Staying true to its value of being real, Widerfunnel creates an enabling environment for team members to tell their truth and be confident in their abilities.
[1:54] Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces the guest Victoria Petriw.
[10:41] How does the organization manage situations where competent employees are uncomfortable with its values?
[15:20] Victoria sheds light on the method of the interview process for scaling the company culture as a team at Widerfunnel.
[17:15] How does the organization integrate findings from the interview process into the onboarding process?
[19:24] Victoria shares insights on how employees can drop old values that contradict the ones in their new workplace.
[21:57] How do the team leads get new employees to feel comfortable and open up in the onboarding process?
[25:19] Victoria explains how the organization gives constructive feedback to new employees in the onboarding process.
[28:15] Victoria talks about the importance of embedding your culture and values in your processes.
A visionary leader, Victoria always comes up with new strategies to improve existing processes for better results. Her responsibilities as VP at Widerfunnel include leading the business operation teams of people, finance, legal, administration, and IT.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Victoria, I always like to mention other episodes people should check out. Past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done. Michael Gerber of the E-Myth. And so many more people who are ahead of operations, who are chief operating officers. And when I say that sentence about streamlining, scaling operations, getting your bottlenecks, Victoria, everyone always smiles because that’s what they geek out on. That’s what they love doing.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I’m going to formally introduce Victoria in a second. But before I do, this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. If you have had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and maybe the 10th time you spent explaining it, there is a better way, there’s actually a solution. SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. And I was talking to one of the owners, Owen, not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So I’m like, “Well, it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.” You could use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your teams or your precious times. You could focus on growing and you could sign up for a free 14 day trial, there’s no credit card required. Go to SweetProcess.com. That’s Sweet like candy, SweetProcess.com.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I am excited to introduce today’s guest Victoria Petriw. She’s VP of Operations for Wider Funnel. Wider Funnel is a leading optimization, an experimentation company. Their clients include companies you’ve heard of, HP, GM, Intercom, Sport Chek, The Motley Fool. And they help them make evidence based business decisions. And she leads the business operations teams of marketing, finance people, IT, legal, administration helps the company with overall execution of those strategies. And Victoria, thanks for joining me.
Victoria Petriw: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: One of the topics that comes up a lot is culture. And so today we’re going to really discuss how to scale your company culture as it grows. And one of the things I love to talk about is, start off with just a little bit about Wider Funnel. But we’re going to get into the annual retreat and what you guys do there and what you discovered. So talk for a second about Wider Funnel.
Victoria Petriw: Sure. So we are an organization of 45 team members. We’ve been around for about over 13 years. Starting off as like a digital marketing agency, but really specializing in experimentation. Like you mentioned, we help companies make confident business decisions by implementing, developing, or scaling their experimentation programs. Which basically experimentation is a systematic way of testing, so lots of companies want to ask questions or want answers to their questions. So we help them ask the right questions to uncover powerful insights to help them drive growth.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Love it.
Victoria Petriw: And being sort of a service based company, we are as good as our people. So we are very people focused and centric. And so we have an annual tradition of doing an annual retreat. Often it’s offsite, I mean, actually it’s been offsite every year. So we take the entire team away somewhere and we basically take the time to really focus on working on the business and working on how we can improve ourselves as individuals. We have a big, I think, just a mantra in the organization is that due to, I think, being an experimentation, we’re continuously trying to improve whether it’s websites or ourselves. And so the annual retreat allows us to kind of do that.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How do you structure an annual retreat?
Victoria Petriw: That’s a really good question. Often what we try to do is predict sort of what are the challenges and roadblocks we’re going to be facing this coming year. And so often you get little glimpses of friction points or challenges that the organization is having. And so you identify those into themes and then think about what kind of activities can we lead the team through in order to prep them for it.
Victoria Petriw: The way I like to think about it is, kind of my analogy is like if you were to take a team on a big hike, you would want to ensure that the team understands what they’re signing themselves up for so they can mentally prepare. And so similar to, I think, the coming year. An annual retreat allows you to do that, it gets people to really think about and sort of mentally prepare what might the year bring. And so we do that with our … usually I come up sort of with a draft, working very closely with our head of HR. And then we run through that with our leadership team to ensure that we’re on the same page, so that the activities that are facilitated will be able to sort of meet the needs of the organization.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Do the team members have to prep anything for the retreat?
Victoria Petriw: Yes. Often. So, we usually try to split it up into two sections or we have the themes by chance in the last few years have really focused on the individual. Like, how you, as an individual, show up in the organization? And sort of activities around how we can continuously improve ourselves. And then the second half is usually focused on really, how do we collectively work together to enhance and improve the organization? So there are activities where the team members have to prepare from both.
Victoria Petriw: One year we had an activity that we did, that was very … how would I describe this? It was quite deep. And we didn’t really know whether it would be quite an eye opening activity as it would be. We knew it’d be impactful. But basically we had grown, we had doubled in size at the time. I mean, we went from about 12 people to suddenly 24 people. We were out in Mexico, which is so cool. We had our own villa, we were all sitting around in a circle and we wanted to do an activity where every team member would share their life story. Because we really wanted to ensure that team members would deeply connect.
Victoria Petriw: We’ve noticed that when team members deeply connect and understand one another and sort of their histories and who they are and what they bring to the table, that’s when the best work can be done. You just are able to more cohesively work with one another. And so we gave an activity assignment that everybody had to in one minute or less, share their life story. And they could just share-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: One minute or less. That’s hard.
Victoria Petriw: It is hard. And it’s really hard when you start thinking about like, what in the world am I going to share? Like I have a number of years of experience and how do I describe my life in one minute or less? It’s a tough activity. But you can choose whatever you’re comfortable speaking to.
Victoria Petriw: And so we had gathered the team, everyone had time to think about it, most people did it on the plane there. And we started off the activity with one of our leaders. And that leader in that moment decided that they would be incredibly vulnerable in sharing their real life story that they knew that a lot of team members didn’t know of. But would kind of give everyone a perspective of really where they come from and their experiences. And it set the tone. And so as individuals went one by one sharing their life story, people actually started throwing out their scripts that they had prepared and really just spoke from the heart. And it was the most powerful activity I’ve ever been a part of. I felt more connected to this group than I’ve ever been connected to any other group in that moment.
Victoria Petriw: But what was fascinating was at the end of the activity, when majority of the team was like, “Wow, this is unreal. I can’t believe we were able to get this deep as an organization. And this was actually like a work experience because I really do feel like I now understand and am more connected with my colleagues than I’ve ever been before.” Yet, we had a few team members that were very uncomfortable by the concept. Incredibly uncomfortable, so much so that took some of our leaders aside and said, “That was absolutely unacceptable. Why did you guys do that?” And we’re like, “Do what?”
Victoria Petriw: And we had this moment where, as a leadership team, we had to think about, how does this align with the values that we have as an organization? And one of our values is being real. That we seek and share truth with humility. And that doesn’t mean you have to share everything, but you are more open to the being able to do that. And that’s sort of how you lead yourself through life. And so it was a real critical moment for us as an organization, because that was the moment that we realized we can’t please, everyone. We have certain values as an organization, and it’s really up to people to identify whether it’s for them or not for them. So yeah, it was a fascinating experience.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I could see how leaders setting the tone is really important for everyone. And I can see how you weave in different core values into whatever you’re working on. So how do you navigate that? Let’s say the person, they’re hired, probably they do good work, they’re probably a good human being. But maybe there’s several values that they don’t align with, with the company. How do you then navigate that as a company or with that person once they say that? I mean they’re like, “This is terrible. I’m totally uncomfortable. I don’t want to do that.” What do you do then?
Victoria Petriw: That’s a really great question. And I don’t think there’s one great answer for it. I think it’s like multiple methods that companies have to try to take to see whether they can basically be able to attract individuals with the values that align with the organization. Because ultimately, I think an important component is that values are what you stand for as an organization. And they’re not something that people can buy into. They’re predisposed to holding them, so they’re either in a person or they’re not, and they can’t be coached.
Victoria Petriw: So the key is to actually try to find people who share these values. So after that activity, it became really clear for us is like, what’s our interview process? How are we actually bringing people in? Is there any room for improvement there? Because, like you mentioned, these can be great people, they can do their work. But on a day to day basis, they’re questioning how they fit in and whether they align with the behaviors and the decisions that are being made in an organization.
Victoria Petriw: And the importance of it is the concept that, if you have a number of team members in your organization, they’re making decisions on your behalf, like constantly. You want them to. In order to be an effective company, you want your team members to be empowered to make those decisions for you. And one of my favorite quotes is that the value of an organization is the sum of its decisions. And so if you have a number of team members that don’t align with your values and they’re behaving in making decisions that don’t align with them. Then ultimately, the value of your organization is not going to be as great as it could be. So it really does start with your hiring practices. So many years ago, we adopted topgrading, the method by, I think his name was Brad Smart. Which is a really thorough interview process. And through that interview process-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. It’s a great book. How to hire and cultivate a organization of A players. Yes.
Victoria Petriw: Exactly.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I know the CO, Chris Mursau, actually, they’re based out of Chicago here. So yeah, definitely great book, great organization.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah. And through their method … I don’t even know if they actually quite speak to it. But through their method, you really can see someone’s previous patterns in their previous work experience. And through those patterns, you can start seeing whether that individual’s living the values that your organization has. Or like whether things came up that didn’t align with your values. And so that became really clear for us is that we need to ensure that, like in our interview process, we’re able to really look at every single one of our values and see, how are we confident that this individual like actually is predisposed to holding these?
Victoria Petriw: And then afterwards, when you bring an individual in, through your onboarding process, like, have you done everything you can in order to repeat at least seven times, that’s sort of our going principles is that someone’s not going to absorb something unless they’ve heard it seven times. So in your onboarding process, have you repeated seven times like the importance around your values, what they are, what the going behaviors are within your organization? And as the individuals going through their journey in your organization, do they actually see them? Because if it’s just writing on a wall and you’re not confident to actually fire someone over not living a value, because that’s really tells you how important it is to your organization. Then it really isn’t a value, it’s just writing on a wall.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to talk about the journey, Victoria, because we almost started at the end. Which I thought it was a great illustration, talking about the annual retreat and you can go to WiderFunnel.com/culture and actually check out, you could see on there, there’s different pictures, there’s different values listed, as people can see. [inaudible 00:14:59] seek and share truth with humility and all the information is there.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: But demonstrating it through the best is sometimes when it’s not aligned and what are people saying or seeing? And so I want to back up and kind of start from the beginning of the journey, which is, the interview process and then going into onboarding and integration. So what do you have in the interview process now, so that it helps you to scale your company culture as you grow as a team?
Victoria Petriw: Yeah. So we have, I believe it’s five step interview process. I lose count how many steps it is because there’s so many. So we start with, similar to topgrading the screening and then the topgrading interview. Which thoroughly there, we can map out sort of how the values align with the answers that they’re provided. From there, there’s like a thorough team lead interview with the team member. So team leads are able to then also assess sort of whether this individual aligns with the values of the organization. And I mean, they’re also looking at the competencies, but they’re looking at behavioral and technical competencies of the individual, whether they can meet them.
Victoria Petriw: And then there’s also like a team interview. So now we bring not only HR, the team lead, but the entire team to be able to create that assessment. So at that point you have at least seven people being able to vet out whether this individual is aligned with the organizational values. And then lastly, if we can, we do actually a last interview with our CEO. And our CEO understands our values better than anyone else because it really does stem from the top in that sense. And so, at that point you’ve gone through such a vetting process that it really is not often that you will get someone that comes in that doesn’t align with your values.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love it. So from an onboarding perspective, so they go through the whole process as far as interview process.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Then how do you integrate it into the onboarding?
Victoria Petriw: It’s a great question. So we do intros to every single team. So in the first week, the individual literally logs into their computer and everything is scheduled out for them. So they have a pretty smooth first week onboarding where they meet every single leader of a team to understand how that team operates. Both, I would say technically and behaviorally. So we have our HR does a fill out people and culture onboarding. So overview of like the company’s history, the values, what’s really important, what’s our core purpose. So the individual is really understanding through already that the flavor of the organization.
Victoria Petriw: I also sit down with every new hire and do an overview of how we operate and the importance of how we operate. Which is also in that, we embed one of the two big values that we have is maverick and curiosity. Like maverick, we dare to challenge old ideas and curiosity, we learn and improve always. And so through our operating processes, I show team members how they’re going to be involved in daring to challenge our old ideas. And how they’re involved in learning and improving always. So it’s almost like the expectation is being set by what their contribution is going to be to each of the areas of the business.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. What’s interesting is, if it’s ingrained in someone, let’s say person tends to do those things like maverick, for example.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Is it tough or do you find situations where they come from a company culture where maybe it’s the opposite? So that they’re almost afraid to do those things-
Victoria Petriw: Yes.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Even though you’re saying, “Hey, this is how we are.” How do you help someone get uncomfortable when they’re maybe the past, who knows, 5 or 10 years they’ve been at organizations where that is not the culture, even though they’re okay with it. So it may come out as they’re not challenging things, but they may have just had that experience.
Victoria Petriw: That’s a great question. And that can happen because if an individual comes from a very corporate environment and joins our team, it usually is a little bit of a culture shock in that sense. Even though we know deep down, we’re like they’re aligned this way.
Victoria Petriw: And so for every team member, we ensure that they have a weekly one on one with their lead and that’s also pre-scheduled. So they come in, they do their onboarding and then on a weekly cadence, they’re connecting with their team lead. And often that’s where it shows up. That’s where the team member is like, they sense how open and I think vulnerable and transparent their lead is, that they’re more open to also be more open around where they stand. And so I’ve had a few team members sort of speak to me in that sense that they’re like, “I’m not used to challenging ideas because in my old organization, if I did that, that would be really looked down upon.”
Victoria Petriw: And so it’s almost like building the confidence of the individual for them to understand like, the reason we hired you was for your ideas. It is to add value to the organization. If you’re not going to, then you’re not adding any value. And this might feel very uncomfortable and different, but let’s work together on how we can gain confidence to get to a place like that. And it takes time, I would say, but it’s sort of a joint effort. And I’ve seen a lot of team members be able to bloom in that way and be able to contribute to something much greater than themselves than they’ve ever experienced before. And that’s the moment where you really get a spark. Where you get a spark and you get this sort of like, I would say, you end up being able to dive into the full potential of an individual.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Victoria, do you have a checklist for that lead? Or something that they go through? Because I could see how you need a certain emotional intelligence to maybe recognize that person’s holding bad back, go, “Hey, like I could see you’re holding back. You could be challenging these things.” Is there something that they go through or do they have a checklist, to say, “Okay, I need to make sure they are hitting these things.” And maybe you see common patterns with onboarding people and making sure they are, even though you know deep down they have that culture, that they actually fall through with it. Is there some kind of, I don’t know, checklist that people go through?
Victoria Petriw: We have prompts, I would say. Because every team member is so different, every team likes to lead differently. So we don’t want to create to-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Structured.
Victoria Petriw: I’ve always tried offer it in a way, like yeah, try to create guidelines that could be helpful and supportive. But not necessarily in a way that that’s just followed. Because ultimately, it’s the outcome that we’re trying to get to. And how leads get to that is really sort of up to them. But yeah, we do have some support systems in place.
Victoria Petriw: So one thing is that, for the size of the organization that we are, which is quite small. We do have a full time HR function. And so after the first week of onboarding, HR does meet with the individual and some things are uncovered there. And then within the first three months, we have a performance review. Where there’s number of questions where the team member is asked to sort of reflect on their experience in the last three months, sort of how it’s been. And then we have 360 feedback that is submitted by anybody that that individual works directly with. So usually they’re-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: At 90 days?
Victoria Petriw: Yeah.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Or? Yeah.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah, 90 days. And then we do one at the year mark, too. So during that time, you can cultivate a discussion around that.
Victoria Petriw: In addition to meeting weekly with a team lead, we also have one of those weekly meetings becomes really a monthly focus. And that monthly focus is really on the personal connection between the team member and the team lead. The team members is asked to sort of reflect back on the last month and think about what is going well, what are some of the challenges? Or some of the roadblocks? And looking at our values, how have they sort of displayed our values in the last month? Or what values have actually challenged them?
Victoria Petriw: And so through this sort of like, I would say like very open framework, those kind of discussions can get cultivated. And it’s also where I’ve found that it like creates a space for me, as a lead, to be able to speak to a team member and call out the fact that, “I’ve noticed when you were doing X, Y, Z, when we were tackling this, you seemed really timid around sharing what you truly think. It wasn’t until later that that came out. How we bring that out earlier, why are we holding back?” And it becomes a really, I would say, beneficial discussion. And that’s sort of how you start, I guess, making those changes to help that individual become more comfortable.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love the idea of having that 360 at 90 days, one year, because then it’s almost in the process, people know, okay, you’re going to be getting this feedback and it creates that open line of communication. As opposed to, well, just it coming out of the blue. I’m curious, any examples in the past that has been, I don’t know, harsh criticism. But just like sometimes it’s hard to take criticism. And whether it’s put even in a nice gentle way. What was an example of a conversation you had to have with someone that maybe, I don’t know, because of the personality or because of whatever the feedback was that it may have been, you had to navigate it carefully.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah, that’s a good example. And that does happen. And I think there’s a few parts to it. One is ensuring that the organization understands how to provide valuable feedback. So it isn’t just a line of criticism, but it’s like, how is this actually helpful and supportive to the individual that’s receiving it?
Victoria Petriw: So that’s something that we have done, actually, at a few of our retreats is thinking about how to provide valuable feedback. And so we’ve used the SBI model, which is training the team members to think about, what was the situation? What was the behavior that the individual exemplified? And what impact did that have? And that way it takes away the nasty narratives-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The personal.
Victoria Petriw: And yeah, that can come to be sometimes. Where you’re just assuming that someone had a certain intention and that’s probably why they did it. It’s like, no, let’s just narrow it down. What was the situation-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s more factual.
Victoria Petriw: Exactly. So it starts with that. And so we’re lucky that a majority of the feedback that we do receive in our 360 surveys are quite actionable. And I would say are valuable for the team members. So even though it might be really difficult to hear, team members understand that it’s for their benefit, for their growth. So I would say, yeah, I guess now reflecting on it.
Victoria Petriw: I haven’t had any blindsided moments or something difficult. Because up to that one year anniversary, it’s like the team member is meeting with their lead every single week. And then every month for that sort of more deep dive conversation. And when you have a culture that really based on this SBI feedback. And in a lot of companies, radical candor, like a really, it’s a great way to go about it, as well. It just becomes embedded as … it’s just another part-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s in the DNA.
Victoria Petriw: Exactly.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah.
Victoria Petriw: It’s not surprise.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. No, I could see that because I could see that maybe some organizations, they maybe only do a yearly review or six month review, in your case. This person’s meeting with the team lead all the time. So it’s not a surprise, even if it’s a 360 at 90 days or a year. It’s not like, this is like, oh, here’s what we’re finding. It’s a progression over the whole year, many, many touch points and many times. I can totally see that.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So I love that you went through this journey kind of in reverse. We talked about the annual retreat and how you do it as a team, but also how you integrate it into the interview process and the onboarding process. And then into the ongoing review process, in general. Is there anything else that we didn’t mention that would be important about how to scale your company culture as you grow?
Victoria Petriw: I guess the last thing to sort of think about is, how is your culture, so the behaviors that you’re trying to instill and the values that are your guiding principles, really embedded in the processes that you have? So another area that I think has been really beneficial for us is thinking about when we’re doing any of our strategic planning and our annual planning as an organization. We’ve been able to sort of embed our values in that, like really early on. So we adopted years ago, the operating model called traction.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’ve talked to Gino Wickman, as well. Yeah.
Victoria Petriw: Oh nice. Yeah. It’s an incredible book and system, very simple, easy to implement in any organization. And I think the benefit it had for us is that the system ensures that team members really have a voice and are adding to the organization’s direction. And as a result, you’re creating alignment within the organization of moving towards like a shared goal.
Victoria Petriw: So that’s been really beneficial for us, is every year when we go through our annual process, our strategic planning, we actually send out a company wide survey. That’s both quantitative and qualitative for team members to complete. It takes over an hour and a half to complete for team members, but they understand that their input is being taken. And so when they see the annual priorities that the leadership team identifies, they see directly where it’s coming from, because it comes from that survey. And then it also comes from the other areas of traction, which is, they’ve seen the data of, how we’re doing as an organization, they’re contributing to that data. They have their weekly meetings within their teams where they’re really talking about the key topics and challenges that the team’s going through.
Victoria Petriw: Yeah, the big theme here is, is that nothing should come as a surprise. Because they’ve been involved all along. And in an organization where we really believe in everybody should bring value to the organization and everyone’s perspective should be heard, like we’re all people. This process actually speaks to that. It’s like walking the talk. It’s not just saying that, but then it’s like, you have an avenue. And then we hold you accountable to that avenue. Because if you’re going to submit sort of the feedback of like, “Hey, we should be doing this as an organization.” Then that said as a priority, chances are, you’re going to be working on it too, which is really cool.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Victoria, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate this. It really gives me and the audience a clear picture on how to scale your company culture as it grows. And I want to encourage people to check out WiderFunnel.com. Check out more episodes of the Process Breakdown Podcast and check out SweetProcess. And thanks, Victoria. Thanks everyone.
Victoria Petriw: Thank you.
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