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9 Pillars of Successful Remote Work Culture (Episode 46)

Bretton (Brett) Putter is an expert in company culture development who is consulted by companies and leaders worldwide to help design, develop and build high-performing business cultures and remote work.

He is the CEO of CultureGene, a culture leadership software, and services platform. Prior to founding CultureGene Brett spent 16 years as the Managing Partner of a leading executive search firm based in London working with startups and high-growth companies in the UK, Europe, and the USA.

In 2018 he published his first book, Culture Decks Decoded, and his second book “Own Your Culture: How to Define, Embed and Manage your Company Culture” was released in September 2020.

Brett conducted eight months of research interviewing leaders of top and high growth organizations like Basecamp, Zapier, Buffer, and others. He’s put all his findings in his book, which is a blueprint for leaders who want to build a strong, functional company culture in their organizations during this ongoing pandemic.

For Brett, giving organizational culture the attention it deserves is a key factor to drive growth and can help start and sustain a business.

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What you will learn

  • The 9 rules for running a successful remote work business
  • How to overcome the first big challenge for remote work – Denial!
  • Why allowing employees to “decompress” is vital
  • The importance of applying the “Pomodoro Technique” to remote work
  • Why you should adopt an asynchronous communication practice
  • The remote work company with 1,300 employees that documents every business process. And has an 8,500-page open-source document for the world to see
  • Why you should support your remote teams as part of your remote work culture
  • If there is an opportunity (need) for a company to build a remote work operating system
  • Why these 9 rules are essential in 2021 if you are running a remote work environment or a hybrid:
  1. Build social connections at a distance
  2. Create recorded processes for your business
  3. Focus on communication
  4. Document everything
  5. Create a structure
  6. Develop and nurture transparency, trust, and accountability
  7. Focus on results, output, and outcomes
  8. Customize your hiring process
  9. Be deliberate about your culture 

Transcript

Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone, and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me Brett Putter. Now, Brett is an expert in company culture and he's developed a whole range of systems and processes to help companies manage their company culture and keep it healthy and thriving. Now, with the rise of the pandemic and the COVID, a lot of people are doing remote work. So maintaining company culture obviously is very important and becomes very important because you're managing remote teams. So we're going to dive in a little bit of that today. So he's the CEO of CultureGene, a culture leadership software and services platform. And before this, spent six years as managing partner at a leading executive search firm in London. He originally hails from South Africa.

Jeff Bullas: And we're going to have a little chat today about his new book as well. The first book was Culture Decks Decoded, and his second book “Own Your Culture”. We're going to have a little bit of chat about that. But we're also going to, I think, spend a lot of time diving into the challenges we have as modern companies in a modern, very fast changing and changed world in terms of remote teams and remote and hybrid work culture. So welcome to the show, Brett.

Brett Putter: Jeff, thanks very much. It's great to be on the show. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Bullas: So the first question I'm going to ask you is, what do you define as company culture?

Brett Putter: Yeah. So company culture really is this largely invisible, subconscious and intangible thing that happens whether you like it or not. And culture develops when decisions that are made prove to be successful. And the thinking that went into those decisions becomes embedded into the way we do things around here. So in a shortened version, company culture is the way we do things around here. And that's this random combination of good and bad behaviors, habits, principles, beliefs, assumptions, norms, communication styles, et cetera, et cetera. And that's really the crux of the matter is it's how we do things versus how other people do things.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Okay. And we're in the middle of this really fast changing world at the moment. And it has brought with its own challenges that have both I suppose, highlighted the big problems that maybe are underlying already. So what do you see as some of the big challenges with the remote work that we have today?

Brett Putter: So the first big challenge is that most CEOs have their heads in the sand. So as you said, from South Africa, it's the ostrich mentality, if you keep your head in the stand for long enough, it'll go away or it'll come back as normal and that's not going to happen. The second challenge is that CEOs are thinking, I can run a hybrid environment where we can work two or three days from the office and two days from home. And that means that I won't have to change my leadership style at all, which is not the case. You have to radically change your leadership style to do hybrid or remote work effectively. And the third element of this is that these leaders haven't actually allowed their people to grieve. The loss of pre COVID work is the five stages of grief. It's literally, you've got to work through it. Because if you don't work through it, you're always going to be associating back to what it was. And it's never going to be like that again. So those are really the fundamentals from my perspective around the challenges.

Jeff Bullas: So let's raise that little question of the stages of grief that people can go through with work being not the same and it's never going to be the same. Can you tell us a little bit about what that grieving process looks like?

Brett Putter: So what I actually do is I suggest to my clients that they ask their colleagues, their employees to write down what they miss about working from an office. And then imagine that working from an office is like living on earth, where we walk around in our jeans and t-shirt, gravity does this thing and we breathe and we eat and we do what we do. But actually now earth was obliterated and we have to now move to the moon. That's a different work style, a different living style. You don't walk anymore, you jump, et cetera. Gravity doesn't work the same way. And you essentially got to communicate to your team that if they and you howk back to those, what were those pre COVID days, whatever you try to land, whenever you try to develop and improve for the future is not going to be as effective because people are holding onto the past. Allow them to let it go and say, "Yes, we may go back to some of that in the future but let's just all understand that life has now changed and will change irrevocably."

Jeff Bullas: Right. Yeah. And that's true. So for me, I was doing remote work already. So I worked from the home office. I still do. I suppose for me, the challenge too was not only work. It was also the social environment that you just can't go to a restaurant anymore, and especially in some of the countries that have got locked down. And so that's a challenge. It's also the things that wrap all around the work, isn't it as well? Not just work itself.

Brett Putter: Yeah. Exactly. So there's in work and there's outside of work and obviously they feed off each other]. So what would happen is if you were frustrated after a day at work, you'd go out, have a couple of beers and shoot the breeze while relaxing. Now that can't happen. And that then feeds back into work. So if you think about what used to happen, if you were in the office, you'd get into the office and you'd make yourself a coffee, sit down and do an hour of work and then have a meeting and you get up and go to the meeting. But that getting up and going to the meeting allowed you to decompress. And then after the meeting, you'd maybe do have some lunch and that allowed you to decompress. And then you'd have a bit of banter with some of the mates, glass of water at the water fountain, decompress, decompress, decompress. Then you travel home, that allows you to decompress. And maybe you work later but at least you've decompressed.

Brett Putter: Now we're not decompressing. It's just Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. And then the impact of this is on the wellbeing side and health wellness, mental health issues and burnout issues. These are things that remote companies actually prepare for and they train their managers to be aware of that nobody that I've spoken to who is ex working in a collocated environment has even thought about].

Jeff Bullas: I think that's really, really interesting insight. And I'd like to dive in a little bit further to, so decompress. And could you explain what you mean by decompressing from work and different things you can do? I know I'm just thinking myself through the different things I do to decompress. So explain what you mean exactly by decompress and what are some of the ways you can be compress?

Brett Putter: So the technique that I use that I find most effective, which takes a little bit of getting used to is called the Pomodoro Technique. And this is what a lot of remote workers use. And you said, basically what you do is you turn off all notifications and you choose whatever you're going to work on. And you set them along for 25 minutes and you work on that without any interruptions. After 25 minutes, the alarm goes off, you go and get yourself a coffee, or you go for a walk, you go for a stretch and you spend five minutes doing something else. That's your decompression. Then you set another alarm for 25 minutes and you focus again on either that subject or another subject.

Brett Putter: But basically you create forced decompression, which decompression is allowing your brain to extract itself from the screen. And essentially which would have happened in an office because you would have walked to the toilet and then bumped into Jackie and said, "How are you doing, Jackie? How are things going? How are the kids." Et cetera, et cetera. So what remote workers do and actually what companies do, good remote work companies is they force decompression into the system.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Okay. And they basically remind their staff that this is what they need to do and this is how they can work because no one really talks about this very much before. I have heard of the 25-minute Pomodoro effect. And I think my editor uses it quite a lot now. He just sets an alarm, turns off all alerts. I've turned off all alerts. I don't set an alarm but it's something I might certainly try. So we're in the middle of this very fast changing world, which is never going to be the same. There's going to be parts of the same that are going to be the leftovers but we're moving into an evolving space that we did not expect, certainly a year ago we did not expect this. And so you, for example, work remotely because you moved from London to Portugal.

Brett Putter: Exactly. And actually I've been thinking about moving for the last couple of years because I've got young kids and they're not in the school system yet. So my wife and I were saying, "Imagine if..." And then along came COVID and we thought actually... Because my concern was, would I be able to network and build up the business. And actually it turns out that my business, I'm very fortunate, business has really picked up because culture is now such a critical issue for most companies. Because essentially what's happening is most companies relied on their offices to develop and manage their culture for them. And that's why they could be lazy about their culture. If you compare that to remote work companies, all of them focus on culture from a very early stage because they can't afford not to. Versus when you're in the office, you can rely on osmosis and random interactions for your culture to propagate what's happening in the environment.

Brett Putter: But now that the office is gone, the osmosis doesn't happen. And in my book, in the chapter, I quote Warren Buffett where I say, or I use Warren Buffet's quote, where he says, "You don't know who's swimming naked until the tide goes out." And the tide has gone out on a lot of CEOs who didn't do any work on their culture. And they're really struggling now because their culture is degrading every single day because they relied so much on proximity, visibility, availability, informal communication, those water cooler moments. They relied on these things for their culture to propagate. And it actually wasn't intentional. It was unintentional. It was almost as if culture wasn't that important because it didn't have to be because the office did it for them.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I'm certainly seeing some companies that, and they've been doing it, some of them have been doing it for years, they've worked remotely ever since they started. I think one great example of that is Basecamp. And I've read a few of their books and it's fascinating in that they have built culture and how they work into the remote hybrid model. It doesn't mean they don't have the... I think they might have had one office in New York. I think a few people get together. But in the main it is pretty well remote. But you're right. We had an accidental culture that occurred because we met in offices and it's just I suppose, human nature to evolve around that water cooler moments, chat about what was happening on TV. Yeah. Big show that was going on at the moment, about what's happening in the world.

Jeff Bullas: So I want to dive in a little bit more to look at that structure that you use, and we're going to look at the nine company culture rules, success that remote companies follow. I think I'd like to dive into that structure and let's have a look at those little clauses. So maybe if you could just tell us or quickly sum up those nine rules, if you could.

Brett Putter: Sure. So the nine rules give you a little bit of context. About a year and a half ago, I was approached by two remote companies to help with their culture development. And at the time, I was doing in-person workshops in offices and I realized that my business was not going to work for remote companies because they're not in offices. So I suspected over a period of time, longer than COVID and I just could have anticipated but over a period of time, developing a software solution for these companies would be valuable. And so I started doing some research into Basecamp as you, you mentioned GitLab, Hotjar, Buffer, and Zapier. Automattic and a whole bunch of others. And essentially I realized that there are nine best practices that these companies focus on above what we would typically focus on in a collocated environment.

Brett Putter: And that is they really work hard on the following things, social connection, communication, process sizing the business, documentation, developing trust, outcomes based leadership, recruitments and onboarding, wellbeing. And then the ninth is being deliberate about their culture. And when I talk to leaders, they say, "Yeah, but we have Friday drinks and we have a lot of social stuff." And I'm talking about no, no, this is part of their culture. GitLab for example, have teams that work on developing social connections and community because they understand that loneliness is the first step towards burnout or mental health issues. And GitLab, once again, one of their values is around being able to document effectively because documentation is a critical business asset for them. So really digging into these companies made me realize that they focus down on these nine best practices because they didn't have an office to do it for them.

Jeff Bullas: That's very true. I should have been doing some little bit of reading research around this and GitLab, I believe they've got 8,500 pages of open source documentation of how they run their business.

Brett Putter: They do. I wouldn't say I've read it all but I've read a lot of it. And it's a beautiful thing. It's actually poetry and reading in motion. The beautiful thing about it is when you say, these guys, they've been going for 10 years and they've got 1,300 staff. So they've been doing this a while. Then when you say to somebody, "You've got to write 8,300 pages. If you printed it up, that's how many pages?" And people just get terrified. And they are like, "God, we hardly get our people to put everything in Salesforce, nevermind anything else." But actually each one of those pages is a working document. It's a live working document that has an owner. It's curated. It's maintained because they have a discipline around documentation that works. And you can go and have a look at it now, you can follow the URLs all the way through the document. It really is a fabulous piece of art.

Jeff Bullas: I had only discovered this a few weeks ago, so wow. And GitLab essentially has been a remote run business ever since day dot I think.

Brett Putter: Yeah.

Jeff Bullas: So, all right. So let's dive into the nine steps. I think it'd be great to have a little bit of a little dive into each one. So let's start with the first one.

Brett Putter: Yeah. So if we look at social connection, what's essentially happened is, and I did some survey in April of 165 UK companies, and everybody is saying, "Well, productivity is up. And we're great." But actually, I've since then done another survey and 85% of those companies are saying that social connection has fallen off the cliff because people are not happy. They're tired of Zoom. Getting on another Zoom call, really? Come on. And also the drinks on Fridays have lost their meaning. The quiz nights have lost their meaning. So if you look at what companies like GitLab do, they have teams that work on this. They form micro communities. They are very deliberate as an organization around social connection. And what they particularly do is they don't make it the leadership's responsibility. They make it the company's responsibility.

Brett Putter: And if you look at the issues around mental health and burnout and well-being, this is the first step to overcome. I believe there's a tsunami wave of problems coming down the line for companies. We're all experiencing some burnout in some way. And that's just going to accelerate if companies don't use their culture in the right way. The second point is communication. So the key here is moving from synchronous to asynchronous communication. So synchronous communication requires presence and availability. And you and I need to be available at these times to talk.

Brett Putter: That means if you and I are talking and it's not really effective, that means you're wasting it or I'm wasting an hour of my time when I could be working. And so what we're finding is with companies who are struggling with this, is they're doing eight or nine hours of Zoom calls a day and then they're spending six or seven hours catching up on the work they should have done today. And if you look at a company like Basecamp, the leadership has no, they do zero. They do no synchronous communication, only emergencies. So all of their communication is around email or whatever it is. And then don't expect a response immediately. Don't expect a person to be available and present. And so moving your business from synchronous, from the think first mentality to a write first mentality is critical.

Brett Putter: The third point is process. So processes often live in people's heads. And if you're in an office, that's fine because you can go out and walk and bunk into somebody and say, "What do we do here? What did we do there?" And have it explained to you. But if you're not in an office and you're fully remote, if you're a new joiner to a team or a new joiner to the company, you've actually got to call somebody up and say, "What's the process here? How do I fit in?" Versus a company like GitLab or Hotjar or Buffer? They've detailed the process. It's defined and you can go and read it so you don't have to waste anybody's time. There's no bottleneck to you understanding how the business works. So they process everything. They process meetings. And meetings have a structure. This is how we do meetings in this organization. This is how we do all ends in this organization. There's no variable. And if there is a variation, it's detailed and the variation is detailed.

Brett Putter: The fourth point is what we mentioned earlier, which is documentation. Documentation is essentially, you need to know what's going on in the organization. And what used to happen is we would listen in to a conversation or meet in the Powerball, have lunch and talk to somebody or just have a chat, that can't happen anymore because we're all Zoomed out. So you need to document everything. If you don't document your culture, how can some new joiner understand what your culture is. If you don't document the onboarding, how can your team onboard effectively, et cetera, et cetera. So taking the process and then building the documentation around it is absolutely critical. Companies are terrified by this because they don't like documentation and they're not very good at it and they're scared of it.

Brett Putter: But if you think about how a company like GitLab does documentation, every document has an has a predefined owner, an audience, a cadence and a lifespan, how long it has lived for. The owner is one individual, the audience is internal company, internal project, internal short-term exercise or external customers or the web. And so each document is very well specifically defined. And as an owner who will look after the documents versus lots of documents going to die in a Google folder somewhere. And then the two that work really quite hand in hand are building trust. So most remote companies focus on transparency because if we are transparent, we have nothing to hide. You can trust us. And they work really, really hard on transparency and building psychological safety, where you trust people to respect who you are and you trust people not to chop your head off if you make a mistake.

Brett Putter: And then this feeds into the next point, which is the next best practice, which is outcomes based leadership. So if you are very clear on what your expectation is, in three weeks time, you will deliver this. Can you deliver this? And you've met that up with the individual. Then you don't have to micromanage them. They will come to you if they have any issues. And so being outcomes based requires trust but it also requires the outcome being well-defined and a clarity around that.

Brett Putter: And then the last three are the companies that I've studied really tweak their recruitment onboarding processes so that the recruitment and onboarding, evaluate for values and demonstrate the culture immediately. So you know that this is the company you want to work at in both the recruitment process and onboarding process. And wellbeing, mental health and burnout issues that are coming down the line, this is something that they work very, very hard on to find that balance. And they encourage their leaders to talk about what they are struggling with and to be open about their issues because then it allows people to realize you're not Superman or superwoman. You are just a human being.

Brett Putter: And the last thing is being deliberate about company culture. They didn't have the luxuries of an office. They didn't have the luxuries of the four walls to build their culture. They had to be deliberate about it from day one. And if you look at all of these companies, culture is one of their major assets if not their major asset.

Jeff Bullas: Right. And that becomes obvious as you look at the different companies that are doing the remote models as well, such as you mentioned, like Buffer and so on. So what are some of the, I suppose, companies that have impressed you the most regarding remote work and remote and hybrid work?

Brett Putter: So I think the companies that are... GitLab clearly are very, very high up. There's a company called Hotjar, they're the four founders that are out of Malta. And Malta is only a very tiny island as you know. But actually as soon as they decided to found the company, they never ever met deliberately again, even for drinks because they never, ever wanted to create an us and them situation. So the challenge with running a remote environment if you're all in one place is the leadership will end up meeting and then people will then congregate around leadership and you end up feeling like second class citizens. So the first thing Hotjar did is insist on the four leaders never meeting again. But one of the things that I really like about them is they spend about 10,000 euros a year on their teams, on perks every year.

Brett Putter: So in year one, it's 14,000 euros because they give you a 4,000 euros office set up. And so you can spend four grand on whatever you need in your office. And then 10 grand is on, they pay you to take a holiday. They pay you to meet up with your team. They pay you for wellness. They got a bunch of things that it's 500 a year or two grand a year or a grand a year. And they're basically saying your mental health and your wellness is really critical to us. So build that into how you work. Another company that I'm blown away by their transparency is Buffer. With Buffer, you can literally go to the website now and work out what people's salaries are because the salary calculations are there, clear for everybody to see. You can see based on how long somebody has worked, their experience, et cetera, et cetera. And the calculation is there. So they've actually taken a new lens from a transparency point of view.

Brett Putter: And as you mentioned, what I really like about the guys from Basecamp is if you look at their diaries, they have very, very open diaries. They have no meetings booked in their diaries, the leaders of Basecamp, because they've built such a strong culture around, get on with it, it's autonomy. It's about you being accountable, making decisions, taking decisions, getting on with it. You don't need us. We'll get involved when you really need us on the strategy side. So yeah, there's so many companies doing so many interesting things. It's an endless well of insight.

Jeff Bullas: It's fascinating that transparency is just one indicator to compare it to the old way of work culture. I think back to when I left teaching and went into working in corporate culture in the middle of the PC revolution technology. And it was certainly, the culture was us and them. The leaders have their own little perks and they have everything else and that's fine. Transparency certainly wasn't. There was a lot of under the table stuff, stuff you didn't even know it was going on. Whereas these companies like Buffer and so on, GitLab, we're documenting everything we do. There's almost no secrets which really pushes...

Jeff Bullas: And when you've had decades of ingrained practice that has taught you that this is how things are, the biggest challenge I think with management and the owners of companies is to retrain themselves. So how would you suggest older people such as myself. I'm 64 this year, I've had decades of baked-in practice. But I still run a company that runs completely remotely. So certainly, I've learned a little bit more about what I've changed and I quite enjoy it, frankly. So how do management unlearn?

Brett Putter: So this is one of the reasons I run my business the way I do. So I don't typically work with larger companies. And I don't typically work with all the companies because I don't want to spend time undoing years and years of bad practice, bad habits, bad rituals, bad norms, bad behaviors. But I think the best way to do this is to look at the nine best practices and go, "Okay, what's realistically the low hanging fruit for our organization? What can I move the needle on?" Because in most companies, these nine are not being done well anyway. So if transparency is going to be a step too far for you at this stage, then I don't think you should throw everything open because actually that may cause more disruption in your organization.

Brett Putter: And you need to first of all, get your head around what transparency means and the levels of transparency you can go to and then decide how you bring that across. Because some companies are fully transparent, like Buffer where salaries are all structured and organized. But other companies say, if it's confidential and private to the individual, we don't share it. So salaries are not shared. And other companies, for example, will say, "Because we are across five continents, by law, we can't share certain things."

Brett Putter: So it really depends on your company and your organization. But the more you can share, the less people doubt you and the less people question you. And you don't want that. You want people to trust you because they then will get on with what they need to do. We need to trust them. So I think if you look down those nine, you can start with the low hanging fruit for example, social connection feels like whatever, but actually it's a really critical piece because people got social connection from the office and that's no longer there. And they now are looking for some connection. And the people who you think are the least likely to end up burning out or getting real anxiety and stress and mental issues, they're the ones who often are the ones most very often likely to be affected by this.

Brett Putter: So building out your social connection and taking a team, building a committee and say, "Okay, what are we going to do on the ground here?" It's going to get people involved in this and moving social connections on, just that demonstrates that you're aware, you're thinking about it. And it shows your people that you are adapting to the situation. If your head is in the sand and the wind is blowing and your situation is what it is and you're not adapting, your people are going "Well, we signed this agreement to work for your company, but actually we have another agreement which we didn't sign that's a intrinsic agreement that you would look after us. You would build a culture that we would want to work in.

Brett Putter: We made these assumptions about what you told us about working at your company and so far you've delivered on them, but now our culture's changing and you're not adapting, why? What's happening? Why are you not adapting to the fact that I'm working from home and I'm sharing a flat with three other people and you don't realize that my situation is different now, and you're not building the systems and the communication capabilities and the structural capabilities and the process communication capabilities for me to do my job." So that's really where leaders have to think about what's the low hanging fruit to get started with?

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. That's some really good points there. The other thing that I suppose I'm curious about is facilitating all this culture, changing and managing it, making sure people's social connections are maintained, documenting processes, that raises the questions, what are some of the key tools that you've found to be really good to help facilitate this? Because we need technology tools to help us do this now because... And of course, Zoom is one of those. What are some of the other tools that you've come across and recommend to people that you think just help with these nine rules that you've mentioned?

Brett Putter: So I don't think anybody's got it right yet but companies will. But there are companies that are doing elements of this. So there's a company called Notion that comes out of California and they basically have created a Wiki where you can start to document everything that you need to document about your business. And essentially you can bring task management, project management and document management, all into one place. There's a company called Donut, for example. They plug into Slack and they set up random meetings between people because what's happening now is what you used to do is you used to bump into Jamie from engineering at the drinks once every two weeks. Now you don't speak to Jamie at all ever in six months.

Brett Putter: So this would make you and Jamie reconnect. There are companies like Tandem that have created a virtual room type environment where it'll tell you, the app will tell you where people are working, what they're working on, are they available or they're not available. So it brings the visibility and availability element back. So you're not completely blind as to what's happening with your team or with the other people in the organization. There are a bunch of really interesting technologies that are being developed. Nobody's got to try to... There's a big chance for a company to build an operating system here.

Jeff Bullas: That's a very interesting term. So that's an operating system for remote work or remote culture for remote work companies? Yeah. It was about a year ago, one of my team suggested we use Trello which is owned by Atlassian now they bought them, I think in 2016. And literally it's changed our company. We have less emails, we've got better management. There's a lot more to go. And what I do compared to the likes of Buffer is just chalk and cheese. But everyone's still trying to work out because it's happened so quickly, and there are a bunch of tools that are out there to use. Everyone's trying to discover them. Some are using them. And the other challenge for companies is every company is different. There are no 10 commandments for remote working. Well, we tried to have one, you've got nine commandments, that is pretty close. You might be missing one commandment. I don't know.

Brett Putter: Actually now that I think about it, I should have created a tenth just so that I could have the 10 commandments! But actually the way to think about this is if you imagine how we used to work, most of what we do is synchronous. Even email, which is more of a semi synchronous or asynchronous tool was treated like a synchronous tool. People responded immediately and you were almost annoyed or pissed off if somebody didn't respond to an email immediately. And actually the things like company handbooks or knowledge bases and Wikis and collaborative documentation and collaborative works like Trello, those didn't really come into play. But if you think about it now, you're moving from synchronous to asynchronous, which means you're moving from low permanence of data to high permanence of data. You want to retain everything in your organization because people don't know what's going on. You want people to be able to find out information about what was said there and then.

Brett Putter: So moving from email and one-to-one meetings or in-person meetings to chat like Slack and Teams to forums like Twists and Discord to project and task tools like Trello and GitLab to Google Docs and Dropbox and Paper. This is what companies move away from synchronous to asynchronous. And how you work out what works for your company is really dependent on how fast you move to asynchronous and how hard you push to be asynchronous. Because if you don't, you will burn your people out. In a year's time, we're going to have a whole new level of chaos when it comes to people who are working remote, even the hybrid environment is really suffering from what I call second class citizen status, where they don't feel respected. They don't feel like a first class citizen in the office.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, that's it. This however is fascinating in the sense of a lot of traditional companies I think, are really going to struggle like law firms, accounting firms that could do the work remotely quite easily but they don't have the tools to do it. They don't have the culture to do it. They've got decades of in fact, almost talking centuries of embedded practices. This is the way we've always done it. And for me, I was dragged a little bit kicking and screaming to use Trello by my team. And they're going, "Look..." And then I was about a month or two late. I said, trust me, I'm going to get with the program. And I did. And I said to them, "Joking." So the guys said, "It's changed my life." That's just one tool. And some of the different strategies and tactics to help people, I suppose, nurture their culture so that mental health is maintained, social connections are maintained, documenting everything, processes.

Jeff Bullas: And for example, Trello, I can use it to document. I give a context of the beginning as an intro. And then I have a chain of information that tells where it's all up to and everyone knows where we're up to. And then the quality of work goes up. Everyone feels a bit better. But it's going to be a real challenge I think, for the older companies and traditional companies that literally got almost a century or more of practices that revolved around face-to-face communication versus the newer companies that are emerging. So there's going to be more disruption. Welcome to 2021 and beyond. I'm excited and I'm slightly scared. Scared is not the right term but I just feel there's so much to do. And I think, yeah, the challenge for all of us as CEOs and owners of businesses and managers and just teams is that we're going to have to keep embracing change. And most humans are very afraid of change.

Brett Putter: Yeah. The funny thing about company culture is if it's done right, it gives you stability and adaptability at the same time. So it gives you the stability of knowing these are the underlying foundations of the organization, but it gives you the adaptability to get the feedback in, to get information and then adapt because that's what your culture does. And so building that strong culture around adaptability and feedback is one of the key elements of 2021.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. One of the key elements, a couple of key areas I'm going to be looking at this year as part of a different course, and launching a new couple of new products is process and documentation. I haven't done enough of that because that allows you to scale. If you've got things documented and you've got processes developed and evolved and evolving, it means that everyone knows how to do it and you can scale it without having to reinvent the wheel every time. And that's part of what we're doing this year.

Brett Putter: I think people don't realize the impact of the human bottleneck. And the human bottleneck now is really quite acute because of Zoom and that is rarely demonstrating where the human bottleneck is. And to remove the human bottleneck from almost any part of the organization you need documentation.

Jeff Bullas: I totally agree. And what I love about doing this podcast for example, is that I get lessons in evolving corporate change and entrepreneurship 101, 102, 103 and beyond from very smart people such as yourself that bring a lot to the table that I am fascinated by. And the thing too, and business networking is a term you mentioned early on in our conversation. I'm not going to have to network anymore. What's fantastic about this thing I'm doing right here right now with you is when we bump into each other and finally do have a drink in Portugal, maybe Porto or Lisbon, maybe down the track when we can travel again internationally, I feel like I will know you because we've had an hour's conversation. We've shared stories. How'd you get here. And for me, the podcast, number one is about building relationships. The rest will just pop out of that beautiful, glorious midst of human connections. And that for me, it's a world of infinite possibility. I don't know what they are but I just know they are there and will happen.

Brett Putter: Yeah. I think what you're doing is really tremendous because yes, you and I have spoken for an hour but actually people have listened to us speak for an hour. And our network is going to grow significantly through this conversation. And I regularly will get pinged by somebody saying, "I heard you talk on that podcast and really enjoyed the book. When you're next in Miami, we'd love to pick your brains about this. When we can travel again..." Et cetera, et cetera. So exactly along those lines, this is networking for the COVID era.

Jeff Bullas: It's what I call networking on steroids. And it only took me three or four years to get the podcast going because I had a human condition called procrastination. And I had the podcast equipment sitting in a cupboard and finally brought it out after being motivated by some good friends, over a long lunch in Sydney, overlooking Sydney Harbor. And I suddenly realized where the real power of sitting down and doing a podcast is. We put this podcast both on YouTube as well, and we do a transcript. So we turn this into three types of media and then we carve it up into small snippets and remove the human bottleneck by giving what we're creating some scale. And that's what I love. So one of my mantras in life, I think for us as humans to really thrive and flourish is number one, we need to discover why we're here on the planet.

Jeff Bullas: Number two, we then need to create (and be creators) because I think innately we're human creators, whether you create a business, create a good piece of art, piece of photography. The third, the Holy Trinity then is number three, is to share that gift with the world. The rest is just data. And I sincerely believe in that because that's been my experience the last 12 years is discover why I'm here. And number two, create, and that was writing and creating a platform. And then number three was driven by the social media revolution that was sharing that. And I really think doing those three things is where the magic happens.

Brett Putter: Yeah. I'd agree with that. I definitely agree with that.

Jeff Bullas: So I'm aware of your time. It's about 11:00 PM in Portugal. And I know you're passionate about it so you said, "I'm not going to fall asleep at night." You're not even close to falling asleep. So what are two or three things as takeaways that you'd like to share with my listeners and viewers? What are those two or three things that you think are really important, maybe where companies can start to build a powerful culture and healthy culture that works in this new world we're moving into, the remote and hybrid work remote models.

Brett Putter: Yeah. I think the first thing is as I discussed, just realized that it has changed and you really do need to adapt. You've got to get ahead of this thing. You don't want to get dumped by the way. And I think that's really the critical thing. A lot of people are thinking, hopefully this will go back to something like it was, and it's not going to. I think the second thing is company culture, it is this invisible subconscious intangible thing but it's actually, if you do a little bit of work on it, it's not that difficult. You've got to define it and then you're going to know how to embed it. A lot of companies do the work on defining the values and the mission and vision and then they don't know what to do next. And unsurprisingly, I recommended they read my book on your culture, which will help them with that embedding and managing pieces of their culture.

Brett Putter: And I think the third thing is that people need this. Their people, our people, people who work for us need this stability. They need us to do this because they don't have it at home. They don't have it in their friends. They don't have it anywhere else. They require us to give them a sense of purpose and meaning and strength and conviction and give them that culture that will help them get through these tough times.

Jeff Bullas: So essentially what you're saying, give them the framework and tools to thrive.

Brett Putter: Exactly. Right.

Jeff Bullas: I think it's a great spot to end Brett. It's been an absolute pleasure to chat with you and good luck with unboxing your gear in Portugal. I know that you said that you had a, I think origami house which is full of boxes of paper. So I've been there. I feel your pain but as we know that tomorrow, there'll be one more box unpacked and you'll be enjoying Portuguese sun. So great to have you on the show. And just before we finish too, how can people find Brett Putter?

Brett Putter: Jeff, really enjoyed the show. Thanks very much. It's been a pleasure. So people can find me via culturegene.ai, which is culture G-E-N-E .ai. If people want to email me, I spend 20, 25% of my time talking about culture because I'm an intern student of culture and they can literally email me [email protected] I'm happy to chat. I'm on LinkedIn and I'm on Twitter, et cetera. And yeah, people are happy to chat. Happy to talk.

Jeff Bullas: Great. Thank you very much for your time. It's been great to have a virtual chat from the other side of the world, which happens all the time.

Brett Putter: Does indeed. Thanks Jeff.

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