Ep #48 | The Five Promises

Ryan McCarty, headshot[1].jpg

Ryan McCarty is an author, speaker and the co-founder of Culture of Good, Inc.

Building upon the success of his award-winning program at TCC-Verizon, a Verizon retailer with over 800 stores, that inspires employees, ignites positive change in the world and impacts their bottom lines, Ryan and TCC-Verizon CEO Scott Moorehead created Culture of Good to teach for profit companies how to operate with the soul of a non-profit.

Ryan helps other organizations engage the hearts of their employees, empowering them to make changes in their communities. His work has been featured in Inc., Forbes, People Magazine, Huffington Post and more.



Shantel: Hi, Ryan. Welcome to the Imagine More Podcast.

Ryan: Oh, hi. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Hopefully we're going to have an awesome time today. I'm looking forward to it.

Shantel: Absolutely. We're so excited to learn more about you and your company, and I'm so excited to share with the listeners a little bit more about Culture of Good. But if you don't mind kicking things off, will you tell everyone a little bit about your company?


Ryan: Yeah. So I guess the elevator pitch is we at Culture of Good teach for-profit companies how to operate their business with the soul of a nonprofit. So I spent a little over two decades in nonprofit work and everything from being a pastor to doing missional work in Africa and just really engaging in work that I felt was fulfilling and meaningful and gave me a sense of purpose. And when I came into for-profit work, just about six years again, I notice so many employees just go to work every day, they work 9:00 to 5:00, they make a paycheck at the end of the week, they spend their money over the weekend paying bills, and then they go back and it's just this constant rotation of work, make money, spend money, work. And it really, for many employees there's not a sense of purpose and overall meaning in why they do what they do. And that's all I had ever experienced my whole life, so when I came into for-profit work, I thought why not create something like a movement within business that connects people and what they do to a greater sense of why. And that's the kind of stuff that makes the world better. It engages our soul. It creates this opportunity for us to have meaningful work. And then over time, and I'm sure we'll get into this, just how do you replicate that? How do you build that into a business and how it operates and their strategy, as well what kind of impact and potential is that for people to experience? So Culture of Good really goes into a company and builds its culture by letting employees bring their soul to work and inspiring the employees and customers and impacting the bottom line of the business.

Shantel: I love that. Well, I just really want to dive right in. I have already a ton of questions that came to mind on how our team goes into a company that already has ... whether it was intentional or not, they have a culture, and how do you go in and disrupt that in a positive way? I'm even thinking down to the nitty-gritty of sometimes the culture they want to have, the people that they've hired, may not be the best fit. And can you kind of walk through what that onboarding and discovery phase looks like for you and your team as you're talking to a new company?

Ryan: Yeah. Really, it starts with leadership, right? I think culture is what most of the people are doing and believing most of the time. But when it really comes down to it, you have to have leaders that have the kind of heart and passion to build a culture of good that we really intend on helping companies to build. And so it starts with leadership with the executive team. There's some discovery sessions with that team. There's diagnostics within the organization surveys that we've created to really identify where are the gaps, and by gaps, I mean where are the opportunities. If a business wants a certain type of culture and they don't have that yet, the Culture of Good really steps in to be able to not only assess where there's opportunities, but to offer the kind of product and tools for companies to take the guesswork out of it, right? 'Cause so many times we think of culture, we think it's elusive and organic, and it can't be measured because it just kind of is what it is. Like you said, every company has a culture, whether it's good or bad or indifferent. And so our suggestion is there's no such thing as a perfect culture, but yours doesn't have to suck. But, if you have sucky leadership, that's exactly what your culture's going to be. So it starts with leadership. We really want to build a strategy with the leaders of the business, with the executive team or however the organizational chart is set up, and then really get into the nitty-gritty of doing some workshops and teaching what we call our five promises, and that's the framework of our emotional operating system. So how a company operates all the way from how the owner, CEO, executive team, makes decisions, all the way to the frontline employee and how are they living up to what we would call our five promises, the framework of the Culture of Good, and then teaching how to measure that over time to see the results that you're looking for. So we have workshops, video modules. I don't know if you want me to go into all the products and stuff that we have, but we've really worked hard to identify what has worked over the last six years in working with companies and how to replicate that within each business that we interact with, as long as the leadership is on board. And by on board, I mean they have a heart to engage their employees, to give their employees permission to care, to be human, to show up fully every single day, and then engage their customers in the same way. That's really the type of company that we're looking for. So I love that you use the word disrupt, because I think disruption is what we need, but also I think we also don't want to come into a company and make employees feel like we're shifting everything, and then we're met with skepticism and now it's just another flavor of the month. We want it to be fun and exciting and engaging, right? So it's looks different. Every company, the instance is going to look a little bit different.

Shantel: And are you usually brought in from maybe the HR department after kind of being a little bit more reactive to a problem that's happened or a situation they're starting to see, or is it a little bit more proactive and you're hearing from the leadership team of like, "Hey, we want to just get better?"

Ryan: Proactive. We've had some ... and again, every instance is a little bit different, so we obviously have people reach out to us, companies work out, HR teams reach out to us and say, "Hey, we're dealing with this." The Culture of Good isn't a Band-Aid or a patch to be sewn onto an issue, right? So the Culture of Good really is a proactive intentional building of your people, your customers, around something that is a cause that matters to you in the passion of your business. So where you have companies that have an HR issue and they just want to say, "Okay, we need to focus on something else,' we would suggest you need to focus on your issue and deal with that and then start to build a culture of good. 'Cause if not, then again, it's met with skepticism. Employees are like, "Oh, we know why you're doing this, right? You're not going to deal with the issue." So if there's not a culture of trust in the business, then you can't build a culture of good when there's not a culture of trust, right? So we really want to go in proactively and to a business that says, "We see the opportunity to engage the hearts and minds of our people, and we want to make the world a better place. How can we do that in a greater way?"

Shantel: I love that. Is there one thing that you typically lead with when you're going into companies, like, "Okay, let's start with looking at your core values or your mission statement," or is there one kind of tangible piece of data that you look for when you guys start diving deep into that company?


Ryan: You said it. That's the first thing I look at is their values. And typically, I would say over 80%, 90% of the time, companies have way too many to start with. I always say, "Values aren't to be written on a poster board in a break room. They should be written on the hearts of your people." And if your people can't memorize what they are and know how to live up to them, and if the management within your business doesn't know how to measure the success if people are living up to those values, then it just becomes wallpaper, right? It becomes irrelevant. We go through the practice of identifying what the values are, we make them sexy, we name them real cool and progressive things to let people know we have a progressive culture. New employees are onboarded. They're told, "These are all of our values." They're impressed because we have 15 of them. And then once they get hired and you get into everyday work, you don't remember what those 15 values are, right, or know how to really live up to them on a daily basis. So it really does, it starts with values, it starts with identifying what the mission ... and then we really dive deep into what we call cause consulting. So we go into a full consultancy on how to identify and refine your cause that will align with your strategic intent. So by cause, we mean the good you do in the world, the purpose behind why you do it, that aligns with the passions of your employees and customers and strategy of the business overall. So it has to make sense to your business, but it also needs to make sense to the employees and customers, as well. So cost consulting is really one of the first steps in a major engagement with a business. And other times companies just, they go online and buy the video modules and they show those to their employees and they kind of kick it off that way. So it looks different every single time we go into a business, but it really is about needs assessment right away.

Shantel: Okay. I'm really glad you mentioned or kind of elaborated a bit on the core values piece. We probably two years ago joined this entrepreneurial organization called EO, or Entrepreneurs Organization, and one of their learning day workshops is really focused around people and the true meaning of core values. And it was such a powerful exercise for us to sit down with the small team we had, team, but the small team then, and really put together this list of who we are and who we aren't and what we value and what we don't. And it was nice and impactful to do that as a team, so it didn't come from just me and my business partner and kind of tried to feed it everyone. Everyone really felt engaged in, "This is what's important.” And what's interesting, and I think I, without having a business before, I just always thought those are things that lived on the wall, and all the previous companies I worked at, there was no thought behind it. And we've incorporated the values into everything we do, from our stock conversations to our hiring to our firing to our finding new clients, and it's, I think, completely pivoted our business.

Ryan: Yeah. That's something that, I mean, you guys are right on track, because we encourage ... We have the five promises. Those don't have to obviously replace the values that a company already has. Sometimes a company adopts the five promises as their values, which is really cool, but yeah, if you have values and you're not using them on a daily basis, if it's not part of the language of the business, if you have names on doors and you can add what their favorite value is, when there are shout-outs or weekly meetings giving someone a shout-out for living up to one of those values, all of that is like, "Okay, now we actually value it," right? Because the question, I guess, is, "Do you value your values?" And if you value your values, you'll talk about them. It'll be a part of what you're suggesting and giving direction to, is it'll be a part of major conversations. It'll influence how decisions are made by the leadership, like, "Do you value your values enough to take them off of a poster board?" 

Shantel: Are you open to sharing what the values are for Culture of Good?


Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So we call them promises. We teach that if you make a promise and live up to a promise, it makes you feel pride in not only what you do but in the business that you work for and the company that you work for, and your team. And so we have five values or promises that we teach that make up what the Culture of Good is. The first is, "We will care about people and the world around us." So it's very much about caring. Now, when I share these, one thing that's really important to know is there's observable behaviors that align with each of these, so when we think about, "Am I a caring person?", most people say, "Yeah, I'm a caring person, but then we share the observable behaviors, like, "This is how we live this out." Then all of a sudden it's less subjective and a little more objective, and it enables us to be able to measure whether a company or an individual is having success in building that into their everyday work. So first is caring, and second is, "I will drive the business to greater success so that we can do more good." So this is about wanting the business that you work for, the company that you work for, to be successful financially, to grow, for the reason of doing more good in the world. So it's kind of a two-part promise. So first is I will care about people in the world around us. Second is we will drive the business to greater success, we will do more good. Third is we will connect with the people around us. So this is about connection and listening and taking time with people and with customers and not seeing customers just as financial transactions but really taking time with people as humans and our peers and our teams and really valuing the people around us enough to listen and to know what they're going through so that we can really care for them in the right way. So caring, driving the business, connecting. The fourth one is we will inspire others to do good with us. So this is about taking the good that we do and inspiring and sharing that good with others and using that good as an opportunity to tell our story in a bigger way. I always like to say that we should never do good to be seen, but we should always be seen doing good. And this is about sharing the good that you do, whether it's an individual who shares the good they do in their local community and includes their team in on that and inspires others to do good with them, or a business that inspires other companies to do good along with them, as well. And so inspiration is the fourth. And then the fifth is we will be authentic with our words and actions. So it's about authenticity. It's about being genuine and making sure that what we say aligns with what we do, and being consistent, right? It's about consistency. So again, I'll say them all together, because I kind of gave descriptions along with it. So we will care about people in the world around us, we will drive the business to greater success so that we can do more good, we will connect with people around us, we will inspire others to do good with us, and we'll be authentic with our words and actions. So those five promises have observable behaviors that align with each of those on an individual level and also on a management level. And then we have a radar graph that each person within a business assesses themselves, their team, and their organization every month so that we can collect that data and know whether the company is building a culture of good or where there's opportunities to coach that business. Does that make sense?

Shantel: Yeah, absolutely. 

Ryan: Okay. All right, cool.

Shantel: We have touched bases with the team on a monthly basis, or my business partner does, and quarterly instead of a yearly evaluation, we talk through a scorecard for each role, and on the scorecard they evaluate themselves on how they think they're living out the core values, but I love the piece about reflecting on the organization and their team. That's something that I think is really powerful.

Ryan: Yeah. That three-tiered approach is really significant, because teams have their own tribal kind of like culture, right? So I might look at ... and we would say values or our promises really make up what the culture is, so that's how you measure it. And so what we do ... I'll give you a little secret here.

Shantel: Thanks.

Ryan: What we do in our workshops is we have individuals assess themself, team, and organization on a scale of one to seven for each of those promises subjectively. So we start with, "How do I feel I'm living up to this?" right when we introduce it to a company. And then what we do in that workshop is after they assess themself on a subjective feeling level, we introduce the observable behaviors after that, and then we have them do a reassessment in the same workshop. And now it's a little less subjective and a little more objective, because they're looking at observable behaviors and saying, "Oh, maybe I feel like I'm caring, but I haven't really taken time to do that." Right? So it gets a little more scripted in the observable behaviors, and people are able to look at their everyday work and how they interact with their peers, how their team interacts with other teams and just in the world in general, and then when they're looking at the organization. And that's really significant, because so many times people rate themself a little higher than they should, is what we've found, subjectively, but then when you get into, "Oh, okay, there's observable behaviors and we can actually look and see whether I'm as connected to people and to others as I thought I was," then all of a sudden the assessments change a little bit and people are like, "Oh, you know what? I could really grow in those areas." And then you have a way to coach to your values and like what we teach, the five promises.

Shantel: I think that's really neat. In these workshops, I mean, you're giving the tools to the leadership team to then execute. Is there ever any tension when maybe some leaders don't execute some of what your team has passed along, or are there follow-up kind of coaching, or is there any execution pieces that you guys help with?

Ryan: Yeah. Obviously, we're human, so when we say promises, we're not saying that I'm promise to do this and I'll never mess up. That's why there's a scale, right? We're all human. We're all going to mess up on the promises. From day to day it's going to look a little bit different, and that's why we do a monthly assessment for individual and teams, and then for the organization it's a quarterly assessment, so that we can get a little more time to work on those areas and coach to those things. But like I said, we have a radar graph that we're able to collect that data from and know where there needs to be some growth. We really don't have much of a tension, because we're not suggesting that companies bring these five promises or their values in, and if somebody is struggling in an area that that's a reason to fire them or let them go, I find a lot of times companies are a little too quick with people to give up on them. We talk about coaching in business, but we don't really know what coaching is. We think that mentoring is coaching, and it's not. And leadership is more about sacrifice and being a servant leader to the people that you're leading than it is about pushing your authority on someone and saying, "You have to live up to this, or you're out." So there's a tremendous difference between authority and leadership in that space, and we would teach more leadership coaching and give leaders an opportunity to say, "If I have someone that's struggling in this area, that's on me as a leader." As long as they're open to learn and to grow, that's what we're looking for, right? We're not looking for perfect people that live out our values and execute on every level all the time, 'cause quite frankly, the CEO doesn't do that. We're not going to get rid of every time they don't live up to the value, either. So I think we need to be patient with people a little more. Obviously if it's impacting the business and their actions are going against the company in terms of having a negative effect on the business or the success of the company, that's a whole different conversation. But when it comes to values and the promises, we want it to be fun and engaging and exciting, and we don't want it to be like the stick of the company, like you've got the carrot and the stick, right? The carrot is an incentive to get you to do something. You put the carrot out in front. The stick is to push or prod or jab at somebody to get ... we don't want it to be the stick. We want people to, and employees, to really engage ... it needs to be engaging and they need to feel that it matters. And that's why we teach promises, because when you live up to them, you feel a sense of pride. And that's where you get a little bit of that peer-to-peer accountability and peer pressure from colleagues to say, "Hey, how are we doing this as a team and how can we support each other to do that better?"

Shantel: That's great. Ryan, I just have a few more work questions for you, and the first one is, do you have a favorite tool or piece of software that you think really integrates really well into Culture of Good and creating a stronger culture?

Ryan: That's a great question. We don't actually integrate any tools other than what we offer, quite frankly. So the radar graph is really crucial to what the Culture of Good offers. The video modules are really crucial. We are working with a couple companies right now to look at some opportunities with using AI around culture building, so your question's a little premature, but we're looking at some gamification and using artificial intelligence, as well, to aggregate some information around culture building within a business that would work well with our ... Actually, I have a call tomorrow about that. So yeah, so we're looking at different opportunities around that. We've been so focused, honestly, on completing our productization that we've not really embarked on the world of what else is significant to integrate and to help build a culture of good outside of what we have. 

Shantel: That's fair.

Ryan: We've been a little selfish at this point.

Shantel: Well, we'll stay tuned. I mean, I thought of that, because we use a program called 15Five. Have you heard of 15Five?

Ryan: Okay. I'm not. I might have. Tell me a little bit more about it.

Shantel: It's 1-5, and then five spelled out, so 15Five. And it sends a weekly question to everyone on the team, and only the leadership or me and my business partner can read the questions, but there's a series of questions, a bank of questions that you can ask. Maybe, "What is the biggest challenge this week that you had to overcome?" Or, "How are you living out our core values?" Or, "Do you have an idea that you'd like to run with?" You know what I mean? So you can ask any question each week and it's due at the end of the week, and it also just does a pulse on how they feel between a one and a five. And it's allowed us to really just get a good sense of where the team's pain points are, what are they struggling with, how can we improve, and just-

Ryan: Yeah. That does sound ... I'm going to look into that. Thank you. I've learned something today. I think I've heard of something either similar to this or I have heard of 15Five, because I've heard of these type of ... Is it a daily questionnaire, like a weekly thing that goes out?

Shantel: It sends a weekly question, I think on Thursday each week, and then you can set when you'd like it to be turned in. And there's an app. But second question, what is one thing the listeners and the business owners tuning in can do maybe today to really start to make a difference in incorporating more soul into their company, like if you had one tip?

Ryan: Yeah. Sit down and listen. Talk to your employees. Don't survey them only. I like this idea, but sit down and talk face to face and just listen. And quite frankly, one of the biggest questions is, "What excites you? What are you passionate about?" And really learning the passions of your people does two things. It gives you an opportunity to know who your employees are. You can do this with your customers, too, quite frankly. Know who your employees are. But it gives your employees the opportunity to be human and to feel human and cared about. That to me is a significant start to adding soul to your business. And giving your permission, giving employees permission to bring their soul to work. So sitting down and listening and just talking. And do less talking, do less speaking than you do listening, and let your employees talk and get to know them.

Shantel: That's great. Well, Ryan, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about Culture of Good?

Ryan: Well, thank you so much for asking that. I would love for any of your listeners, anyone out there in the podcast university to get ahold of us on cultureofgood.com. So they can jump on our website. That email goes directly to me. And we'll make sure that if they want to get in touch with us through cultureofgood.com, that's great. They can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter, so Ryan McCarty on LinkedIn and Twitter. So they can reach out through LinkedIn. That's a way a lot of people get in touch with me personally, or they can just go on the website cultureofgood.com and send an email if that's their speed. So we can rock either way.

Shantel: Wonderful. Well, I really appreciate your time in giving us all this wisdom on how to build a culture of good. I really appreciate it.

Ryan: Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story. I appreciate that.