Episode #2

Graham Moody: Culture in times of growth and servant-based leadership

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In this episode:

How can understanding employees’ personal values help create a stronger and more self-aware workplace? What does it mean to reevaluate and change your company values, and how can you make sure employees connect with the new values? In this episode of the Human-friendly Workplace podcast, Graham Moody, People and Culture Manager at Ansarada, shares how to preserve culture during rapid growth and a business shift, and he explains the role of servant-based leadership.

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About Graham & Ansarada

Ansarada is headquartered in Sydney and has grown rapidly in the last 18 months, reaching nearly 200 employees while simultaneously pivoting its business model. Built on the insights of over 20,000 deals, the world’s first AI-powered platform for data rooms and material information helps companies involved in deal-making stay on top of material risks and opportunities. Serving as Ansarada's People and Culture Manager since 2011, Graham Moody has played a key role in the company's success.

Preserving culture & reevaluating values during a pivot

Having strong company and personal values has always been a priority at Ansarada, and recent changes posed a new challenge to the company culture: Ansarada went through a rebrand, a pivot on their approach to the market, and changes to their internal process all at the same time. This business shift made having a strong company culture more important than ever.

Graham sees culture as an experience, and he continually asks himself and his team how they can create those that get the best out of people because “inevitably that experience shows up in the products and services we provide to our customers.” And one of the key drivers of culture are an organization’s values. “Values drive behavior, and those behaviors drive results,” Graham says. When Ansarada started growing, the people & culture team asked itself if what got Ansarade where they were would help the company reach its new destination. It was a big question, but everyone was excited to tackle the challenge.

The key to the process, Graham says, was making it collaborative, engaging the entire workforce in this mission. “It’s their culture. And culture is going to happen,” he says. The people & culture team wanted to make sure it was an active part of the process in order to influence the culture to align its values tightly with their vision for the future.

The first step was diagnosing what values had enabled success in the past and which had been blockers. After brainstorming new values, they surveyed the entire team for their opinion. That ended up giving them some of the richest data in terms of what people think and feel about culture. It also helped Graham and his team formulate and propose alternative values, which they then sent out again for a final round of feedback.

“Values drive behavior, and those behaviors drive results.” — Graham Moody, People & Culture Manager, Ansarada

Culture and values are not static

Yet despite their efforts, Graham says, “We didn’t nail it.” His team ran surveys and focus groups after the launch that revealed it had focused too much on crafting a collaborative ideation process. When it came time to launch, there wasn’t enough follow-through to make sure the new values were really embedded. “We could have done more to really nail the expression of those values in terms of definitions; the meaning; what great looks like,” Graham says.

Nailing these expressions is especially important when it comes to communicating the new values to existing team members. People new to the organization were quick to believe in the new values, but existing team members were more emotionally attached to the old set and need more help to connect, understand, and express what the new ones mean. As Graham says, “People get really, really connected to culture and values and can be very protective of it if we try and change something.”

Regardless of the initial resistance to new values, Graham is still glad that Ansarada has the courage to continually tackle such a complex topic since many companies shy away from even addressing it. And not seeing company values as "once and done" helps to prevent silos that creep in when a company is growing. For example, one of Ansarada’s founding values was its connection to customers, and Graham noticed how “that connection to the customer started to fall away.” One of the new values exclusively focuses on everything Ansarada does for its customers, and with a 94% approval rating in surveys, Graham now sees how this value is helping close the gap between team members on the front line talking to customers and everybody else.

Servant-based leadership

“A lot of what we do, from an organizational people & culture perspective, is about making their [employees’] lives easier so they can produce their best work,” Graham says. And one the biggest parts of that is establishing servant-based leadership which stipulates that a manager’s first and foremost role is to serve their team.

To do that best, there needs to be a solid foundation of trust, which in turn requires transparency and leaders to be vulnerable with their teams. As Graham explains, by creating a deeper connection to your people, you can align what’s important to them to what their goals are, which helps you amplify the potential in that person.

One key way Ansarada leaders do this is by going through an exercise during the onboarding process using John Maxwell value cards. During this exercise, managers first narrow down their top five values and then share personal stories as to why these values are important to them. Leaders go first to establish trust, followed by the new team member. This is, however, never forced—it’s okay if someone isn’t ready, and more trust needs to be built first.

Leaders should also repeat the exercise at different points and follow up with questions like, “When am I your best in the context of your values? When am I at my worst?” Graham concedes this is a not insignificant time investment, but it is an essential part of manager’s toolkit. Really understanding what individual’s value leads to “a higher degree of engagement, commitment, and ultimately performance.”

Advice on creating a human-friendly workplace culture

Graham’s advice on creating a human-friendly workplace starts before you enter an organization: “It’s inherently hard to create something like a human-friendly workplace if the organization and the leaders within it don’t want to go there.” He strongly advises HR professionals to take the time to discover and probe what the fundamental beliefs and philosophies are of the organization they are considering joining. If they line up with your personal ones, it’s that much more easier and likely you will be successful in creating a human-friendly workplace. For Graham, that meant finding a company like Ansarada that shared his core belief: “If we really invest in people, it’s not just the right thing to do, but we reap the benefits of that through the performance of our business.”

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Jason Lauritsen

Keynote speaker, author and employee engagement consultant

Jason Lauritsen is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently.

A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits.