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How To Build a Great Culture With Scott McInnes – Founder of Inspiring Change

28 Feb 2022

The people behind the voices:

Scott McInnes

Founder and Director at Inspiring Change

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

The Employee Experience Podcast Ep. 6

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is Scott McInnes, founder, and director of Inspiring Change.

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is Scott McInnes. Scott is the founder of Inspiring Change. Working on the principles of Internal Communications, Employee Engagement, and Storytelling, Inspiring Change helps organizations to drive great customer outcomes by inspiring their people to change.

Scott is a passionate internal communicator and engagement professional who believes that people are at the heart of business success. Helping leaders and organizations to communicate with their people in a way that is engaging, authentic, and human is at the core of what Scott does.

For over 20 years Scott McInnes has worked in-agency and client-side with brands including Ornua, PA Consulting Group, Hewlett-Packard, Ulster Bank, AIB, and London 2012.

Based on a strongly held belief that a business’s success is driven by its people, Scott founded Inspiring Change to help organizations connect with their people in a way that’s clear, memorable, inspiring, and authentic.

About The Employee Experience Podcast

The Employee Experience Podcast, hosted by Gillian French, is a podcast series for leaders pursuing innovative ideas to engage and connect with their employees. We’ll speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Guests so far on Season 1 of The Employee Experience Podcast include:

  • Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at Vayner Media, on building the best human empire
  • Leslie Caputo, People Scientist at Humu, on empowering people to improve themselves
  • Gary Keegan, CEO at Uppercut, on the secret to elevating performance (Part One)
  • Gary Keegan, CEO at Uppercut, on the secret to elevating performance (Part Two)
  • Niamh Gunn, CEO of the Dialogue Code, on creating a workplace for Humane Leadership
  • Dave Ulrich, the father of Modern HR on shaping how people and organizations deliver value
  • Scott McInnes, Founder of Inspiring Change, on engaging people to build a great culture
  • Stan Slap, Author and CEO on the secrets to building a world-class company culture
  • Ryan Jenkins, bestselling Author on how to decrease loneliness at work
  • Margaret Heffernan, bestselling Author and CEO on how to improve the Global Employee Experience.
Full Transcript

Gillian French (00:02):
Hi, I’m Gillian French from Workvivo. You’re very welcome to The Employee Experience Podcast. We speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential. Scott Mclnnes has worked in communication for nearly 25 years. He founded Inspiring Change – strategic internal communications and culture consultancy. He works with companies such as Dixons, VHI, and Danske Bank among others. We are delighted to have Scott as our guest this week. Hi Scott. It’s great to have you here today. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.

Scott McInnes (00:52):
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Gillian French (00:53):
You’ve been working with global leaders, your culture expert, you’ve done close on a hundred podcasts on culture. What sort of common themes or insights can you share with us today?

Scott McInnes (01:04):
I think there’s all the really, really… The ones that keep coming up all the time, which are being more purposeful, being more authentic, do what you say you’ll do, leading with integrity, creating trust, all that kind of stuff keeps coming up all the time. But probably for me, the one big thing that organizations really need to think about, because every organization has a culture, because everyone does, but it’s just whether or not you choose to just let it grow and change and morph organically, or whether you’re much more deliberate about creating the culture that you want to have. So at the end of the day, culture is about how as an organization you deliver a strategy, but you do it in a way that really brings people on that journey with you and gets them to want to be part of that success.

Scott McInnes (01:50):
And being more deliberate about it is looking at, where are we today, where do we need to be, and how do we get there. The, how do we get there, that for me is about building culture, that for me is about what are those things that we need to put in place in our organization to make a difference, to really create that culture that people want to be a part of. And once they’re on the bus, if you like, as opposed to being on the steps or sitting at the bus stop, then they can help us on that journey. Then they’re there to help us deliver that strategic piece that we have to get to as organizations.

Gillian French (02:21):
Okay. And you talked about authenticity and purpose and that being really, really important, do you think leaders are able to actually articulate purpose or bring it to life for people? Or do you think… I was just from working with leaders myself, I sometimes find that they struggle to bring that to life. And then my following question from that is it really down to the leader to actually do that? Or is it down to us as adults to bring our purpose to the workplace and to line it up with the organization?

Scott McInnes (02:59):
I think your first question was, do leaders have the skills? I think some do and some don’t. I think that you and I both know that in the main part, people leaders are promoted into people leadership roles, because they’re very good technically, they’re very good sales people, they’re very good risk managers, they’re very good at HR, they’re very good lawyers or whatever they might be very, very good at. They’re very good at that stuff, but they very good at leading people. And there’s a line from David Brent in the office all the time that to assume is to make an ass of you and me. And we do assume, [inaudible 00:03:29] it’s only communications, everyone can do that, can they? And it’s a really dangerous thing to do because those people managers are the ones that we really need to get on board. They are the glue between the organization and their teams.

Scott McInnes (03:42):
When you’re at cubic telecom, you know there were a couple hundred people there. You probably knew most of them, you didn’t know them intimately, you didn’t know them really well, because there’s too many of them. The leaders are the ones that know them really well. So we have to support them, we have to give them the tools and the confidence to be able to deliver those messages really well because they’re the one that can contextualize and they can translate purpose and strategy. I’ll get to your second question now in a sec. They’re the ones that can translate and contextualize that stuff for their people. And that’s really powerful. That question of, what does all this mean to us? If the CEO or the CPO is saying, this is our purpose, what does that mean for us in the organization? What does that mean for us in terms of where we’re going, how we’re going to get there, what we’re going to do as a team, specifically on the ground, because that we know drives engagement as well.

Scott McInnes (04:29):
In terms of, should that be the role of people leaders or senior leaders, both is the answer. Senior leaders, CEO, Exco, whatever you call them in your organization have to set direction. Here’s our north star, this is the way we are going. How we’re going to get there is the role of leaders to have that conversation with their teams and work out between them. Well, what is it we need to do to deliver that? Now, I still think there’s that unfortunate thing where people leaders see their job as their job, I’m a risk manager, I’m a lawyer, I’m a IT person, I’m a whatever, and the leadership bit is kind of bolted on the side. No, the leadership is the role. But unfortunately organizations haven’t quite realized that yet. So we still have the leadership piece as a bolt on and not as the actual day job, which is unfortunate.

Gillian French (05:20):
Yeah. And I do think, when you talk about employee experience and people leaders do have the biggest impact, you have to get your people leaders right and because you can do lots of other things around the organization and implement various schemes, but if your manager is not going to you or you don’t get on with them, everything else becomes irrelevant.

Scott McInnes (05:41):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). But we put them into so much pressure. We put them under so much pressure. I’ve heard many terms for that layer of management, the Marzi pan layer, the permafrost, messages don’t get down and they don’t get back up again. Well, let’s ask ourselves, let’s stop saying those things and ask ourselves, why, why is that the case? How do we create? We talk about creating an organizational environment for people to be successful. Well, what’s the environment we need to create to help our people leaders be successful? Do they understand their role or are they just having to do the people leadership stuff? Oh my God, not that. Mary Davis, who was the very first guest I had on the podcast said, jokingly, “People think that you can do people leadership between 10 and 12 on a Tuesday morning.”

Gillian French (06:27):

Scott McInnes (06:27):
“I’ve done my leadership stuff.” And she was only half joking, but it is true. It has to be woven through everything you do, but we need to really support our leaders to make that happen or else it just won’t, because they’re too busy trying to do the day job, we put way too much pressure on them.

Gillian French (06:42):
I also think that people leaders, particularly at the moment with the environment as in hybrid or completely remote, developing their people in that way is very, very difficult. I’m hearing a lot of people struggling to, they’re hiring people and then they’re struggling to pass the probation. But I think it’s primarily due to the fact that we’re in this remote nature and training has become more difficult, onboarding has become more difficult, and it is, it’s more pressure, more stress for the middle managers and for leaders.

Scott McInnes (07:13):
Onboarding is a thing that we’re actually going to look at and inspiring change next year, because for me, that isn’t about policy see and procedure that’s about communications, it’s about engagement, it’s about purpose, it’s about how you bring people excitedly into a role. Yes, they need to know how to do the role, but actually I want them to know why they’re doing the role. And that’s a really important thing. Yeah. Training piece, the onboarding piece, is critical. And they’re not getting to do it as well as they should, but it’s easy to say, well, because we’re remote we’re not getting to do it very well, you’ve got to bloody change how you do it then.

Gillian French (07:47):

Scott McInnes (07:48):
Don’t keep doing the same thing. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing-

Gillian French (07:54):
[crosstalk 00:07:54] same behavior and expecting a different outcome.

Scott McInnes (07:56):
Yeah. Exactly. So don’t do that. Don’t give hope that we can’t do it because it’s hard because of COVID, think differently because it’s not going to go back to, you’re not going to go back to having people in the office 24/7. So forget that and think about, well, if we need to get onboarding better… Which by the way has never been particularly good, I don’t think in organizations, because it has been about policy and procedure and where to put your expenses claims and all that stuff, let’s make it more about the people and the difference they’re going to make in the organization and get them excited to want to be part of that team. That’s what onboarding should be about.

Gillian French (08:25):
And Scott, just with regards to culture, I mean, and we just tipped on it there, with every people in organizations changing now and operating in a hybrid environment or remote environment, do they need to do a full new cultural diagnostic? Do they need to think about their culture differently now? Are organizations going to fail if they try to just transfer when people were in the office, the culture that they had into a remote environment, and just doesn’t work? What are your thoughts on that?

Scott McInnes (08:56):
I think my thoughts are they need to have conversations with their people to find out what they want, what works, what’s going to get them through the next phase of work, because the chances are, this is going to be a change, it’s going to be here for a very long time. Now, we are not going to be going back to offices 24/7, 5 days a week. That’s just not going to happen, because you’re going to see, I think [inaudible 00:09:14] about the great resignation piece later, which I think is funny. But we’re not going back to that place. From a cultural perspective, yes, I think every organization you should be doing cultural audits to find out where we are today to see what we’re doing really, really well to hold up and celebrate that, to find out where the gaps are. If you don’t know something is wrong, you can’t fix it. That’s a fact.

Scott McInnes (09:35):
So until you do that audit to find out what’s going wrong, and what’s going wrong, not just organizationally, but within each team or within each division because there will be nuances there. And then the ability to give that data back to leaders and back to divisional heads and SLT members and say, well, here’s the story in your area. It’s slightly different between HR and risk and whatever else in the organization, you go off and have a chat with your teams and find out what it is you need to do to get the culture, not even necessarily better, because I think actually culture isn’t about maybe high performance or about being better or good. I ask that all the time, can you help us create a better culture? Actually for me, it’s about creating a more aligned and engaged culture. It’s about, do you know where we’re going and are you willing to help us get there? And that’s really important. And I think organizations do have to look at what it is we need to do differently going forward.

Gillian French (10:24):
So you think organizations kind of missed that first step?

Scott McInnes (10:27):

Gillian French (10:28):
And they’re trying to implement other things around that, but they’ve actually missed the fundamental step?

Scott McInnes (10:32):
Yeah. When do you ever bring your car into the garage and then mechanic can changes the spark plugs or changes an oil filter or does something else without first actually running a diagnostic to find out what’s actually wrong with the car. You go off, he could be fixing or she could be fixing the completely wrong things. Could be fixing things that are working absolutely perfectly. We just changed a carburetor, but only have that changed last week and it was absolutely fine. Well, oh, that’s what we thought the problem was. They always do a diagnostic first to find out, and maybe, plug it in a computer these days and it’ll give them a big report that says, this is what’s wrong with the car. Why would you not do the same with your culture in an organization?

Gillian French (11:12):
Absolutely. That actually brings me nicely to what I wanted to ask you, which was, from the outside looking, in my opinion, sort of pre pandemic, organizations looked like they had amazing cultures. You looked on LinkedIn and people were posting about their great cultures and lovely team days and things looked well. It looked like organizations were really focused on their cultures from the outside looking in, what’s your view? We’ve obviously had the great resignation now, so maybe things weren’t as good as they locked on the outside.

Scott McInnes (11:44):
So I don’t think that… I’m going to respectfully disagree with you if that’s okay.

Gillian French (11:48):
Of course.

Scott McInnes (11:49):
Horrifying. And I’m going to say, I don’t… I think the ones that Crow about an awful lot… I’m not throwing anybody under a bus here, but the ones you hear about, like you were saying there about LinkedIn or Workday or Google or Facebook, those people that we know in our LinkedIn feeds that are in those organizations, you know yes, they have great team days and everything else. But actually I’d love to know what the work ethic is like, because I know that in some of those organizations the work ethic is really, really tough. Yes, you have free canteens and brilliant team days and all that stuff, but actually it’s… They expect their pound of flesh in return.

Scott McInnes (12:24):
And I also think that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other companies out there other than the ones that we see in our LinkedIn feeds that aren’t focused particularly on culture, that haven’t been particularly focused on culture. It hasn’t been on Exco agendas and CEO agendas. Sure, here in Ireland, it’s only been on the financial services agenda for the past seven or eight years as a way of, the central bank saying, well, we need to change the culture in organizations to change the organizations themselves. So the banking culture board was set up to do exactly that. So they’re being almost forced into that culture journey in a way. For me, the whole idea of having a good cultural, high performing culture and aligned or engaged culture, if they haven’t hurt them, what COVID has done, is amplify that.

Scott McInnes (13:21):
So if you had a really good culture in your organization, it’s probably made it better and stronger. If you had a poor culture, it’s probably made it worse. The same with leaders. If you had really good leaders in your organization, it probably really held them up to be amazing, amazing leaders. I was listening to one of my own podcasts on the way in this morning with a guy called [Protesha 00:13:41]. And it’s really weird listening to your own podcast. It’s all a bit voyeuristic, but he had some amazing points to make and brilliant stuff, just… He said, I set aside an hour a week just to ring people and check and see how they are not with an agenda, not about work, but just checking in. Little tiny things like that that really good leaders are doing that poor leaders just aren’t they’re just not doing them. It’s really amplify that good and bad.

Gillian French (14:03):
And yeah, for me, it’s probably gotten down to the smaller things have become really important to people. Well, they’re probably always very important, but in this pandemic setting, it has amplified that. Is it possible though in large organizations to have those connections with people, make sure that everyone feels valued and make sure that you’re checking in with people? Like in large organizations where 2 or 3000 people, is it just not possible? Is it just not possible to create that?

Scott McInnes (14:40):
So organizations with 2000 people probably have 200 leaders who have 10 people each. And that’s 10 minutes times 10 people is 140, it’s an hour and a half a week say, or an hour and a half every fortnight. Is that too much time to ask somebody to invest in checking in with their people? Yes, I totally get that the CEO can’t ring, she can pick up the phone and ring 2000 people, but she has got 200 leaders that can. Or actually going back to your experience in Cubic Telecom back at the very beginning of COVID when your senior leadership team, if I remember rightly from our conversation on my podcast, you talked about the fact that the staff base was split up into groups of 10 or 12 or 15 people, and a list of people was given to each member of the Exco, and they were asked to ring them and just check in and see how they were.

Gillian French (15:28):

Scott McInnes (15:28):
So is it doable? Yes, absolutely is doable. And maybe you have to pick maybe in that organization of 3000 people, maybe it is the CEO, the Exco, and the next level down. So there are a 100 senior leaders ringing 20 people each, again, is that too much to ask? That somebody takes an hour and a half or two hours out of their week, which is probably a 50 hour a week, to ring people to check they are okay. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Gillian French (15:56):
Excellent. So, Scott, we talk about leadership and we talk about culture, and obviously they’re both intertwined, you’re a CPO or a HR person, and you’re trying to bring cultural change. If the senior leadership team or the CEO are not on the same page, is there there any chance for cultural change? Or does it really just have to start with the top?

Scott McInnes (16:17):
There’s no hope. If there’s no alignment between the CEO, the Exco and the rest of the organization, there’s no hope. And that includes your leaders and your people. I was talking about this the other day and saying, imagine if you were watching the… I watched a lot of the Olympics for some reason this year. And I was watching the rowing, and imagine you’re watching a rowing race, and you’ve got 10 teams of 10 people in 10 boats with 10 Coxes sitting at the back of each boat and the gun goes. And all the people in all the boats are all pulling the [inaudible 00:16:45] at different times. The Coxes at the back of the boats don’t really know where they’re going, there’s no lane markers so the boats know what lanes they’re supposed to be staying in and there’s seven finish lines, what’s going to happen?

Scott McInnes (16:56):
What’s going to happen is, a massive, massive crash, a mess, a lot of sinkings and nobody is really going to achieve anything. So having that single-minded focus from the top of the organization as to where we want to go and how we’re going to get there, which is having a great culture, that’s key. And that whole idea the, monkey see monkey do. If we don’t see that happening from the very top of the organization, then we’re not going to do it as employees in the organization, as simple as that. We really need to see it coming from the top. And you only look, recently, some of the stuff coming out and I know fake news, and I get all that, the media want us to hear what us to hear, but even if there’s a hint of truth, and actually a line I use all the time, perception is reality.

Scott McInnes (17:40):
If that’s what we believe to be perception, but this whole thing about, number 10 Downing Street having a Christmas party at a time when all this other stuff is going on, just astounds me, and actually it’s happening in boardrooms all over the place. There are boards having Christmas parties, and Excos having drinks together hoping that nobody will find out, and they will. So if you’re saying, let’s us limit the get togethers this year, limit the get togethers, don’t do it, act with integrity. I will do what I say I’m going to do, and that is so important.

Gillian French (18:17):

Scott McInnes (18:17):
So important. If that’s not there, nothing else works.

Gillian French (18:21):
Yeah. It’s nearly better not to have any values than to have values and constantly live against them.

Scott McInnes (18:26):
Categorically. They do way more damage, way more damage, to put them up there and then not live them.

Gillian French (18:33):
Yeah. And as we talk about leadership and senior leadership there and CEOs, what sort of role do you see the boards? I mean, it’s very rare, I’ve been at a board meeting and even a CPO, sometimes being asked by boards for updates on the culture. I’ve also been involved in some acquisitions and mergers and it’s very rare they ask questions about the culture. And that, to me seems very odd, because I think we all know that, the famous quote, culture eat strategy for breakfast, but the culture isn’t right in an organization and if it is right it obviously adds a lot of value.

Scott McInnes (19:09):
I love that quote and it’s become really cliched now, but I love it because it’s true. And that’s why it’s become cliched because it is true. Should boards [inaudible 00:19:17] culture? Absolutely they should, but it’s very hard. If you’re on a board, if you say to the CEO or the CPO, tell me about the culture. If you don’t have that plan for a very deliberate culture, if you don’t have an idea as to what your, as is culture is today and what you want your to be culture to be, I should probably think of a better way of saying that, that’s a really hard question to answer. What’s your culture like today? Sure you know it’s good. People are good. It’s positive good. Yeah. It’s a nice place to work.

Scott McInnes (19:51):
If I was a board member, I wouldn’t care less about that. Give the nitty gritty what’s working well, what isn’t working so well, what are you doing about it? And I think that’s, back to your earlier question, around diagnostics and working out, you know well, let’s actually get such an amorphous thing culture. It’s such a cloudy amorphous thing that people have trouble getting their arms around. Let’s bring a bit more practicality to it, make it a bit more real. Let’s put out a line of levers that we can pull to make our cultures more aligned and engaged and let’s work out the ones we need to pull first. That is a conversation that I’d want to be having with the board.

Scott McInnes (20:24):
But it’s interesting you should ask about the board because I was with a client a few weeks ago and they were going to their board with some thoughts on culture. The expectation, they thought of the board was going to be well, we own culture in the organization. The board owns culture in the organization, and we were like, no, you don’t. You’re there, you’re here in an advisory role, in an advisory governing capacity, you don’t own culture, because you’re not close enough to it. So should they take a very deep interest? Absolutely. Do they own it? No. No, they don’t. Needs to be owned by the CEO and the Exco.

Gillian French (20:55):
Okay. It is interesting though, because as you said, they’re about measurement, sometimes it is very difficult to measure things like culture. And as you said, how do you articulate, it’s a positive or a good culture? And yes, you can do diagnostics and stuff like that, but then sometimes you do have questions about, if it’s done internally, how relevant is it or how accurate is it? Are people honest if it’s a toxic culture and they’re afraid to actually voice up say? So things like culture and employee wellbeing and emotional connection, and sometimes some of the things that CPOs have to do, it’s unable to measure them.

Gillian French (21:34):
And I think that’s sometimes the challenge when you’re talking to board members or senior leaders, because they’re sort of like, if you can’t measure it, well, there is no value attached to it. But sometimes some of the more important things in life can’t be measured, like how do you measure your friendship with somebody? Or how do you sort of say, well, they’re a really good friend, but if someone said, right, we’ll put KPIs in place and measure your friendship over a long period of time, it’s a very odd thing to do.

Scott McInnes (22:00):
Yeah. And I think that when I look at, we do a lot of work with Dennison who have an organizational culture survey that we’ve rolled out to lots and lots of clients, and what they’ve done is over 30 years of research, it’s work out. Well, what are the 48 things that really drive aligned and engaged cultures? Friendship isn’t on there. So their research has thrown out. That’s not something that really drives cultures. Is it an important thing? Yes, of course it is. But is it something that perhaps organizations should be focused on? No, that would not appear to be the case. So you can… And look, Dennison is only one of those-

Gillian French (22:35):

Scott McInnes (22:36):
… Diagnostic tools, there’s plenty of other ones out there, but it’s something that you do need to measure. It’s something you do need some manuals on because that whole… Again, another cliche, what gets measured gets done is absolutely true, when we put some measurement around it and we can see. I had a client recently who wanted to jump straight into values, and I said, well, hold on a second because that’s, yeah, okay, it’s probably going to be an issue. But actually, is it the biggest issue back to the mechanics example? Is it the carburetor that’s broken? Or is it something else? And I said to them, do a diagnostic first, because not only will it tell you that your values aren’t great or they’re not being lived, but it’ll also tell you what else is maybe not going quite so well and actually what is going really well. And that gives you a line in the sand against which to benchmark future growth, future improvement. There’s a couple of positives in there.

Gillian French (23:28):
Great. Thank you. One of the other things I think that is critically important to culture is communication. And I actually think it’s something and I know that’s got your an expansion in the communication arena. Why do companies get it so wrong? I’ve seen it in so many, through my consultancy work and employee surveys. People always rate it really lowly yet leaders feel they’re worn out, they’re constantly communicating. So where is the disconnect? Because it seems like one of those things that, it’s easy to get right. I know it requires a lot of work, but it seems like definitely is a key contributor to employee engagement, at bringing your culture to life. So what are leaders getting wrong? And then what should they do going forward to really particularly now in this environment to get it right?

Scott McInnes (24:20):
I think there’s a couple of things in that question that spring to mind, I think.

Gillian French (24:23):
Sorry it’s very long-winded question.

Scott McInnes (24:24):
No. Great. There was about 14. That was like a nested, nested, super nested question. There is some really good stuff in there, and I think probably overall, I think it comes back to that point I made earlier on about assuming that leaders are good communicators. Leaders in my experience are not necessarily, there are some really good ones, don’t get me wrong, there are some absolute car crashes. The people just go, sure, that’s just what he’s like, or that’s just what she is like. Not good enough in my opinion, because they’re really important. So that’s not good enough to just say, well, sure, let them away with it. We need to give them better skills. When you look at Gallagher’s state of the sector surveys, worth a look, right? And that’s a global review of internal communications.

Scott McInnes (25:05):
And if you just Google, Gallagher’s state of the sector, and every single year, it comes up that leaders need to be better at comms, and every single year, it comes up that organizations aren’t investing money in that. And I’m like, it keeps… It’s been going for about 15 years, and it said the same thing every year. And I’m going, why are you not changing? Why are you not listening? Why are you not putting some money behind this? It’s incredible. Now, I do think that we need to think differently, not just about how we’re communicating, but why.

Scott McInnes (25:38):
I think back to your point about employee engagement, when you think about four pillars back to the work of Dave MacLeod, Nita Clarke, back in 2010, again, something else that’s well worth a look called, Engage For Success, was the report that they put out, they identified four pillars for engagement. One was a really strong corporate narrative. One was really engaging leaders. One was acting with integrity, and the last one was employee voice listening. Often we think that we’ve done a really good job at communicating if we’ve broadcast a whole load of information out to people. Well, I told you, therefore I’ve communicated. Have you listened?

Gillian French (26:13):
Yeah. Listening is unreal.

Scott McInnes (26:15):
Communication… That whole idea of employee voice. Communication is a two-way street. So it’s not just… But yes of course sometimes there’s going to be some broadcast. But back to your question about, is it leaders’ jobs or is it senior leaders’ jobs to talk about purpose and culture and that kind of stuff. It’s the role of leaders to say, well, you’ve heard the broadcast from the top, now, let’s have a conversation about what that means for us. That’s still communications. That’s still part of that internal communications gig, if you like. So getting that right is really important.

Gillian French (26:43):
So they’re missing that step?

Scott McInnes (26:45):
Yeah. And I also think that we’re still trying, I’ve been saying this for literally two years now. We are still trying to stuff the square peg of in person office communications into the round hole of virtual. So when we used to all go in on a Monday morning, at half ten for our team meeting and our catch up into the boardroom with a cup of coffee and we’d sit and have our chat, and that was great. It was a great way to get the week together. We’ve just taken that same half ten meeting with eight people and put it online.

Gillian French (27:13):

Scott McInnes (27:14):
We put it on Zoom or WebEx or Teams and then what we’re all doing is sitting looking at each other, having one to one conversations, because you can’t have the same interaction. So how do you that differently? And nobody is really.

Gillian French (27:26):

Scott McInnes (27:26):
Nobody is really thought of, well, do we need to change how we do that? Team, what do you think? Is Monday morning working for you anymore or do we need to do something different? I did a piece for a client recently where we were doing their, actually, their culture diagnostic. And I said, put something in the mail. We were talking about the plan around how we can get stuff… How we can get the message out to them to really drive the sign ups and the completion rate.

Scott McInnes (27:50):
And I said, put something in the mail. So we put a really nice little pack together, which may have cost a five on employee or eight credit an employee or something, a notebook, a pen, people have been saying, oh, it’d be really nice to have some stationary because we don’t have it at home. A couple of really nice branded pen, a branded notebook, a little card, an A5 postcard that said, I want a kit cat. So we put a kit cat, some teabag and [inaudible 00:28:11] of coffee in there as well, and said, have a break, have a kit cat. And when you are having your break, please take 15 minutes to fill in the survey.

Gillian French (28:18):

Scott McInnes (28:18):
Brilliant. It’s not rocket science. But really good comms isn’t rocket science, I don’t believe. It was just something different. It was something different that made people sit up and go, oh, that’s nice because we don’t get stuff through the mail anymore. Do we? We get it… It’s all on email or it’s all on Teams. It’s all on something else. And a little envelope arrives in [inaudible 00:28:38] a lovely surprise. And in that moment we’re asking you to do something that’s helpful for you in the organization. What a great thing to do?

Scott McInnes (28:45):
We need to think differently about that. We need to get our leaders trained. We need to recognize they are really, really important channel. We need to give them the information, we need to give them the tools, the skills, the experience, we need to buddy them up or mentor them or take someone that’s really good at comms and put them as somebody that isn’t quite so good at comms, give them support, put in a bit of a comms support network or do something to really bring those people leaders up because they are critical.

Gillian French (29:11):
Yeah. And I think that is, I mean, involving the employees is so important and hearing their voice, because sometimes as a leader, you think you have to have all the answers. And that was one of the key learnings for me as I developed as a leader is, absolutely don’t have to have all the answers and actually you bringing people together and you ask their opinion, come up with something that is way better than I could ever have come up with.

Scott McInnes (29:30):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gillian French (29:31):
But we so rarely do. We sometimes just think we have to have the answer and put it together and then put it upon people without involving them, which is quite demotivating [crosstalk 00:29:41].

Scott McInnes (29:41):
Absolutely. Well that’s… And exactly to your point about values early on, if your Exco just goes off to [Dru Glen 00:29:48] for a couple of days on an away workshop and then comes back with the values and goes, here is the values, go away and make them happen, please, people. It never going to work. I’m not going to want to own something I haven’t created.

Gillian French (29:59):

Scott McInnes (30:00):
Involve your people in creating the values. Ask them what they think is important in the organization, ask them what’s working today and what isn’t important, what do they feel is important. If this is where we’re going as an organization, what do we have to do all of us to get there? What do we feel is that we should be held to account for and what do we hold each other to account for? We let them tell us, is something we do with clients all the time, run workshops with all their staff. You tell us what you think, and then we’ll take that. We’ll synthesize that down and boil that down to the five or six things to maybe three values, four values that really came out your feedback. Then they’re theirs. Then hand on heart. The CEO can stand up and she can say, these are our values.

Gillian French (30:41):
Yeah. And I’ve done it both ways as in done the offsite and then done it very inclusive. I’ve done it a few times, but definitely including employees is the only way to go. And it’s funny that I think leaders sometimes feel, no, we need to get this done. So therefore they want the offsite and maybe just a smaller group to get it done quicker. But actually in the long run, it will slow them down, because they’re not going to be lived, they’re not going to be owned by the employees. And yeah, they just won’t be the engagement with it.

Scott McInnes (31:10):
My question is always, why do you need to go quicker? Like seriously, you are literally holding a gun to your own head.

Gillian French (31:19):

Scott McInnes (31:19):
Don’t go quick, don’t do it quickly, do it properly. Do it in a way that really makes those values sit in the organization. They’re going to be there for a long time. Those values might be there for five years. So why would you not spend 10 weeks doing it properly with your people in partnership with the people who are going to bring them to life. It just makes sense to me.

Gillian French (31:39):
Well, that’s what I wonder is there are wider global culture that feeds into organizations? And by that, I mean, this sort of always on culture, this culture of never switching off and always being available, getting things done quickly, getting out to market quickly. It’s all about speed. And that’s kind of a global culture in how we work that is probably then feeding the individual cultures of organizations.

Scott McInnes (32:05):
Yeah. Maybe. And I think then leaders… Something that I talk about in the podcast with guests all the time is self awareness and holding up a mirror and saying, is this the right thing to do? Because it’s in the moment, it’s really easy to see, let’s get this done quickly, let’s get this done quickly, but really good leaders are the ones that do take a step back and look and say, actually, this is really important, these are [inaudible 00:32:28] with us five years. Do we need to get it done quickly? Or do we need to get it done properly? But it’s not until you take that pause for breath and you go, I wonder. Step to the side slightly and look at the problem from a slightly different angle and wonder to yourself, maybe we should take our time. That pause for thoughts is really powerful and not often used, I don’t think.

Gillian French (32:52):
Yeah. Well, I think in your own life, some of the things that you’ve done, when you take pause and time, you generally make a better decision.

Scott McInnes (33:00):
Definitely. I remember one thing that a very good friend of mine said to me back in the IB, I was working on my own values and he’s an occupational psychologist. And I said, well, I’m going to treat others how I’d like to be treated, which is, again, this is like a podcast of cliches, and he said, hang on a minute, why would you think that anybody would like to be treated how you want to be treated? What about treating them how they want to be treated? Wouldn’t that be more powerful? And I was like, “Oh, yeah, I suppose it would be. Yeah, you’re right.” And from then I have actually gotten much better, because I don’t think generally were very good at it, but I do stop myself a lot.

Scott McInnes (33:41):
Sometimes it’s after the fact which is unfortunate as my granny, would’ve said to me when I was small and probably would still say to me now she is alive, son, you just open your mouth and let your belly rumble. It doesn’t go through the brain cells, it just goes straight from belly to mouth. I do suffer a little of that sometimes, but I have gotten much better, recently, at actually stopping myself either before or after and saying, was there a better way? Is there a better way to say this? Or unfortunately, was there a better way I could have said that based on the outcome that happened? So look, you live and learn, every day is a learning day.

Gillian French (34:14):
Exactly. Scott, what do you think at this moment in time leaders are missing? We’ve got the great it resignation, there’s a lot going on. What is the context or what are they actually missing?

Scott McInnes (34:29):
I think that at the moment, if you got virtual, it’s really quite hard to know, because we’re not necessarily asking the question. It’s hard to know what’s going well, what going isn’t quite so well with people. And I think that emotionally people are in really tough places, I think mentally people are in really tough places. I think they feel as though that they’re missing that connection to an organization and to each other. I think that’s really tough. And I think back to my earlier point, we need to do more. And again, back my earlier, earlier point, we’re putting a lot of pressure on leaders with a lot of stuff we’re asking them to do. I think we need to prioritize some of the people stuff that would be very, very close to your heart and very close to mind. We need to prioritize some of that stuff because that’s the important bit.

Scott McInnes (35:16):
If we can’t get our people in the right head space, the work stuff just doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen to the same quality in the same time with the same level of innovation and thinking and customer service. You talked earlier about employer brand and the employee value proposition and the employee experience, which drives the customer experience, that whole idea. I was in with the CEO of Life Style Sports and he said, what’s employee engagement? And I said, see if there’s one of your Saturday staff walking past a phone and they’re going for their lunch and they’re getting paid [inaudible 00:35:51] an hour, whatever they’re getting paid, beer or money. And when they walk past that ringing phone with their lunch, do they pick up the phone or do they not pick up the phone?

Scott McInnes (35:59):
Because if they don’t pick up the phone, that could be a customer gone. If they do that could be a customer won. That’s the difference between engagement and not for me. Do I want to do that extra little tiny bit? And that’s what leaders have to do now, is how can I just get people to give that extra little tiny bit? What do I need to do? What’s my role in making that happen? And people are tired. People are tired now, we’re heading to Christmas, we’re two years and this nearly and people are a bit sick of it. And I think that leaders have a big role to play in bringing people on.

Gillian French (36:27):
And really interesting, you said that about a customer and service because I believe it’s customer satisfaction is at an all time low, and t’s been the lowest that it has been in many years. So there’s probably a correlation between that and the great resignation, employees aren’t happy customers aren’t happy.

Scott McInnes (36:44):
Probably. And I think the great resignation is a hilarious term because actually it’s the great crap culture. That’s what it is.

Gillian French (36:52):
I can’t see that catching on, Scott.

Scott McInnes (36:53):
It’s not great. It wasn’t.

Gillian French (36:54):

Scott McInnes (36:54):
I should probably should have thought that through? Should I?

Gillian French (36:57):

Scott McInnes (36:57):
Okay. I great [inaudible 00:36:58]. The great resignation is probably… It probably trips off the tongue better, but actually the point… The question need to ask ourselves isn’t, oh my God, look at all the people that are resigning. Why are these people resigning? And I hear horrifying stories about people being made to go back to the office two days a week when they’ve been as if not more productive at home for the past 18 months, because their bosses just want to see them at their desks. That’s cultural, it’s going to… We need to create opportunities for you to talk to each other, to be face to face, but we haven’t been face to face for a year and a half and everything’s gone fine.

Scott McInnes (37:31):
As I said, and please do feel free to email me If you know of any companies that have gone under, because there are people who are working at home, let me know, because I don’t think any have, that’s not the reason that companies have gone under, because people have been working at home. It just hasn’t happened, and I’d love to hear if it has. But you know yeah, we do… The whole great resignation thing is about the quality of cultures in organizations, what type of a place do we want to be you?

Gillian French (37:59):
Okay. I have some quick fire questions for you.

Scott McInnes (38:03):
Sweet. I have some quick fire answers for you.

Gillian French (38:07):
So what is your favorite book, Scott?

Scott McInnes (38:09):
So can I pick two?

Gillian French (38:10):
Oh my God. Every guest I’ve had on has two.

Scott McInnes (38:12):
So I’m [crosstalk 00:38:13].

Gillian French (38:14):
Because obviously an issue, I’ll have to change my question.

Scott McInnes (38:16):
I’m not a big fan of business books, I find them quite hard to read. In fact, I’m going to accidentally pick three Patrick Lencioni, Five States of Dysfunctional Teams is really good.

Gillian French (38:28):
Love it. Yeah.

Scott McInnes (38:28):
Because it was written effectively as a novel, if you like, and written as a story.

Gillian French (38:32):

Scott McInnes (38:33):
And that’s something that we haven’t really spoken about. We might do that in a further episode, he says, inviting himself back, that was a really good book. I’m a huge, huge supporter of the idea of tone of voice of organizations, thinking about the words they use to help them connect to people a bit more. So We, Me, Them & It by John Simmons, who’s a good friend of mine. Also a previous podcast guest. If you’re into Tone of Voice, that’s a really good one to have a listen to. Really good, just really, really good. And I’m very passionate about Tone of Voice. And then the last one is, that was three books, actually, Bill Bryson Notes From a Small Island, particularly if you’ve ever lived in the UK, the view of a foreigner, of an American of what UK culture is like is just hilarious because it’s true. He’s a real noticer. A real noticer and it is just a brilliantly funny book.

Gillian French (39:25):
Great. Thank you. Leadership is a hot topic at the moment, what sort of leader do you think embodies the qualities of leadership we should see? What does good look like to you living our dad?

Scott McInnes (39:44):
I’m not going to pick Nelson Mandela or Richard Branson, some other cliched nonsense, because I think every leader has good and bad. I don’t think every leader that we would probably pick off a list of great leaders has always been a great leader. But I think there are leaders that need to have… For me, I think it doesn’t need to be a famous person. It needs to be somebody that’s really good at setting and agreeing objectives of people and then really good at helping them achieve those objectives. We call it performance management, which is awful, because it makes it sound like this dreadful process. Its not.

Gillian French (40:20):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:40:20] in a lot of cases than it is.

Scott McInnes (40:20):
Oh it absolutely is. Yeah. Ping pong, like sign this sign that, I’ll sign this, you sign that, it’s awful. Whereas for me, just that whole idea of performance conversations, how can I continually support you to get to where you need to be? Because if each individual on a team gets to where they need to be, so does every people leader, so does every divisional head, so does every CEO, it rolls back up the waterfall. So for me, a really great leader is somebody that can set direction and then support performance.

Gillian French (40:46):
Great. And then my final question is, what is your prediction for the world of work looking forward? what would be your prediction?

Scott McInnes (40:55):
You know what, it’s a great question and I don’t think we really know yet. I think that everything is still up in the air. What do I hope? I hope that, a term that I’ve been using recently is that, organizations need to paint the lines of the pitch for their teams, hand over the ball to those teams and say, go score some goals, because how team A scores goals on a Monday is different to how team B scores goals on a Monday.

Scott McInnes (41:19):
In fact, how team A scores goals on a Monday, a Wednesday or a Thursday or next month is completely different as well. So let’s give teams the trust and the flexibility, let’s get really good at communicating purpose and direction and mission and strategy. Let’s get really, really clear about those things. Let’s get everybody pointing in the same direction, and back to that analogy of the rowing race, let’s get everyone pulling in the same direction, but let’s do that with trust and let’s do that in a way that people know they’re trusted to just get the job done.

Gillian French (41:48):
Yeah. Great. Thanks so much, Scott. It was brilliant to talk to you today. I really appreciate you come in.

Gillian French (41:56):
Thank you so much for listening to The Employee Experience Podcast. Subscribe on Acast or wherever you get your podcasts and check out to find out more.

The people behind the voices

Scott McInnes

Founder and Director at Inspiring Change

Scott is the founder of Inspiring Change. Working on the principles of Internal Communications, Employee Engagement, and Storytelling, Inspiring Change helps organizations to drive great customer outcomes by inspiring their people to change.

A passionate internal communicator and engagement professional, Scott believes that people are at the heart of business success. Helping leaders and organizations to communicate with their people in a way that is engaging, authentic, and human is at the core of what Scott does.

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Employee Experience Officer

Gillian French is a veteran people leader and organizational behaviorist with over 10 years of experience as Chief People Strategist.

She is passionate about coaching, strategy, building resilient and sustainable organisational culture, and improving global employee experience. She has also contributed to Forbes and is a regular panelist on the future of work.

Gillian is also the founder and CEO of SISU consulting, a business that specializes in organisation development and design.