Creating a Fearless Culture with Gustavo Razetti

Reading Time: 12 Minutes

In this episode, Gustavo Razzetti shares what workplace culture is and how to design and improve it in these changing times.

Takeaways We Learned Gustavo…

Stop trying to be the hero.

As a leader, focus on facilitating and creating the right environment for your team. Teach them how to fish instead of always providing solutions. Empower your team members to find their own solutions and grow.

Culture is an amplifier.

Culture is not an abstract concept but a collection of emotions, mindsets, and behaviors in an organization. It magnifies your strategy and can accelerate your results. Invest in creating a positive and purpose-driven culture to enhance your business success.

Turn culture conversations into dialogues.

Instead of top-down approaches, foster conversations and dialogue within your organization. Involve employees in shaping the purpose, vision, and values. Strike a balance between defining the environment and allowing individuals to choose their own direction for growth.

Design your culture intentionally.

Cultures can grow by chance or by design. Take a proactive approach to shape your company culture. Start by mapping your current culture, identifying what works and what doesn’t. Then envision the future culture you want to create and evolve towards it.

Recognize the existing culture.

Every organization already has a culture, whether they realize it or not. Acknowledge its presence and understand the behaviors, beliefs, and values that are already in place. This awareness serves as a foundation for intentional culture development.

Navigate the hybrid model with clarity and communication.

In a hybrid or remote-first environment, clarity becomes crucial. Clearly communicate goals, expectations, and the shared purpose to ensure everyone is aligned. Balance freedom and accountability by allowing flexibility while emphasizing the responsibility to deliver results.

Turn culture improvement into a dialogue.

Involve people in conversations about what’s working and what’s not working in the workplace culture. Reflect on the changes and shifts brought by events like the pandemic and integrate the positive aspects while letting go of the negative ones to project the culture into the future.

Customize work preferences with “washing instructions.”

Treat team members based on their individual preferences and not how you want to be treated. Use tools like “washing instructions” to codify work preferences, communication styles, and boundaries. This fosters better understanding among team members and enables the creation of norms that enhance collaboration.

Fear limits greatness, fearlessness unlocks potential.

Fearful cultures restrict employees from taking risks, speaking up, and experimenting. In contrast, fearless cultures empower individuals to embrace risks, learn from mistakes, and explore new paths. Building a supportive environment where leadership and team members encourage growth and experimentation is key to fostering fearlessness.

Observe signs of culture.

The culture of an organization can be observed through simple signs. Pay attention to the behavior and stress levels of employees at all levels, from receptionists to senior executives. Look for signs of approval-seeking or silence during team sessions, as they may indicate underlying fear within the culture.

About Gustavo Razzetti

Fearless culture is a culture design consultancy that helps teams do the best work of their lives. For more than 20 years, Razzetti has helped leaders from Fortune 500s, startups, nonprofits, and everything in between on every continent but Antartica.

Gustavo is also the creator of the Culture Design Canvas, a framework used by thousands of teams and organizations across the world to map, assess, and design their culture.

In addition to his consulting work with clients, Gustavo regularly speaks with leaders and teams about culture change, teamwork, and hybrid workplaces. His coaching and tools have helped countless executives and teams develop work environments where people collaborate to accelerate individual and collective performance.

The author of four books on culture change, Gustavo’s insights have been featured in The New York Times, Psychology Today, Forbes, BBC, and Fortune, among others.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and executive business coach Allison Dunn. Our topic today is creating a fearless culture. Our guest is Gustavo Razzetti. He is the creator of Fearless Culture, which is a workplace consulting firm to help develop purpose driven organizations. He is also a prolific writer and author of four books on cultural change. His insights have been featured in The New York Times, Psychology Today, Forbes, Fortuna, among others. Gustavo, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Gustavo: My pleasure. Great to be here.

Allison: Thank you, I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. What would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?

Gustavo: The number one, I mean, the first thing that comes to mind would be like, stop trying to be the hero.

In many leaders try to be heroic in terms of trying to either to solve every problem or to always find the solution. What people really need. Our leaders are facilitators, so they create the right environment. And as they say, they remove the speed bumps, so people can move as fast as possible. But don’t try and find the solution. So teach your team how to fish. Don’t bring them the fish. 

Allison: Okay, one of my favorite go to sayings. Do you think naturally as leaders, we want to be the hero and therefore solve and fix everything, as opposed to allowing the team to figure it out?

Gustavo: I think there are two things. One is the narrative, the social narrative, and then it’s our human desire to feel valued by others. So when it comes to narrative, since I mean, we started Greek history, however, there’s always been this narrative that the hero took, let’s have a look at superheroes now in today’s movies are the most watched movies, it’s about someone’s going to save the world of superpowers, I can do what any other people can’t.

And I think that’s a problem because not only do they weaken other people, instead of helping them find the solution, but then they become a less self-aware, they think that they have better superpowers and skills that they actually have. So some people don’t necessarily want to do that. But I think that it’s forced when it comes, for example, for in recruiting, we tend to recruit leaders that are more heroic that are more extrovert, like Steve Jobs type of like, and actually boards, there’s research that shows that they get paid much more money than people that are more maybe introvert, even if they’re introverted, more quiet, people are much more effective leaders.

Allison: Yeah. I think that’s good and good insights on that. Your area of expertise is helping companies basically designed team cultures that lead to a more dynamic and successful team, ultimately, resulting in running a better business and hopefully becoming a better leader in some way. Everyone knows that workplace culture is critical for business success. But what do we really mean by that?

Gustavo: That’s a good point. I mean, it made people think of culture as something that’s abstract, it’s hard to grasp, hard to define. But in the end culture, it’s the collection of the emotions, the mindsets and the behaviors that are happening, the organization, and behaviors are the most important part, not only what people do, not the typical, the things, we normally do things here, but also what people don’t do, the things that people avoid doing, or they don’t want to do, or they’re afraid of doing.

So in the nutshell, culture is like an amplifier. It magnifies your strategy. There’s this saying that that culture eats strategy for breakfast. I don’t agree with that first, because it was in a I mean, it’s assigned to a leader that never said that. The director, however, people didn’t use it alone culture without a good strategy is not going to take you anywhere. A, of course, a good strategy, good product, and a good culture, the culture is going to amplify or accelerate your results.

Allison: So I like both of those words, meaning the culture itself is what creates success, but it’s a magnifier of it to amplify your success. How can we make culture more tangible?

Gustavo: Through conversations, and I think this sounds obvious.

I think that a we need to turn culture conversations into a dialogue. In most organizations, like for example, when it comes to finding the purpose, the vision, the values, that something that’s top down, and people are only involved to be passive listeners and to say, oh, yeah, we agree we’re going to buy into that.

Our approach is while creating conversation because culture is the result of what leaders want to achieve, but also how people behave, I like to use the analogy of a city. So if you’re the mayor, you don’t control what people do you set certain guidelines right. For example, I’m going to put a traffic light here because there’s a lot of traffic accidents. However, if people want to walk, ride, a bike, a drive, the type of music, they’re listening, all that stuff are things that people, of course, the side and the same should happening in organizations. So this a balance between leaders defining the environment, but then letting people choose in which direction they grow. That’s how culture should be developed.

Allison: In the work that you do, what are some of the things that you I mean, I love the fact that you were talking about the city and being the mayor and kind of the structures that you put in place. So let’s apply that to the workplace. How can you create our craft or design one? And what are the things that our listeners should be thinking about? When they apply it to their own company or a future company?

Gustavo: And doesn’t question I think that first of all, some people get stuck with a term design because they think that design means controlling, right? But in the end.

I always tell my clients, either your culture grows by chance or by design, I don’t successful culture, a company cultures have been very intentional.

That doesn’t mean being prescriptive or directive, it means that will sit in those guidelines. The first step to your point is to map where are you today? Even if you haven’t done any work, there’s always culture the moment you have two or three people interacting the culture is there, there are certain behaviors, beliefs, a value starting place. So we need to identify what’s going on today. And then with that, we can assess what’s working, what’s not working, and moving to what will the future culture look like? And what we need to evolve it in that direction.

Allison: Okay, I concur with that. I think a lot of people say, well, we don’t really focus on culture, but they already have one, whether they realize it or not, for sure. You have a new book that is coming out. And I think it’s like the one of the largest challenges that we have, at least in the clients that I work with is that hybrid model of now that we have people who are in the office out of the office working from home working from anywhere, how do you control that culture by design?

Gustavo: That I mean, they will be so really out. So is it the thing about being intentional becomes more critical when you’re working in a hybrid or remote first environment. However, there are many companies that I talked to an interview for the book that really cracked the code about how to do it, if the most important thing is about clarity, so clarity about what they were nice to do what we’re trying to achieve together.

So communication is crucial. The other element is balancing freedom with accountability. So giving people flexibility not only to choose where they want to work from, but also when so they’re to choose their own hours, the only skill and also how, but with that freedom comes the responsibility for those team members to deliver. So these companies focus more into the outcome, what’s the impact of our work, rather than measuring how many hours we work? That’s one of the biggest kind of shifts that you need to consider.

Allison: So what would be your guidance to a leader today that maybe wants to improve their current workplace culture based on all these dynamics? What are some of the steps that they can take?

Gustavo: The first step is once again, going back to turning this into a dialogue and involve people. So simple questions, like for example, asking people, Hey, what’s working, what’s not working, for example, reflecting the pandemic crazier, huge shifts, not only in terms of our personal lives, but also work. So we need to revisit what used to be what is our culture, how we used to work before the pandemic, what happened in the pandemic, and what needs to happen now. And there are good things from the past that we want to keep the good things from the pandemic that we want to add, but there are many things that we want to get rid of. So we need to integrate those to try to project our culture into a future.

Allison: Okay. And I think that as like a leader or an owner of a team, like that’s a dialogue that I can start if that’s my role, what would be your guide for just a team member who wants to make this more prevalent inside of their workplace, how can they go about it?

Gustavo: I can give you like a tool that we use there, it’s very straightforward. And people can download it from our website for free, which is called the washing instructions.

So we were taught that you have to treat others the way you want to be treated. And that’s completely wrong, because each of your team members have different preferences. So research shows that leaders that are early risers, think of people that arrive normal hours, so even 10 minutes late, that are lazy, because they are being in the office for two hours.

So there’s a huge misunderstanding. washing instructions is a template allows team members to codify how they want to work, what are their preference, how they want to communicate it, for example, don’t talk to me before I have my third coffee in the morning. Or if I’m in my deep work, don’t interrupt me. Or you can reach out to me if you need, I don’t know, presentation skills, someone to help you with whatever, then the magic happens when you can not only share, so you get to understand your colleagues better. But also to find common ground, we have personal preferences, but also set team how we want to operate. And that includes communications. How, for example, how much time can we take to answer an email? Should we answer an email immediately? Or it’s okay to answer within two days? Those kinds of norms that help teams work better.

Allison: Excellent tip. You use your company name is Fearless Culture. What is, in your experience working with a company? What creates fearlessness? Or what creates a fearful culture? What’s the conflict? How do you know when you’re in one? And how do you make it fair, less?

Gustavo: That’s a great point. And it’s a journey, right? It’s not a black and white approach is the point about fear.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. So it’s the sign that something’s about to happen. So we need to pay attention in fearful cultures. Fear basically, it’s not like a signal. But actually, it’s like, endurance in which people are afraid to cross the line, to speak out of time, to contradict your managers to experiment to do things differently. So fear limits people’s ability to do great work.

In our fearless culture, people feel okay to take risks, to screw up to learn from those mistakes to experiment new paths. Because both their leadership, the culture and their team members are supportive.

Allison: Now, how do you know which one you have? I mean, is it is it going to be obvious when you’re working in one, whether it’s fear driven?

Gustavo: Well, we have tools that we use to assess the culture. But I think that we talked about culture being visible, there are simple tricks that you can take, for example, if you visit someone’s office, you want to talk to a senior executive, the leader, the CEO of the of the company. And if you get that the receptionist is stressed out, because she’s guiding you the way that you need to go through two or three assistants that people are required around that already can tell you that stuff. Another thing is when you’re having a first and we have a stakeholder interview, so we have a group session with the team to see what’s going on. And if people for example, look at the leader, or they say, Hey, what’s that, okay, they’re trying to get kind of approval, that’s also a sign of silence. I mean, a science is good because we It helps us reflect but when people are keeping things to themselves, that’s a huge sign of fear.

Allison: Okay, good signs and things to look for that you can visually see. Because you don’t necessarily know when someone is in fear. But you can see the science cool. Your book, which is Remote, Not Distance: Designing a Company Culture That Will Help You Thrive in Hybrid Workplaces. Where can folks pick that up?

Gustavo: It’s available in the major online retailers like Target, of course, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many others. So they Google it, they’re going to be able to find it quickly. And also many bookstores and retailers.

Allison: Okay, fantastic. Gustavo, what is the best way for people to find or follow you?

Gustavo: They can find me on LinkedIn I very active there and the only Gustavo ready with Double Z wt. So it’s my complex name. It’s a benefit advantage in ASCII. And then if not, they can go to our website, which is your It’s not dot company Dot Design. So fearless And as I mentioned, they have a lot of templates, free articles, but also they can contact us directly.

Allison: Okay, fantastic. It Gustavo, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Gustavo: Great to see you and great to join your program thank you.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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