In this episode, we begin our season long journey through each of the Four Engagement Elevators. We hop on Elevator number 1: Shared Mission. This is the clear vision that everyone in a group believes in and can easily articulate. It's the beacon that all eyes are on as the group makes their way on their journey together.
And who better to discuss the importance of Shared Mission than Group Vice President at Cox Media, Maryann Balbo?
Maryann provides so many great insights, such as:
About Up Your Culture:
Up Your Culture, an employee engagement and company culture firm, was designed by The Center for Sales Strategy which has almost 40 years of experience improving business performance.
ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report:
Up Your Culture:
(04:42) Culture is good for business
(07:18) Hear all voices and understand individual purpose
(10:18) The lack of a clear mission creates silos
(12:18) Every employee should be able to tell you their company's Shared Mission
(13:42) Hire people with the same values as your company
(18:58) How can we live that value as an organization?
(22:09) Break down your company's core values
(24:29) People hear and see what you truly mean by your actions.
Beth Sunshine: (00:15)
Hello and welcome to Culture Over Coffee, a podcast focused on improving company culture and fostering employee engagement. Every week we chat with experts and thought leaders about the latest information and proven practices you can use to reduce regrettable turnover, increase productivity on your team, and retain key customers. So, pour a cup of your favorite brew and join us. I'm your host, Beth Sunshine, SVP at Up Your Culture and the Center for Sales Strategy.
Beth Sunshine: (00:50)
In this episode, we're beginning our season long journey through each of the four engagement elevators. Today we're hopping on elevator number one shared mission. This is the clear vision that everyone in a group believes in and can easily articulate. It's the beacon that all eyes are on as the group makes their way on their journey together. And who better to discuss the importance of shared mission than group vice president at Cox Media? Maryann Balbo. Maryann provides so many great insights, such as how a company culture isn't simply an add-on. It's the heart of who you are. Why organizations without a shared mission often result in employees toiling away in their own silos. And how every leader must be intentional about the company culture they wish to see flourish among their team. All right, so Maryann, thank you so much for joining me today for Culture Over Coffee. I've been really looking forward to this.
Maryann Balbo: (01:49)
Yeah, I'm excited to be here. Beth, thank you for the invite.
Beth Sunshine: (01:53)
Oh, anytime. Glad you could join. We have worked together, boy, for a lot of years now. We've worked together in the areas of talent, so selection and development, but also employee engagement. And one of the qualities I've always really admired about you is your genuine people first approach. I know your company as a whole fosters that kind of culture. They, they talk a lot about people first. It's probably on your website. Um, you know, your company leaders talk a lot about a people first approach, but with you, I've actually seen you put your people first in very significant ways, bringing that value to life, which is why I'm just so excited to talk about all of this with you today and get your perspective. Yeah,
Maryann Balbo: (02:40)
It's my favorite thing to talk about.
Beth Sunshine: (02:42)
I know. It is. And actually before we, uh, jumped on the podcast, and you would've been too humble to do this otherwise, so, uh, you held up your talent superhero Bobblehead. You have been our only two time award winner of the Talent superhero. And I would say a big part of why you continue to be nominated and continue to win is because of that people first attitude. So that was a fun way to start, as we know, add up your culture. We use the four engagement elevators to help organizations lift their culture, elevate engagement, and that's what we're gonna focus on today. Well, we're gonna start kind of broad. I have a, I have a more general question to start with, but then I wanna get really specific and get into one of the first, one of the four engagement elevators. We're gonna start with the first one, which is shared mission. No better place to start than at the beginning. Yeah.
Maryann Balbo: (03:39)
Beth Sunshine: (03:39)
A level set on that. We have found that a strong shared mission gives employees a clear sense of where they're going, where they're going as a company, a team, even as an individual employee, and why they're working so hard to get there. So to help organizations build a strong shared mission, we guide them to identify and define three things. And we're gonna talk about these today. I know you have a lot of experience with these. Um, we focus on, first of all, their reason for being or their purpose statement, secondly, their core values, and then third, their vision for the future. And you've been involved in this kind of work many times. So I wanna just jump right in, but we're gonna start with that broad question before we narrow down to the first engagement elevator. I just wanna know from you, why do you think it's so important for companies to focus on their culture to to care about employee engagement? How does that benefit the company or, you know, any aspect of it?
Maryann Balbo: (04:42)
Yeah, I, I think it's, um, it's the company's competitive advantage in the marketplace from a, uh, from driving business as well as retaining and attracting talent, being able to, um, be a place that is focused on people and culture help. It's good for business, it's good business. And your customers see that, they feel it. And your, your employees are attracted to that, the right employees. And that helps you to have success in, in your space. So I don't see it as a add-on or something to consider. I think of it as the heart of who you are as an organization. It is your brand, it is what you bring to the table and it's what differentiates yourself from your competitors.
Beth Sunshine: (05:37)
Uh, I love the way you said that it's your competitive advantage. It's what differentiates you from the others. It's your brand. I think you said it's at the heart or it is at the heart of everything. I, I love the way you described that and I, I would say that most business leaders probably would agree with that. And yet it still seems to be the thing that gets back burnered. It gets pushed aside because budgets are due or things that feel more like business have to happen first. And yet you're saying it is the business.
Maryann Balbo: (06:10)
It is the business. It's not on the side of your desk, it's in the center of your desk. And I remind my leaders that all the time. It's like, well, I'm gonna get to that. No, that's what you get to first. The other things can wait cuz if you don't have your people and your culture and your shared mission and your purpose, if you don't have, if you're not aligning with your values, getting to that budget or that report, it doesn't matter. You're, you're not gonna find the success that you would have if you start with the principles. It's those big rocks. And that is the biggest rock you have is your people and your culture.
Beth Sunshine: (06:45)
Well said. Let's get into that big rock then we'll get a bit more specific. Um, what have you been found just over your years of experience to be good ways to create a strong shared mission? Because I know the goal is to make your employees feel connected, connected to the company, purposeful in the work that they're doing, so that they're rolling up their sleeves and they really, you know, they they want to be there. Yeah. What are some good ways to, to make that happen? Yeah,
Maryann Balbo: (07:15)
I think it's, it's really, it's hearing all voices and understanding individual purpose and then how those individual purpose statements and thoughts all play into the large purpose, the large mission of the organization. That's when you know you have the right people on board because they should align. Right? And, and let's be honest, business can be hard, days can be very long. We've had, you know, a, a rough couple of years if we focus only on what we do every day, it can be very daunting. But when we, for we focus on why we do what we do, it helps us get it through those tough times. And it helps us to celebrate when we have success because we've lived our purpose, our mission is accomplished, right? It's a goal. It's, it's what we're there to do and there's nothing like fulfillment, uh, of a team. And that feeling of when you walk away and you say, you know what? We lived up to our mission today. We did it. There's an energy that comes with that.
Beth Sunshine: (08:27)
I completely agree. You said something really interesting there too about how the individual has a purpose as well. The company needs to have identified their purpose, usually found in a purpose statement, but each individual has their own purpose and they do have to align or else it's probably not the right match as far as an employer. Is that right?
Maryann Balbo: (08:50)
That's exactly right. And I don't wanna skip ahead, but that really also opens the door for the conversation around values.
Beth Sunshine: (08:57)
Yeah, it does. We are definitely gonna get to that. So I'm glad you're using it. Nice. Yeah. Very good. Well, let's, let's break down the components of a shared mission just a little bit. We'll get to values cuz those are key. But we're gonna start with where we are talking about a purpose statement. The engaged 2022 report showed that two out of three people, which I thought was really surprising. Two out of three people work for a company that either doesn't have a reason for being or purpose statement or they just don't know what it is. Only 31% of the survey respondents said that they have a clear purpose statement that they could articulate with someone else. So with that said, how important do you think it is to have something that concrete, something that you can say off the top of your head? How important is that and and why?
Maryann Balbo: (09:46)
Yeah, I mean, it's your north star. It's, it's, it's your common purpose. It's your common theme. It's your common goal. Yeah. It's what you're all working towards together. Even though we all have different roles of how to get there. So if we don't know where we're going, how do we know how we are contributing as individuals? And then how do we, um, how do we make sure that we are valuing others pass because we know we're going to meet up together. And a lot of times when I see organizations that aren't quite clear on what their mission is, then you see these silos within the organization because they don't understand how they're all working together. They only have the blinders on of, this is what I do well, how does that contributing to the, to the, to the larger good? Right? And if you don't have that mission as at North Star, it's very difficult to be able to have success where they do meet up.
Maryann Balbo: (10:46)
Sometimes they won't meet up at all. Then you absolutely are not upholding what your goals are cuz they're working in their, in their own space. At the end of the day, you've all gotta be working towards the same goal and you've gotta come together at that point. And, and, and, and so you have all these lanes and you're working in your lane, but you're also appreciating the other lanes and understanding how they're working together. And without a shared mission. That is, it's very challenging to do. And I've been in situations like that and you see that that's where there's miscommunication. There's a lot of turnover. Um, performance is impacted. It, it's not the best situation to be in. When you have that common mission, you can really be able to drive performance and satisfaction within your employees and your customers.
Beth Sunshine: (11:36)
So you've touched upon that. It's it's not your what it's your why. And you've talked about how, um, it can break down silos, break down walls, because if everyone has a common why, a a common purpose where we're all doing something together and we know why we're doing it, how it can, it can open doors. I like your analogy of lanes too. You're in your lane, but all these other lanes feed in, I think that's, that's something I'm gonna play around with later. I I like that visual. We need to
Maryann Balbo: (12:10)
Beth Sunshine: (12:10)
Yes. We need to merge, we need to all work together. There's, there's a lot we can do with that. I think it's a great way to to describe it.
Maryann Balbo: (12:18)
Yeah. I mean if you walk into a team and you, you ask people on the team, what do you do? And they say, oh, I do X, Y, and Z and somebody else says, I do A, B, and C. If they don't get to the next part that we deliver this for our customers, then they don't understand the full mission. Yeah. In fact, I would rather walk onto a team and and say, what do y'all do? And everybody gives me the same answer. We're working to deliver this for our customers.
Beth Sunshine: (12:48)
Hmm. I love that. No matter what their job is. It reminds me of a story about that, um, janitor who worked at NASA when we were, do you know the story how, um, he was being interviewed and he asked, so what do you do here? And he said, we're working to put a man on the moon. I mean, that's what we are all doing here. Now. His job was to clear up trash and to make sure everyone had a clean workspace. But we are all working to put a man on the moon on Yes. On a mission. Yeah, exactly. Well said. Okay. So moving from the purpose, the reason for being part of this shared mission to what u teased earlier, which are the values and sort of my, one of my bigger hot buttons, a a company's values. Do you agree that they sort of set the bar for how employees treat each other? Sort of the rules of the game
Maryann Balbo: (13:40)
Beth Sunshine: (13:41)
Maryann Balbo: (13:42)
Absolutely. And they, and they attract people who have similar values while still embracing diversity and inclusion and, you know, diversity of thought. I mean that's, that needs to be one of the values that
Beth Sunshine: (13:57)
Maryann Balbo: (13:57)
Right. Um, but values are so important because you really need to set the expectations of what, what is allowed, what is encouraged and what is not allowed. And if, if your values don't align with the organization, you're not gonna be happy and the organization's not gonna be happy. So I'm very fortunate that I found an organization that aligns with my values. And it, it just comes so naturally, and I hear this a lot from our teams, that they feel like they're at home because it's like, okay, this is a natural and I've been in situations and where it didn't feel that way and there was that inner struggle and I didn't feel like I could quite be myself and I didn't always agree with, with, with those values. And, and it just, I wasn't my best. So if you wanna bring out the best in your people, if you wanna attract the right people that are aligned with your values, you have to be very clear about those values are, and in fact, one thing that that I like to do is in the interview process, I like to share what our values are upfront. And I like to hear what people have to say about that, those values. Um, because I wanna make sure that I'm really clear like this is, this is the way we do business here. Yeah. And, and if that is not aligned with, with yours, that's okay. I'm not judging, but then it probably isn't gonna be a good fit.
Beth Sunshine: (15:24)
I think that's really well said and very smart to do it up front, including that in the recruitment process. You're reminding me of someone I know who is extremely methodical and I often use him as an example when I'm talking about core values and, and um, selecting people who have aligned core values. He is very methodical. He is, he is such a thinker. He's so analytical. It takes him a lot of time to really digest and process and produce excellence. Um, but what he produces is just amazing top quality. He could never be happy working at a company that is all about innovation and quick turnaround and let's just get it 60% of the debt way done and, and hope it sticks and then we'll work on it. It would be such a mismatch. The company, their values might be innovation and speed. That's great. His values might be, you know, methodical, analytical, that's great too. What a terrible match. They'd be smart idea to ask to talk to your candidates about it from the get go. Let 'em know who you are. And I really like the way you said it's kind like we're at home. You get to just be you. Yeah.
Maryann Balbo: (16:38)
Really well said. Yeah. And I, and I've actually learned that principle, um, from you Beth and CSS from years ago about the right fit. Um, and, and you know, there's very, there's talent everywhere. It's a matter of, is that the talent that is needed? Is it aligned with our values and vice versa? You know, as, as somebody who is interviewing for a role, does the company align with who you are? Cause you wanna be at home, we want you to be at home also. That's right. It needs to be that right fit. Um, and it also needs to be the right fit on your team. You know, you, you might have a, a nice mix of, I hope you have a nice mix of, of, of folks on your team and you need to make sure that it's, it's a good fit for us to be able to move the business forward that we have, you know, diversity of thought and different voices. Yeah. And not just all following the, the same realm. And so yeah, it's, it's extremely important. I think up front when you're looking at, at potential organizations, you need to do your research. Yeah. You need to understand not just what they say on their website, but how do they actually live it? What's their mantra and how, how are they the proofs in the pudding? What actions are they taken to evolve with those values?
Beth Sunshine: (17:54)
I like that. What are their employees saying about their values? So it starts with the company really knowing who they are, what their values are, and probably the candidate, the job candidate knowing who they are, what their values are. Okay, so let me ask you this question and I'll just set it up by pointing to the engaged 2022 report that we did. Again, um, 43% of those surveyed were aware that their company had values, but less than half of that small group of 43%, less than half of those people could tell us what those core values were. Which means over 57% of employees were either unaware that their company had, or their market or their team had any sort of core values, um, at all. So, question for you, if a company is clear on who they are, what they value, what can they do, any best practices you've learned along the way that you could share for them to actually bring them to life so their employees are aware of them and live them every day?
Maryann Balbo: (18:58)
Yeah, absolutely. Um, it's all around the action items that not just the organization as a whole implement to, to align with those core values, but also at all levels within the organization. Leaders are bringing to life and there's, you know, there's the big picture and you know, whether it be, you know, um, conservation, et cetera, and what, what we can do as a, as a large organization. But there's also the piece of how can we do something around conservation as a team. How can we live that value? So I like to be able to look at the values and be able to put action items that we're living them every day, right? And then reminding people of what they are and how we're actually showing and showing up for those values so that it becomes a normal part of our every day. So volunteering is, is a, is a big part of, of who Cox is giving back to their communities.
Maryann Balbo: (19:57)
So as a result, we give people the opportunity to take time off, paid time off to go volunteer. It's one of our core values. So the proofs in the pudding, right? We, we are giving you the time, we're asking you to do that. We're supporting that core value. We're not just saying it. Well then I'd like to take it one step further. How can I as a leader be able to incorporate volunteering with my team? How can I, it doesn't matter about the time off. It's about bringing people together, the team building, giving back to our community. How can I recognize somebody on my team who is giving back to their community, aligning with that value that your employees should be able to ramble off those values very quickly because they live them every day. Cuz they see examples at a high level as well as at a micro level. And that's our responsibilities as a leader, leader in my opinion, to be able to continue to live them and come up with creative ways in order to do that. It can't just be the company as a whole. It really has to go straight down to the, the leaders in your individual teams.
Beth Sunshine: (21:02)
Yeah, that's a really important point. It has to start at the top because there has to be sort of an umbrella, a cohesiveness to here's who we are and what we value, but then every leader, every person has to really live them. I'm glad you pointed that out. You also touched on sort of a, not a timeline, but uh, I can't think what the word is I'm looking for, but kind of a process for making this happen. First you talked about just identifying them. So are you focused on community, on volunteerism? What are your values? And then you talked about talking about them. So like discussing them, making them something that rolls off your lips, people hear all the time. Then you talked about, um, demonstrating them yourself. So you know, being the role model for it. And then you used the word recognized. So recognizing other people when they do that. I really like that progression. Did I capture it right? Is there anything else that I might have missed that
Maryann Balbo: (22:09)
I, one thing that I've done in the past is, um, with our, with our values, which were connected to our purpose statement is break down each word in the, in the, in the statement because the words were so carefully selected. Cause words matter. Yeah. Breaking down each word and really taking the time to live that word. So one of 'em I remember was around, um, connection uhhuh. Okay. And so we took an entire month and each week we, we did something as a team to connect and we would remind everybody that the, it was, it was based on the word connection in our purpose statement. Everything from playing two truths and a lie to having thirsty Thursday to going out and volunteering in the community. But it was all under that umbrella of connection. Connection. And then, no, then you'll forget that like, that's important to us, right?
Maryann Balbo: (23:04)
And it's part of who we are and it's an important focus for us as an organization and we're living it. Then the next month we took another word and we continued to work on it. And um, it really helped us to strengthen our, our team, um, our alignment with our organization. And it helped us to be able to, to attract people who also had the same types of values because they saw that cuz we were living it. I remember even having a customer say to me, what are you doing with that team? They feel different in a good way. Customers felt it because our people were more engaged. So it, it's good for business too.
Beth Sunshine: (23:47)
I like that they had that shared mission. They were more engaged. It's spilled all the way over to your customers. That's a, that's very, very cool. So we've talked about kind of best practices, things you should do. I think you've given us a really good example of how to bring core values to life. I bet if I were to ask any of your people, uh, what their core values are, they're gonna be able to tell me cuz they know they're doing them every day. But let's flip that upside down. What are some things that you think managers should not do? What should they specifically avoid in order to not undercut their shared mission?
Maryann Balbo: (24:24)
Yeah, I, I think, um, at the end of the day, people hear and see what you truly mean by your actions. Mm-hmm. , and you can say something, but if you're not really living up to it, they know that. Yeah. And so as a leader, you have a different responsibility on your shoulders that you really have to be intentional about living your values every day and setting an example and being a role model. Um, and when you, when you make a mistake and we all do and we have a misstep, you need to acknowledge it and be transparent about it to your team and say, you know what? I screwed up that didn't align with our, with our values and I, and, and I know better and I messed up and I apologize. It won't happen again. And, and just be, be upfront about it because if you try to hide it, you know, forget the 10 times you did it, right?
Maryann Balbo: (25:27)
Yeah. The one time you did it wrong is all, everybody will remember. And then that really creates a safe space for your team when they perhaps have a misstep to say, wow, that didn't align, but I can be upfront about it. Right? And, and I know that this is a safe area to do that. So, um, I would just say you have to live those values with your actions and you have to make sure that really people are hearing what you mean and not just what you say in order to do that. It's through actions. This is
Beth Sunshine: (26:02)
So powerful, such good advice. We often say live, don't laminate as a reminder. I mean, it doesn't make any sense to put them on your lobby wall or put them on your screensaver if you're not doing them. And you're right. You do it 10 times the right way and then you go against those core values one time and everyone's noticing and what a great message to remember. You're human and own it. Own it. That's
Maryann Balbo: (26:29)
Great. I, I think, you know, if any it's so powerful to acknowledge that, you know, I I messed up.
Beth Sunshine: (26:36)
Yeah. And that's
Maryann Balbo: (26:37)
In the line of our values instead of everybody. Oh goodness. Did you notice that? Maybe it isn't real.
Beth Sunshine: (26:44)
Maryann Balbo: (26:45)
To acknowledge it because that, that is so powerful. Own it. And everybody has ownership in this. Everybody has ownership. This isn't just leaders. Everybody has ownership in, in shared mission, in our values, in our purpose. That we all are moving this, this, this ship together. Okay? That's all have to own our part of it. And that's really, really important for, for a team to be strong and to be successful, it has to have ownership across all levels of the organization.
Beth Sunshine: (27:16)
I agree. And that's why every hire you make is either going to add to or detract from your culture. And you wanna make sure using the advice you gave earlier, that every hire you make, no matter we want diversity in all ways other than core values. Um, because we need people to really feel as though they're aligned to that mission. It's great. Yeah.
Maryann Balbo: (27:38)
We want them to, to help to enhance our, our culture and we want them to also be able to feel the, the fruits of, of and the benefits of that culture. So it's a win-win.
Beth Sunshine: (27:52)
It's a win-win. Well said. Well thank you Maryanne. We are out of time. So did that fly by?
Maryann Balbo: (27:59)
It did fly by. It
Beth Sunshine: (28:01)
Flew by. Um, but I do appreciate you spending all of that time with me talking about culture over coffee. Um, I think we shared a lot of really good information and ideas. I'm sure our listeners are going to find a lot of this really valuable. Now for those listening, I'm going to drop Maryanne's LinkedIn information in the show notes so you can connect with her. She posts cool stuff on LinkedIn as well. So I think you'll also enjoy being connected with Earth. I'm also going to drop a link, uh, in the show notes to the engaged 2022 report, so that if you want any additional details that may interest you, you know where to find them. So thank you Maryanne and thank you to all of our listeners. Enjoy the journey to of your culture. Thanks so much for spending time with us on Culture Over Coffee. If you've enjoyed the conversation, be sure to subscribe and join us for every episode. For more helpful information on the topics of company culture and employee engagement, visit us. Sit up your culture.com.