flows, right? And let’s just break it down at the aspects of the business. So with customers? Do we have a process in place, for example, for how customers pay whether they’re, there’s always an opportunity to get customers to prepay or put deposits down? Or what’s often overlooked is the opportunity to periodically review and raise prices.

And and I think one decision that businesses are particularly poor on if they don’t have an organized process to raise prices, be it on a we’re going to do this on the on the 31st of March every year, or are we going to do it depending on sniffing in the wind, or are we doing it based on some semblance of feedback from what’s going on in our marketplace, but if you don’t have a discipline on raising prices.

You, your costs will keep going. But you, you, you get caught up, you start, your margin starts eroding. And then clarity of what exactly are you charging for? And are you charging for everything you could be charging for? Let’s look at the, I often think of the role as CEO. As Chief extraction officer.

That’s what I think it stands for. And the role of a CEO in a growing business is to extract as close to the amount of value that we generate for customers as possible. If you’re underpricing, you’re leaving a lot of value on the table for pricing, you’re gonna you won’t get as many orders as you could. So there’s this you have to be in chief extraction officer, how do we find the customers that value our services the most, and price as close to the value that we’re delivering? as we can.

And, and when we do that, and we find those segments and those niches, and we lock those people in, then we have a cash generating machine. If we do that poorly, we’re throwing darts, we have a haphazard business, we find ourselves constantly playing with our pricing to find the right pricing. It’s like it’s not about finding the right pricing. It’s about finding that customer who values you the most. And we have to be willing to, to keep testing. Who are the customers that value us the most? So that’s a big one on on customers, and suppliers.

Yet what we’re used, do we ask our suppliers to moderate their cash flow a little bit? What else? Look, we pay you net? Can we pay your net 45? Instead of net? 30? Can we pay your net 60? Instead of net? 45? Can we just change regularly? The the speed at which we pay suppliers? Or the can we get volume discounts from our suppliers. I’ve most suppliers, when asked by a customer force for a deal, we’ll do it we’re asked ourselves when we’re asked ourselves and our customers come to us and say, hey, I’ll buy more if then we’ll generally say yes.

But we’re we we don’t do the same as much with our suppliers. And I think we we don’t revisit our suppliers enough and make enough asks of our suppliers to support our business. I’ve again yet to meet a business and you alluded to earlier earlier. That is not an I know, quote, post COVID. It’s difficult, but inventory management is a is a hidden trap for cash. Yeah. And and I understand there’s some strategic reasons to stockpile certain parts of inventory.

During COVID supply chains were busted. From the moment you see that a supply chain is working. We have to bring back the discipline that we lost during COVID For hoarding those nuts like little squirrels. And I’m trying to rebalance our, our inventory management. Again, and and oftentimes we forget that people are inventories. Well, we have to look at the utilization of our people. And, you know, if you’re a service business, your people are your inventory.

If you’re a service business and you’re not talking about people utilization, you’re not talking about one of the fundamentals of the business. And I think overall, human capital management is a big area. And we’re we’re often quick to hire and slow to fire. And I think we have to be slower to hire and quicker to fire. And most people in the business will know who’s an underperformer. They know who the underperformers are, and they’re waiting for management to take action. And don’t for a moment believe that your people can’t see we’re poor performer isn’t being addressed.

And there’s a little contagion that happens there when a poor performer is allowed to perform poorly over time. Other people’s care and concern for the business starts to erode it is that old case of the rotten apples in the barrel will eventually turn all the apples rotten. And the apples didn’t want to be rotten. But it’s it’s just infectious. And if you’re tolerating you get the worst behavior that you tolerate. And that’s back to culture. What behaviors are you tolerating?

What are we promoting for? And what are we firing for? And? And then what how are we engaging the people that we want to keep on board, how we, I’ll say, one of the most underused words in HR and I’ve written a book called The future workplace experience. And one of the under used words, and improving the experience with employees is the word Thank you. And not just in, in verbal form, like Steven, thank you for your work, or Sheila, thank you for your work.

But a tank you note that the most senior executives, when I asked them about their practices as a senior executive, a constant hidden practice of senior executives of the most senior of senior executives, the most impressive ones, is they carve aside about a certain amount of time every day or week, where they’re writing handwritten, thank you notes, to key influencers are stakeholders of their success and in their business. And they don’t really talk about it. They don’t really write about it.

But it’s one of those hidden habits that other I have observed executives doing upfront, I have received from an executive. And I’ve coached rising executives on doing that. And when employees receive a written Thank you. These are the types of things that people keep they bring it back, they show that their folks at home. Yeah, look what I got. And those are the types of things that are kept while the verbal tank cue is, is echoed there for a few minutes and then forgotten. The written tank cue is often stored in a drawer people stay longer. People are slow to try out their thank you notes.


Damon Pistulka  22:42

Yeah, yeah, that’s for sure. So So I think that’s great


Kevin Mulcahy  22:45

that that’s, that’s one of those like, business practices don’t all have to be hard. And when you’re dealing with the, the experience of employees, at the end of the day, there’s a few drivers or components of the employee experience. And this is what I’ve done a lot of research on. But I wanted to talk about the cash the culture of cash first. Because yes, business is about the cash flow, but you can accelerate that cash flow, if you make the employee experience better. And there’s a number of drivers of employee experience.

One is, and I think the most important one is the emotional component. And that is to what extent do you connect the employee to the purpose of the business or to the mission of the business? And, and to what extent do they understand what the business is all about? And how do you hire for people that care about the purpose of the business and the mission of the business? The second one is cultural. And these are that is the here’s how we do things around here. Here’s the behaviors that we want to see.

And those are the ones that we put on our on our wall, or innovative or collaborative when we’re X Y, Zed. But also, here’s what we don’t tolerate. And I think we spend a lot of time talking about the aspirational behaviors. But what what do we actually promote for? And also what do we fire for? And it’s great to be aspirational, but you catch me doing it right, acknowledge it, and promote me forward or reward me for it. And you catch me doing it wrong, correct me.

If you catch me doing it, if you catch it, if you catch it, two people doing it wrong frequently. Remove them. Yes. Because it sends a message on what behaviors you’ll tolerate. race. And then there’s technological, one of the tools that you expect us to deliver positive cash flow or, or to deliver on this business. And in the research on the employee experience, many companies and what COVID bought out was we got introduced to a whole set of new tools, Slack.

And I mean, just teams and many, many different tools. People are hunting around platforms now looking for that message from ABC. Yeah, about what WX y. And in talking with companies, the number one issue with the tools it’s not. And this goes back to the old carpenter side, it’s not the quality of the tool, necessarily, it’s your skill and using the tool, and what companies have underfunded. And anyone listening should just think about this. Do the employees know how to use the tool that you’re asking them to use?

And just because you dictate that teens or slack is how we’re doing things, not everybody is programmed to pick up and converse and engage in the way that that tool dictates and just be kind. And you can’t overtrain people on the tools. And if you really want people to use a tool, don’t be expecting them to figure out themselves over the weekend, that some of them will do that. But you’ve got to spend the time on we’re training to use this tool, and you cannot over train people on the fundamental tools that drive your business.


Damon Pistulka  26:48

Yeah, that’s a great, and that point is come up with us in the last year with, with people really understanding not understanding how to use some of these tools. I mean, you mentioned teams, and you look at Slack and all these other ways and and security concerns, how do we share information?

How do we, you know, it’s just simple file sharing even becomes a completely different thing, when you have multiple tools that you could do it, I can do it by email, I can do by slack, I can do it by teams, I can, you know, there’s just so many other things. And then as you said, people are using these tools in the vast majority, I believe people want to get to know it well enough just to do what they need to do, and stop there. And they miss out on the opportunity of if I learned a bit more about it, it could help me a lot more. But I’m busy. So I learned what I need. And that’s it.


Kevin Mulcahy  27:51

Yep. And, and that it, we gotta get, I think the most effective training sometimes this one when our peers train us. And yes, one of the other elements is the the intellectual part of employee experience. And people used to think about your employees as learners. And I’m going to suggest that you’re, you’re missing a big element there. If you just think about hiring learners, or you keep valuing learners, you’re going to suggest you’re you’re being incomplete. You also want to hire people, to be teachers.

So you have to be a learner and a teacher. And if you want your business to scale, it can only scale. If employees teach others on how to do things, just as you you just pointed out with that example about, people will learn a tool to get their job done. But if you have people around, but you’ll also learn a tool based on the energy and motivation and how well people around you are using them. And if you see people using a tool just a bit better than someone else or a bit more expertly than someone else, regardless of their level, great employees are teachers because to teach something you’ve got to know something.

And peers teaching peers is an area where as we have a flatter organization, and we’ve we’ve cut some corners, on on, on teaching and learning during during COVID impulse COVID finding the people who know most who are the best at doing something or better at doing something and giving them some of the time to teach others will be more effective than bringing in the quote unquote workshop girl.

And, and, and just making that part of people’s expectation. Since you can’t scale up a company, if everybody doesn’t have the expectation that not only are they responsible for their own development, but they’re responsible for the development of those around them. And if you don’t have a, here’s what I expect you to teach others as part of their performance expectations, then you’re, you’re putting a an obstacle and in your scale up plans, because everybody’s just going to learn what they need to do to do their job and get their ratings.

And we have to have a component in our performance reviews, that’s on how well and how much have you contributed to teaching others, and in coaching, and upskilling others, and at the end of the day, we can only scale up, if we all scale up, it’s the rising tide. And we can’t keep carrying specialists, everybody has to, to grow here, and we have to have a methodology. And B can be a great learning organization, as well as a selling organization.

And that’s where the HR part comes in. And we we don’t screen we screen for learners, we don’t screen for teachers. And I always go deeper on anytime you see somebody who coaches, their, their local volleyball team, or football team or women’s basketball team, or if they’re coaching something, teaching something, doing boycott something, pay extra attention to those people, because they have a natural orientation towards upskilling.

Others and, and screen for that in your interviews and and look for that and promote that and encouraged us. And make sure that when you hire somebody who does that, work with them on their hours so that you can keep being a great coach and whatever they’re coaching on or doing. Because that will that makes them a better employee, a better learner at work and teacher at work?


Damon Pistulka  32:22

Yeah. Oh, great stuff there. Because you’re right, it is the organizations that develop the best people. Not hiring is important. But you’re always going to have to continue to develop once you hire and the organizations that develop the best people that intentionally develop people that really think about how we’re going to develop people, including teaching and you know, making sure that people are receptive to learning that you’re hiring and but the ones that do that are the ones that can continue to generate success over time, because we’re adaptive, we’re creative. When we find better solutions.


Kevin Mulcahy  32:59

Every employee should be asked, what is it the in your annual pay for your your periodic performance review, as we’re moving away from annual performance review, for your periodic performance review, I always want to have a component in there for what is it that you’re doing to upskill or train others in your organization? And that’s how we scale up on the people internally. Teach others and that’s part of our quote unquote, culture of learning, and culture of scaling. That’s how we do it. And, and we need to make room for that.


Damon Pistulka  33:37

Yeah. Yeah. Great. points there. Great points. So as we’re looking at this, the the future workplace and the the future workplace experience of the book that you wrote there. Really, what are you thinking that the future holds for the most successful workplaces?


Kevin Mulcahy  34:00

The future is how are we creating an the best experience at work? And we’re in the experience economy now and, and our employees are, you know, every everything that they touch outside of work, is offering them better and better experiences at the restaurants, their apps, their help desks, whatever they’re touching is a higher experience than it was two or three years ago, QR codes or restaurants, etc, etc.

So my number one issue is is pay attention to the experience of the employees at work, what is the experience of working here? And asking that question and ways to flesh that out our our one to ask, go around and ask every employee, what is it that you would tell a new prospect on why they should work here?

And listening to those answers? Why should anyone work here? Why would you tell a friend on why they should work here? And by just asking Vash, informally, you will get her What is the quote unquote, secret sauce, that this is from the mouths of babes, right? This is what they would say is, why do we recommend someone to work here? And to asking them? What is the experience of working here?

What do you like about that experience? And what could be improved about working here? And these are what they call the employee attitude surveys. And we, you don’t have to fix everything. But you should just ask what’s working? What’s not working? What could we do? What would you like to see us improve? And the first item that employees want to see is it’s not that you’re doing something about it is that you’ve at least heard it. So you can say, look, we’ve asked you, we’ve heard you, here’s what we’ve heard.

Now, based on what we’ve heard, here’s the two or three things that we’re going to tackle this quarter or next quarter. And here’s one or two items we just can’t tackle. We’ve heard it, we know it’s there. But we’re just we’re not in a position to tackle that at this time. And, number one, people want to be heard. Number two, obviously, they want you to do something about it. But to be heard, is to be believed. And oftentimes I asked folks, well, when’s the last time you did an employee attitude survey?

And they’re like, well, we suspended doing that during COVID, because those results weren’t going to be valid. And I was like, those are the times you want to hear the most it’s not whether it’s valid, if an employee provides their opinion, and they were asked, that’s what makes it valid. And, and just be honest about what you can tackle on and and just say, look, how can we make working here a better experience? And it is a negotiation? I think we’re, we’re, and you’ll read in the media, the priorities of people, and I’m gonna say workers post COVID have shifted in some ways.

They say it takes six months to build a habit. And we had people working remotely for 18 months, yeah, or 24 months, they have built habits. And those some of those habits have been entrenched. And then the company’s dentist said, Hey, guys, we want you to go back to your habits of two years ago, I don’t remember how it was working two years ago, I just remember how was working in the last six months.

And take the best of that. And remove the worst of that. And we’re seeing a tension now. I’ll call it these cultural disconnects about it’s an opportunity to post COVID. And we’re almost not referring to post COVID anymore, because COVID has, quote unquote, I won’t say ended but it’s in the rearview mirror, and it’s getting fainter and fainter in the rearview mirror.

Even though I keep hearing about new cases, it’s not many. We’d say how do we want to do business? Going forward? What have we learned? And what knew what practices worked for us? And what practices do we envision will continue to work for us? And one practice that is working for companies right now is I’m going to call this a roses and thorns and buds conversation with managers. During COVID, we and post COVID. We spent a lot of time on Zoom colds running through our agendas. First of all, we all got better written agendas.

We all got better at meeting agendas, and got better a tighter agenda. So that was a big plus. We got to run some meetings. But what we lost was that gray space in between meetings of Hey Damon, trick questions for you. You know, how are you Damon? And sharing a little bit about how I’m how I am or how am I? And then Damon? How are we? Are we getting on together like how was how you finding our working relationship? And this asking how are we is a big focus on engaging the employees more emotionally, just how are we?

And secondly, these Torrens, roses and buds, very simple check ins where you just, you’re going to ask those three questions and shut up and take 30 minutes. And what Damon, what what are your? What are your tours right now? Like what’s not working out very well or causing you anxiety? Or pain? And you’ll find, I speculate that half that will be work issues, and half that will be issues outside of work. And then what are those buds? What are you working on? That’s, that’s bringing you some joy, some hope, some growth, some where the sun is rising. And so again, some of those are like, Yeah, this project is going well.

And you know, that got the new home. And that’s going well, and the wife’s having a baby, and that’s going well, my husband’s changed roles that’s going well. Those are those are the buds. See if the torrents sorry, to Torrens, the roses. And then what are what’s? What are you working on that could blossom, but you’re not sure if they’re going to blossom. And where you could use some help or push or watering on those new initiatives?

Those are the buckets. And it and if you listen to those three things, you will have in a nutshell, just those three questions and your guideline is 30 minute conversation, you get to ask those three questions. And maybe a one or two follow ups on each one. You’ll learn more about the putting your finger on the pulse of that employee than any other survey or anything else. And it just gives you a hey, any new torrents any new buds, what’s going on what roses once you do it, once you got your hand, what’s going on in the torrents, and then you bring it.

You don’t structure it for the business. It’s just what’s going on their lives. And then you start bringing that in today. Hey, let’s talk about business torrents and personal torrents business roses. Yeah, business buds, personal thoughts. And what we need to get back to is reconnecting with our employees on a more humane level. And doing a lot at one of the hardest executive skills and leader skills is, especially when the growth businesses growing is listening versus telling.

And back to just listening for what is the pulse of our employees. And as well as we listen to the pulse of our customers and, and putting our finger there and just believing our employees when they say things and seeing what we can address and and that’s where what I’m dealing on dealing with a lot right now is helping executives open up some conversations about issues, what with their employees on issues that employees raise, and and just being a listening post for what some of those concerns are.

And then expanding those concerns, steering them towards the the needs of the business. So what are you trying to accomplish, personally Damon in in your life? And how can we? How does the in your role? What are the activities that help you do that more and what gets in your way of doing that?

You might want to pass those responsibilities on to someone else but what do you It’s another way of saying what do you love most about your job and and what do you like least about your job? Yeah, leaving them and seeing if you can address any of that with employees who just now expect people thirds, starving to be heard and understood and believed and listened to. And this is hard when we’re trying to scale up and we’re trying to scale up fast. And I think to netted out is in scaling up. Let’s try to what helps people is how do we implement and document our processes for scaling up.

The more processes we have and the more the more explicit we are, what customers we will not serve and who we will serve the better and faster So we’re going to scale up. And the most productive exercise I do with wood employees is I call it a, it’s a reverse bracket. And I call it a D selection bracket. And we just put eight slots in the board, just like a regular basketball brackets, we’ve all looked at them in slots to four slots, four slots to two. And then there’s a winner.

And it’s called, write down eight things you wish we weren’t doing as a company, eight things that are creating economic pain, labor pain, emotional pain, frustration, their, their their legacy issues. I don’t know why we tolerate this, this customer, or why we’re expanding into this market, or is what’s getting what’s causing pain. And it’s just write them randomly on the bracket. And now let’s go A versus B, B versus C and other a winner and bring the bracket to first stop doing it would free up the motion would free up cash would free up energy would free up just relief and, or money.

And, and you run everybody through the brackets and you say we will commit to stop whatever gets through that bracket. And stop it. Because you can’t start doing new things until you stop doing some of the old things. And it’s really hard as a scalar business, to stop doing things because everything we’re doing got us to where we are today. But not everything we’re doing will get us to where we want to go tomorrow.

So you’ve got to stop doing some things in order to keep going and keep focusing. Yeah, and and when employees are asked what they want to stop and are engaged in the process of activities to stop. And the leaves on this should be stopped as customers just way too much trouble, can we please just fire this customer. We’re not getting no margins, extreme pain, blah, blah, blah. And when employees say that management is listening, and by the way, management has a big incentive to stop things that are causing pain for for employees, then you’ll have a smoother business.

And in many business just businesses have seen the economy is not expected to be strong over the next six months. And this is a good time to decide now, what can you stop that’s taking excess energy excess capital, not getting the return so that you can focus on doing more of the things that are giving you the most returns and the most profitability and the most the most positive benefits? Yep, yep. That’s where the employee experience matches in with the cash flow experience of cash.


Damon Pistulka  48:11

Wow, this is awesome, Kevin, because you know, you really hit it on the head when you talked about what we moved into is the experience economy and how as employers, we really need to make working in a company a better experience mean for myriad reasons, happier people are more productive people that are having a better experience are more creative and will help us do what we need to do in the businesses a lot more effectively and efficiently. But a and I should say not. But But and it is much easier to retain employees that are having a good experience. In in the current condition.

That’s a very difficult hiring. situation for many right now. This is so key in this to really focus on that and the simple things that you said, you know, why would someone want to work here? What’s What’s your x? What’s the experience working here? What would you improve about working here, just some simple things. And then when you talked about at the end, they’re close to the end there when you’re talking about the thorns and roses and buds and how to start a conversation.

You think three words to start very meaningful conversations with people in your business. Just because those meaningful conversations then allow you to hear the people as you mentioned, when you were talking about the experience economy and how important that is to be heard, and then also to be able to provide some action behind it. If it’s appropriately it was just so much good stuff there. So much good stuff.


Kevin Mulcahy  49:55

Just it’s


Damon Pistulka  49:56

it’s been We’re already up to time and I can’t believe it. because we’re we’re just getting into the surface of this and such a pleasure to learn from you today and really understand always, I mean, we started talking about cash flow of all things. But we ended up with the experience economy and how to really, you know, for managers, a lot of keys in this and people came into this late they should be going back to the beginning. There’s a lot of things for managers and leaders in here.

There’s a lot of things in talking about investing in teaching employees and employees that want to learn and the importance of how everyone as we improve our skills, we all rise up for teaching and building good people in our organization, to at the end here talking about the experience economy and how we need to make it better for employees and customers. I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being here today. Count.


Kevin Mulcahy  50:49

You’re welcome, Damon, I love the work that you do. And, and just, you’ve got a new listener and me on your podcasts and just you just got great nuggets in every podcast. So appreciate that. Oh,


Damon Pistulka  51:01

I just thanks so much for being here. So Kevin, what if people want to talk to you? What’s the best way to get a hold of you always want to do that?


Kevin Mulcahy  51:08

Yeah. You can find me on Kevin, which is more about the book. Yeah, I do a lot of HR workshops there. And I’m always open to connecting with people on LinkedIn. All right, Ken Malky on LinkedIn. Yes. And yeah. And how did you talk


Damon Pistulka  51:29

about okay, that’s m ULCHY. So people get it spelled right. Thanks so much for being here today, everyone. Thanks to Dion for the comments in there. You’re seeing for the comments in there and all the other listeners that are listening and not commenting, but listening anyway. And like I said before, rewind this thing. The back of you didn’t hear from again, man, because he’s got a lot of good leadership nuggets in here. And then coming into experience economy at the end and so many good things, Kevin, thank you. Right.


Kevin Mulcahy  52:01

Thank you. Thank you, Devin. Have a


Damon Pistulka  52:03

great day, everyone. We’ll be back

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