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Culture That Converts

Join these tech marketing leaders, as we discuss the importance of balancing your team's well being while trying to hit those lofty quarterly goals.


Peter Zaballos

Aileen Casmano

Janice Dru-Bennett

Patrick Garrity


35 minutes to read



Hello. I'm Kerry Guard, CEO of MKG Marketing and welcome to this Live Round Table where we're going to discuss how having a culture that supports and takes care of your team can lead to hitting your lofty goals. Between quiet quitting, layoffs, burnout, and mental health, employees are being very clear of what they will and will not work for. So how do we meet their needs while holding them accountable?

Before I launch into introductions and questions, some quick housekeeping. This is our promise to you as our listeners, and what we hope in return: We promise to keep to the discussion at hand. It’s why you’re here and what we’ll honor. This isn’t about our companies or selling. This is an honest, authentic conversation with real experts who are living and breathing this challenge and how we can learn from them in applying it to our own brands. For those listening, please engage in the comments. We have AnDrae’ Jones hanging without y’all. He’ll be there to field your comments over to me for our guests to answer at the end, as well as hang out with you. He’s great. Thanks, for joining us, AnDrae’!

Let's kick off with introductions!


Kerry Guard: Can each of you introduce yourselves? Your name and your title, and share what company culture means to you. I'll kick off with Peter.

Peter Zaballos: Thank you, Kerry. It’s super fun to be here today, and it's a topic that is personally important to me. I am a fractional CMO at a company called Authentic Brand. I spent my career in high-growth technology startups in marketing, leading marketing organizations. I was also a venture capitalist for seven years, as well. And when I think of what is called company culture, it means creating a safe place for people to do their best work, take risks, and learn from failure, but it's creating that safe place for people to perform.

Kerry Guard: Patrick next.

Patrick Garrity: It's Patrick Garrity and VP of Marketing at Nucleus Security. I've been here about six months, and have worked with cybersecurity companies over the last decade, Duo Security, Censys, Blumira, and now Nucleus.

Creating a good culture is prioritizing people, helping them be in a position where they can do their best, and also giving them the ability to enjoy the things they love to do outside of work as well. So helping them find their balance and helping them perform what they're here to do.

Kerry Guard: I love it! Aileen.

Aileen Casmano: Thanks, Kerry. I'm Aileen. I am the director of demand generation at VISOTrust. I'm on week four. So very new. But I've been in the cybersecurity industry for about six years, which is crazy. And what company culture means to me is an environment where I feel supported. At work, we try to keep fit. The family dynamic out of calling it that, but a place where I can show up and be myself and feel supported. I've been lucky to work for companies that have honored that, so that's very important to me, and any company that enables your professional and personal growth. That's important because we're constantly changing as humans, so we need that support.

Kerry Guard: Janice.

Janice Dru-Bennett: I'm Janice Dru-Bennett. I focus on strategic partnership marketing at mQuilibrium, a tech company that delivers digital resilience solutions. And I also wear the hat as an entrepreneur, social impact advocate, and mom.

Company culture means living your values as a company and aligning your organizational purpose with your people's purposes. Having that alignment and showcasing that you are living your values is really important to company culture.

Kerry Guard: Thank you all so much. I am so grateful to have you all here. Let's kick off into our questions. My first one for you all is, why is having a company culture, especially one that centers around all the lovely things you all mentioned, why is that all matter? Why is having a comparable company culture matter? Janice, go for it.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Company culture is essential to performance, and people are critical to business results. So understanding what your people are struggling with and being able to support them from mental health and well-being perspectives are critical to achieving business results. And I can pass it on to Patrick or Peter.

Peter Zaballos: Thanks. Every company has a culture; whether you like it or not, it has one. The obligation we have as leaders is to make that culture intentional because it will follow gravity if left unattended. And in every culture and every company, there are people who are introverts or extroverts. There are highly ambitious people and people that are happy doing what they're doing. It takes intentionality to give all of those people a place where they can do their best work and where the group can perform well. If you don't do that, you're going to end up with a culture that will attract and reject people. Those people might be some of the best people you want. They may not want to be there anymore if they don't feel like they're in a culture reinforcing what they believe in and giving them the opportunity to do really good work. Let's be here to create an intentional culture that people want to be a part of and bring the best out of them.

Patrick Garrity: It's really important. We spend so much of our time working in. As an individual, I enjoy coming to work every day doing something that I enjoy doing, and that's true of everyone. Peters is talking of having a purpose in what you're doing when spending 50% of your time, probably more related to work. It's really important. People can contribute, make a meaningful impact, and work together as a team, and culture essentially sets the basis, a lot of times, for what becomes of that. If you don't intentionally set some of it, it can go awry, as Peter highlighted. Pretty important to stay focused on creating a culture that's inclusive and focuses on what's important for the organization.

Aileen Casmano: Cool, and I'll round us out. And I was going to say something similar to Patrick on work is just such a big part of every day, especially now that we all know the world is remote. Work bleeds into our personal lives even more. And what I like most about it is the community aspect of culture; like building culture, humans are literally in the hierarchy of needs, belonging, and safety. They're both to have a hierarchy of needs. And that's what culture brings a sense of belonging and a sense of safety, and just feeling part of a community bigger than, like, more than just a job. People with shared values and beliefs contribute towards the same goals.

Kerry Guard: A couple of you mentioned values and purpose and mission being part of that purpose. Can you tell me what are values to you? And how do you think that sort of sets the tone for a culture that is intentional?

Janice Dru-Bennett: Values can be anything for an organization. We value high performance, growth, and family. There could be different organizational values. You attract people who align with your values. If high performance is important to me, it may also mean that I would put in extra work and need to figure out how to balance work in life. Sometimes, if you lean too far into a value, it can cause things like burnout or other issues. So just being aware of what your values are, and there's a pro and a con, perhaps each of the values that you present is one of the things that I think about when I think about a company that will attract me and do my personal values match what the organization says their mission and values are. If you don't have a clear mission and values as an organization, then you would struggle with things like bringing in talent and retaining your talent.

Aileen Casmano: I completely agree with Janice. I've always looked to company values at times where I'm trying to make a decision about something. Are we doing right by our customer? Are we doing right by our fellow employees? As an individual, your values are aligned with the company. It's a natural fit, and it makes it easier for you to trust your decision-making. I want to join a company that puts customers first and always does right by the customers and the employees. It could be a guiding principle, or they should be a guiding principle for decision-making across any department in any type of decision.

Patrick Garrity: Janice mentioned burnout a little bit. One of the recent experiences, like joining a new company, it's probably been, I mentioned May was when I joined nucleus, and I went 110 miles an hour to start. And I'll tell you, probably 3-4 months and you hit that wall of burnout already. One thing is also being able to take a step back and annually analyze and say, “Okay,”, especially in marketing.

Sales is another big area where there's an indefinite amount of things to be done in any part of the organization. But there are so many different choices to make of things you could do and so many things you could do that you can, especially in high growth security startups, you can spend an indefinite amount of time on work. Spending a lot more time, taking a step back and looking at what things you're going to prioritize and what things you're going to say no to, and helping your team navigate that as well. Because otherwise, it's seemingly chaotic, and that doesn't necessarily help company culture. Setting clear priorities around what's important and not can become incredibly important to dictate culture.

Peter Zaballos: There are three tiers of this. There's the company culture, and if you were fortunate to be the company that intentionally went down and wrote down your values, that's awesome because now you have this artifact that you can refer to, like IBM was saying. I was at Unicorn Accumulo, and one of our values was to do the right hard thing. We turned to that a lot when we had to make really tough decisions because the easy one was not going to be the right one. But the hard one came with consequences and heartache. But if you're lucky, you've got a company that's done that, and those are there. But then, to an alien point, you have to live them; as leaders, you have to model them.

And I like what Patrick was saying about he could see that he was burning out and to everybody working on his team to see him check himself. That's super important. When I left my last job, I wrote a blog post about how a company's culture can easily be tracked by how they treat their software or engineer, the role of their software engineers, and the behavior of their software engineers and salespeople. If you have salespeople that bring the order in, but they lied to do it, and there are no consequences, then the organization knows anything goes to get the order. All we care about is results. The same thing in software engineers behave like tyrants, and that's tolerated. You've just told everybody the culture here is one where tyrants are okay as long as they get the feature shipped. I keep bringing back the term obligation. You have an obligation to the people that work for you to model the values you're trying to get them to follow. In my org, we put a lot of emphasis on continuous education. The search marketing world is changing so fast, and you have to be on top of that. Anybody who takes any courses, you take those courses out of your 40-hour or 50-hour week, you don't do them on the weekends, because they're your job. We'll pay you to take those courses effectively. But I've been in other companies where they said, “You gotta go do all that stuff.” But it's off the clock, and that just doesn't build trust.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Modeling your values as a leader is essential to having the culture go from the top down and bottom up. Attracting individuals earlier, having that value alignment, but as a leader, reflecting that value of caring for your people and not burning yourself out, as Patrick mentioned, and being able to take the time off for yourself and showing everyone that it's not all about just performance, that we care about your health and we care about your life as a person outside of work. It's that whole self-approach that leaders must take to keep their talent and get the performance as well.

Patrick Garrity: I've been through this experience a few times, but it's very often that people aren't quitting the organization or quitting their leaders. And that's gonna be super mindful of it. As you're bringing in people that are going to be managers, your leaders, what makes a great leades, and then also, I have seen cultures where the people that are the longest assume leadership roles, and they're the worst people qualified sometimes to actually be in that role. If you're going to have that model, get those people lots of training so they understand how to do that. So important. I'm not saying you shouldn't promote people from within, but if you do things arbitrarily based on time, for quote-unquote experience, a lot of times it might be the wrong decision. You have to be really thoughtful of leadership as you start bringing in the first line, second line, and other types of management underneath to sustain the right culture.

Aileen Casmano: Totally. An example, just to jump in, that I can give on that is even though open vacation isn't a value, it's part of the culture, and so many organizations are pivoting to it now. And as a manager, the feedback I got for my team previously was they were afraid they didn't know the limit of vacation with the open vacation policy and what's too much. And so I gave the feedback to the executives, CEOs, and founders: you guys need to start taking vacations so that it bleeds down to the rest of the organization. And they're like, "Okay. If the CEO is taking a vacation, it's okay for me to take a week off here." And once we started doing that, they would put their vacation on the calendar, take a day off here and there, take an afternoon off, and we started to see that bleed out. Just people becoming more comfortable with not having to feel weird about taking a vacation. Just an example of a top-down approach working.

Kerry Guard: I have a follow-up question about this because it's all really important. I want to come back to it. I want to answer Emily Graham's question: any suggestions for when your team is aligned on values and culture but other teams you work with are not?

Janice Dru-Bennett: This is where I mentioned going from the top down. If your team is aligned but another team is not, then something is happening at a higher level that is not matched. And yes, as a peer, you can perhaps go to the other team leader and discuss it. That's one tip that I've always found helpful. I'm hearing this from my team working with your team; can we talk about this? Or if your team is pressuring my team to get things done overnight, when do we need our work-life balance? How do we have that conversation as leaders with each other? And then also thinking about as an executive team and in your HR function, how can we talk as a whole company about giving the skills and the training for our whole organization to address some of these and having the pulse surveys and the feedback from employees so that you know which teams are maybe more aligned than others?

Patrick Garrity: The majority of the time, I see people misaligned. It's because they don't talk to each other. That's the reality. People have misconceptions or expectations, and you only have so much time. It's a balance. A lot of times you're weighing, especially in marketing; you're touching sales, customer success, product, and all these different functions, and then externally facing customers a ton of time. If you really want to build stronger relationships, spending time with those different teams might be like, "Oh, hey, I have a new PMM starting in a week." "I'm going to have them go live in products for 75% of their time so that we can build that relationship with marketing." I don't have the time. I couldn't make the time to do more of that. But it's going to be more impact if a dedicated person on my team to that relationship. Some of the ways I think about it are trying to first build, and then if for some reason, it doesn't work, after you've done all that work, maybe upleveling to a leadership level, as well, from a discussion perspective, to set the tone for the culture overall.

Aileen Casmano: Just to follow up on that. This is a really common issue in sales and marketing, specifically, and one thing I've noticed is it always comes down to each individual team's goals and what they care about, which is what they're being measured on. One team won't want to spend time on something or won't want to do something because that's not going to help the amount of touches I get in or the number of meetings I booked this month. Communication is definitely huge, but getting down to the problem first, why aren't we aligned? Do we both have different ideas of what our goal is? Can we align on a common goal that will satisfy our team's needs and initiatives? And that's helped me navigate working, being more aligned with sales, and bringing sales in earlier. I used to just bring in sales when we were ready to launch a campaign and be like, "Okay, this is everything." "Here's what you need." And now I'm bringing sales in more earlier on the conversation of actually, like, campaigning, pre-launching, putting together all of the information together, and targeting and campaign needs, so that sales feels like they are a stakeholder in it and not just, "Oh, this is just being passed off for marketing." So that's a way I've navigated it with sales. But overall, communication, being aligned on goals, and understanding each other's goals is important.

Peter Zaballos: Yeah, and that's because they are not mutually exclusive goals. I get asked all the time what the single metric that marketing should measure their success with is and it's revenue. Everybody's there to hit the revenue plan, and the sales team has a different set of metrics they have to keep on top of to know that they're following up on their sales prospects, and marketing has a different set of metrics. But at the end of the day, you're all trying to generate revenue and hit the revenue plan, so this communication and sharing of the objectives is a good foundation. But looking at that question, there are scenarios where the head of marketing and the head of sales don't get along, and the CEO has the obligation. Two full-time jobs ago, I was running marketing, then the head of product left, and I took over the product organization and the engineering team. We were literally in open warfare. There were shouting matches that were happening on the floor. And the CEO sat down with me and the head of engineering and said we got to reset. He looked at the head of engineering and said, "If we end up with shouting matches in three months, I'm going to know what the cause is," because that's two sets of shouting matches with a different player. It was a subtle way of saying, "I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt." "But if it turns out that you were the cause of the shouting matches, I'm going to have to make a change," which I thought was a bold leadership move by the CEO. I've worked in organizations where marketing and sales did not get along, and the CEO was very passive. It's just an awful situation when you try to use communication skills. You try and collaborate. If you're one hand clapping, you need the guy at the top, or the woman at the top, to be able to say, "Okay, how are we going to go solve this?" and that's rare. A lot of them avoid it.

Patrick Garrity: The other thing, like, the nucleus was high growth early stage, and there's just a lot to be done. I'll pinch it and help out. How can I help write better ADR scripts from a marketing perspective? Ultimately, the more I can help the ADR team or the sales team convert, the better it's going to be for me. Sometimes, it's not even a leadership alignment thing. I'm going to do this and help out because it'll make a big impact for the sales org and marketing. Sometimes, doing that twice a week with ADR is just to help them on. How do we get a higher conversion? How do we push this stuff along and as part of this sales org? This is going to help overall. I'll just do it. Nobody else has the time or capacity, because sales are working on closing deals and processing and all that fun stuff. It's been open and transparent and open where he can to sometimes, depending on what stage you're at.

Kerry Guard: I love that. Let's switch gears a little bit, because I love what we're talking about from a holistic standpoint and about company culture and values. Let's talk about the individual standpoint because there is a balancing act between having this company culture, but it's not necessarily and it draws in the right people. That's part of the mission of having a culture with values; it draws in the right people who are going to fit. But that doesn't mean that everybody's the same. How do you support your team on a team level but also on an individual level?

Janice Dru-Bennett: I can jump in and share just a little bit about the work I do with meQuilibrium, where there's an individual assessment that every person gets, so you can see what your score is from a resilience perspective. That's one aspect of measuring where you're at as an individual and being able to see your own performance, whether it's how focused I am or how much energy I have, am I positive, or am I getting enough sleep—kind of being able to measure that yourself and then also being able to map that to the values. And so individually, I'm seeing that I'm scoring highly on this, and it aligns with the values of my organization. Being able to measure is the first step, like getting your baseline, and then you can take the action and continue to really identify the areas that you need to continue to improve on. Those are the steps we take individually, at our company, and with the companies, we work with to help support individual resilience.

Aileen Casmano: I've used SMART goals in the past, and I've seen that methodology work really well for myself and for other individuals. So SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Previously, I had the marketing team; we had a marketing team SMART goal, and then each individual contributor had a SMART goal that contributed to the team goal for the quarter. I also made sure to have my team have personal goals and ask them about them, check in, and just have a conversation about them to see if there's anything I can do to help or anything that the company can do, and just make the conversation easier about. It opened the door. I'm working towards this certification, and my workload is preventing me from finishing it or something. It just made them a bit more comfortable to share, and it also helped you learn about your team as individuals and what they do beyond work.

Patrick Garrity: One thing I did recently is, and I'll give credit to Adam Dudley at Nucleus, every single week, we have meetings on the marketing side, essentially for 30 minutes, and comedians on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We're a small team. There are only three of us; we'll have four soon, and other people are welcome to join. But at the beginning of the week, we read off to each of us what things we're going to be working on, and then we report on them at the end of the week. A few different things. If something's not on that list, it's not a priority. We're okay with saying, "Okay, let's re-evaluate at the end of the week whether we should do this or not." Sometimes there are time-sensitive things that we add, but it also gives an appreciation for the week, like, "Hey, I got this stuff done." And we've made progress because sometimes you can go weeks or months without really appreciating or understanding the things that have been accomplished and done. It gives a sense, especially with people like myself with high anxiety, that you need to be doing more, some things to think about as far as architecting and discussing goals in the success you're having on a consistent basis.

Peter Zaballos: We have the last two organizations I've run, we've fully adopted agile and marketing. I had product responsibilities, so we shared the agile coach with the product and dev teams. And that was super helpful because it did give you this chance to look at your forecasting ability over time. At the beginning of this, it was just a horror show; people were missing commitments by weeks because they had never done it before. But after a year, we got good at everybody knowing what I could take on this week or in this sprint, and we rolled it up to six sprint plans. We do what we call "release planning" for things like that, knowing that the confidence and the specificity decline as you go out. But that helped create this—I love this term, "resiliency." Because it let people try things, fail, and then realize, "Well, what did we learn there?" And "How do we recover from that?" And then, on the personal part, we would have a manager sit down with their employee once a quarter and map out a development plan for the quarter. And because we wanted to get away from an annual review, it is almost meaningless. We wanted to get more frequent feedback, so there'd be a quarterly development plan where they could say, "I want to take these courses," or "I want to have this kind of experience to help bolster me in certain areas." But then, weekly or once a month, you needed to pull out the plan and just talk about where you were on it so that, at least on a monthly basis, there was some sort of check-in. People need more frequent reinforcement about how they are doing personally on their development plans then annually or even quarterly is still too much, but between agile and these personal plans. We've got a lot of good feedback that helps support people.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Sharing feedback in real time is also essential to building good culture and having the context there. Because if you wait a whole quarter, somebody might not remember what the feedback is, and that's part of your accountability as a leader to share that immediate feedback, ask for immediate feedback, and check your emotions. Sometimes it's better to avoid that shouting match and say, "Let's talk about this later, but give the feedback when we're feeling a little bit more in control of our own emotions." Think about talking about health as well and really giving feedback and understanding that at different stages, people might be facing different issues. What's going on and why might this performance be lagging right now? So being empathetic is also another factor in resilience.

Kerry Guard: Let's talk about feedback for a second because this is important. You've all mentioned it in one way or another through this conversation, and we're here. Let's sit with this for a second because feedback is hard to give and receive. I'm reading a whole book about it right now on how to receive it, because no matter how thought for empathetic we are and giving feedback, it's just never taken well, especially when it's tough feedback. So for you all, what's your experience in giving feedback? How do you approach it? How do you lead with that empathy? How do you build it into your culture? People do know—what's going on? I think that can be good feedback, too. Feedback is feedback. You mentioned agile, Peter, and quarterly meetings, so people know: how else are you all delivering feedback? And how do you approach those conversations?

Peter Zaballos: It starts with you. You need to be able to admit you were wrong and that you've made mistakes to set a tone that there's nothing emotional. It can feel emotional, but there's a place to be able to say, "Wow, this didn't work out." And now, what are we going to learn from it? I've worked for CEOs who could not admit that they were wrong about anything, which was really unfortunate because they were wrong. And as a leader, you have to be able to model that kind of behavior, but that still doesn't make it easy to sit down and tell someone that it's not working or that something they did did not work. One of the tools we used in a previous job was something called a "nine box." So you measure people on a three-by-three matrix.

Patrick Garrity: I love the nine box.

Peter Zaballos: Their leadership potential and their performance, because there's a box in there for everybody except one. But some people are just really good at being individual contributors. Some people have management potential. But it gave us a place to say that this is not working, and why is it because we've asked you to do something that you don't feel comfortable with? Ambition-wise, is it because you weren't trained well, or you're not doing it? It just gave us a better metaphor for having a constructive place for feedback and placing it in the context of where this person wants to be, but I'll go back to it. All begins and ends with you. Sometimes you have to have a really difficult conversation, and you can't sugarcoat it. You can't check it out; you have to do it.

Aileen Casmano: Agree. If you have feedback, if something happens in a meeting or on a project, just hop on a zoom, hop on a video, and do it in real time. The longer you prolong it, the harder it becomes to do. But I like to establish with any new hire that we will have weekly one-on-ones, and that is a dedicated time for me to give you feedback and for you to give me feedback. Ask for it from your team. What can I do better to make you more productive and enable you to be more successful, supportive, or whatever it may be? Let the team know that, "Okay, this is our 30 minutes, and this is a feedback session, bidirectional." And that should make it easier to deliver and to receive. Giving feedback with also positive reinforcement touching on something that person did well makes it a bit easier to receive as well.

Janice Dru-Bennett: I just wanted to jump in and say yes, modeling the desire for feedback is critical. I let everyone know that I want feedback, whether it's positive or negative, and getting it as soon as possible also helps me. Just really asking for permission to give feedback sometimes can help as well. One tip I had heard was to always say "thank you" as soon as you receive feedback and teach others to say "thank you" when they receive feedback so that you can pause and think about it before jumping into a response, a rebuttal, or whatever it is that might come into your head for feedback. But having that openness for feedback is a way to open that door.

Patrick Garrity: One interesting observation on the feedback side that I've experienced is a little bit different. When you hire someone, you're setting pretty good expectations with them and bringing them on; at least, I do. I spend a ton of time on it, and I'll be explicit. Is that something that interests you? If not, I don't want you to take a job that's not right for you. One thing I found to be different is when you acquire an existing team and how, because the challenge is you might not even be aligned with their expectations and your expectations are of the role. I can't say I've done this, but you own it. I have done this, and it takes a longer period, but doing it earlier would be better, which means getting aligned with the role. Many times the person before you hired with completely different expectations than what you have of that role, and I found myself doing a little bit is realizing their skills aren't what I thought someone in this role would have. They have great skills. How do you apply those in the right places? So sometimes you're hitting a wall providing feedback when that's just not the skills they're experienced with. Being mindful in most scenarios, when you acquire existing teams that might have much different expectations, is something to be super considerate of. I've experienced it a few times now. If anybody else has an expensive grade point.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Patrick, if I were to tell you, my feedback is you're terrible coder and you're a marketer. That's not going to be helpful feedback.

Peter Zaballos: Going back to the modeling part, there was a member of the marketing team two jobs ago whom I just valued so much because she pulled me aside and said, "You should know that we have something we call a Peter filter on the team because you come up with lots of ideas, and you're always coming down here with ideas." We're super busy, and so we have to judge these ideas. You've got a lot to figure out which one of the eight you presented us with this week is worth even exploring. I adored this woman that took some real vulnerability and bravery. It was super helpful to me because then I could not see it anymore. I'm not gonna share this link. I'm not going to suggest this thing. It works two ways.

Janice Dru-Bennett: One coach said, "Your wants are that you can only see at most 80% of yourself." So having that mirror reflect that 20% that can help you really grow to that next level is critical.

Kerry Guard: In giving feedback, sometimes we tell people the challenges, but we don't always give a solution. So how do you support your team in that growth opportunity? What are some ways that you help them either rise to the occasion or learn a new skill through the courses mentioned? Is there anything else?

Janice Dru-Bennett: Sometimes, it's just showing exactly what to do. It depends on the level of who you're training to. Sometimes it's asking the question and seeing how their approach to answering it, and sometimes it is. These are the steps I would take. Can you model that?

Patrick Garrity: Yeah, rolling up sleeves. There are a lot of times when you can lead by example, and that can go a really long way with people, and coaching them as well. Because they might have ideas, and there might be some scenarios where you've got to figure it out and take the approach that they have expertise in, and then other things where it's like, "No, you need to do it this explicit way." So hop in the trenches.

Peter Zaballos: Give them the permission to fail along the way, or set their expectations that this is new, and then maybe increase the frequency you check in with them. Because it is new, or connect them to other people who are experts. Actually, I do that a lot. I joke with people that I spend 10% of my week connecting people I know with people they know. But if somebody wants to go do something they haven't done before or expand their skill set, a lot of times I will try and connect them to somebody, and I was doing that. Ready to let them have an independent source of guidance.

Kerry Guard: We talked a bit about accountability. I'm using that word. I haven't heard y'all say that, but we were talking about supporting an individual with a lot of the things you came up with in terms of goals, sprint planning, and one-on-ones. And all of that is in my mind, giving clear accountability signals. Would you all agree with that? Are there other ways that you let people know that they're being held accountable without necessarily micromanaging?

Aileen Casmano: There should be an understanding that we're all adults, and if you're leading a project or are responsible for it, there's an expectation to be accountable for it and deliver, and if they don't have that mentality, then they may not be at the right company.

Janice Dru-Bennett: People shouldn't be surprised, and that's one of the things that often happens. If I'm surprised as a manager that somebody's leaving, or if my person is surprised that we're asking them to leave, then something went wrong in that feedback process and accountability process. Clear communication, it's understanding consequences, having kids say, "If this happens, this happens," It's not necessarily micromanaging, but being on the same page, as it relates to consequences, is important in accountability.

Peter Zaballos: I love that, and Kerry knows I have a thing called a user manual. That's a one-page document that just explains how I behave and operate and how I expect other people I work with to. One of the statements in the user manual is that there are no penalties for action, but there are serious penalties for inaction. If you're waiting to be told, we have to have a conversation. But if you've run as fast as you can and used your best judgment, and it was the wrong path, at least you ran, and now we know something. You can't have surprises. Letting us know early that this thing is not tracking well is a lot better than the day before it's due and saying we are weeks behind.

Patrick Garrity: Move fast and break things approach. Sometimes you have people that maybe work for someone previously where they were taking orders of what to do. You have to break right what they know is another thing that drives an action. Inside, I'm very explicit, especially to own this thing, make decisions, and do stuff, and even if the outcome is 50% of what it could be, that's still way better than where we're at today. We're trying to move from about one out of 10 to three out of 10, and that's progress. Maybe a five out of 10 in continuing to move the needle so it's not obsessing about perfection more about action

Aileen Casmano: SMART goals really helped with that. Because if someone had 10 things on their plate to do, the direction given was aligned with a SMART goal. If it's not, then it falls down on the list and isn't a priority. It's giving that autonomy and ownership to make those decisions and use time management with the proper goal setting early on. Project management tools help so that you have a nice high-level view of what everyone's working on and make sure that they know the due dates and everything so there's no confusion on didn't know when this was due or didn't know it was assigned to me.

Kerry Guard: If it's not in our product management tool, it either won't happen or didn't happen.

Patrick Garrity: I'm the worst offender. I try to get stuff into a project management tool, but sometimes it's a hard. It’s discipline.

Janice Dru-Bennett: If you try to do it all yourself, then you will burn out. So that's something that you learn as you go from individual to manager to leader: how do you prioritize your own time and help your team prioritize their time so that they're able to split the work and not try to do it all at once, but be able to if your skill set isn't inputting your projects into your project management tool having an add part, the growth path.

Kerry Guard: Let's talk about the results of this. In the last few years, from mostly most companies being in person, most clients not seeing each other, and most cultures being unintentional, which we all talked about how well that goes, where you're not having an intentional culture to this shift, where we are being more intentional, where we are holding accountable because it's a hard shift to make for some people, especially when they feel they can't see their people, what's been the results of this kind of culture from both a company standpoint as well as a business standpoint?

Peter Zaballos: Two jobs ago at that company, I was at the marketing team and was able to achieve a 37% close rate from form submission to revenue for inbound leads, which is ten times the industry average, and that's because the team was empowered. They made mistakes, took risks, learned from failure, and successively ratcheted that conversion rate up over 14 months. It wasn't because I said to raise it. It's because of their curiosity; they were just an awesome team that thrived on curiosity and failure.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Just the results of good health, we've measured improvements in physical and mental health when you have that culture alignment, as well as reduce burnout of 60% is a stat that we've calculated with our clinically validated research. And then we've also reduced turnover by a pretty extensive amount, so those are all issues like absenteeism and burnout that you reduce, and then you increase productivity, performance, and results, like increased conversions and more sales.

Aileen Casmano: Employee happiness, employee satisfaction, and anything work-life balance can be measured, obviously, in team productivity. If teams feel their setups are of success, and they're all bought into a strategy and a plan, they'll naturally perform better.

Patrick Garrity: I agree. The aspect of quality of things goes up when you have the time to actually process and think about it. That's one thing that people don't quantify enough .You need downtime to be able to process things and think about things more strategically. The importance of the individual, mental health and happiness of employees is really important, too. When you ask the simple questions of, like, "Hey, are you going to be here a year from now?" and seeing improvements on that, so you want a place where people want to be. They have choice; everyone has a choice of where they want to work and what they want to do. It's incredibly important to prioritize people and culture in that way.

Peter Zaballos: The results flow from that. If you create that culture of trust and performance, then you're in a position to get awesome business results. You're also helping people achieve their career paths that they are naming their ambitions. You're helping them feel valued in what they do; you're helping them feel like they can take risks and be rewarded. Results are 100% a function of this culture you're creating for an employee to be the very best.

Janice Dru-Bennett: Resilient people lead to resilient organizations and we've seen that resilient organizations outperform in the market. So bottom line is perform for your people.

Kerry Guard: I knew it was gonna happen. Thank you all so much. I'm so grateful that you could all join me, Janice, Patrick, Peter, and Aileen. It's been an absolute honor learning from you all today.

Thank you to our listeners for joining us. If you would like to connect with Janice, Patrick, Peter or Aileen, their links are in the show notes.

Be sure to connect and learn more about the great teams that they're building and how they're doing it. You too, can build a resilient culture company and, ultimately, life.


Thank you again for joining us on this Tech Marketing Leader Roundtable. We'll be hosting this once a quarter so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don't miss the next one.

This roundtable was brought to you by MKG Marketing - the digital marketing agency that helps cyber security and data management platforms get found via transparent, measurable digital marketing.

It’s hosted by me, Kerry Guard - CEO and co-founder of MKG

Music, mix, and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

If you’d like to be a guest, please connect and send me a DM.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you all!

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