EP 145: Improving Workplace Culture With Kris Boesch | Choose People

In this episode, Stacy sits down with the founder and CEO of Choose People, Kris Boesch. The two discuss Kris’s book “Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace,” and together they show how to create a culture that drives a powerful employment brand.

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Stacy: 00:00

  • Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of Influencer Marketing and branded content agency Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom-line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money whether you’re doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.

Speaker 2: 00:31

  • Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.

Stacy: 00:35

  • Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today and want to give a very warm welcome to Kris Boesch, the CEO and founder of Choose People. Choose People is a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness, and boosts the bottom line. Kris and her team have researched and tested across a variety of workplaces key concepts and tangible tools to build an extraordinary workplace culture that not only puts smiles on faces, but brings joy to a business’s bottom line.


  • She is also the author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace, and has been featured as a workplace culture expert in Ink, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, and was recently named one of the top 100 leadership speakers of 2018 in Ink. Today we’re going to talk about how to create a culture that drives a powerful employment brand. We’ll learn what has worked with Kris’s experience, what maybe could be avoided, and where people are missing the mark. Kris, welcome.

Kris: 01:27

  • Thank you so much for having me, Stacy. Really a pleasure to be here.

Stacy: 01:30

  • I am super excited to have you here because I love talking about corporate culture. Yes.

Kris: 01:38

  • Excellent.

Stacy: 01:39

  • Can you start off by giving us a little bit of a background on how you got to where you are today?

Kris: 01:46

  • Yes, I would be happy to do that. Like anyone in my position, I have a Master’s in Latin American Literature. That is a must, right?

Stacy: 01:55

  • That’s a must.

Kris: 01:55

  • That is a must. So I can read, write, and speak Spanish fluently and tell you all about Don Quixote de La Mancha. How I got here. So I have had Choose People, I opened the doors in 2010. So I’ve been doing this work for, it’s amazing, coming on 9 years now because we opened in the summer. And the year before that, I did… And actually, let me actually even back up before that. What got me into this work is that I was running a moving company, of all things.

Stacy: 02:31

  • And you had a phenomenal, phenomenal title, which is why I think you got to where you are now. At least on LinkedIn, you did.

Kris: 02:38

  • With the moving company?

Stacy: 02:39

  • Mm-hmm (affirmative). Because what it says was CEO, champion of culture, employee engagement, happiness, and satisfaction.

Kris: 02:46

  • Yes. Well, and as the CEO you are… We’ll get into that and we’ll talk about how you as the brand manager, you’re like, “Yeah, Kris, I’m not the CEO, so how do I impact this?” So we’ll get there. But I’m sure at how I got here, is that I used to run a moving company, and when I first came into that moving company, it was a mess. And what I mean by that is that, oh goodness, so people were yelling obscenities at each other and not in that like, “Yo, yo, we’re tight,” way, but like, “I’m going to take you out back where the sun doesn’t shine,” and it was not pretty. And we also were struggling to cover payroll. So yay, employees really like getting paid. That’s one thing that’s mission-critical of the culture.


  • But this is back in 2002, 2003, before culture was even in the business vernacular. And so here I was taking over executive leadership of this company and being like, “Okay. I don’t have time, I don’t have money, and we’ve got to get this figured out.” Between books and mentors and that sort of thing, you know how sometimes the heavens open and shine down and give you a clue? So that’s what happened for me, and I just really got like, “Okay, if my people feel good about coming to work, they’ll take good care of my customers who in turn will take care of the financial health of the organization.”


  • And so I focused on what I called the employee experience at the time. So it was like if they feel good about coming to work, and it was kind of this emotional health piece, and I worked that, and I worked that, and I worked that, because I was like, “My guys are the one taking the piano up the switchback staircase, not me. They are the face of my company.” And we got to where we had 40% less turnover than the industry average and a bottom line twice that same average in one year.

Stacy: 04:40

  • That’s fantastic.

Kris: 04:41

  • Right? I know.

Stacy: 04:42

  • That’s amazing.

Kris: 04:42

  • I know. And I was like, “Why aren’t more organizations focusing on this? This is crazy.” Because it’s not about throwing money at people, and there was just such a huge financial return on investment. And that was always just in the back of my mind as I just kept focusing on with the employee experience. And finally one day I was like, “All right. I’m really ready to start a company that focuses on this,” and culture was just starting to get in the conversation in 2008, 2009. And so I was like, “Well gosh, my experience is only with an organization of one size, one industry, one geography,” and I said, “I want to know what makes employees feel good about coming to work regardless of size, industry, blue collar, white collar, you name it. Service, retail, product.”


  • Did over a thousand hours of research with a team in the industrial-organizational psychology department at Colorado State University to really find out, how do you measure do your employees feel good about coming to work? And basically came up with this diagnostic that measures the eight factors that has, figures out if your employees feel good about coming to work. And then we have a whole culture audit process that we then take companies through. So that’s the short of it. It started with the moving company and then did the research with the university, and then I’ve been doing this now for close to nine years, and it has been… It is such an honor to get to do this work, I can tell you that.

Stacy: 06:16

  • Do you think there are still any companies out there who think that their employees should just be happy because they’re getting a paycheck?

Kris: 06:23

  • Yes. Unfortunately there is still… You’d be surprised. You would think, “How is that possible?” It’s much less common. Much, much less common that what it used to be, but there is, and I have this conversation because I do have CEOs and business owners who are like, “Kris, it’s not my job to make people happy.” And I’m like, “You’re absolutely right, because really great news, you can’t make anyone happy. However, culture is literally the air your team breathes while running your marathon.” So it’s literally the context, it’s the energy force field when they walk into your organization, and is it one that literally sucks the energy out of them or fills them up? Is it like Disney, the Magic Kingdom? Or is it like the DMV?

Stacy: 07:14

  • Right.

Kris: 07:15

  • And there’s just a piece of what’s the energy force field there? Because you are responsible for creating an empowering context within which people can be happy. And you’re crazy not to, because the financial return on investment is enormous, and I also speak to the emotional return on investment.

Stacy: 07:31

  • That makes sense. What is the magic sauce? How do people start making that company culture fantastic?

Kris: 07:41

  • Magic sauce. Yeah, so Stacy, here’s what I’ll tell you, is having done this work now for as long as I have, there’s a lot of pieces that go into just having foundational, pretty healthy culture. One of the things that I would actually invite your listeners to think about this question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy or unhappy do you think your team is? So grab that number for yourself in your head. And then also I would ask you on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy or unhappy are you in your organization?


  • Here’s what’s interesting, is that when I ask that question, because I speak at a lot of national conferences, and when I ask that question of audiences, usually about 80% of the audience will say seven.

Stacy: 08:33

  • For both?

Kris: 08:36

  • Specifically their team.

Stacy: 08:38

  • Okay.

Kris: 08:38

  • It’s interesting. The numbers really, usually, it’s interesting. Usually people have their number as one or two off from their team. Either higher or lower. Higher or lower. And what’s interesting about seven is seven usually means either, “I don’t know. Good question, hadn’t thought about it,” or, “we’re good. No one’s going to go postal,” which I’m always like, “high five. Way to make that happen. Good job.”

Stacy: 09:05

  • But we’re not great.

Kris: 09:07

  • Because that’s still a real thing.

Stacy: 09:09

  • Yeah.

Kris: 09:10

  • And they’d say it would be a stretch to say that our people genuinely enjoy working here, and that we have a really, really extraordinary workplace culture. Again, you get about, I’d say you get about 5% that go 8, 9, or 10, 5% who go less than 7, and then you’ve got the 10% that are trying to see what everyone else says. And there’s some different culture challenges that are pretty common, whether it’s apathy, gossip, silos, entitlement, drama, that exists. In the world of culture, if you’re a seven and you’re like, “But Kris, we really are aspirational. We genuinely do want to have an extraordinary workplace culture,” the secret ingredient to the secret sauce, so if culture is the secret sauce, the secret ingredient really is emotional intimacy.


  • I’ve had people say to me, “Kris, I can’t go to my HR person and be like, ‘We need emotional intimacy.’ They’ll be like, ‘Are you serious? Are you not aware of that movement that we just had that everyone’s up in arms on? Come on now.'”

Stacy: 10:24

  • Kumbaya is not the plan?

Kris: 10:28

  • I’ll say the other language you can use is camaraderie, or team cohesion is another way to kind of think about it. The way you create that within an organization, kind of everything that I teach, share, train, speak on, consult on, really falls under these three pillars that are how you actually create emotional intimacy within a workplace culture. And that is where your people feel like they’re known. So you know me as an individual, you care about me as a person. That I matter, that my contribution matters. That if I go above and beyond it matters, and also if I slack, it matters. And then finally, included. Where I feel a sense of belonging, there’s share identity, there’s interdependency awareness.


  • Those are kind of the three keys to how you create that level of emotional intimacy that takes you from just that, “It’s okay, it’s fine, it’s good. If someone asked me if I wanted to work down the street I would definitely consider it.” As compared to, “Are you kidding? These are my people, this is my community, I’m loved here, I contribute here, I make a difference here. I’m honored here, I’m valued here.” All those things. So really having your people feel like they’re known, they matter, and they’re included. Yeah.

Stacy: 11:48

  • Perfect. Okay. How do you go about doing that?

Kris: 11:54

  • How?

Stacy: 11:56

  • How?

Kris: 11:58

  • Again, this is something that I speak on, and so I’ll give you guys some real tangible ways that you can create both how to create a sense where people feel known, where they matter, and where they’re included. On the known side, one of the things, and again, I don’t know how many of the folks that are your audience and listening are leading and managing teams, because a lot of what I’m going to recommend is for those who are leading and managing teams. And then if you also want me to speak to kind of the employment brand piece, I’m happy to do that as well.

Stacy: 12:30

  • Perfect.

Kris: 12:31

  • Yeah, so just to give you a real quick tangible. Two things, I’ll share with you two pieces around the known. One of the biggest barriers, or actually before I even go there, in order to know someone, you actually have to be present to them. You actually have to take time and be present with them and be with them in a way where they feel seen and heard. One of the things that is painfully present in our society today is what I would call time poverty. A lot of people are in this experience of, they have it that they’re overwhelmed, they’re too busy, there’s not enough hours in the day, “I have a zillion things to do,” [inaudible 00:13:20]. And they’re just in the thick of, “I can’t possibly.”


  • Someone comes to your desk to say hi, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, could you please go away? I have so much to get done.”

Stacy: 13:30

  • Right.

Kris: 13:30

  •   And not because you don’t care about that person, not because you’re mean, but you’re just in this experience of, “I have so much to make happen.”

Stacy: 13:38

  • You’re drowning.

Kris: 13:40

  • The experience can be that you’re drowning. One of the things that I work with teams around is I’m like okay, so in this social epidemic that is also socially accepted, people actually kvetch and bond over how little time they have, which I think is a riot. There is a moment, and just so you know this is an alligator that I wrestled for years and years, in which sometimes I felt like I had a handle on my schedule and what I needed to get done, and sometimes I didn’t. And it would go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, and one day, again, was really appreciative when I got a clue. And I just really got it. I was like, “Wow. I actually am not a victim of time.”


  • We all have 24 hours in a day, we all have 7 days a week. It’s literally the one grand equalizer, and within that, I get to choose how I’m going to budget my time, how I’m going to spend my time. And rather than really thinking about, “Oh, I have to manage my time,” it’s like, “well, what are my priorities?” I’m managing my priorities, and the whole thing around, I always like to ask folks, “How many of you are time optimists? Who’s my time optimists here?” Those are the folks that you’re like, “I set aside an hour.” And four hours in, I’m like, “No. Please.”


  • Or my productive procrastinators. Those of you who get to the end of the day and you’re like, “I got so much done, except for the very thing I wanted to get done.” So there’s those. And then you also have, I always like to speak to Lucille Ball and Ethel in the chocolate factory. And we all remember the chocolates on the conveyor belt and it gets faster and faster, and they start shoving the chocolates in their mouth and in their hat. And at some point, you have to stop the conveyor belt. You have to stop the machinery and you have to fix the process. There’s something to look at on the process side of things.


  • There’s just a piece there where you cannot get to know your people if you can’t be present to them. If you can’t make eye contact in a way where, and we all know it. We all know when we have the experience that someone is listening to us like there’s no one else in the world, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing, and literally it could just be two minutes. But with all of the distractions that we choose to allow into our world, it’s so rare that when you do have that experience with someone, it’s a game-changer. It is an absolute game-changer.


  • To go along with that, because I’m not… Yes, if you can do a half-day team-building retreat to get to know your people, sweet. And I get in the world of, “We’ve got a lot to get done,” here’s just a couple of quick ways to get to know your people in a more meaningful way. So again, we tend to… So Stacy, you go to your team and you say, “Hey, how are you doing today?” What kind of answers do you get?

Stacy: 16:45

  • “I’m good. Oh, it’s an okay day. I’m tired.”

Kris: 16:51

  • Right. “Fine. Good.”

Stacy: 16:52

  • Okay.

Kris: 16:52

  • “I’m tired.”

Stacy: 16:52

  • Sometimes I get, “It’s great.” Sometimes it’s a little positive.

Kris: 16:53

  • Okay. Sometimes you’ll get a little something something there. Awesome. Awesome. You actually get a slight more than most.

Stacy: 17:05

  • Okay.

Kris: 17:06

  • Usually most managers, they get the, “Fine.” Or the, “Good.” The plastic face, no eyes, crinkling, “Good.” Yeah, that one. And so the thing that’s challenging is when we ask that question, “How are you doing?” We have good intentions, we want to check in on our people, and yet we actually get no more information than we had before we asked the question. So instead, do something I like to call the temperature check. So you say, “Hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how are you doing today?” And they give you whatever number they give you. And then you ask them, “And what would make that a plus one?” And it could be personal, it could be professional.


  • And then what’s great is that maybe you check back in a week, two weeks later. Say, “Hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how you doing today?” And if they’re two more than they were last time, you’re like, “Sweet. What happened? What’s happening?” If they’re two or three less, you’re like, “Let’s set aside some time to touch base this afternoon.” And just kind of see what’s going on in the world.


  • The other thing I’ll give you and your listeners that I love, it’s a similar one. We ask people how their weekend was. And you would think that would bring something really juicy to the table to get to know people, but for whatever reason it doesn’t tend to usually create much. And so instead, I like to encourage people to do, and this came from the Boy Scouts, this idea. Some people know about it. Most don’t. But it’s real simple, and you ask about people’s rose, bud, thorn.

Stacy: 18:37

  • Okay.

Kris: 18:37

  • Rose is the thing they’re most excited about right now, bud is the thing they’re most looking forward to, and thorn is their biggest challenge. And if you’re having a Monday morning meeting, it’s a great way to just, “Hey, everyone. Let’s each take a minute just to share our ruse, bud, thorn.” You could do personal, you can do professional, and you all decide how you’re going to roll with it, but it is way more meaningful and you actually learn your people in a way that you just normally don’t with, “How was your weekend?”


  • It’s really simple and helpful, and again, there’s a lot of those ways in which you can get to know your people in a meaningful way, and it doesn’t have to be, “Oh, I got to do a half day.” Some people love the team-building, other people are like, “Fork-in-eye,” like, “oh my God, you’re killing me Smalls.” I always have to add this. For any of you who have kids and you ask your kids, “Hey, how was school today?” And they’re like, “Fine,” and you’re like, “what’d you learn?” “Nothing.” With your kids you can do rose, bud, thorn. I do it with my beloved as well. It’s way better than, “What’s for dinner?” I’m telling you, you actually… It’s a surprisingly great tool to use in all different sorts of avenues.

Stacy: 19:50

  • Thanks to the Boy Scouts.

Kris: 19:51

  • Hey hey. Yes.

Stacy: 19:53

  • Okay.

Kris: 19:54

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 19:55

  • Are there other things that you can bring into your office? I know we had an issue where we didn’t necessarily have, everyone had good intent, but we didn’t necessarily have everyone be overly helpful to everyone else. And we created a program that’s called the Thank You Program, and we created cards for everyone. Any time someone does anything, it can be from stopping by and putting a cold water on your desk, to telling you the best joke of the day, to actually helping you with work, you get a thank you card that’s dropped into a box. And every two weeks, coincidentally aligns with payday, we do a drawing of one of the cards, and then we read all the cards out loud in a team meeting.


  • Everyone gets to hear all the wonderful lovely things said about them. And one person actually wins a gift card that we contribute in there. So they have this fun little prizing, so there’s an award on it. And I think it’s really the win there is the acknowledgment by your peers and being able to be told thank you. And then to have everyone hear that you’re actually being thanked. And what we saw was the people who wrote the least cards got the least thanks. They would be teased by the rest of the team because that’s the kind of office we are just a little bit.

Kris: 21:17

  • Right. You’re like, “That’s part of our culture.”

Stacy: 21:20

  • Yeah. That’s part of our culture. We [inaudible 00:21:21] quite a bit.

Kris: 21:21

  • That works. Yep.

Stacy: 21:22

  • And then what would happen is they’d step it up. And it changed our entire company culture entirely.

Kris: 21:31

  • It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Stacy: 21:32

  • Yeah. It really is. Are there other things like that that you’ve seen work really well that other companies could kind of try to put in that would help culture along without having that half a day team-building, go do the ropes course and see who can climb the best?

Kris: 21:51

  • Right. And first, Stacy, I just want to point to what you just shared which, again, it’s a brilliant idea. If you guys aren’t already doing something around peer recognition, that’s a great way to do it because that acknowledgment piece, that appreciation piece, it really does matter to people. It really does make a difference. And I know sometimes managers are like, “Man, I just, I feel like I don’t have the bandwidth to do kudos, quote unquote,” and one thing I want to share within that, within the acknowledgment, that sometimes I think we forget is incredibly powerful, is to have… So there’s peer recognition, right?

Stacy: 21:51

  • Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kris: 22:29

  • There’s also your manager recognizing you. But then there’s something about if you have, and again, it depends on how your organization is set up, but let’s say you’re in sales and you do a really big sale. You get a new client that everyone’s super excited about, and you have someone from the warehouse or someone from accounting that says, “Hey, I heard you made that sale. Way to go. High five.” There’s something really powerful when someone outside of your team reaches out and acknowledges you. So I would say if you’re a manager, one of the most powerful things you can do is tell another manager to recognize someone on your team.

Stacy: 23:15

  • Okay.

Kris: 23:16

  • It’s like passing on the praise. There’s an experience of, “Wow. I have a reputation. I’m getting known beyond just my little team and being appreciated for this.” I do want to make sure I speak to this, Stacy, because again, whether it’s rose, bud, thorn, or temperature check, or this acknowledgment piece, these are all tools that you can take on. And even the mindset shift around time poverty. I really do want to say, if you’re like, “Kris, we’re a seven for a reason. And we’re not going to pop up to an eight because something that happened in the past, or because we have someone on our team who’s incredibly toxic that no one’s dealing with. Or because gossip is rampant, or because there’s a huge divide between the leadership team and the staff, or because… ” There’s so many different possibilities.

Stacy: 24:24

  • Excuses.

Kris: 24:25

  • Right. There’s so many potential quote unquote reasons. And there is a piece there where, and again, I realize your audience are these brand managers, but you still can be the catalyst for this conversation. Anyone in the organization can be. It does take some courage, but there has to be an owning and a speaking to what’s in the space that’s not working such that it can be addressed. Because one of the things that happens, unfortunately, in organizations, is there’s a lot of what I call unkind niceness, where people put on their professional mask and they’re very polite and they’re very nice and they pretend, and they don’t say the thing that everyone can see that is causing, maybe it’s causing turnover, maybe it is at the source of the gossip or the drama. And it’s one of those things where within an organization, you have to, whether it’s an event that happened in the past that no one’s gotten over and you’re like, “Man, people should just get over it.” Well, there’s a reason why people aren’t getting over it. There was an impact that no one’s acknowledged on how it impacted people.

Stacy: 25:35

  • Sure.

Kris: 25:37

  • Just want to acknowledge that piece, and then just say… I just want to say, had I gone to my movers and said, “Hey, you guys. We’re going to create emotional intimacy,” they would have been like, “oh no.” I would not be sitting before you today. You can’t build a healthy culture on challenges that are in the space. So I just want to acknowledge, if there’s stuff, if there’s things that are toxic, any of the recommendations that Stacy and I just shared, if you were to just go in and pretend like, “Oh, we’re going to do rose, bud, thorn, and now we’re going to have a great culture,” they’d be like, “sit on it.” It just would not…

Stacy: 26:19

  • No, it’s true.

Kris: 26:20

  • It wouldn’t apply.

Stacy: 26:22

  • We did some clearing house over the years, and we would not be… We have the best culture we’ve ever had, it can certainly improve right now. Because everything can always improve, right?

Kris: 26:22

  • Always. Always. Yeah.

Stacy: 26:31

  • And we try new, innovative ideas. But if I had tried this a number of years ago, would not have worked. Would have pulled out that thank you card and I would have gotten eyes burning into my soul about what a horrible idea this was. [inaudible 00:26:49] karaoke in the office. We have a karaoke contest where people sing every day two different lines, and if you win, if you can guess the, how to sing it correctly without looking it up, you get to write the next lyrics. We have everyone singing, including myself who has never sung in front of people.


  • We really are doing fun things and our team’s coming up with new, fun ideas. But we did have a toxic culture, and we did have to do some massive cleaning, which was hard to do, but it got us to where we are today.

Kris: 27:21

  • Yeah. Yeah. I love it, because if you try to put things in place like a karaoke machine, it’ll just sit there. We know the companies that have bought the foosball table that no one will play at because it’s like, “Mm-mm (negative).” Either they’re resistant, they’re pissed off, the unwritten rule is you should be working, not at the foosball table. There’s all the things. I want to acknowledge you for that turnaround. There is one thing that you spoke to, I think you called it house cleaning, but there are at times, I’ve got the whole happiness logo, and people think, “Oh, Kris would never,” and I’m like yeah, they don’t get to be here. They’ve lost the right to get to be on your team because of who you are as a stand for your workplace culture. When you think about what your shared identity is, you’re really clear about what you’re a stand for what you’re a stand against.


  • I think one of the things that gets missed is when you look at your team, you’ve got the character and the competency. And you’ve got people that, on the character side, you love working with them, they’re fabulous, they’re fun to work with, they’re great team players, the can-do attitude, whatever it is for you. And then the competency, where they’re really good at the work. And you have to have both. When you have someone, they’re lovely to work with but they don’t know how to do the job, you got to train them up or support them in transitioning. And if you have someone who’s brilliant at the job but they’re a jerk to work with, you got to coach them up, and if that doesn’t work you have to support them in transitioning and doing that whole dismissal with dignity.


  • If you allow people to stay on the team who are mediocre, not quite like you’re saying, “You know what? It’s okay if we have a mediocre culture. It’s okay if you do mediocre work. It’s okay if you have a mediocre attitude.” We say we’re committed to this mission, and at the end of the day it’s like, “We’re a seven. We’re a solid, solid seven.”

Stacy: 29:22

  • Yeah, because whatever, I think what we’ve found is, what I’ve found is whatever your lowest number is on that totem pole of all your team members, everyone will drop to that ultimately. It’s not that everyone’s rising to the top necessarily. I mean, you have to have somebody at the top to be able to rise up to. We all want to rise up. But if you have someone who’s dragging you all down, everyone’s going to get dragged down with that.

Kris: 29:47

  • Yeah. Yep. Yeah. Well, the experience is it doesn’t matter if I go above and beyond. If it doesn’t matter, then why would I? Versus if it actually makes a difference. If I actually get, no, it makes a difference. It matters.

Stacy: 30:10

  • I believe that people, for our team, I say that you have to have… And I keep on coming up with new ones to add and I change them around, but right now, I say that you have to have passion, you have to have drive, and you have to have talent or capability. Because what I’ve learned is, is I will see someone’s potential. Like, “Oh, you’re a great girl or a guy. You’re fantastic. You could be doing this because I know you have that in you.” But if they don’t have the passion and drive to get there themselves, no matter what I do, no matter how many karaoke machines, how many thank you cards, employee lunches, 10-year anniversaries to Disneyland, whatever it is I do… I’ve done that, all of those things.

Kris: 30:51

  • Right. You’re like, “[inaudible 00:30:52] it.”

Stacy: 30:53

  • We went to Disney.

Kris: 30:54

  • You’re like, “You can do it. I know you can. Come on.”

Stacy: 30:58

  • But you can’t get them to actually embrace the vision that you have of their capability. And that’s just about changing how you hire ultimately, too, and putting boundaries in on what your expectations are.

Kris: 31:14

  • You know what occurs to me in that? If people can’t see in themselves what you see in them, and there is something about, they’ve said, having high expectations is powerful as a manager of your people, because people are like, “Wow, if you think I can do it then maybe I can actually do it.” But it occurs to me as a hiring question, and I have a whole best hiring questions, all that stuff. But there’s, what I don’t have in there that in this conversation I’m discovering, would be a question around what do you see as your potential? And what do you think the best version of yourself looks like two years from now? That could be an [crosstalk 00:31:58].

Stacy: 31:58

  • That’s a great question to ask someone, because it’s not that everyone doesn’t have the ability to level up. The question is do they want to?

Kris: 32:07

  • Yeah. Well, like you said, the drive. And if they can’t even see it. I don’t know, I’ll have to noodle on that one, just as how are you actually evaluating that? And again, there’s lots of behavioral and past-based questions you can ask to look at that, but the…

Stacy: 32:25

  • I think you actually end up just experiencing it on the job, quite frankly.

Kris: 32:29

  • Well there’s that, too.

Stacy: 32:29

  • I’m not sure how you can weed that out. I wish I would know, but I think it’s how you start day one and where you’re at on month three, and what’s happened by year one as far as how much you’ve progressed.

Kris: 32:46

  • Right. Well, and there’s a few things around drive you can evaluate in interviewing, but… Let me back up again just a little bit because I did say I would share somethings around matter and included. And to your point of what can organizations do? So one of the things with matter, again, knowing that my contribution matters, is, and both with the character and the competency piece, and with the drive piece, everything that we’re talking about. I will tell you there are many organizations that reach out to me and say, “Kris, we need more accountability. We have to have more accountability.” And I say, “Got it,” because without accountability, your organization can’t be successful. And you have to know that when you go to your team and say, “We need more accountability,” if you thesaurus to hold accountable, the first thing that shows up is to place blame for wrongdoing.

Stacy: 33:49

  • So that’s a nice negative.

Kris: 33:50

  • Is that delightful? Isn’t that just great? Accountability has all this ridiculous baggage, and I think a lot of teams hear, “Oh, you don’t trust me. You’re going to micromanage me.”

Stacy: 34:00

  • No. It’s how did you eff up? That’s what you’re asking.

Kris: 34:05

  • Stacy’s like, “We need more accountability because you all keep messing up.”

Stacy: 34:07

  • Right.

Kris: 34:09

  • I think there’s power, and it’s a little bit of a play on words, but again that is this mindset shift, so again, it’s not this top down, “I have to hold you accountable,” which is exhausting. And that’s not who you want on your team, these people that you do have to micromanage or anything like that, but really rather where you say, “Listen, when I say we need more accountability, I’m saying we all need to be more count-onable.” Because everyone considers themselves someone that can be counted on. No one would be like, “Hi, my name is Kris Boesch, I’m a flake.” People don’t introduce themselves that way. They have, “You can count on me. I got your back.”

Stacy: 34:51

  • Wouldn’t that have changed dating really well? [crosstalk 00:34:54].

Kris: 34:53

  • Oh my gosh. If you could just tell me who you really are, that’d be great.

Stacy: 34:58

  • We can save the next six months.

Kris: 35:01

  • Please. But yeah, so that’s just, that’s a piece around accountability, and asking people, “What would it look like? What would you take on to be more count-onable? And what requests do you have of me in leadership such that I am more count-onable?” If you’re in management or leadership, your team is a reflection of you. Bar none, you have to know that. Your speaking, your actions, your behaviors, what you do, what you don’t do. It speaks volumes about what’s actually valued, what’s actually important. It’s just one of those things where of course you got to… It’s the real simple trait, but super aligned. You got to walk the talk.

Stacy: 35:45

  • Sure.

Kris: 35:46

  • Yeah. Yep. Yep.

Stacy: 35:48

  • When you’re working on culture, obviously things start at the top, come down, but is it the CEO or the COO? Where is it that it needs to come in where it’s still strong enough? Does it have to be the head of the company or the top, top, top? Or can it be fleshed out more middling ground?

Kris: 36:11

  • There’s two ways to think about it, and part of it does depend on the size of your organization. I will tell you to have an organization that has an extraordinary workplace culture, you have to have executive leadership, you have to have the CEO bought in. And actually, one of the things that I do to qualify the clients that I’ll work with, I’ve had COOs come to me, I’ve had HR execs come to me, and I say, “That’s great, and I have to talk with your CEO.”

Stacy: 36:45

  • Right.

Kris: 36:46

  • I will not work with you all until I know that he or she is bought in, because I’m going to let them know, “Hey, we’re about to look under the hood and there might be a mirror, and I got your back. And I’m a stand for your success,” and all that, but I have to know that they’re willing to go there, that they have to be vulnerable in that way because they do have so much influence on the team.

Stacy: 37:07

  • Right.

Kris: 37:09

  • Now, if you’re, again, if you’re a brand manager like many of you are, and you’re like, “Well, Kris, I’m in corporate, and the CEO’s in a whole another state, I’ve never even met him or her. It’s a whole another world over there,” then there’s this piece where there is the mothership culture. For example, I’m working with a college within a university right now. And the university has a culture, and but then so does this college. And I always say you can be responsible for your cul-de-sac in the neighborhood. You can still be really clear. What are the operating principles that we’re working by? What are a stand for? What are we a stand against? What are we committed to creating in our workplace experience within our cul-de-sac?


  • Now, granted there are the rules of the neighborhood, whatever that looks like if you will, but you can still take ownership and responsibility, and personal responsibility for how are you going to create your own cul-de-sac, if you will? And again, you can do this-

Stacy: 38:16

  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s all yours.

Kris: 38:19

  • There you go. There you go. Thank you, thank you.

Stacy: 38:19

  • The happy place to be.

Kris:  38:22

  • That’s right. That’s right. And so I don’t want to pretend that what the mothership does doesn’t matter, because it does. It does restrict you, or it can empower you, depending. But that’s still not a reason I’ve seen where people will, if you will, take victimhood and be like, “Oh, well because corporate and corporate and corporate and corporate and headquarters and da da da,” and it’s like yes, and got it. There’s certain things you don’t have control over. There’s certain policies. There’s even government regulations you have to work within that you might think are silly or don’t make sense. And there is something around, if I choose to drive, if I choose to be employed by this company, then I am signing up that I will stay on my side of the road and I will follow the speed limit and all the things. There are some of those things that are in play, however, the music I play in my car, the kind of car… You still always have choices in your personal experience and what you’re going to create for yourself and for your coworkers and for your team. Is that helpful? Does that answer that?

Stacy: 39:27

  • I think so. That’s helpful.

Kris: 39:28

  • Okay. All right.

Stacy: 39:29

  • Where do people take culture shifts, and they have, I’m sure, great intentions that just goes wrong? How can you mess it up when you’re trying to positively impact your culture?

Kris: 39:42

  • Yeah. I would say actually we spoke a little bit already, which is, so there’s a few different ways. One, you could put lipstick on a pig. And I had a CEO, he’s like, “Kris,” he’s like, “I don’t know what to do.” He’s like, “We’ve got the Crossfit gym, we’ve got the gourmet snacks. I’m tempted to put in a tornado slide.” He’s like, “Our turnover is brutal,” and he’s like, “I don’t know what to do about it.” And it’s one of those where perks are not going to work. People just have to know, perks are nice, I’m not saying don’t do perks, sure, but don’t, it can’t be the carrot. You really don’t want to lean on perks to try to make it or incentivize people to be happy, that’s weird.

Stacy: 40:28

  • You’re not trying to get them to go to the fair or Disney after work every day.

Kris: 40:33

  • Right. Like the forced fun. People are like, “No, please.” And then also, again, where people just want people to forget about the past and pretend that things never happened. Until that conversation occurs where that actually gets resolved, where there’s actually ownership, usually, honestly, by the head of the team, is really owning what happened, the impact on the team, how it’s not going to occur again, acknowledging that people stayed through whatever that was, it actually, I would suggest, it just makes people angry. If you try to come in and be really positive, that whole fakery again, that weird pretending. That’s actually probably one of the worst things you can do, is pretend.


  • And then we all know about, one of the best intentions that can go awry is the mission, vision, and values work, without any operationalization. Where the team comes together, puts together mission, vision, and values. Lots of good intentions, lot of effort, wordsmithing where again, people are fork-in-eye, but they get it. And then it just becomes this weird dead document that people make fun of rather than where it actually gets operationalized and is alive and well within the organization.

Stacy: 42:03

  • Okay.

Kris: 42:03

  • I would just say anytime you’re trying to build on anything that’s toxic that you’re not dealing with, it’s not going to go well.

Stacy: 42:12

  • Yeah. I will say what I’ve learned is it is amazing how hungry your team is to hear about things in the yesteryear that were really bad but that you nipped, and that don’t exist now. And it’s almost like you paint this history of where we were and what we will not allow a boundary ever to go back again, and it becomes part of your culture in a positive way. Okay, we had these bad things happen, but this is where we are now and we’ll never allow that and if you even start going down that path, you know that’s not allowed at this company.

Kris: 42:47

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 42:48

  • It’s kind of a nice fairytale.

Kris: 42:51

  • Well, it’s your cannon of stories. It’s the history of your company, and you get to share those epic moments when you guys had success, and those epic moments when you failed, and those horrible people that were on your team that you would never allow again, and those amazing people that were, without them we wouldn’t be here today. Every time you speak about any of those, you are reinstilling what it means to get to work here. Not just anybody gets to work here.

Stacy: 43:25

  • Yeah. You make it a little bit more special, that they are there.

Kris:  43:29

  • Right. It’s a pride piece. It is an absolute… I mean, there is nothing worse than to work at a company, and I know right now some industries are really, really struggling to get… I just spoke to an industry that, they have 400% voluntary turnover. I mean, it’s just brutal. Absolutely brutal. So I get that it’s, but where there’s this like, “We just need to get a warm body in here.” How does that make your people feel? “Oh, I’m just a warm body.” That’s horrible.

Stacy: 43:58

  • We just need people.

Kris: 44:00

  • Which is horrible. Which again, makes the people who have been there be like, “Well, I want to go somewhere where I’m not just a warm body.” And then they leave, and you’re like, “Man.” And it’s hard when you’re in that thick of desperateness to get help in, but you really, you just have to be so thoughtful every time you add someone to your team. And even doing dismissal with dignity every time you remove someone from your team, there really are ways to do it so that people, not that they think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but where there’s a real mutual respect when someone leaves your organization. Such that they might even be helping you find the person who’s their replacement.

Stacy: 44:41

  • Yeah. I think it’s always interesting. We’ve had people over the years that I have fired, and they have come back to drop by and say hi. And our team’s always like, “They what? They what?”

Kris: 44:51

  • Yeah. Yep.

Stacy: 44:54

  • And it’s like, “Well, it wasn’t working out. But we can still be friends.” We had to break up. But we can still be friends.

Kris: 45:00

  • Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Even just creating in your orientation when people come on to your team, and being like, “Listen. There will be a day, there may come a day-“

Stacy: 45:13

  • There will be a day that you will be gone. And we will split, most likely.

Kris: 45:18

  • Well, but there is also, there may come a day when you decide you don’t want to be here anymore.

Stacy: 45:22

  • Yeah.

Kris: 45:23

  • And when that day comes, come tell me so I can support you in transitioning and you can help me get the next person trained up.

Stacy: 45:30

  • Right.

Kris: 45:31

  • And so we can be mutually beneficial, right?

Stacy: 45:31

  • Right.

Kris: 45:34

  • And I can connect you with a LinkedIn, and I can get you a letter of recommendation.

Stacy: 45:37

  • Exactly.

Kris: 45:37

  • And all the things, rather than those weird… People just leave out of nowhere. And then you’re stuck trying to scramble and get the work covered and take care of the clients and do all the things. Yeah, it’s amazing some of the common… We just accept that people aren’t going to tell us that… We make it so that people can’t tell us if they want to leave because then we’re like, “Don’t let the door hit you.” It’s like, “Really?”

Stacy: 46:03

  • Yeah. You take it personally, when it shouldn’t necessarily be something personal. And the reality is, we all eventually leave potentially. Unless you have a family business that is going to continue and go from generation to generation and you literally die sitting in your chair and the people who work for you die sitting in their chairs. I mean, the likelihood is, in today’s day and age.

Kris: 46:27

  • I just envision this office with all these dead people in their chairs and [crosstalk 00:46:31].

Stacy: 46:31

  • Yes. Yes. I mean, people are growing and they’re going to move on. And part of your job I think, as an executive at a company, is to make sure that they have the tools when they move on to be able to go forth with better serving and more capable than when they came to you. And you never know what will happen. We get referrals from people who have left from when they get to new companies or through friends, or you just don’t know anymore what will happen.


  • I remember always been terrified to tell a boss that I was going to leave and get that horrible frozen look on their face. And they’re like, “Two weeks notice? You can leave right this second. Goodbye.” Right?

Kris: 47:16

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 47:16

  • And it doesn’t work in a company anymore.

Kris: 47:18

  • And it doesn’t need to be that way. And it’s not beneficial for you, either. Now, it’s one thing, and we all know about egregious stuff, and that’s a whole different bag of beans, but yeah.

Stacy: 47:29

  • Well, I love talking to you and I’m sure our listeners have loved listening to all of this. I hope they have. But what I’d love to do right now is share where people can find out more information about you and what you offer, and you have a book and you want to share that with everyone?

Kris: 47:46

  • Yeah. Thank you, Stacy. Everything you ever wanted to know about me and my company is at choosepeople.com. Again, as Stacy mentioned, I do have a book out there called Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace. It really is a how-to manual and even includes our culture assessment within it. We just actually are in the process of launching, we’ve had all of our pilot companies and just had rave reviews. A Culture Works system. So if your leadership team and if your management team is really committed to creating an extraordinary workplace culture and you’re at a seven, it is the most powerful and cost-effective way to create that emotional intimacy so that you can go from that seven like, “Meh, it’s good. It’s okay,” to like, “we are off the hook. People love working here.” So that’s all, again, at choosepeople.com.

Stacy: 48:47

  • Awesome.

Kris: 48:49

  • Yeah.

Stacy: 48:49

  • Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we bid them ado?

Kris: 48:53

  • Yeah, I think just the last piece, so again, I just want to highlight, focus on having your people feel like they’re known, they matter, and they’re included. And also know that we have a free weekly culture tip that offers team building activities as well as mindset shifts and my three favorite finds. And again, that’s just something we give in abundance in the world of, again, creating more joy in the workplace. Thank you all for your contributions to your team, your commitment in the world of getting the word out about your organizations, and yeah, just who you are in the world.

Stacy: 49:32

  • Well, fantastic. Kris, thank you again so much for being here.

Kris: 49:32

  • Yeah. Thank you, Stacy.

Stacy: 49:35

  • Listeners, thank you for tuning in and listening to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, and I will talk to you all on our next podcast. Thanks again, Kris.

Kris: 49:46

  • Thank you.

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Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Reviews 

Must-Listen For Every Brand Marketer (And Owner)

This should be required listening for everyone who owns a business, works in marketing, or is interested in the business of entertainment. Great stuff!

The Best Marketing Podcast Ever!

Stacy is a brilliant branding strategist and she really knows how to bring out the best in her guests! This show is fun AND educational! If you’re looking to understand the world of marketing, branding, digital marketing, influencer marketing and more, look no further. This show has awesome insight into some of the greatest marketing minds out there today, and they provide practical advice you can use in your business today. #FanForLife

Awesome podcast for all marketers!

Keep them coming

Practical and pointed advice.

Stacy does a really great job making this a highly actionable podcast for business owners. With a focus on marketing, she covers a wide range of related topics as well and is always very specific with her questions so that the listener gets pointed advice instead of vague concepts to take away. It’s also really helpful to the hear the why behind any marketing tactic so that we can decide if something sounds like a good fit for where we are at in this moment.

Love this marketing podcast!

Lori has a way of finding new insights to share every week. I loved being a guest, but I enjoy hearing her many fascinating conversations with other marketers even more. Great show!

I love Stacey Jones!

I absolutely loved being on this podcast! Stacey is amazing – real, down to earth, and genuinely curious and interested in learning – this makes for a very engaging conversation and valuable podcast!

Thank you for your podcast! I LOVE IT

I just listened to the episode named Insights To Product Placement Brand Marketers Need To Know, and I really enjoyed every minute of it! There are so many ways to approach product placement in a manner that provides wins for many – and it is not always driven by money. I am looking forward to listening to more!

Stuff we need to know!!

Anyone who is in business should be listening to this podcast! Incredible insights and advice.

Such a wealth of knowledge! 🧠

This is one of the most insightful podcasts that I have ever come across! Stacy does such a great job of sharing her wisdom and I love how she leads meaningful conversations with guests who bring so much experience to the table. Highly recommend checking this show out – you won’t be disappointed!

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Stacy, host of the Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) Podcast, highlights all marketing and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
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