How to Build an Award-Winning Culture

Hands-on Management 3.0 leadership workshops focus on tangible practices to help managers, team leaders, middle management, and C-level executives increase employee engagement and foster transformational change within their organizations. Start Your Leadership Journey Today!

How can we create an innovative, positive, and productive workplace culture? It doesn’t happen by accident.

Today we speak with Bluedog Design founder Michelle Hayward, a renowned executive and thought leader who has perfected the art of culture-building with unique offerings like parental assistance, pet insurance, and an innovative “Growth Universe.” We’ll discuss Michelle’s work advising Fortune 500 companies and startups and how she’s built a company that has been repeatedly named one of the best places to work.

Key Points

  1. Leverage Engagement Surveys: Use anonymous surveys to understand employee sentiment and improve culture.
  2. Clarify Expectations: Ensure roles and values are explicitly communicated for clarity and reduced workplace friction.
  3. Offer Meaningful Benefits: Provide benefits that genuinely meet employees’ needs, showing care and boosting satisfaction.
  4. Foster an Involved Culture: Encourage an owner’s mindset among employees to deepen commitment and drive growth.

Learn more about Bluedog and Michelle here


Happiness means different things to each of us. After doing extensive research, Management 3.0 founder Jurgen Appelo discovered a common thread: Happiness is something we create. It is not something to achieve. It is a path you choose, not a destination to arrive at.

So many of us spend our lives in pursuit of happiness. Instead of searching for it, we need to find ways to live it, embrace it, and implement it into our daily lives. That’s why we created the 12 Steps to Happiness at Management 3.0.

You can find more information and even download a free poster of the 12 steps here.


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] Before we dive in, you are listening to the Happiness at Work podcast by Management 3. 0, where we are getting serious about happiness.

I’m your host Elisa Tuijnder, happiness enthusiast and Management 3. 0 team member. In this podcast, we share insights from industry experts, influencers, and [00:00:30] thought leaders about what it takes to be happy, motivated, and productive at work, so that loving your job becomes the norm and not the exception. We will be publishing every fortnight on Friday, so be sure to tune in and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Our guest today is Michelle Hayward, founder of Blue Dog, a company that advises Fortune [00:01:00] 500 corporations and startups on growth consultancy and portfolio innovation. so much for joining us today, Michelle.

Michelle Hayward: What a great pleasure to be here talking about one of my favorite topics. Thank you for having me.

Elisa Tuijnder: Great. Hey, so I’m so excited to discuss your work and the People First initiatives and all the culture of the great culture that you’ve created at BlueDoc. Um, but here on the podcast, as you know, we always start with the same question and that is, what is happiness mean to you?

Michelle Hayward: Happiness to me is [00:01:30] fleeting.

It is really, truly derived from moments of self awareness. self recognition, and it’s both fleeting and super individual, right? So it looks different for each person, which I think is the real challenge in managing and developing people and managing and developing culture. Highly personalized.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely.

It’s highly [00:02:00] personalized, but somehow there are some things that you can connect to with everybody else. Totally agree. Yes. Hey, so a big question. What is BlueDog? How did you start BlueDog? What was the intention? And did you hope that it ended up this big? Give us the little kind of synopsis of it.

Michelle Hayward: Yeah.

So I I’ll start way in the way back tapes. Um, I grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the United States. Very rural. [00:02:30] My parents were entrepreneurs. They owned a grocery store. And after I went to college and I started working, I also worked for a grocery store. So I Thanks. Three out of four jobs I had before I started BlueDog were actually founder led companies.

So I had some pretty intense experiences in founder led companies before I decided to be a founder. And you know, you always learn what’s great and you always learn what you would do differently. That’s like the joy of like growing up, I suppose. So when we, [00:03:00] BlueDog, it was, it Um, not with great intention, actually.

I had hoped to take a few projects, earn some money, go traveling, and what I found instead is that I really loved the work. I really loved the freedom I had. I loved the joy in building a team. I loved the projects we were doing, just the accountability

Elisa Tuijnder: for the

Michelle Hayward: work, um, you know, it was, it was mine. [00:03:30] Uh, at the same time.

I was also keenly aware of what I wanted. I think I talked about it so differently back then, but I was really interested in like getting rid of all the friction in the workplace. Like I had been very much challenged by different versions of cultures, like cultures, culture to me is, is, is. made tangible by the behaviors that are allowed, right?

Absolutely. That are permitted, [00:04:00] um, or that are not permitted. And I had had some pretty wild rides in very different workplaces. And I was like, it was so chaotic for me. And one of the last places I worked was actually really a successful venture, but nobody knew what was valued. Nobody knew how to show up and get that attaboy, good job, or I can see that you’re really working on this.

Nobody understood. Win! And it [00:04:30] really hit home with me because I thought, well, you know, that should be the ante, that should be the given. I should, people should be able to walk in the door and understand what I care about and understand if that resonates with them. So I had this kind of really cool journey and these exposures to different workplace cultures before I was entrusted to build my own.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Would you describe some of them as what they, people, people like to say toxic workplaces as well, and just this desire to do it differently? [00:05:00]

Michelle Hayward: Well, there were some interesting things that I learned, you know, like it did not work for any female founders, other than my mother, of course, and, um, I, I could see how founder culture was really about the founder and so by, by nature, everything had to go through that person.

And. I really didn’t realize that that was [00:05:30] unhealthy and disempowering for lots of other leaders in those organizations because the person at the top who founded the company wasn’t necessarily the person in the room or the person leading teams. And so that always really stuck in my brain. And when I created Blue Dog, I named it Blue Dog.

Because I didn’t want to name it Hayward and Associates. I wanted, I wanted to, I mean, so at least like as a 28 year old, I had that much vision. I was just kind of like, okay, I know that’s not what I want. Um, [00:06:00] I did, I did want to invite people into that experience with me. And that was a signal of that intention I felt.

But some of the workplaces were toxic, probably not for a lot of people there, but they were for me. Like if that Super big drinking culture, partying culture, or you know, there were there were things that were valued in the experiences I had that just didn’t resonate with me. And so I’m still grateful for those experiences to help me understand how to shape my own.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. There, that’s always important [00:06:30] to see the examples of what you don’t want to happen or, or, but you’ll also pick out some of the things that you might want. So, I mean, it’s a very personal kind of a story for it and you want people to feel comfortable in this focus on, on play experiences there.

Do you also think it’s important outside of sort of like the altruistic realm of people feeling comfortable? Is it also good for business, do you think, like to, to have a company culture where people know what’s expected and where to go and where to lead? [00:07:00] Was that also part of your ideas around it at the time, or did that come later?

Michelle Hayward: Yeah. It was not. I did not understand that. And I came to understand it organically. So in our business, we’re solving complex problems. Problems that are hard, um, they’re often collaborations with our clients and we spend time together working through, um, the knowledge, the state, we’re working through what the options are and, [00:07:30] and planning together, like how we’re going to move forward.

The signals that were sent from the client side, from the business side, where people would say things like, it seems like you all really know each other. Or, it seems like you’ve been doing this together for a long time. Or just a straight up, we hear this all the time, I love being here. And, you know, when you kind of dig in and double click and ask why, sometimes people have a response around, [00:08:00] you know, it’s back to the same stuff though, it’s like, it seems like you’re a real team.

It seems like you really enjoy each other and you really love what you’re doing. That experience that they’re having is they’re watching us behave in the ways that we value and appreciate together. And that cohesiveness, I think, kind of de stresses already stressful situations and it’s enjoyable. So the business advantage is, is, you know, hearing [00:08:30] people saying that and when they have an opportunity to work with a consultancy again, we are often chosen.

a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth time by those same people. And part of that is that we’re going to deliver the work, but I also believe part of it is they enjoy the work with us. Yeah. The culture, culture matters. It very

Elisa Tuijnder: much does. Yeah.

Michelle Hayward: Yeah.

Elisa Tuijnder: There’s this saying that we have Management 3point0, which is based on another one, but it’s like culture eats everything for breakfast, right?

Like [00:09:00] it’s, it’s the, it’s the start of everything. Um, what’s hard though, about culture is that it’s hard to. quantify or analyze sometimes, or actually put in metrics or, you know, the road towards it. Do you want to tell us a little bit on how, you know, how you managed to create that culture, sort of the unspoken and maybe also some of the spoken bits, and we’ll launch into some of your initiatives a little later, but that, especially that unspoken bit, sort of, [00:09:30] the community feel, how did you manage

Michelle Hayward: to create that?

Well, I think, I don’t know that I created it. I think that, that, at best, I define what was valued. I think it was started off really simple. Like in my like 28 year old brain, I was just like, yeah, like, let’s not talk badly about each other. Okay. And that, that evolved over time to speak to our value of [00:10:00] intentionality.

Let’s be intentional, how we treat each other, how we work together, how we even solve problems and create process. It complexified over time, for sure. And in the middle of that, one of the things that we did, which my leadership team, I’m sure had the idea and operationalized it, is we put in place an engagement survey.

And that has evolved and changed over time, but that engagement survey has been so [00:10:30] critical for us as leaders to help us understand, like, where are the signals dimming in the organization? And then where are they bright and improving? So, and we could have a conversation about engagement survey for sure.

I think, I think it’s actually really important our leaders listen. Mm hmm. Absolutely. It’s also really challenging to listen as a leader, not, not [00:11:00] because it’s challenging for leaders to listen, but it’s challenging to get that direct, um, clear feedback from people. So, the engagement survey being anonymous and, um, regular is a way that we, we do that.

We call them pulse surveys and then we have an annual survey that’s longer. And so, That has been an incredible tool for us to learn how to be better leaders and how to dial in parts of the culture that are maybe not clear. [00:11:30]

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve spoken to a few people on the podcast who are often kind of working on new ways of getting these, these engagement service out there and more timely feedback, et cetera.

And so I’m actually quite intrigued to see what’s going to happen in that space in the future, because, you know, having the, the data of something that is sometimes so intangible. It’s really important for you to steer as a leader to, towards what people need, because you might have an assumption of what they need, but that might [00:12:00] actually not be what is actually needed on the ground.

Michelle Hayward: It’s interesting. It’s been really interesting and a learning journey for me. I think as a team at Blue Dog, you know, many people have worked so hard on naming things. Like you got to name it right before you can value it, before you can action it. And it’s messy. It’s not linear. It’s not like, you know, I showed up one day, built a company, named all these things.

And then, you know, it moved [00:12:30] forward from there. It’s been, it’s been a looping back and forth.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s

Michelle Hayward: not static. So, You know, we tried to be explicit and name things and then use these surveys to kind of say, do we get it right? Like, is that better? Do you see what we’re doing or do you not see what we’re doing?

You know, as a leader, these surveys also helped me understand like how important it was to, it sounds obvious, [00:13:00] but like when I say this, I, and I ask people like they don’t always do it, how important it was to communicate on a regular basis. Mm hmm. About the same thing.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah.

Michelle Hayward: And so, you know, we used to have, um, town halls once a quarter and now they’ve moved once a month and scores went up, you know, uh, we tried different features of these town halls, but what has really proven to be most effective is to have regular consistent communications about some things and [00:13:30] then have more people participate in sharing the value that they’re creating in the organization.

So, it’s not, it’s not just thinking about the organization as having a voice, it’s, it’s how, how the teams are moving in and around the work that’s been really important. So, I honestly don’t think we would be here without engagements with this. That’s

Elisa Tuijnder: cool. That’s cool to know. And, and, and like you said as well, like, you know, it’s so being brave [00:14:00] and seeing that you’re not doing it right and trying to change and changing it or trying to tinker with it.

And maybe that was too far towards the other side and then saying, okay, let’s go back to this one, striking that balance. But in order to get that balance, there’s a lot of trial and error, I guess. And you have to figure out where the line is actually.

Michelle Hayward: Yeah, there is a lot of trial and error and also bravery.

Yes, on the leadership side, but bravery on the team side as well, because, and they take time, right? So people have to sit down and hopefully they can be thoughtful. [00:14:30] But one of the questions that we have a bunch of questions, I think are really very well or well articulated that help us get to the heart of what is going on in the business and the organization.

But like one of the questions is around this idea of like, do you enjoy coming into work most days? And people are, I mean, you know, we’re, we’re asking people to look at their experience in the aggregate, right? Because like not every day is a great day or not every day is fun. [00:15:00] There’s not always a party.

There’s not always, um, a client kudo waiting for you at the end of the end of every day, you know? So, uh, and one of the, one of the answers we got really was insightful and it said, you know, I don’t know if I enjoy coming to work most days. I’m choosing to do hard things. The work is challenging. It challenges me in new ways.

I’m learning. And that means sometimes I don’t look forward to it. [00:15:30] And then the next sentence was like, you have to work at it. And I thought this was such a healthy way of looking at happiness, right? You, if you’re, if it, you know, for my definition, it’s self recognition, like you have to work at it. And I thought that was a really insightful way of thinking about, you know, to enjoy working here.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. I sometimes see it as well as like, do I enjoy, do I go [00:16:00] home satisfied, basically in the sense that not that I’m happy that I’m going home and my day is over, but that I did a few cool things I might’ve, it was a bit of a mountain and I was like, pwah. Today’s not going to be the greatest of days, but when the day is over, you go, wow, that was actually really good.

And I learned something and I spoke to somebody really interesting and I got this done. And in all of those days, I like that. But yeah, the getting into work is very dependent on, on the you. The getting out sometimes is dependent on you, but you know, it’s [00:16:30] also kind of a good barometer, uh, in that sense.

Michelle Hayward: Oh, can we talk a little bit about that? Cause I think that’s, I think that’s really interesting because You know, generationally, I have been experiencing this feeling that people will express that, you know, working hard is toxic. Or, you know, um, that if you love your work, you’re not a balanced human. You [00:17:00] haven’t figured it out.

You haven’t gotten there. And I do, I do think it is generational. I, it, you know, it’s kind of like working is being canceled and, and yet we’re investing so much in workplace culture and, um, you know, really investing in sharing ways to reduce friction in the workplace so that people can have time to do their work and feel great [00:17:30] about the process of doing it.

Right. So it’s, I’m curious what you’re hearing and You know, how that’s, how that’s coming to light because there is also this knowledge that I feel I have that you get what you put into it, especially when you’re doing hard things, right? And it does take, it does take focus and hard work and enjoyment.

You just talked about the enjoyment at the end of the day. Like that’s,

Elisa Tuijnder: yeah, it doesn’t necessarily, [00:18:00] yeah. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re like looking at it the same way as you’re going to look at it. Go to, I don’t know. If you’re like roller coasters or something like that, but the satisfaction of having done it and achieving something and having something to show for at the end is really important.

Um, it’s a very good question that you’re asking there. And I, I, I’m not sure if I have all the, well, definitely don’t have all the answers, but also I’m not sure with me, at least being talked about that much. What I do feel is that this [00:18:30] divide of work and life is sort of Diminishing and in the way that’s a good thing, sort of people are doing the thing.

So I often don’t see the way I work as a freelancer as well. Like it all just is so blurry to me. Most of the times that I don’t have this sort of massive work. life divide. And that is not a problematic thing for me. On the other hand, this, I think there is a big push for work smarter, not harder. [00:19:00] But then we also get into the point of what is hard working hard?

Um, how do we define that? Is that doing long hours or is that kind of coming up with really smart ways of getting to, to new solutions? So it’s, it’s a bit of a tricky one. And I, I think sometimes there should be some, at least some debates around what is working hard because certain people’s work is being, I mean, if you work in a grocery store for 12 hours as well, it’s working really hard, but it’s not being valued as much as [00:19:30] somebody who is writing or something or the other way around.

So it’s a bit of a difficult conversation sometimes when you don’t have the basic parameters. And I also, like I said, I am not, I don’t think people are afraid of working hard or canceling working hard. They’re just trying to find new ways, I guess, because work is seeping into everything because we take our phones home, we take our laptops home, like it’s sort of seeping in everywhere.

So where, if I’m [00:20:00] thinking about a problem is at 11 o’clock at night in bed, is that also still work, right? Like it is. Yeah. It is. I think it’s, it’s a complicated, I think before or pre digital times, the, the divide was way more clear, right? If I’m in the office until 12 o’clock at night, yeah, then I’ve had a whole, a long work day.

But if I take a walk and if I take a time on my laptop in a coffee shop or take a time at home after everyone’s [00:20:30] gone to sleep. It’s not as linear anymore. It’s not as obvious anymore. And we’re just in this growing pains, I guess, where we’re figuring out how that really works. And what is work and what is not work.

And is everything, is everything just work now? Maybe soon enough we’ll all have these crazy apple glasses on all the time.

Michelle Hayward: Yeah, it looks to be that way.

Elisa Tuijnder: You guys are in Chicago, I’m so sure. I’m in Berlin, so I’ve seen a few, not as many, but I’m sure that you’ve probably seen a bunch of [00:21:00] them already. And it’s just like, yeah, are we then constantly working?

And because something’s always happening? Are we constantly playing? I’m not sure. Also, exactly.

What leads to a happy life? What are the various ways to be happy? Happiness means different things to each of us. Yet after doing extensive [00:21:30] research, Management 3point0 founder Jurgen Apollo discovered the common thread. Happiness is something we create. It is not something to achieve. It is a path you choose, not a destination to arrive at.

So many of us spend our times in pursuit of happiness. Yet instead of searching for it, we need to find ways to live it, embrace it, and implement it into our daily lives. We created the 12 Steps to [00:22:00] Happiness at Management 3point0. You can find more information and even download a free poster of the 12 Steps at management3o.

com slash practice.

Michelle Hayward: Um, I found this poet, uh, named Khalil Gibran a few years ago. And one of the things that he said is work is love made visible. And I was super intrigued by that. We always, [00:22:30] in business, we’ll say, um, design makes strategy visible. Yeah. And so, you know, there is this way of like work is love made visible and, you know, that work can be a part of our calling.

It can be part of our search for self and it can be part of why we exist and then there’s, you know, I would imagine these levers we can pull in terms of how much is it a part of how we exist or how much is it a part of our calling. Yeah. And then nothing’s [00:23:00] linear. Right? Like we start in one place and we end up in another.

Um, so I don’t know, it’s just, it’s a tension I feel, uh, and I’ve heard in meetings I’ve been recently and I don’t know, I am who I am. I grew up when I grew up. And so it’s interesting just to listen and try to learn about it.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think, yeah, it’s, we’re at a, we’re in a time where everything’s moving really fast That comes with growing pains and just kind of finding new norms and finding new, [00:23:30] new things.

And I think as long as we kind of focus on the fact that we’re all human beings and that we all, like you have, setting up this, this culture where, you know, we’re trying to get the best out of people. If we focus on that, I don’t think we can go wrong and there will be things left, right, and center that will come at us and there might be generational things as well, but yeah, keep listening.

That’s what you’re doing, which is great, but it’s engaging service. Like, okay, I need to listen more or I need to [00:24:00] understand these people more or then, then yeah, things will move, continue to move in the right direction. I am firmly believe that. So you also have like, um, because we talked a lot about this sort of intangible things and listening and communicating, but you also have a range of benefits that are super clear for your employees that might not know every.

other company might offer their employees, such as, you know, pet insurance, help getting a baby to sleep, I read somewhere. So I’m really curious, how did you, [00:24:30] how did you get to these and how does your, I’m sure you have somebody literally just listening to the employees and seeing what they need, but, um, why, why was that important to you?

Michelle Hayward: Yeah, of course. I, I love that question because I, I think benefits, there needs to be mutuality and benefits, right? Just having a bunch of stuff. Um, we’ve all heard about the foosball tables, blah, blah, blah, like big, there has to be actual real meaning and mutuality in offering something and people [00:25:00] having to want it, right?

So a couple of conditions. Our employee base is about 70 percent women and I, myself, did not have children. I, so I was looking around and really thinking over time, like, what is going to be valuable, valued, and useful to people? And I, you know, I don’t think it’s the employer’s job to, you know, try to [00:25:30] over deliver and promise happiness in the workplace, right?

I do think that it is the employer’s job. job to look for ways to lessen the mental load to drive clarity and to remove friction from people’s lives as it relates to work. So, um, there’s this, you know, there are things that people really stress big, huge life moments, right? When you get a pad or you have a new, you have a new baby.

And we, [00:26:00] I happen to have a sister who’s a sleep consultant and have some awareness of, you know, how disruptive it is in those first few months to have a child and have them not be sleeping. And that’s normal part of their development. Right. But I’m sure it all feels Um, completely new to each person who has a child like, um, the most jarring moment in their life.

Okay. And so, we really found that offering parenting consulting to [00:26:30] our population was really successful. It, it helped people feel more in control. It helped, I believe it really helps their children develop because they’re getting what they need in terms of sleep, um, and it helped them more comfortably.

Come back to work, understanding, just really having the full scope of knowledge of not only, you know, what’s happening in terms of the development of the child, but what’s happening and where they’re going to be needed or what’s coming next. And so it’s not just [00:27:00] even sleep training, it’s potty training.

It’s the terrible twos. It’s like all those moments where you’re like, Oh, what am I doing wrong? Um, and in the response can be like, Oh, it’s really your child is doing everything right. They’re testing boundaries there, you know, so removing friction in that way, it’s been a really positive, powerful force for those people who have taken advantage of that.

And then pet insurance, like kind of also kind of a no brainer, like it can, you know, I have a [00:27:30] pet. Last time I went, it cost me 550. Like it’s a big chunk of money, uh, to be, I don’t have pediatrics, but if I did, I, you know, the, the, the stress of that outlay of cash would be lower. And so, you know, for people who are very focused on their pets and their pet’s health, that seemed to be a way to make their pets also really inclusive in our community and show that, you know, we care, but [00:28:00] also lessen the load.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, that’s a really nice one because it’s, it’s a, it’s a double thing, right? Like you say, yeah, I’m removing frictions, but I’m also showing I care on all these like levels there. There’s some, some benefit to be held. And I mean, I need to congratulate you because obviously you’ve received a number of workplace awards throughout the time BlueDog’s been here.

Uh, including best place to work in Chicago, two different times. So what’s that for you, sort of that validation, that sort [00:28:30] of, that, that tick box, like, okay, I’m doing, I’m getting in the right direction. Yeah. How did that feel?

Michelle Hayward: Well, you know, it really. It really feels great because, um, it’s, it’s a survey of our employees again.

So it’s another look at not only engagement, but how involved people feel in the business. And so it feels awesome, like not only to win the award, but knowing that that award really came from [00:29:00] this team of people that are feeling the connection in the community and the advancement their work, but also of themselves.

Like they’re getting enough from the business, you know, and that, that’s pretty cool. And then, you know, we are up against some really sophisticated, larger scale businesses. And to be able to pull that off quantitatively was also, [00:29:30] I think, impressive for all of us. That’s great. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

Elisa Tuijnder: So, you also offer a program within the company called the Growth Universe.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about that because I was intrigued?

Michelle Hayward: Well, the Growth Universe is really our, the way that we navigate development. Everything, yeah.

Elisa Tuijnder: So,

Michelle Hayward: it, it actually really started from a frustration I had. Um, and I didn’t know how to solve it, fortunately somebody on the leadership team [00:30:00] really did.

And the frustration was, you know, so many people, and it’s changing now a little bit more, but a lot of people come from organizations where there is a ladder and it’s one rung after the next. It’s

Elisa Tuijnder: very linear and it’s, you know where to go, but yes, it’s also complicated in that sense. And oftentimes

Michelle Hayward: it’s time based, right?

Well, I’ve been here five years. I should be a director and I, and then I was, and I’m doing my job well, right? Like I should be advanced. And [00:30:30] I was like, yeah, but like, you’re not doing that next job yet. You’re not, and so brilliantly, the people that designed this, and I think it is so smart, is the growth universe really helps people navigate that idea of expectation.

What do we expect from you? And it doesn’t matter what your role is. It doesn’t matter, but we start off in our, you know, when we have less experience, we’re starting off and what we’re trying to achieve is [00:31:00] clarity. Just clarity. What am I doing every day? Does it make sense to me? Am I adding some value? Am I getting it right?

And as we go through time, the, the world becomes more and more complex. Like at some point, you know, if you’re able to handle the complexity, you get to start developing people, other people. You’re entrusted with that moment of saying, you know, help these people find their path and their journey. And all the way [00:31:30] through this really complex assignment, which is.

You’re bringing the outside world in, right? You’re a senior executive and you’re dealing with not only the inside of our universe, but the outside of our universe. And you’re managing the transition between the two very fluidly. And you’re responsible for revenue and you’re responsible for teams. And you know, there’s a lot of complexity.

So from clarity to this, This real different way of being. And that’s what our [00:32:00] expectation is, is that you’re not only doing your job, but you’re just managing greater and greater complexity. That’s growth inside the business world or outside the business world. Right. And. We had to make that transparent so that people understood what they were to strive for.

And I thought, gosh, it’s really interesting, like how I’ve always, I’ve always hoped we could take that tool and really scale it [00:32:30] out to the world because I think it actually is a really powerful condition, like how few people really know what’s expected of them. Um, you know, it’s not just role clarity, but like, how do I.

How do I know that I’m valued here and I’m moving up? Like, if I do these, if you do these things, this, this is what we value. And this is, this is why we’d want you to be managing more complexity, you know, it’s really clear. So again, like having a system in place [00:33:00] to lessen that mental load through clarity has been the journey that we’re on.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. And I love how you take in engagement and information and communication to a new level there. That’s really. Those are the keys to continuing that culture, right? That’s another tool or another thing that you can showcase like, yeah, it actually came naturally, but this is what we created and it’s actually based on all these things.

And it’s absolutely fantastic to see. How does it impact your teams when this first came about? [00:33:30] Like, what was their reaction? Cause I can also imagine that there was a little bit more, like you said, friction towards this as well, because there is. I’m here five years, why am I not going to the next level?

Or why is my pay rise not coming or whatever? Um, but I mean, Sigmund on the whole, this was very, very positive change. So can you tell us a little more about that? Well, I think you have to

Michelle Hayward: expect that there is friction when you’re delivering a new set of conditions for success, right? I [00:34:00] think, I think there are always those moments.

Um, you know, we just transferred the business to an employee stock ownership program in 2023. So, um, It’s another example of like, wow, like it’s such a cool, mind blowing opportunity for employees to reap real benefit from their work long term. And yet it’s a change, right? There’s a lot of change to manage.

[00:34:30] And yeah. There’s those moments I think are just really challenging navigational moments and hats off to our current CEO, Shannon Murphy, who navigated that change really brilliantly internally with the culture. But she’s also relied on tools that she’s created. are ways of working, right? So again, another tool we have to lessen that mental load, but ways of working is like a [00:35:00] shortcut.

So you don’t have to think about what the expectations are for team and collaboration, right?

Elisa Tuijnder: It takes the strength element out of it as well a little bit, doesn’t it?

Michelle Hayward: A little bit, but like there’s a lot of, um, a lot of firsts, like being in business, right? Like the first time you manage people or the first time you have a difficult conversation or there’s, you know, what we’re trying to do is just cut out the stress.

And so like ways of working in the case of having a tough conversation, like [00:35:30] we’ve shared language out there. So people have a way of identifying, Oh, my friction moment is like, just what do I say to get this tough conversation started? And we also put a mindset out there, you know, have a mindset of curiosity, um, and assume positive intent.

Like that’s one of our, our real values is that you assume positive intent going in. And then if people know how to have a posture for the conversation and [00:36:00] they know what that first line is, which is like, help me understand why dot, dot, dot, well, it gives people a A lot of clarity. They’re not sitting at home at night thinking, like, how am I going to start this conversation?

This is going to be terrible. I don’t know what to say. I’m going to sound so fake. I don’t know. I don’t know. Um, and it really gives them a moment to say, okay, I got this. What do I really want to get out of this conversation and be thoughtful about that? So,

Elisa Tuijnder: in [00:36:30] many

Michelle Hayward: ways, those tools help us navigate those difficult moments of change.

With new tools, but it’s all in service of helping people understand and not, not stressing about stuff that maybe isn’t real.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. And, and you get to the real things more quickly. You get to the essence of what you need more effectively. So that brings us to tools because I really would [00:37:00] love to keep talking to you because it’s so interesting that what you’ve created at BlueDock.

So many more things popping into my head, but unfortunately we don’t have time for all of those. So as you know, um, we like to really end, end with some, some tangible practices and you’ve just given us as, as one there, like, you know, this growth universe is this expectation setting, but maybe there’s something else, uh, that you can leave our listeners with, uh, when it comes to like employee happiness or building culture.

What can managers, leaders, um, founders even [00:37:30] like yourself do to really be intentional about this?

Michelle Hayward: Well, I think two things, like, pop to mind. One is definitely find ways to listen that aren’t invasive or threatening. Or concerning privacy. Well, I, you know, I tried different things, like, you know, early in my early days, I, I would ask employees to review me and it was just like, they were not going to really do that.

Like they, they, [00:38:00] uh, some people would go through the motions of doing it, but I didn’t really get feedback that I could give. action. And so finding those meaningful ways to build an engagement survey is, is just a really powerful, powerful tool. And then find ways to be explicit, like ways of doing, ways of working, you know, ways of engaging, like let people know and understand like what’s expected of them.

And, um, really cool example is [00:38:30] we have this, uh, way of engaging, which is leave it at the door. That’s an option. If your dog’s dying and you can’t come to work without being a real jerk to people because you’re super upset and you don’t want to talk about your dog dying, then please don’t come to work.

We’re okay with that. Just say the words, I’m going to, I have to leave something. You know, I can’t leave it at the door. And I gotta stay home. You know, like that’s an acceptable way of engaging in our culture, [00:39:00] because we don’t want to have the friction of somebody coming in and really destroying the days of, you know, multiple people they’re engaging on.

Um, you know, but we’ve made that really explicit. And, and with that, people understand that they have an out, like not every day is a great day. And, you know, we have found over time that we have to find ways to give people permission to do what’s right for them, because it’s. It’s sort of in their like [00:39:30] DNA that they can’t, you know, I once had somebody leave our business.

Um, I was like 10 years ago, but left our business because she really wanted to be at her son’s school. At three and I was like, what? Didn’t you talk course about that?

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. You can

Michelle Hayward: totally go and be, you know, but it was, it was again, you know, we can’t control what people are coming to the [00:40:00] business with, what baggage they have from past bosses or companies or whatever.

Mm-Hmm. You know. For this person, that was such a make or break moment. And for us, it was not even a thing. But by the time it got to that point, um, there was no turning back, no matter what we said, because we really didn’t care. Um, they were, they were so valued and so beloved, and that was such a loss for us.

But it really made us think like, okay, no matter how we are [00:40:30] feeling about our culture, we have to continue to send the signals of how it’s okay to behave. And be explicit where, where we need to. So we don’t suffer those losses for no reason.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. I really like that giving permission as well. I think there’s something so in us people coming to work really ill because they’re, they’re scared that.

Other colleagues will be like, Oh, she’s at home. What’s she doing there? Or like, you know, and so just giving permission is something so bizarre, but [00:41:00] we do employees and any kind of herd almost. Yeah, there really needs to be somebody says, it’s okay to do this. And making that really known and not just thinking, well, that that is in the culture.

Everybody knows this. Um, making that explicit is really important. Um, so thank you for that.

Michelle Hayward: Not everybody comes to the table at the same value. And then I think for other, Other business leaders thinking a lot about culture and engagement. My, my question is, and what I hope to hear about in the future is [00:41:30] what lives beyond an engaged culture.

Like we’re thinking about that as an involved culture, because we’re now an ESOP and employee, um, stock ownership program where we’re a different kind of company now, and we’re establishing an owner’s mindset within all of everybody on the team. And we’re starting to see. Different type of mutuality that is established in being really involved in the business and the business culture.[00:42:00]

I don’t have any answers for that yet. Yeah. I’m really interested in learning from people who are already, who’ve already progressed from an engaged culture into an involved culture and you know, yeah. What lives on the other side. I think it’s just super exciting opportunity.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. I think so too.

What are the pitfalls and what are the cool things that are going to happen? It gives you, like you said, there is not much chatter about that, but there is some kind of slow movement towards it. I’m really happy that you guys have made a step and I’m hoping to speak to you [00:42:30] again in like a few years and see what happened there.

Oh, it would be my pleasure, Lisa. Be my

Michelle Hayward: pleasure.

Elisa Tuijnder: Um, Michelle, if anybody wants to get in contact with you or get in contact with Blue Dog, where can they do that?

Michelle Hayward: Oh, they can do that on our, through our website, uh, website portal. It’s, uh, bluedogdesign. com or they can reach out to Shannon at bluedogdesign.

com and she’ll take the conversation forward. And certainly if anybody has questions for [00:43:00] me on culture or, um, or anything PR related, uh, I met Michelle at bluedogdesign. com, two L’s. This

Elisa Tuijnder: was such a beautiful conversation. I really enjoyed it. We get to enjoy learning about you and about how you developed a company and where it’s going as well.

And I’m really excited. I mean, I mean that I hope we’re still doing the podcast and I get to talk to you again, either in this capacity or somewhere else, uh, uh, to, to see how things are developing with BlueDog. Cause I’m rooting for

Michelle Hayward: [00:43:30] you guys and hosting these conversations so we can all learn more together.

It’s really, really appreciated. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Elisa Tuijnder: You’ve been listening to the Happiness at Work podcast by Management 3. 0, where we are getting serious about happiness. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your [00:44:00] podcasts. And if you enjoy our shows, don’t be shy. Write us a review, share the happiness with your colleagues, family, or friends. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn under Management 3.0.

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