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Are Your Coworkers OK? How to Build Team Trust and Cohesion While Working from Home

Katie Stone, Ryan Simsich & Dave Drouin on The Remarkable Credit Union

It’s safe to say that almost nothing this year has gone according to plan. That’s not to mention that the days are getting shorter, and we’re all confronting the reality of winter in the thick of a pandemic.

So, how are you doing? How are your coworkers doing? Is everyone ok?

Chances are, everyone is not ok. While we can’t solve our coworkers’ problems (or some of our own problems, for that matter), we can be a positive force in their lives.

Our country may be fundamentally fractured, but at the end of the day, it’s the communities around us that matter the most: our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our coworkers. Credit unions are well-versed in the vital importance of our local communities. And the good news is, within those communities, we have the power to make things better.

PixelSpoke’s very own Joy Team—Katie Stone, Ryan Simsich, and Dave Drouin—join our Remarkable Credit Union podcast to answer this month’s BIG question: How can we create connection, trust, and dare I say it, joy, for our teams when so much more of our workforce has transitioned to working remotely?
 

 

Key takeaways

  • It’s important to create space for the casual interactions that are no longer happening! You can make more space in a number of ways, including in weekly meetings, daily huddles, and other standing company meetings to facilitate organic connection through humor, games, and icebreaker questions.
  • The biggest opportunity right now is to listen, listen, listen. Reality is changing so fast for our employees that how we support and lift them up looks different almost every month. We have a chance to really learn about individual preferences and tailor our engagement to them personally.
  • Listening mechanisms can be formal or informal, and having options for “headlines” or “stress level” in a daily huddle is a great way to get the pulse of the team, in addition to more standard surveys.
  • Most of our efforts that failed did so because they required the team to do additional work, like having clothing of a certain color, or filling out a tracking tool to encourage them to have better self care. Instead, creating space for connection without preparation (such as an icebreaker question) has been very effective.
  • Remote culture, like any culture, isn’t about creating fake happiness or joy; the key is to meet people where they are at, help them to find things that lift them up — for example, a gratitude practice, sending someone a meal, checking in to listen to someone’s challenges, or humor — and accept that we all need to engage with our emotions to be healthy and balance.
  • Is there an opportunity for credit unions to really focus on their employees? Even though the members are consumers, without an engaged and passionate workforce you will not be able to serve your members the way you want to.

Read the full transcription here:

Cameron Madill:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Remarkable Credit Union Podcast. We created our podcast to help credit union leaders think outside of the box about marketing, technology, and community impact. Each episode we bring on expert guests from inside and outside of the industry for conversations about innovation. Our goal is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual, and provide you with actionable takeaways that you can use to grow your membership, improve the financial health of your cooperative, and magnify the positive impact in your community.

Cameron Madill:
Today’s big question. How can we create connection, trust, and dare I say it, joy, for our teams when so much more of our workforce has transitioned to being full time remote? Today, I am really excited to welcome a group from our own company, PixelSpoke, which we have called the Joy Team. So they’re all pretty fun people, as you can imagine. And the Joy Team is made up of three individual folks, and we’re going to hear more about what they do at PixelSpoke, but needless to say, it’s become even more important in this primarily remote environment that we’re now in.

Cameron Madill:
On the call, we have Ryan Simsich. Ryan is an outstanding designer who has a graphic arts degree, which he said he found after his fine arts class he was taking, the professor, encouraged him to look into a different direction, and we are grateful of that professor. Ryan just says, creativity is his passion, and he’s always building and trying and exploring new things and in his free time, he seems to adopt stray cats. And most recently he showed us that he built a miniature model A-frame for a cat he’s adopted at his house.

Cameron Madill:
Katie Stone is our operations manager here at PixelSpoke. Katie has an MBA and has a number of fancy titles in her past, including being a Controller and Director of Financial Aid at other companies. In college, Katie was the captain of the lacrosse team at UCLA. We like to think of her as sort of the captain of our team here. And one of the things that stood out in her interview was Katie talked about watching, I think it was like the film was called Renaissance Man, and that I think she was eight, and she was like, that’s what I want to do. I mean, it’s part of why we love having Katie is she just has an incredible multi talented approach. Not many people can do joy and make the finances work.

Cameron Madill:
And last, but certainly not least, David Drouin, and our creative director here at PixelSpoke. He’s been here for over 13 years. So Dave and I have been through many journeys together. Dave is originally from Austin, Texas, and among other things in his career, at one point he traveled to Nepal as a journalist for an international coffee and tea magazine, where he was working as a creative director. He’s able to home brew beer. And Dave is deeply devoted to his wonderful wife, Amy, and the flock of animals that they keep at home.

Cameron Madill:
Ryan, Katie and Dave, thanks for joining us. So I’m going to start off. I can tell silently, you are all nodding and saying we are so excited to be here because we’re the Joy Team. Katie, I’ll start with you. Can you explain the purpose of the Joy Team at PixelSpoke and what kind of things were you guys doing before COVID really changed our whole environment?

Katie Stone:
Sure. I’d be happy to. Well, I just want to start by sharing what our written purposes and that is to ensure that PixelSpoke’s culture is intentionally cultivated through regular social activities and celebrations aligned with our emotional values of joy, curiosity, and authenticity, providing spontaneous points of delight for all team members and compelling visual reminders of key cultural tenets and core values. But what my husband likes to say is that we’re basically the party planning committee on the office. And it’s funny because it’s a little bit true, but I do like to think that we do a little bit more than that. Really, our purpose is to take care of our team members and help them take care of themselves. We do things like reminding people to use their vacation time. We focus on our core values. We reach out to teammates who are having a tough day and we really work hard to try to create opportunities to get to know one another outside of work.

Katie Stone:
In pre COVID times, we did things like acknowledging when a coworker has been out of the office by decorating their desk when they returned from vacation. We schedule quarterly team icebreaker dinners, which are an opportunity where teammates from different teams and of different tenures to get together and have dinner together and get to know one another better. We recognize birthdays, work anniversaries, and we made an effort to do what we call spontaneous delight for at least one PixelSpoker a month by just surprising them with a treat or something to brighten their day. We also have two team members who work remotely from their homes in Latin America, so to help build relationships with those team members, we scheduled small group, what we call virtual coffees, with them each month, where a couple of teammates would jump on a Zoom meeting and just spend some time chatting with our Latin American teammates. And then we plan quarterly team building events and monthly Margarita Mondays as other ways to just help build trust and connections within our team.

Cameron Madill:
So I’m so proud of all the work that you guys do. And a lot of this comes from, I remember, years ago, hearing it was like, hey, if you want to have a great company, you should have a culture of celebration and joy. It should really be something that’s just built into the company. And we’ve never really had a group like the three of you, that’s kind of taken it to the level that you have. And that brings me to my next question, which is for Ryan, which is that it just seemed like this was such a high-functioning part of building a cohesive high-performance team and then everything changed in March. So I’d love to know Ryan, how have you all changed your approach once we went to a full remote work environment?

Ryan Simsich:
Yeah. So our initial efforts were really around just getting people the equipment that they needed. We all sort of worked from home occasionally, but we had really awesome standing desks at home. So Dave did a great job of delivering everyone their desks. So they had a really awesome set up at home to work. Then we really noticed immediately that those random water cooler conversations were lacking. So meetings started becoming a little more personal, we’d extend the meeting an extra five minutes, sort of catch up on what are we doing in our personal lives? We weren’t getting those conversations just in the anymore. That really, I noticed a shift in our daily huddle, it just became a lot more personalized. We have one teammate who leads the huddle for a week and they just sort of put their own spin on it, which we haven’t really been doing in the office. I thought that was a really cool thing that we started doing.

Ryan Simsich:
And then as Katie mentioned, we have our Latin American workers who we have virtual coffees with and we sort of took that and brought the whole team. So we would all just sort of randomly meet up for 15 minutes, just sort of catch up with our personal lives. And I feel like that sort of created a shift in how we interacted with one another and also a shared understanding of what it’s been like for our full-time remote workers in the past. And then just, we had a lot of challenges with turning our in-person events, like we used to have team building events and all of a sudden we couldn’t really do that. We weren’t able to get together. So we had to figure out ways to make that virtual. We’ve recently tried doing picnics, or we did a corn maze recently, just ways that we can really stay physically connected, but use that social distancing that we’re supposed to be using right now.

Cameron Madill:
Right. And everyone’s got a different level of comfort with that, which I know is a whole nother, makes it even harder to kind of figure out what works for everyone. On that note, Ryan, I’d love to hear what things have worked really well in a remote environment and what ones haven’t worked as well? Because I feel like we’re all kind of using a new playbook right now and figuring out as we go along.

Ryan Simsich:
Yeah, totally. So we tried a bunch of different things and I think in the past seven months, what I’ve come to realize is the things that work really well are when we’re not asking the teammates to do additional work. So less prep. Started doing this thing, we call it the Friday question. So in our morning huddle, we just ask an ice breaker. The whole team is together, so it makes our huddle a little bit longer, but we’re able to just sort of connect with one another, create some team bonding. We also once a month, I think, we’re taking over the huddle and playing a game that’s 30 minutes long. Totally just sort of sets the tone for the day. We play a game, laugh a bunch of jokes with one another, it’s pretty great.

Ryan Simsich:
We created the PixelSpoke time, which is a newsletter that we tried to create, a fictional newsletter where we just sort of made fun of sort of some of the things that happened at work over the past week, then making sure everyone’s in on the joke, but it started being too much work. So that sort of phased out. As I mentioned, we had an in-person picnic. We went to a corn maze. The picnic was great, but it also, I sort of recognized some people weren’t comfortable being in that environment. So how do we make sure that we’re being inclusive of everybody by having events. We started inviting Jeff to our Joy Team meetings just so we could get a different perspective from teammates. The three of us don’t know all the answers. And then we have virtual coffee tag, which is going really great. It just kind of puts accountability. You schedule a meeting with someone to have a coffee break, and then they’re responsible for tagging someone else in a coffee break. So it keeps that momentum going and ensures that everybody gets involved.

Ryan Simsich:
Some things that I don’t think work very well is, as I said earlier, if we ask people to do more work, I feel like it just adds stress to their day. So things that required them to do work, I just feel like didn’t really work. We had [inaudible 00:08:59] days where we’d ask people to say, dress in orange for the go meeting. And that’s the thing to require too much work from people. We tried to create a Slack channel where we could just have conversations and that didn’t really work, or a Dropbox where we could drop little gifts for one another, virtual gifts. And those things just sort of didn’t seem to take off. But I really think it’s just requiring additional work in their workday.

Ryan Simsich:
We have Margarita Monday, which was something we were doing once a month in person. And that was really successful in person. And we tried to do that virtually where we would meet on a Zoom meeting and have a cocktail together. And I feel like that’s just added additional work to people’s day. Sometimes people would come, sometimes they wouldn’t, but people didn’t really want to be on camera anymore, I felt like. We also started a 50 for $25 program where people would be rewarded for just taking care of themselves. And I felt like that was really successful the first time we tried to do it. And then we tried to do it again and just sort of phased out.

Cameron Madill:
Yeah, I appreciate all that perspective, Ryan. I know this question of how do we create or mandate fun or joy or connection in the workplace has always been hard. I remember being in a meeting years ago with a bunch of other basically marketing agencies, there were a few different kinds of businesses and one person there was just complaining about how there just wasn’t enough fun at work. And so they created a fun committee. And I remember just thinking like, well, that sounds like not a fun thing at all. And so I think that tension of how do we create that and facilitate that authentically without, as you said, asking people to do more work and then it just feels like work is trying to take even more from you.

Cameron Madill:
On the topic of fun, Katie, I’d love to know how do you measure success? You and I are both metrics people. Nothing’s more fun than numbers, at least maybe for you and me. So how do you guys manage that? This is a really kind of hard to quantify thing, but it seems like without some kind of clarity on what we’re trying to accomplish and some feedback loop. So I’d love to know. Do you guys have any key metrics you keep yourselves accountable to?

Katie Stone:
Yeah. We have a pretty complicated system where we track the number of smiles in each meeting to determine how successful we are. I’m kidding. But in all seriousness, we do have some ways to measure our efforts, but they’re not super formal. So for instance, we check in on each team member’s stress level each morning in our daily huddle meeting. Every teammate has the opportunity to share how stressed they’re feeling. So that’s one way that we, first of all, to see how teammates are doing, but then also measure how our efforts are coming off. We also kick off each of our Joy Team meetings, and we meet weekly, by sharing headlines, which are basically brief snippets that reflect what each of us are seeing from the team.

Katie Stone:
So who seems like they’re having a rough day? What initiatives seem to be well-received? What feedback each of us may have received from other team members? And things like that. So that’s another way that we can kind of gauge how we’re doing and where we need to focus our efforts. And then early in the pandemic, during our weekly all team go meetings, those status meetings Brian mentioned, we also ask team members to share one thing that prevented them from taking care of either themselves or someone else in the previous week, which was another way for us to get feedback and see where people are struggling.

Katie Stone:
And then finally, we also hold a Q12 survey at least annually, to get feedback about our culture, which is another important feedback mechanism for us. So yeah, as far as key metrics go, we’ve been really kind of tactical about our efforts and less strategic about measuring our success. But we did recognize kind of early on in the pandemic that it was important to ask the question, how do we know if our efforts are successful? And those are kind of the measures we put into place to try and track that.

Cameron Madill:
Can you let us know what Q12 is, Katie?

Katie Stone:
I will do my best. Q12 is a survey put out by Gallup that asks 12 questions that are used to measure how engaged your team is. So the questions, they kind of range, but they ask things like, do you have a close friend at work? Do you feel supported at work? When was the last time someone checked in with you? And various things like that.

Cameron Madill:
Dave, I’d love to know, how do you guys prioritize your initiatives on the Joy Team? Because there’s just so many other demands, you guys all have another full-time job and there’s so many options out there for how to spend your time.

David Drouin:
Well, Katie and Ryan are part of this team, which is awesome. Sometimes we do need to enlist other folks for leading a company event or soliciting their ideas for things that we could be doing. So just distributing some of that effort, create some space for the Joy Team folks if we need it. And it’s just a much more cooperative approach to owning the environment that we’re all living in right now and kind of what we want to create as a company. So whether or not it’s me doing it or Katie or Ryan or someone else, I think the most important thing is just that we’re continually giving attention to fostering this environment.

Cameron Madill:
And I guess I’d like to hear, maybe I’ll start with you, Dave, what are some of the ideas you’ve heard about other companies doing that you wish we could be doing at PixelSpoke?

David Drouin:
Yeah, well, I was kind of hoping we could just use this podcast episode as a platform for soliciting new ideas. So if you’ve got any, let us know. But I think the big adjustment that we’ve been facing this year is just like many other folks around the world, is just transitioning to this all remote situation. And since we do have some full-time remote team members, even before the pandemic, we’ve been looking mostly to full-time remote companies and just trying to gain some creative ways of connecting their teams that’s worked well for them.

Cameron Madill:
And Katie, do you have anything you’d like to add?

Katie Stone:
I just would say that I think we’ve been really fortunate to work in a small and kind of nimble environment where we have a lot of flexibility and a lot of support for our Joy Team efforts. And so I really feel like for the most part, or maybe completely, we’ve been able to take ideas from other companies and either just go ahead and implement them or we’ve been able to adapt them so that they work for a company, for our size or our budget. So I haven’t really felt like there have been a lot of things that we’ve seen out there that we wish we could do because we’ve got a lot of flexibility and creativity to more or less do the things that we feel will really help support our team.

Cameron Madill:
Great. Ryan, anything you’d like to add to that?

Ryan Simsich:
Yeah. So just, I think the benefit of being on the Joy Team is if I hear a great idea, I bring it to Dave and Katie and we really figure out a way to make it work. I’ve heard of companies that are doing these group video work, where they work on camera, but muted. So they’re just like in the same room together, but silence and I think that’s really interesting. That’s one thing I really miss about being in the office is just a random, being able look over my computer and see Cameron for example. But I don’t know that Dave really wants to be staring at me on mute all day.

Cameron Madill:
Right. Yeah. I mean, I feel like a lot of this really has come down to, and I’ve just been blessed. So many people from my network have reached out about things they’ve heard about us doing on social media or other places. And it does seem like so much of it is how do we recreate some of the natural points of connection that just happen when you have shared space that, at least to me, Ryan and I did use to face each other, so he would get to literally see my face if I stood up or something like that.

Cameron Madill:
But yeah, it just seems like the video version of that is maybe a little creepy. Maybe it works for some companies. And so trying to adapt to the new setup. So I’d love to know, again, I’m just immensely proud of all the work that you guys have done. And we hear it continually from our team and I hear it from people in my network, but I’d love Katie, if you could share a little bit about what are the limitations to this approach and what are some of the challenges that we’ve had as a company culturally in 2020, it’s not been an easy year for us. And I think really anyone that I know.

Katie Stone:
It was Ryan who kind of already touched on this a little bit, but one of the biggest limitations is that we are only three people trying to come up with ideas for the whole company. And then at a certain point, we just might run out of steam to come up with new ideas and we run the risk of running out of time and energy to execute on them. And also the Joy Team model assumes that the three of us are interacting with the broader team enough to know what is going on with them. And that’s a challenge in normal times, but I think even greater in a fully remote environment where it’s less likely that we’re just going to be kind of organically and naturally interacting with everyone and having those water cooler conversations. To combat this though, we have sent out surveys to the team about what’s working, what’s not, and what they’d like to see from the Joy Team. And Ryan mentioned earlier, we’ve also started inviting guests to join our Joy Team meetings and infuse new ideas and energy. So that’s helped in that respect a great deal.

Katie Stone:
As far as cultural challenges go, I think the biggest thing that comes to mind for me is just the challenge of maintaining work life balance during this pandemic. I think that we just weren’t ready to deal with the very real intensity of COVID and issues like black lives matter and George Floyd’s murder, the reality of racism in the United States and all of the other stressors that we’ve individually and collectively taken on in the last six or seven months, in addition to our normal work life stress. And so I think that’s the biggest cultural challenge I’ve seen from our team is just how do we create that balance and stay mentally healthy through it all? And then the other thing is that I don’t think we’ve really found a great solution to, is figuring out how to battle video and Zoom fatigue. It’s a really big challenge to get people together and to build connections remotely, and to do that without further overtaxing people with additional Zoom calls and video time, it can be a real challenge.

Cameron Madill:
And Katie, you didn’t even mention the catastrophic forest fires we had here in the Northwest where it was like 10 days, we had like the worst air quality in the world. Yeah, it’s been seemingly one thing after another and we’re actually going to do a company retreat in six weeks and we’re really going to test, how can we create some of these things in an environment that works so well when we’re in person and how do we create that balance with people’s personal lives when they have less available, dealing with video fatigue, when that’s our primary way to connect. It’s definitely a year that is bringing out a lot of creativity.

Cameron Madill:
Dave, I’d love to know a little more about what joy means to you, as our first core value is enjoy the journey, so it was part of one of our core values. But I’m curious, is there a dark side to emphasizing joy as part of that core value?

David Drouin:
Yeah, to me, the joy aspect is all around intention and kind of setting things up for success. And then you mentioned a bunch of different scenarios that we’ve all been dealing with on some level. So a lot of it is just kind of figuring out ways to adapt to those and really listening to kind of what the need is at the moment. Katie mentioned a few challenges with that, but just kind of really actively focusing on creating that environment that’s going to allow joy to take place and then just kind of owning how we show up in that particular situation. So I think the only dark side that I can really think of is just forcing it. This is definitely not about fake smiles and showing up and you must be happy all the time. To me, it’s more about gratitude and just fostering those environments for ourselves, but also for each other, that’s going to allow this spontaneous stuff to take place.

Cameron Madill:
Great answer. I wholeheartedly agree. As someone who I have own tendency towards emotional suppression and kind of thinking, I should always be happy and show up in a certain way and it’s a fine line, but I think you’re right, that we can sort of garden, we can cultivate an environment that leads to those spontaneous moments of joy and connection. Speaking of spontaneity, so I mentioned said anonymous company where they had a fun committee. One of the other things that made me, I don’t know if this makes me a bad person, but I chuckled a little bit was, said company owner assigned people to be on the fun committee. So not only was it a committee about fun, it was mandatory. And so that seems like kind of contradicting the spirit of it. So you three all volunteered to be on the Joy Team. And you all have really interesting backgrounds. I’d love to hear how’s it connect to your past experiences and your passions? And I’d like to start with Ryan.

Ryan Simsich:
My natural state is just optimistic and joyful. I’m always trying to be the jokester in the room. And I assume that’s what the Joy Team was, was being the cheerleader at work. But once I joined the Joy Team, I realized it was way more than that. It’s really just sort of about eliminating obstacles that are within the Joy Team’s control to ensure that all of our teammates are really enjoying their workday. Having joy is really different for everybody. And I love seeing how we can be inclusive of everyone. Not everyone wants a party, not everyone wants a gift card. And I just think that it’s really awesome to see how we can take our own personal experiences and our diverse ways of celebrating and bring that to the company. I love the work that I do. I just love my job. And I don’t think that everyone loves the work that they do per se. So I think just sort of being inclusive and sort of recognizing that certain people need different attention in order to ensure that they’re enjoying their workday.

Cameron Madill:
Great, thank you. Katie, what about you? Why did you want to join the Joy Team?

Katie Stone:
I think it was about two years ago now that I started looking for my next job and I eventually found PixelSpoke and there were really two things that I was looking for in my next workplace. And that was really good leadership and a really great culture. And what excites me about the Joy Team is that now I get to have a hand in creating that culture. My personal, I guess work passion, is trying to find ways to lighten the load for my teammates and remove obstacles for them and ways to make work easier and more fun. And that’s what I get to do in my role as operations manager, but it’s also such a big part of being on the Joy Team is just bringing or developing a culture where our teammates are excited to go to work and excited to spend time with one another.

Katie Stone:
And the other thing I just want to mention is that our Joy Team meetings are so much fun. I enjoy my, it’s about 40 minutes once a week with Ryan and Dave, immensely. We have such a great time just coming up with creative and oftentimes silly ideas. And some of them we scrap and a lot of them we push forward with and roll out to the team. And it’s just always one of the highlights of my week. And I just hope that the rest of the team also feels the joy when we roll out these various initiatives to the rest of them.

Cameron Madill:
Yeah, we definitely do. Although we get a little jealous when we hear how much fun your meetings are, it makes all of us want to up our game. Dave, what about you? Why did you want to join the Joy Team?

David Drouin:
I mean, I don’t know, maybe I’m the kind of person that wants to join the Joy Team, it just sounded like a great thing to do, but honestly I enjoy the work that I do every day for our clients, but what’s really most important to me are the folks that make up the company. And that’s been common through the entire, almost 14 years that I’ve been at PixelSpoke and we have this opportunity to sort of create whatever the environment is that we want for ourselves. There isn’t this directive of, okay, well go be joyful and make this happen. I don’t know, it’s much more organic and we’re not held back by anything to create the environments that we want.

David Drouin:
In previous jobs, there’s all the usual kind of stuff of environments that are based around fear. Am I going to lose my job? Do my coworkers have my back? And then Katie kind of mention this, so we just have this opportunity to remove obstacles for folks and just kind of focus on the experiences. And that’s really what I care about. Honestly, that’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night and that’s what gets me out of bed every day, is kind of figuring out what we can do to make things just a little bit better for folks.

Cameron Madill:
Awesome. Great answers everyone. Katie, I’d love to know, what do you think are the opportunities and limitations of this approach for our credit union clients? Obviously it’s a, the audience probably knows, we are a proud worker owned cooperative as of January 1st, 2020, but credit unions are a consumer owned cooperative and just very different business model. So some of the things that we do might not work and I’d love to hear your thoughts on kind of what may or may not be applicable?

Katie Stone:
I think that the biggest thing that the pandemic has forced our Joy Team to do is to listen to our teammates more. Find out what do people need? What is the pain? What are people asking for? It’s been a really big opportunity for us to listen and be more in touch with our coworkers and what they’re going through. And I think that credit unions have that same opportunity right now, both with their membership and with their employees. It’s the chance to ask the questions, how can we lighten your load? How can we support you? And how can we build relationships remotely and digitally?

Katie Stone:
With a credit union’s focus on serving the underserved, I think this is a real chance to put some serious effort into cultivating that culture further and just asking their stakeholders what they need and then seeing how they can meet them there. As far as limitations go, I think that the biggest thing is that PixelSpoke is a really small team and we have built really strong connections with one another, which has made it, I think a little easier for us to pivot in this more remote environment. And it just might be a challenge to replicate that across a larger organization or membership. But I’d love to hear kind of what your thoughts are too, Cameron.

Cameron Madill:
Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, I think what I’ve been hearing from credit union colleagues and also just all of their businesses, is I think exactly what both of you and Dave and Ryan has said at different points on this interview of, I think now more than ever really listening to our employees. It’s just such a fluid, rapidly changing environment. I’ve never seen anything like it, even 2009, though that was a different kind of stress. It felt like it had more consistency, I guess. I just feels like every day I’m like, what’s next? I think one of the core challenges that any credit union faces, which is part of, as you said, Katie, the beauty of the model, is a consumer cooperative is built around really putting that consumer, that customer, that member, whatever they’re called, upfront and center, and they’re the hero and you build everything around them.

Cameron Madill:
And the risk is that you put so much emphasis on the member that you forget about the employees. And obviously if you don’t have employees, you can’t serve the members. It’s kind of like the reverse that when we were looking at becoming a worker cooperative, we heard that the worst worker cooperatives are the ones where all they did were about the workers and they just didn’t care about their customers, they didn’t care about their community, it was just all about the workers. And so I think just making sure that we’re keeping that healthy balance and knowing that our employees have literally never gone through anything like this and things that used to work in the past might not.

Cameron Madill:
And I think similarly, like I was just scribbling notes, I feel like part of the magic of the Joy Team for PixelSpoke is like, I don’t know, Katie, it’s like, you’re the team captain and Ryan, I’m going to call you the cheerleader because you called yourself that. And Dave, you might actually just be like the therapist or the empathetic neighbor. You guys all bring such, such heart and connection to it. And I think centering in those things has allowed you guys to find so many innovative ways to connect with our team, that every challenge is also an opportunity. So I think that’s where just listening, listening, listening is what I see being the core of this.

Cameron Madill:
All right. So I would love to just quick close. This is an inside joke. I know you guys all love being put on the spot. These are all very thoughtful, prepared people. I just would like to know, is there anything else that you didn’t get to, that you’d like to reiterate, or leave our audience with, and I’ll just go around and then we will close. Dave?

David Drouin:
Yeah, I guess I would say most workplaces are really kind of, have folks who are wanting to do this kind of work. And so I don’t know, I would keep an eye out for your Katie’s and your Ryan’s of the world and let those folks do that work and let them kind of lighten up the workplace and make it better. I was in a discussion recently with someone that I really respect and they had this concept of cooperating with your intention. And basically the idea is to listen and to have empathy for yourself and for other folks, and then just actively working on this environment that you’re trying to create. So as we discussed earlier, we don’t have a whole lot of control over lots of things in life. I think we can actively push on ways to open up that space for experiencing gratitude and moments of joy that can apply to the workplace and life at large.

Cameron Madill:
Katie and Ryan, anything either of you guys would like to share?

Katie Stone:
Yeah, sure, I’ll jump in there. I think the recording this podcast just has made me realize how critical to our efforts, innovation and creativity has been. I think the biggest thing we can do right now is just continue to push boundaries and see what, focus on what we can do rather than what our time budget or our remote environment prevents us from doing. I think we’ve been really innovative in trying to replicate, or I guess even resemble some of our in-person, in our reactions, in a remote environment. And I think we’ve been really successful by just continuing to push ourselves to figure out how can we do this in a remote way.

Cameron Madill:
One, when we were talking about things that I’ve seen other people do that I want to do, one of the things I thought that was brilliant, that I think you guys brought in originally, it became an ice breaker was, go grab something from your house and share it. Something of sentimental value and just share it. And one of the things I want to do, which we might do at the retreat or somewhere is have people do virtual house tours. And I think that while there’s a lot we’ve lost with a full-time remote environment, there’s a lot of stuff that I feel so much more intimately connected to people. Like Katie, your kid runs through the video screen every so often. And I just feel much more connected to people on a personal level. And I think you’re right, that that creativity and innovation is the big opportunity. Ryan, any words of wisdom you want to leave us with?

Ryan Simsich:
Yeah. If I had more time, I would’ve come up with a cheer. I just think really recognizing and celebrating the personal passions of your teammates. That’s a big part of what we do. As I said earlier, we all celebrate differently, so don’t force it and really just listen to everybody and hear their different perspective.

Cameron Madill:
All right, awesome. Thank you all for joining us today for another great episode. And until the next time, I wish you the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.

Cameron Madill:
All right, Dave, Katie and Ryan, thanks so much for joining us. I’ve really enjoyed having you on. All right, let’s go to my key takeaways. First one is just, it’s really important to create space for the casual interactions that are no longer happening. You can make more space in a bunch of different ways, including weekly meetings, daily huddles, and other standing company meetings that facilitate the organic connection through humor, games, and ice breaker questions.

Cameron Madill:
My second takeaway was that the biggest opportunity right now is to listen, listen, listen. Reality is changing so fast for our employees, that how we support them and lift them up looks different almost every month. We really have a chance to learn about individual preferences and tailor our engagement to them personally, right now. I also thought it was really interesting to think about listening mechanisms and whether they are formal or informal. And so having options for things like a headlines or stress level section in a daily huddle can be a great way to get the pulse of your team, in addition to more sort of standard formal efforts like surveys.

Cameron Madill:
I also thought it was interesting just to kind of be open about our successes and failures and the ones that we’ve really seen failures have had this common theme where we required the team to do additional work, having clothing of a certain color, I failed at that one. I don’t own anything that’s orange, filling out a tracking tool to encourage them to have better self care, and things like that. And then instead of just creating that space for connection without preparation, such as ice breaker questions has been really effective.

Cameron Madill:
I think this point that remote culture, like any culture, is not about creating fake happiness or joy, is especially important right now. And the key is to meet people where they’re at, help them find things that lift them up, for example, a gratitude practice, sending someone a meal, checking in to listen to someone’s challenges, or even just humor, and accepting that we all need to engage with our emotions to be healthy and balanced.

Cameron Madill:
And then lastly, just intrigued by this question of, is there an opportunity for credit unions to really focus on their employees right now? Even though the membership of a credit union are the consumers without an engaged in passionate workforce, we won’t be able to serve the membership in the way that we really want to. All right, thanks again for joining us for another great episode. Until the next time, I wish you all the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.

 

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