Path Copy 22

It looks like you have an older browser that is not supported by this site. Please click here to update.

Try Free
Season 02, Episode 19

The Process of Leading with Heart

with VaynerMedia Chief Heart Officer, Claude Silver
Podcasts

In this episode, me and my brother Jonathan,  the CMO here at Trainual, had a conversation with Claude about infusing empathy into the workplace. This episode is a little bit different from the episodes we typically have here on the show. It’s a live recording from our Training With Empathy event we hosted in partnership with Gary Vaynerchuk’s Empathy Wines last month. We’re also splitting this episode into two parts so this particular episode is Part 1. I hope you enjoy and stay tuned for Part 2 dropping next week!

Claude Silver is the first-ever Chief Heart Officer. After nearly 20 years at numerous advertising agencies building brands for Fortune 50 companies, Claude found her home and true calling at VaynerX.

Her success in guiding client relationships, global brand strategies, operations, and management is driven by an abiding passion for creating spaces in which people can thrive.

How do you build the best human empire of all time? With heart.

Subscribe and listen at

Full Transcript

Claude:

Let's play Rose Bud Thorn. Rose, something that's going great, but something you're looking forward to. And of course the thorn is what I really want to hear, right? What's a challenge? What's really like just you know, what's, what's potentially making you a flight risk. These are the things I was listening for and I used that with new people. I use that just like I would do what I now call a stay interview. You know how we all pay attention to exit interviews, which is phenomenal but they're gone. They're out of the building. We now do stay interviews in my department, but I would look at that sorn as what are they telling me and what are they telling me that other people might think or what other people might feel?

Speaker 2:

What's up everybody? I'm Chris, Ronzio, CEO and founder of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect as always, we're talking with experts in process automation, creation, delegation, basically the people that make business easier. You just heard Claude silver and this episode is all about the process of bringing humanity into the workplace. Claude is the first ever chief heart officer. How cool of a title is that she's had 20 years working in numerous advertising agencies and building up fortune 50 brands and she found her true calling working at VaynerX as the Chief Heart Officer. This episode's a little bit different than normal because we usually do these podcasts as just regular interviews. But this came as a live interview from our event that we hosted called training with empathy. So you'll get to hear me and my brother Jonathan, who's also our CMO here at Trainual, talk with Claude really candidly about how to be vulnerable as a leader, how to infuse empathy into the workplace, especially if you're expecting others to do the same. This is also a two part episode. So in the first part you'll hear the introduction and everything. Claude, uh, it kind of shapes the conversation and then you can tune in again next week for part two. She has so many great takeaways, so I know you'll enjoy this one. So, so enjoy this. Stay tuned part two next week.

Chris:

So cool. Well, we're thrilled to have you with us. I haven't seen you since when I was, uh, with Jonathan in the offices. I know you guys have talked a few times, but great to see you again.

Claude:

You too. Where are you today? I'm in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Chris:

I know it's, we're lucky to have warm weather, but it's hitting a hundred degrees early or this weekend. So we've had it so good up until this point and now we're in for trouble.

Claude:

Right. Well it's great to see you again.

Chris:

So everyone, welcome back to our final session of the day. Um, I'd love to welcome Claude Silver. Claude’s the world's first ever Chief Heart Officer. I don't know if anyone's copied this title, but as far as we know, world's first chief chief heart officer after nearly 20 years at numerous advertising agencies, building brands for fortune 500 companies, Claude actually joined VaynerMedia and then called it quits. Is that right? You resigned. So we're going to get into that story. She found her true home and calling at VaynerMedia, um, but left and then came back. So Claude, can you give us the background on how you ended up back in this role?

Claude:

Yeah, absolutely. I'd love to. So I was initially hired by Gary to be the first SVP and I was running, um, uh, big, very large brands, if you will. And that loud voice in my head just came booming forward like it had before. And I had suppressed it, which is advertising isn't for me, but I care about the people. I just literally want to make a home for people. That is what I care about. And so I went to Gary and I said, thank you so much. You're the greatest person in the entire world. This is the greatest agency I've ever been in, but I'm done with advertising. And in his wonderful way, he said, what is it that you're interested in doing? And I said, I only care about people. I care about the heartbeat of this place. So heart. He said, great, I need you for 18 more months.

Claude:

And I said, I can give you a six. So six months came around and I didn't know what he had cooking. And I resigned. It was it. It was. I was really done like I was done. And four months later he and I sat down for breakfast and he said, that's it. You're coming back. You're going to be Chief Heart Officer. And I knew what that was because it's who I am. Right. And I said two things. Great, amazing. What are we doing here? And he said, we're building the greatest human organization of all time. Cool. Sign me up. And I said, how do we know if I'm successful? And he said, you will touch every employee and infuse the agency with empathy. And that is my job description. Four years later.

Jonathan:

Yeah. What, what did that mean to you when he said that? How do you even like go about creating like a strategic roadmap to infuse the agency with empathy by touching every person?

Claude:

Well, the great thing Jonathan, was that I had already been there for 16 months. So I had built up a lot of equity with people. I was already running a team of 50 so  and I knew the fabric of the culture already. I'm a real intuit and empath. So I I can feel things really easily, but I had to think very quickly because the job was originally to scale him and then to scale me, right? Because I'm only one person. So I, instead of going to the micro and all of the stuff, the schmutz on the carpet, I decided to lift up to the macro and say, okay, I'm going to actually do what I was just told to do, which is I'm going to meet with as many employees as I possibly can. I'm going to listen to them, I'm going to hold space, I'm going to find out what's working, what's not working. And so I looked at the well rather than the faucet and I concentrated on us as a logo, the macro, what does the quilt look like? And then as I started to meet more and more people, I started to understand, you know, everyone's patch on the quilt. Everyone's specific uniqueness that they bring in every single day. And so I have this really nice balance now of going up, going down and, or as Gary calls it, you know, clouds and dirt. 

Chris:

So, so as you set out to meet with everyone and understand what was going on, you know, for some context, for everyone that's listening, VaynerMedia has, is it almost a thousand employees? 

Claude:

800

Chris:

800 employees. And so what was the timeline that you challenged yourself to talk to everyone over?

Claude:

You know, I didn't give myself a timeline. I really didn't because I didn't that I'll tell you why. And giving myself a timeline. I felt like either I would be rushed and it just didn't, it just didn't seem like, you know, as someone that started in project management a zillion years ago, this wasn't a project to manage. This was going to be organic and getting to know people. But what I did do is I set up 15 minute meetings with everyone. And by the way, it took me three, almost three years to get to everybody. And that meant repetitively also, you know, because my day is while my day is spent with individuals and with groups of people, it's also spent in operations meetings and leadership meetings and finance meetings and resourcing meetings and putting out fires everywhere. Um, you know, so it's a, it's a really nice, it's uh, it's, um, no day is no day is the same and I'm juggling a lot of different things on my plate and I like that it's a different way of multitasking because you can't really multitask with human beings.

Chris:

I'm going to get specific because I know we've got a little while to talk and I'm just so curious. When you sat down for a 15 minute meeting, did you have a, uh, a formula format you were following? What were you trying to get out of each meeting?

Claude:

Yeah, it's a great question because I did have a formula for people and I'll tell you what that was. It was let's play Rose bud thorn Rose, something that's going great, but something you're looking forward to. And of course the thorn is what I really want to hear, right? What's a challenge? What's really like, you know, what's, what's potentially, um, making you a flight risk. These are the things I was listening for and I use that with new people. I use that just like I would do what I now call a stay interview. You know, how we all pay attention to exit interviews, which is a nominal, but they're gone. They're out of the building. We now do stay interviews in my department, but I would look at that thorn as what are they telling me and what are they telling me that other people might think or what other people might feel.

Claude:

So that was a big one that I did, especially for new new joiners, like in the first year. Um, for other people I would say, you know, um, uh, why don't you just tell me like something you're really proud of. And I would also say, paint me the ideal picture of your job. Like, and then I would understand if the job that they're doing is different than the job that we thought they were doing. So I would ask a lot of, I not, would I continue to ask a lot of open ended questions? And then the deal for me is being able to hold space in a nonjudgmental way because I actually want to hear the ugly. I want to hear what's not working because we can fix that. There's nothing that we can't do except fix the crisis that we're in right now, but we can certainly navigate through that with transparency and authenticity.

Claude:

So, um, the other thing I did was when we moved to our Hudson yards office, which we're in now, is I had an enormous whiteboard installed and I do a lot of coaching on that whiteboard. And so for some people I would do a values exercise. For some people I would find out what their limiting beliefs were, what their imposter syndrome was, and they didn't even know what that was necessarily. But I would ask questions and probe so that I could find out what was holding them back from being their greatest self, what was holding them back from having that conversation with their manager, what was holding them back for asking for a promotion or a raise those to what, what's holding them back from knocking on Gary's door. Those types of things because again, you know, I think of my role in many, many ways is A. to listen to people as I said, in a nonjudgmental way, to totally hear what they're saying. And B to then take action, take action. They're coming to me for a reason, not just to be a receptacle, but they're coming to me because I'm in a senior in a senior position, I have Gary's ear and there's things that we can do. We can, we can create change easily, especially with someone like that at the helm.

Jonathan:

Now, Claude, the last time I was at the agency, I was, I was in your office and I saw you in action, like working kind of in the transition from our conversation. And so your, your next meeting where it, you know, it was obvious that there is a capacity in your job that is very much like a therapist or guidance counselor in a way, right? You are, you're giving that space to listen, to hear nonjudgmental. But like how, how can a manager, um, get to that point where you can ask those questions. But how do you get to the point where the employee feels comfortable being so vulnerable and answering honestly, right? Like a manager can ask for vulnerability, but you might not get it. Like how do you get to it?

Claude:

Well, I mean you, you actually answered your question. A manager can ask for vulnerability if they are showing their vulnerability. I mean like let's, let's, what's good for the goose is good for the Gander and what we know and I think that this crisis is changing things and we'll get to that. But you know, what we know is, look, human beings are wired to connect the bottom of Maslow's pyramid, and I'm sure you've talked about it today already. It's, you know, safety, shelter, uh, security. The next one up is belonging. So the culture that VaynerMedia exists in is one of, I call belonging and bravery. And that means we are wanting every single person to feel as though they can be themselves when they walk through the door, right? In order to do that, the managers, me, Gary, have to be as authentic as you possibly feel comfortable being.

Claude:

This is not going to be a culture where you're going to come in and shield yourself out because I'll tell you it's not going to work, but there are other places that that does work. Yeah, so that's the first thing. And first part of your question, which I, which is a great question, but it's the answer is literally you have to show up in order to ask that other person to show up. Right? And how do we do that? We do that with a lot of training. We do that with a lot of conversation around empathy and EQ. As you all know, Gary's talking about all the time, what I'm talking about, no simple acts of generosity, acts of kindness. We're talking about the ROI of kindness today. My, the biggest drum I beat every day, externally and internally is why aren't we more human at work?

Claude:

Why are we not the same Claude that goes out for that brunch with her or her girlfriends on Sunday or the same Claud that goes to the soccer tournament or the same Claude that goes to the, you know, the playground with my daughter. Like what has happened to us to make us so shielded? Well, we were never asked to be our full self at work. This is a new revelation. So anyway, the real deal is we have to do a lot of training. We have to do a lot of, uh, conversations like this. We have to do a lot of listening and then we routing, you know, we have to sniff out where there might be bullies because that's just not gonna work here. 

Chris:

So I know that Gary also has a policy where he does five minute kind of open door meetings. Right. And so how would someone decide whether they go to you for something or they go to him for something? How does that dynamic work? 

Claude:

Well, we're two sides of the same coin. So you're going to get something very similar in our different vocabularies. But you, I mean, please walk to Gary's office first. I think it's so important to have time with him. He's not going to necessarily fix it on the spot if there's something going on, but he's certainly gonna punt it over to me or we're going to punch it to a senior leader or we're going to punt it to whomever, someone on my team. Uh, but so I want to say, you know, come to either of us, but I encourage people to go to Gary all the time and people are either really stoked on it or they're like, well, what am I going to talk to them about?

Claude:

And it's like, don't, don't worry about it. We'll come out of that meeting flying for a good 30 days, you know, because it's who he is.

Chris:

I imagine there's some people that are just so excited to get in there and there's others that put it off for years. 

Claude:

And I tell you what, when they put it off for years, and that's one of the questions I'll ask, which is, you know, Hey, have you gotten to see Gary or when was the last time you checked in with Gary? I'll actually, I've been here nine months and I never have. Cool. Then I'm writing his admins right now and saying, you know, we got to get Chris in there in the next three weeks. Like not urgent, but you know, um, so people are there. It's really interesting. There's some people that start in their first week, they're like, I want to go see Gary.

Claude:

I'm like, okay, actually align pay line. Which a big list I should say, but 

Jonathan:

I'm sure he's a big draw for probably why people are wanting to work there, right. To just be around that energy. 



Claude:

That's a huge draw, you know, you feel that when you walk through the halls, you feel our culture when you walk through the halls and when he's there and he's present, it's a whole nother amplification of, you know, energy and goodness. 

 

Chris:

So you have a few offices, right as it is still four offices? No. Let's see, we've got, um, so we've got, you know, Vayner X as our holding company and VaynerX's at 800 people. VaynerMedia proper. The advertising agency is about 625, but we've got um, three offices in New York. We've got an office in LA, we've got Chattanooga, we've got London, we've got Singapore. So I think that's about six right now.

Claude:

And now this is our office got 800 offices, 800 offices, which is amazing. And you know, in a blink of an eye we went from a, a non-work-from-home culture to a working from home culture, which is incredibly inspirational to see that people rallied very quickly. 

 

Chris:

So I'm curious if you go back two months to when you had the six offices, how did you facilitate the feedback and the relationships across all of those teams? Were you doing these kinds of zoom sessions with people or how did that work before? 

 

Claude:

Yeah, so a couple of things. One, we use the technology zoom, Slack Hangouts a lot. So jam sessions or something that I've been doing for awhile while they're not present or on, um, uh, virtually. Um, there are other people in on my team around all these geographies that will absolutely do the same types of things.

 

It might be a little bit different because they have different personalities. Um, about I would say a year and maybe 18 months. And it was really obvious to me that who, who were the people in our company that had a very similar DNA to myself and Gary and a lot of the OGs and I started calling them culture champions because I could lean on them to go talk to Jonathan when he might be having a bad day or to go talk to Chris and those 13 other people that just joined three weeks ago and do, you know, do a coffee round Robin with them. You know, because again, the culture is, you're, you're cultivating the culture. You've come into the office, you're a part of us now. You know, every culture is everyone's responsibility. We do a lot of organic training and development. So we have been using Kim Scott's book for I guess almost three years now.

Claude:

Then we Vaynerized um, radical candor, if you will. Um, but we call it feedback training. And so we do that on repeat. We do manager one-on-one training one Oh two training. And again, these are things that I do. These are things that other people on my team do. And these are things that other leaders can do because it's not, you know, we have a deck and, and people can follow along. Um, so that's, you know, one of the many ways that I scale and that we also are able to touch so many people. Cause again, that's the job. That's the job description. 

 

Chris:

So do you have actual culture champions that they've got a title or they're in separate meetings or how do you, how do you get on the culture squad? 

 

Chris:

Well, uh, you raise your hand. That's the first, that's the first way. Or I'm sitting with you and I'm like, Hey Chris, would you, would you mind? Like, I'd love, I'd love your, the way that you are, would you mind if I had some new hires like meet you and you take them for coffee in the next three months and you'd be like, Claude, I'd love to do that. Yeah. I mean, I'd love your vibe. Jonathan, would you join one of the onboarding sessions with me? Yeah, I'd love to. I mean, who doesn't, who doesn't want to get, get picked for that? It's like getting picked for the all star team. 

Jonathan:

Now there's a question here from Terry that is curious if you have any kind of formal training as a, as a coach, like as a, a leader in this capacity to run and operate all these training sessions, uh, for what it sounds like, what you do on a consistent basis. 

Claude:

Does Claude Silver have training as a coach? Yeah, yes. And I actually trained as a psychotherapist about a zillion and one years ago. So human behavior is something that I am incredibly fascinated with, you know, starting with my own human behavior and, um, and then doing a lot of coaching searches, certifications, uh, when I lived back in San Francisco a long time ago as well as you know, I mean I'll just go there like clairvoyance training, past life regression training, chakra training like for me, uh, I use a big grab bag when I go in to life because you never know kind of what tools you need are you going to want to use. So, um, in terms of the, the other question was I think the training in terms of doing manager training or uh, facilitating, I don't have any training as a teacher or anything like that, but you know, before I was a Chief Heart Officer, I worked on the floor.

Claude:

I was one of these people. I speak fluent agency speak, you know what I mean? So I can empathize a lot with what people are doing on the floor that are strategists, project managers, client service people. I know where our deficits are. And I know where we want to get to. So, um, with that it's really pretty easy and common. Just common sense to know what we need. And of course we use bespoke trainers to come in and really train some of the other stuff like negotiating skills. I'm not the person. Right.

Chris:

I love that. The, the, it seems like the foundation of business knowledge that you have makes the potency of your coaching and advice that much stronger. Whereas somebody that just comes in and is surface level is not going to have that same impact. So I think it's really important for leaders to embrace the people working with the people and make sure they're happy. They have a seat at the leadership table, you know, to be a part of the business so that that carries through.

Claude:

Yep. I just want to echo that if I hadn't been on the business side for so long that it would take me a lot longer to understand what it is, what my remit was and, and had to do it, you know, how to get there.

Jonathan:

Yeah. So when we talked about connecting the six offices, but let's transition into connecting the 800 offices now. How, how has that transition been for you? And I know even like yesterday we were on a call together for 10 or 15 minutes and your daughter was in the mix show in a book. I was saying, hi. And, and that's such a beautiful light aspect of what's going on right now. That's that silver lining is the authenticity of seeing the real Claude in your environment. Right. And so I'm curious how that, that pivot from being a non word from home culture has been for you and the broader organization. 

 

Claude:

Yeah. Um, so we were talking the other day and I think I mentioned the word, um, at triage, you know, when, when all this happened and went down, we all, every, every company had to go directly into kind of triage and reactiveness and figuring out how to get our, our people safe, how to make sure that they have, um, uh, the right equipment, the right wifi speed, all that stuff. Right. And we were plugging holes as fast as we could and what do we do for working parents and, and how do we let them, how do we let 800 people know that the 120 people that have parents are going to have to time out at certain times because they have to take breaks. So we did all that. We're definitely in much more of like a, um, a test and learn phase.

Claude:

I would say as we transition down this road that we're all transitioning in. So I just want to say, give that kind of as a backbone of what I know we've all been doing, but I've kind of titled it a little bit for my own self, like triaged test and learn type of things. Um, for me, I didn't actually think about what it was like for me because I was in, I was the front line of the triage of making sure that I was writing the handbooks and writing the guidelines and all of those things. Um, but it wasn't until I, you know, I noticed that, you know, my partner has a job too and we don't have any childcare and you know, my daughter is 18 months and she needs a lot of attention and duh, duh. So there were so many gifts obviously in being home full time and there's also the challenges that, um, are amped up.

Claude:

They're amplified for me now. So, um, I think that those are the things that kind of on a personal level have or challenging for me were getting into a groove as we're six weeks in the, um, you know, for me what I'm doing with these big jam sessions and making sure that I'm seeing multiple amounts of people, whether or not I'm seeing people in Singapore tonight at nine, eight, 9:00 PM New York time, so I can see them at nine, eight, 9:00 AM their time. Like for me, making sure that people are feeling again, if there's a community and they're connected and that they belong and they can still feel me, they can feel us. Um, for the company at large, they have been so impressive. They have rallied in a way that, um, has really surprised me and, and just a beautiful way because I don't know.

Claude:

I don't know what, I don't know. It's, uh, they just did it. They just didn't, they didn't, they didn't kick and scream. They just went for it. And, um, so, you know, we're a creative advertising agency and so this is pretty phenomenal now when you're a bunch of creatives and strategists and your work and you're used to like jamming together in a room and putting stuff up on the wall, now you're jamming together and then you're going off and creating and coming back. It's a whole nother, yeah, it's a whole nother ball game. But the concepts and the executions and the creativity that I have seen come out of this agency in the midst of, of, of where we are today as a, uh, as a culture, all of us is just overwhelmingly beautiful. I mean, today we just launched a, um, a new campaign for temper or the mattress and it's all about people using their beds as their offices, you know, like six weeks ago. That's, I can tell you that's not what we were going to go live with. So that, that kind of like, I just saw my first request come in. We could send someone's someone a standing desk at their home. That's my first request. So I have a feeling we'll get a good 20 more.

Chris:

That's funny. So, you mentioned before you weren't a remote company. I mean, you had a few offices, but the, the general opinion was not a remote culture. Right. Um, I've heard Gary speak about this before. He likes being around people and touch and feel and look over someone's shoulder and interact and collaborate. And I'm very much the same way. And in fact he had a video that I like tagged Jonathan and, and I'm like, yes, exactly. Just like this. This is how I feel. And now fast forward, 

 

Jonathan:

I've been saying to you forever that we need to be more, because I'm the 100% remote one over here in Boston. 

 

Chris:

Right, right. So how has, has the, has your opinion changed or has the company's opinion changed on the topic and how, how is, how will it impact the months to come?

Claude:

The change is, the change is overwhelmingly positive. I mean, Gary himself is now saying he thinks he'll do Fridays from home and just do virtual meetings. He's getting so much done because if you imagine you, and this is a guy that's on a plane every day, pretty much, uh, that's not, there's some backup for one second and say there is something incredible and incredibly vulnerable about the intimacy that this screen is providing us. I'm not in your space anymore, but you've invited me into your space in a different way. You know, I'm, I'm now seeing your office and I see your, you know, your stuff on your walls and the bar, the basketball and whatnot. But imagine you're now seeing someone's bedroom or you're seeing someone's closet. Cause that's all they can see. Or you're seeing someone's kitchen table with the, you know, people walking by.

Claude:

That's a very intimate invitation that we have been quite frankly forced into. And going back to this idea of empathy and kindness and what we believe in the amount of and vulnerability, the amount of just and compassion that one needs to have entering into this type of environment is overwhelming because quite frankly, we all have biases. You know, someone could have a bias about you sitting there with the basketball behind you. You know you're going to have a bias. You might have a bias as just a human

being. When you see someone on a kitchen table with, you know that all of a sudden they're her husband walking by and you're like, I didn't even know she was married. You know, like all kinds of stuff. Yeah. So it brings up this, this other level of authenticity and trust, and it is something that I do really think that we've rallied around in such an incredible way, and we were forced into this. So media, you know what I mean?

Chris:

Yeah. I wrote down a couple of minutes ago, how, how do we bring out the real you on zoom? Because there are so many people that, you know, they're, they're tucked away in a corner of a room that's quiet and because they don't want to let real life in because they're trying to stay focused and do their work. But it's really interesting to say, you know, what, what is what is going on? And, and if it's okay to extend that invitation, I think we'd get to know each other a lot better.

Claude:

I do too. And I, so that's one of the things that we do in these, in these virtual meetings and even on the teams, they're doing this because I've said, I really think you need to normalize the situation first before you go into project management. And we're about, you've got to get this client to pay or whatever. Like that's all real and that's, that's right. But we also have to normalize like, yeah, my daughter's going to be with me. Jonathan, I'm sorry you're here. She is like, or, uh, you know, I need to go eat lunch or I'm eating my lunch. I hope you don't mind. I haven't been able to get away from my, like we have to normalize this also with icebreakers, you know, I call them icebreakers, but they could be whatever. Like what did you watch on Netflix last night? It doesn't matter.

Claude:

You know, I've been doing the I, some of the ones that I've been doing lately are, um, uh, your talk show hosts who are the first two people you have and it's just quick quick-fire uh, what's your karaoke song? Uh, if you could go back to any age in history, any period of history, what would it be? And it's literally a rapid fire, rapid fire, rapid fire. And today someone said, I want to go back to the seventies cause I want to see led Zeppelin live. And I was like, yes. But now I know that she's interested in led Zepplin and seventies music. And by the way, she wasn't even born in the seventies. So these are like, this is good stuff on the other side of

Jonathan:

inviting somebody to be wholly themselves in this environment. Right? Like I'm, I'm curious your perspective, um, you said you're an intuitive empath. I feel like I, I'm the same way. And so much of communication happens non-verbally, especially when, you know, when you're drawing energy from others and you're together like that communication nonverbal. But in this environment, how, how do you pull that connection through the screen in a way that you can when you're together?

Claude:

Um, I don't, I don't have the magic answer there, but I will tell you that I think eye contact goes a heck of a long way and there's something about this connection, whereas I know you're looking right at me or you're looking at the screen. I know once, you know, you know, when I'm looking at my phone, I know when you're taking notes, I know when you're completely checked out, you know, and I'm checked out. This has created a very different type of interaction with one another that I think is different than obviously when we're in person. Cause we can feel each other's vibe and I see your body like all that stuff. But also when we're in person, we have a greater ability to look around and not make eye contact when we're on the screen. And yes, I know our eyes are all getting completely tired from Zooms, but there is, there is something here where it's like, I know you're with me right now and I know, I know that and you know, I'm with you.

Claude:

So again, I don't have the magic bullet, you know, the secret sauce. But um, I do know that there is a trust that I believe is built here and a, we're both, we're both in this together and, and um, you know, the ritual of a handshake is now gone. That will be gone for quite some time. I imagine we have to create new rituals now. And that's interesting. And maybe that is the ice ice breaker or maybe that is round Robin. What did everyone watch for Netflix or what is everyone making for dinner? I don't, I don't know what it is, but it's up to us, all of us human beings, but certainly as leaders to provide our teams and our people with options. Absolutely. Because when we all go back and that is going to be a whole nother piece of work when we go back to the office and stagger that and all of that. Are we still going to elbow bump? I don't really know if people are even going to get that close for awhile. So what was it that we can do today that we can take forward with us as as leaders? You know, maybe, and by the way, maybe it's every day at 12 o'clock, you and your team do wall sits for five minutes.

Chris:

I'm just waiting for someone to come up with a computer monitor that has the camera in the middle so you can actually like look in the camera and look at the person. Like it'll be interesting to see what products emerge as a result of this. Like I bet the blue light glasses are just like spiking. 

 

Jonathan:

Chris and I’s friend Aaron, he had wrote a post about like how the Jetsons when when they had their like video chat monitors, they didn't show themselves. There was no selfie view looking back. Right. And that's the thing with FaceTime. And with this now you have a tendency to like gravitate towards looking at yourself, not directly at the other person. And, and like how that was a a misstep in video communication.

Claude:

Yeah, the Jetsons. I mean they knew it, but you know, back to the seventies, right.

Chris:

They knew it all back then. Led Zeppelin in the Jetsons. So, okay. So let's, the topic here is, is the ROI of kindness. And we all know that kindness builds great organizations, builds great relationships. So today, especially when you're making decisions to send someone a standing desk or, or whatever, how do you, how do you navigate the, the desire to, you know, to support the person with the, the company need to balance profits?

Claude:

Yeah. Well today, the way I'm going to answer this question is probably a little bit different than I would have answered it two months ago, three months ago. Um, you know, we are, we try to be as giving of a culture as we possibly can and all ways, shapes and sizes. Right now we really need to focus on the logo so that we all have jobs and the employees. And that's a balance. We've always had to do that, right? But there was a time that I think we were almost employee first, then logo, and now I believe we need to just switch the scales just a little bit. And maybe it's 51% local and 49%, uh, employee. It's slate right now. We need all hands on deck to make sure that we are staying, uh, not only afloat, but that we're thriving in this period in time.

Claude:

And it's very difficult to do one offs right now. I'll be honest with you. We'll see what happens here. You know, a lot of times, I mean, just to be transparent, when someone asks for standing desks, they have to bring in a doctor's note like, so no one can go to a doctor right now, so I don't know what to, I don't know what to do. I'll have to solve that in a second. Uh, but the most important thing is that we can keep our people and we can continue to run a tight ship and we can continue to continue to cultivate this culture 3.0.

Chris:

How, how have you navigated some roles changing? Because I imagine that people have had to shift a little bit in terms of either the project they're working on or the job they're doing for the company.

Claude:

Yeah, I mean not only roles we've, we've, you know, when we let people go also, but that's a whole other thing and that's not unique to us this day and age. In terms of the roles, I can't tell you that there's been a whole lot of shape shifting. I think that there are things that people are leaning in to more than they were before just because of the pure a, the first, the reactiveness and now proactively. For example, if you're on the client service team, proactively knocking on that client store to figure out their new payment terms because they might not be able to pay you net-90, net-120, you know, it might be like net-360 now. Uh, so you might be negotiating more or you might be more in the sales mode, you know, getting incremental revenue and pitching more ideas.

Claude:

If you're a creative like for example, the temporary that I was telling you about that was pitched, it's all user generated content, right? So there's a, I think people are just leaning into different parts of their brain, which means different parts of the job. And I don't necessarily think they're new jobs, new roles that have come about. I haven't seen any or heard of any yet. Um, but it's really giving us as a company an opportunity to become that 3.0 that we want to become a leaner, a leaner company that is not bloated in any way, shape or form. And that can really be out there with our cutting edge ideas and our beliefs. So, you know, Gary's beliefs on what advertising and marketing really need to be. I mean, that's, that is where we're going. I think the advertise, you didn't ask me this question, but the advertising industry as a whole is changing as we speak. I mean, first and foremost, a lot of it's getting slashed, but we're changing. And I think the way that we will greet our clients briefs to us will be very different. And, um, and what we create for our clients, I think will be much faster. I mean, we all know that the majority of the human race right now is on Tik Tok. So that's 15 seconds. So you gotta be able to catch someone's attention and less than that. 

 

Chris:

And Jonathan and I are on Tik Tok as a result of Gary's incessant talking about it. 

 

Jonathan:

It’s incredible, the amount of creativity that's originating there right now. You see it across every platform. You've been on Instagram and on Facebook. Like the, the stuff that people are engaging with, even on our traditional platforms are now reposting Tik Tok videos

Claude:

I mean there's, so there's, there's just so many of us are, are we're having to laugh at this in many ways, you know, because of the predicament and, and this, this amazing time that we're all experiencing together, you know?

Chris:

So, so I have two kind of big followup questions. I guess the first is, you mentioned this, this three year process of doing 15 minute meetings with everyone and then all of a sudden it's like everyone's reality changes in a period of a, of a week or a couple of weeks. So how did you fast-track check-ins with so many people to make sure that they were, they're handling this okay. Or to figure out the new quilt. Yeah.

Claude:

I put something out on every globe, on every single, the global Slack channels and every office channel, which said, set up time with me. Hmm. That's, that's exactly what I did. And you, you know, I don't think you'd be surprised to know that how many people did set up time with me. And then what I did was depending on who I, if I knew that person or when I asked, you know, Hey, you know, this'll be in two weeks or whatever, I found out by talking to them on Slack, if I could actually just put them into a group chat because will they missing the connection? And that's, that's different or were they just needing some, you know, some, some chief heart officer isn't ooey gooey. It's also like, let me tell you what's really going on right now. We're really trying to, you know, stay afloat and thrive. So yeah, I give people the real deal.

Jonathan:

Yeah. Regarding you having the time to, whether it was in the office or now posting that message in Slack to actually meet with everybody. There is a question here, which is good by Mesa. How do you recharge and have the energy yourself to talk to everybody and be authentic and be sincere and actively listen?

Claude:

Well, uh, in the Gretchen Rubin test, I come out as an obliger, so, and I can send you that link that I took this personality test. I'm an obliger. So, uh, taking care of myself as something that I have really had to work on throughout my life and I have to work on daily, which means I'm taking time to meditate, taking time to do some yoga if not stretching. Obviously hanging out with my daughter is great and fulfilling but exhausting. So cooking is really important to me and I, you know, I'll be making some tacos later. Uh, well something that is really interesting. Oh thank you. Someone sent the liquids out, something that's really come up that is bizarre and I never would have thought about it cause I never would have had this kind of time with her is I'm now drawing, I'm literally, I mean I'd love to just, I'll take a picture and show you this. I'm looking up a little how, how to draw easy animals on YouTube and there's an elephant, there's an owl, there's a cow that I drove today, but it's relaxing me. It's real. I would never would have used that part of my brain.

Chris:

That's a great skill too, because if you've ever been at like a macaroni grill where you can write on the tables, like being able to pump out a, an owl or something is a great party trick. 

Claude:

popular mom, you know, when this is over. Um, but it's a, it's a phenomenal question. And I, um, told myself four weeks ago that I was going to at least try to meditate three, four times a week and I use an app and then do yoga three, four times a week. I use an app, I do some weights. Um, I listened to a lot of music when I can by myself and that might just be on a 15 minute walk. So, um, and it's, it's something that I work on all the time. So thank you for the question.

Chris:

Of course. So another tough question, I guess you mentioned, you know, the reality of having to let people go. I know it's something a lot of businesses are facing. A lot of entrepreneurs I'm in mastermind groups with. Um, I think of you as, as one of the most empathetic and people first kind of leaders. And so when you have to approach something as difficult as that, how do you do it? What's the, what's the conversation like?

Claude:

Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you. First and foremost. Um, the conversation, I go into that conversation with as much grace and generosity of spirit as I possibly can, recognizing that I'm going to change someone's life right now. Uh, and not, it's not great. It's not a great time. So that's the first thing is that, that's what I do for myself. And then what I say is, you know, Sammy, I'm really sorry that this is going to be a difficult conversation or Sammy and we don't have a Sammy. So that's why I'm using, um, Sam, I'm really, really sorry to say this is going to be your last day or Sammy. As you know, we've been restructuring the creative department now for five months and we would have had this conversation six weeks ago and then COVID hit. And so we're having it now. I know it's really, really uncomfortable.

Claude:

So those types of things. Um, what I'm able to do on the end of that is offer up our networks, the ecosystem that Gary has created. Uh, we have something called an alumni network, which a alumni program, which is not as robust as it normally is, but what that is all different kinds of CMOs and whomever send in a to Gary or us like, Hey, I'm at Campbell soup and I'm looking for a project manager. Hey, I'm at so forth and so on. I'm looking for a social media manager and that's a wonderful opportunity for me to then say, Sammy, I know you were really interested in moving to Chicago and there happens to be a rule here. Let me introduce you. I can't promise you anything. Let me introduce you. And that's really the, that's what I can do. 

Jonathan:

No, I was just going to say, I've always loved hearing from you and from Gary, how much emphasis you put on helping in the next step. Right? It's not just this is the end of your road here, but, but even what Gary did for you when you were resigning. And he's like, what do you care about? Right. And then, and then all of a sudden, here's this role happened to still be at Vayner. But I love the emphasis you put on providing guidance to

Claude:

get where they want to really go. Yeah. And thanks Jonathan. The way I know what Sammy is interested in is, cause I've spent a lot of time with Sammy. That's the thing. Well my, the fictitious people I'm telling you about, I've spent time with them or their manager tells me, you know, this person has always wanted to work at Netflix. Do we know anyone at Netflix? You know, that kind of stuff. So, um, and you only get that by engaging in conversation with someone.

Chris:

Right. Okay. So, um, so we'll, we'll transition from that. Such a hard topic to a more positive note, which is ROI. So all of this conversation about, caring for people and investing in people and asking the right questions and coaching and you know, this is all leading to producing a better culture and a better company and there's, there is a return on that, right? So, um, you know, when we prepared this, this topic, I think it was, it was prior to the this, um, but I still think it's a really important thing to cover because every decision that we're making today has some sort of ROI and you've got to make the decision on, you know, do we do this today as a result of how it's going to impact the company in the months to come? And so, so how do you think about ROI or what are some examples of how you've invested with a great return?

Claude:

So letting people go, it's an actually a really, really good place to start because we just came from there. When you're able to help someone on the flip, think of, think of that ROI, right? Right there they stay. They are going to stay in your network. We want to keep people in this ecosystem, because that person that we just helped place over there will one day be the COO over here, one day work at bazooka gum and we can buy bazooka gum and market it the way we want. You know what I mean? So that's the first thing is, and that's just karma. I mean, that's kindness karma. You know, it's, it's, it's the gold plan by the golden rule, which is, um, how I live my life. And I think it's incredibly important, which is, um, you just want to take care of people the best you can.

Claude:

And yes, that does mean that we're going to let people go. That does mean that some days are not going to be as sunshiny as the other days, but we really want people to know, like, we care about them. We want the people that are at our company right now. We want them to be there for 10 years. You know, I, I'm already seeing who's going to sit in the seat whenever that day comes. And I've seen that already, you know, three different times. There's three different people I can tell you that would be great to sit in the seat. So that I think is, um, is, is a way that ROI comes to life because they're just being themselves. And I think to myself, Holy cow, you can do this with your eyes closed. Like you are exactly what the future needs. So, um, anyway, I meandered a little bit, but the letting go, I think, um, we can't say enough about caring for people, especially today and what the PERMA is on that. Um, I think that when you spend time with people, that comes back to tenfold. And by the way, I don't spend time with people or Gary doesn't spend time with people to even have it come back tenfold. But that is energy and that energy I can use to help other people out. You know, it's um, it's just, uh, it's a, it's an interesting question. What's the kindness? What's the ROI of kindness? Because I think, well, what isn't the ROI?

Chris:

Someone asked a question in an earlier session that was how do you convince leadership or management or the CEO to make investments by proving there's some sort of ROI. So I think, you know, you're, you're, uh, uh, fortunate to have the relationship you do with Gary, but at companies where there's not as much receptiveness, is there, is there something you'd recommend for people?

Claude:

Yeah, I get, I actually get this question a lot because I do, I work in somewhat of a utopia. I understand that in terms of my relationship with Gary and also who he is as a CEO and very much an HR led, HR driven CEO. Um, the, the answer that I always give is first and foremost, don't change who you are. If you are the next CHO or if you are a giver or you're a natural coach or you're a natural, whatever it is, keep being you, play to your strengths because there are others like you that will you, you will find one another and you will create your own groundswell and your own culture change. It might start off small. That's what so did. Uh, so did rock music. It started off small, came from the blues. You know, I was trying to go led Zepplin but I couldn't.

Claude:

Um, but so did, uh, the pop movement, you know, Andy Warhol didn't just like start one day and do the Campbell soup cans. It was a movement. And so these culture change, you know, these, these changes, you get people together and you get groups together and you rally and, and soon enough it will, it will be noticed, you know, and whether or not you have a CEO that wants to lean in hard on that or not someone, someone in senior management. Well, I just know it and the world is changing as we are speaking. You know, when you can open up any HBR article right now, this is phenomenal cast that you've had today that we're all speaking of. We're all in the same red thread, aren't we? We're all talking about kindness, humanity, giving back empathy. We're all talking about this.

Chris:

Yeah, it's inspiring. And I know people have been commenting all day on how do I infuse a little bit of this into my organization. And so I guess if, if, if they don't feel like it's there, you can either create it or you can find a, an organization where it exists.

Claude:

That's right. Yeah. And yes, and organizations we will, we are going to see new things sprout up as, as we emerge out of this epidemic, we will see new companies sprout up, we will see new types of leaders sprout up. I think that we will see a rise and I hope and I do believe that we will see a rise in servant leadership and more empathetic leadership, understanding that we don't, you know, leadership from a top down and an ivory tower just, it's just not going to work. Look, more and more millennials are going to move. I think it was in the New York times yesterday. More and more millennials are moving gonna move out of cities right now and into places where it's more affordable and they can probably work from home. So you know, the talent and, and I th I think it was the last person you had here from Uber was talking about like the enormous amount of talent that is going to be available and accessible to us is, um, is outrageous. So it's just an amazing, incredible time that I don't, I don't think your topic could have been more timely than today.

Chris:

I love that perspective. Jonathan, anything else you want to chime in with before we start taking questions? Because they are flowing like faster than they're coming in real fast. It's like, it's been so on point. 

 

Jonathan:

I know that what we had one question from, from Lo on our team who would, would have wanted to ask you how to infuse or how to shift a culture, cultures, uh, an organization's culture that doesn't necessarily have empathy with it. A culture of empathy and, and I think we just hit on that, right? It's like now as a catalyst moment, as long as you have the intentionality to do it. And, and like you said at the beginning, you have those culture champions that you can lean on and you empower them. 

Claude:

Right. And remember that if you're in, if you're invited into a room, like you're there for a reason, use your voice. Like we're there. And that is something I tell a lot of of, you know, younger folks, especially young females, like we are not there to take notes. You're not there to be a wallflower. You're there to add something. Yeah, you're there. So, so be an addition. Don't be a subtraction.

Jonathan:

Yeah. I couldn't be more passionate about lately. Like I know the ROI of kindness meant to, it was kind of meant to quantify empathy, right? In a way that gives a return to a company. But at the same time, like in, in advertising and branding in, in marketing in my world, like not brand activity

Claude:

has a direct ROI, but, but like you still have to do it if you want to build your brand and infuse your personality and your mission into the market, right. And the return on that is more long tail. Hard to quantify immediately. But you you do it. Yeah. You might not see a sales lift today, but you will see a brand affinity and brand loyalty tomorrow. You know, that sounds like a fortune cookie.

Chris:

Another t-shirt. We've been collecting phrases all day. 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Topics Covered

  • How she resigned from VaynerMedia and came back 4 months later as Chief Heart Officer
  • Why ‘stay’ interviews are important, not just exit interviews
  • How to get your team members to be vulnerable
  • How each person on your team is responsible for building a culture
  • How to keep 800 team members connected with one another while working from home
  • The vulnerability, empathy, and compassion each person needs while we’re on virtual meetings 
  • How the advertising industry looks right now
  • Approaching difficult conversations like having to let people go 
  • Finding what employees care about and helping them get to where they want to go
  • The ROI of kindness and taking care of people the best you can
  • As an employee, how to create your own culture change in your workplace
PreviousNext

Subscribe to the Process Makes Perfect Podcast

Subscribe and Listen