Ep. 119 – How To Create A Culture By Design With Travis Anderson

Welcome to our listeners wherever you may be!

This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership. We have a fabulous guest with us today. I’m excited to have him here and talk together with him. Welcome. Travis Anderson.

Travis: Well, thank you it’s a pleasure to be a part of it. I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation.

Steve: Thank you. We will have a visit that I am confident will stimulate really some great ideas for our listeners. A little background first so that you can get a feel for Travis. In addition to being a friend. We love Travis Anderson. He is one awesome guy! I’d like to also give you a little background about him. He’s been in the management consulting business for over 28 years. He has specifically worked with a company called Culture Builders for the last 14 or 15 years with a very specific focus. They partner with vision driven leaders to create winning cultures. They do that through a whole suite of services. They have executive retreats, one on one coaching, and specialized training. They have had companies such as American Express, 3M, O.C. Tanner, sports teams like the Denver Broncos, and the list go on.

In addition to that, he has extensive international work in both Australia and the Philippines with billion dollar companies. Very successful companies he’s helped a great deal. He has spent a lot of his life there. And we’ve had the chance to visit about some of the experiences. He’s married with four beautiful daughters.

So to get going today, Travis not only are we honored to have you here. Somebody with that type of experience that you have both domestically and internationally. To talk about something that affects every single one of us. That is our culture with our families, with our teams, and our organizations, which can produce an outstanding result. So let’s get rolling.

Travis: Absolutely.

Steve: OK good enough. Well, first of all, let’s help our listeners get to know you a little bit better. Can you tell us about your background? Maybe some things that led you into the profession that you’re in the day into today? What are some things that built your character and help us get to know a little bit more about you?

Travis: You bet I grew up in northern Utah in a place called Logan. Which is what I say a fairly small town. It’s a college town. But the thing, I think back now in terms of the career that I’ve had really goes back to the fact that as a young kid. I really enjoyed sports and frankly, when I was young I was going to be a major league baseball player. When I was about 12 or 13 I realized that wasn’t in the cards. I was going to be a coach because I’ve always been interested in that. But I’ve got to tell you the thing that is interesting about that is I ended up being a management consultant. But I think the only reason I became a management consultant is that I realized I could still do what I love to do is based on what I learned in sports as a kid.

All the wins and losses were certainly critical and important. I always remembered the best, there were the camaraderie and the connection. Frankly the kinship of just being together. And striving for a common goal and playing as hard as I possibly could. Along with that, there was just something magic about those moments that I’ll never forget. So frankly, allowed me to really focus on what we talked about earlier. Culture in my mind is not that complicated. It’s a way to go about building relationships. That frankly, is a deeper level and a connection. That literally allows you to create something bigger than yourself. And so to answer your question, it’s kind of interesting. I think back to if I hadn’t been involved in sports I doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing now.

Steve: Well how interesting. Yeah, there’s something special about sports isn’t there?

Travis: Well, there really is. In some ways Steve, I believe that sports particularly, any particular sport, is in some ways a microcosm of life. The thing that’s interesting is you get the immediate feedback you know whether you won or lost at the end of the game. I think that we can learn a lot from that. Because sometimes in corporate America, my belief is some people believe that because of the culture in an organization. It’s really easy to hide out you don’t even know whether you won or lost for days weeks or months. Some people can hide behind a cubicle. No one knows what they’re doing but they sure seem busy. But in terms of high performance, it’s pretty hard to be effective unless you get instant feedback like you get in sports.

Steve: OK. Great point. And we’re going to talk more about that in just a moment. But that is huge! Well, let’s just talk about this. And as you think about your life. Can you identify maybe a major setback that you’ve had and how did you handle it and how it helped you today?

Travis: You know it’s interesting. I think back in my life. In some ways, I feel like I learned more in terms of what really matters, in terms of an actual setback or a failure. So you have a value that when you’re in the process you don’t enjoy it but you know one thing that comes to my mind. I remember being involved, as a young consultant, in a program that was with a very well-known computer company. I was brought in to partner with their top people. I walked in and that time I think what I was a pretty confident young man. I was in my mid-20s and I was working with someone that I respected highly. But I walked in, kind of feeling like, you know I think this three day work this three-day leadership retreat is something I’m very very familiar with. I’m excited about it but honestly, I probably didn’t prepare or do my homework as much as I probably should have. And I’ll never forget after the end of that three-day training

The partner that I had there, you know the person, sat me down. And said, “Hey, I just I just need to share some feedback from the people who have been working with…” And literally just warned me. Because they were so specific and so a surprise to me. Because I just felt like I was doing a really good job. But what I realized was that I hadn’t really done my homework and being able to customize it to the needs of that client. And what happened was that I was, I think, I was a bit pompous and proud because, hey you know, I got this figured out. Long story short. That was part of a multimillion-dollar deal. And because of how I didn’t show up in that three-day retreat essentially it went down the toilet. And that was not a happy experience for me. What I learned, and I’ve always remembered, was never walking into a room to do any type of leadership development work, or retreat, or whatever without having done the kind of preparation and focus that I needed to have. So that’s really been something that’s been very beneficial for me over the years.

Steve: Well thank you for being so open and sharing that. How true that is. And there is a high price for complacency isn’t there?

Travis: Well there really is. Absolutely, in fact, I think that’s what happened was that if you’re on top of your game, whether it’s in life or in sports you can get your butt kicked. And that’s what happened. You know I literally just didn’t didn’t realize… I used it’s so easy sometimes to be complacent about it even being aware of it.

Steve: Yeah, how true. Thanks for sharing that! In light of the fact that you have been so successful and touched so many lives and organizations since that time. It gives encouragement to anybody, to me, or anybody else that may have blown it. And that you can get back on the horse and just get after it and do better forever.

Travis: No doubt about it. Hey, remember I didn’t sleep that night thinking I cannot believe I did that. But I got to tell you it stuck with me in some way. It was a blessing in disguise. That if that hadn’t happened I know that literally, I would have missed out on huge opportunities in the future. Because of that lesson that allowed me to be better at what I do.

Steve: Yeah absolutely. Well, let’s just talk about culture. You know that’s a term that’s used a lot. Travis and so what’s the what’s your definition of culture and why is so important?

Travis: You know Steve it’s interesting to me. It’s it’s so much you. Like you said that I think sometimes people over complicated or think it’s something that it’s not. I have a simple straightforward definition and that is it is really the way we do things around here as well as how to do we. How are we? How are we with each other in other words how do we treat one another? At the end of the day, culture is all about relationships and if you can get those relationships right Mohyla will trust a high level of connection. I really believe that it can be frankly the competitive edge that nothing else can compare to in my mind. Just being able to really understand that sense of identity and who you are as a company it can be so powerful within the impact everything that you do not only internally and externally. I actually think it’s the very best marketing tool that you have if you do it right.

Steve: OK. All right. That is a great description I think that makes a lot of sense it impacts what everybody does and literally like what you say. This how we do things around here so well how do you take a broken culture. You and I have all both seen organizations where things are broken. Right. They’re not you know not working they’re not getting the results that they want. So how do you fix a culture?

Travis: You know it’s interesting because the one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you don’t fix it. You don’t construct. You don’t build what you do. In my mind, you grow it. In some ways, the best way for me to be able to share how I think you can enhance and develop a strong culture. Is to think of it as a garden. You’ve got to plan a garden. You’ve got to plant the seeds. You can’t fix those seeds if they don’t grow. Or you can do is create the best environment where they can grow right. We got to water, you got to fertilize it. And frankly, there’s going to be some weeds that are going to be there. So from time to time, you got to hoe those weeds. But you can do everything you can to create an environment where great things happen. Cultures can be cultivated. The word itself comes from cultivated from that concept. And that’s what I love about it is that it’s a living for an organic process that a lot of times people look at as a project or an event it is neither. It’s a process and it’s a growth journey that never ends.

Steve: Right okay, well that’s a good description because really the best leaders are those leaders that see themselves as someone that is more like a gardener than a mechanic.

Travis: That’s right.

Steve: Can’t open the brain and you know tighten down the screw and say okay you’re fixed too. You have to get the right things in place and the right pieces and then grow it. But it’s so much more powerful so what have you learned about the culture and its long-term impact.

Travis: Well it’s interesting to me that the companies that you see that have been a successful long term. I have yet to see an organization that has lasted a good amount of time without a strong healthy vibrant culture. It’s easier to it easier to talk about building a culture than it is to really do it. I mean to grow that culture requires a high level of focus and commitment particularly on the part of the leadership because if the leadership is not only committed but really walking the talk and living true to that identity that they say they are and frankly doing what they say they’re going to say and live up to the value they say that they that they own it it’s never going to work. And so in my mind what I found is that I’m sure you’ve probably heard this is that culture eats strategy for breakfast. I would much rather have a strong vibrant culture with a mediocre strategy versus a company that has just a really strong comprehensive spread but doesn’t have any Coles because I guarantee you that a culture will outlast any strategy any day.

Steve: Yeah how true. And you’ve probably noticed this as well as organizations that I’ve seen that have a strong healthy culture also are thinking about a strong healthy strategy and they go right yeah they go hand in hand don’t they?

Travis: Boy, they really do. Because you got to know what your vision is if you have a strong culture and if without that strong vision you’re never going to have a strong strategy it goes hand in hand, to be honest with you in fact. I know I have a model that is essentially a blueprint. It’s called the five layers blueprint of culture building. And one of the key elements of that is is is really one of those layers, of course, is his strategy and his operational excellence. And honestly, if he gets in the game plan and so that certainly is a part of a culture. But I think if you focus only on the strategy and execution of your business without being able to take care of the other layers including identifying clearly what your identity is and then being able to live in alignment with that in other words walking the talk and then thirdly communicating that culture effectively doesn’t your your business isn’t going to last very long. And the other layer that I get excited about sharing with people was the important directive. Are you saying that a strong culture is able to create a system where Cope’s where leadership is replicated? So the fifth layer is the ability to replicate leadership in a way that literally the leadership throughout the company.

] In other words you don’t have to rely just on the executive team there’s leadership in all aspects in all areas and all levels of the organisation because people take ownership and that that they own that company and that’s when the culture actually governs the behaviour rather than just the charisma of a strong leader.

Steve: Yeah great that’s a great description. And so as you’re thinking about this what is the role of leadership in building a strong culture.

Travis: Well I’m telling you it’s interesting because in speaking and coaching executives the one thing I share with them is is that your organisation is nothing more typically than a minute mere in terms of how you’re showing up whether you want to admit it or not if you’re complaining about your culture the best way to or the organisation the best way to really understand that is to take a deeper look inside yourself and find out what’s going on there because literally, it’s with or without your intent. It’s just the nature of culture that people want to be like the leader they want to please the leader and a lot of times they don’t really understand that every single conversation every single meeting every action every decision or decision or even every non-verbal gesture people make sense of that and decide whether or not this is something they want to be a part of or not.

And so I really believe that that leadership role is even more extraordinarily important in culture building than most people even think a lot of leaders think a culture is just a little part of running the business and my mind is everything to do with not only running the business but it has to do with everything in terms of your overall long-term success. The reason why I feel that way the reason is that of the leader. If you’re not clear that that culture is important you’ll be missed. You’re going to focus on service you’re going to focus on on products and you’re going to focus on systems which is great but all those things can be replicated by your competition the one and only thing that other companies cannot ever replicate exactly is your culture your wife it’s your DNA. It’s the heart of your heart and soul of your business. And so if you’re not clear about that and understand that your leadership really depends on how effective you are in really understanding that you’re not going to be successful long-term and there’s such a huge connection. I found that the companies that have the strongest culture inevitably have the strongest leadership and the companies have the strongest leadership inevitably have the strongest culture why because it’s all one and the same. It’s all about relationships and it’s all about getting people on board and committed and excited about something bigger than themselves.

Steve: All right. Well, that was that’s a great alignment and pulling together of how these two work together and leadership literally drives right down into the culture and culture. The same thing flows right back up. And so you have to make them one because if you have. Yeah. If you have a leader that comes in. But you have a culture that’s digging in that’s fighting back. This can be tough Royan, isn’t it.

Travis: You got that right.

Steve: So you got a line though so what can a leader do to create a strong culture

Travis: for one of the most important things. Honestly is this is to be yourself. You know I believe where I like to call authentic transparency meaning I’m not here to impress I’m not here to show off for you know people see how smart I am. It’s about here. Here I am here’s my strengths here are my weaknesses here’s my heart. When you’re able to be vulnerable as a leader and allow yourself to share who you are the good the bad and the ugly what that allows people to do is will do the same thing when you’re comfortable in your own skin and create a safe space and a psychological space to be yourself and share that with other people it allows them to do the very same thing and you create a culture that literally is it’s qualitatively different feeling you can sense the energy you can sense the fact that people don’t have to hide and pretend or try to be somebody they’re not. They realize that people are appreciated and they’re appreciated for who they are and regardless of what they do that they’re still appreciated as a person. But they’re also very clear that it’s OK to be human. You don’t have to be perfect

Steve: Yeah. And once you get to that level it really set aside the politics and the show then you can get down to business. Right.

Travis: Absolutely. That’s exactly. Exactly right on.

Steve: Let’s get down to business let’s have a let’s put together an outstanding organization and we have to do certain things to put that into place. Yep, and the other thing is to share people part of your life story. You know what I’ve learned is that people can relate to other other people that they feel they really know. And I think that most organizations never take the time to create opportunities to really get to know each other the deeper human connection level. And so one thing that I have found particularly helpful is to create experiences and adventures and opportunities for people to truly share who they are and what their passions are what their interests are and frankly what they don’t like what their challenges are what their fears are when you create an open space where people can literally feel comfortable being who they are without having to feel like they have to you know they have this show. They have to impress you that they have to be somebody they’re not. That’s when all of a sudden the performance skyrockets because people feel like hey there’s a safe environment here to create things because I know that the people are going to respect me for who I am and realize that we’re all on the same page. We all want the same things and we believe in the same values.

Steve: Yeah great. And when people do that when they get to know each other they know each other’s story. The trust level just soars and when the trust level soars it’s easy to just conquer incredible heights on the bill. Terrific cultures and that’s great.

Travis: Well let me give you an example of that. You know I think I mentioned you mentioned that I’ve worked with some sports teams as well. One particular variance that I had with the Denver Broncos this year too before they won the Super Bowl is part of the team building, not the team and the coaching building retreat that we did over a space of two days was everyone had a chance to share with one another there. You know what it was like growing up you know what was the biggest challenge as a teenager. What was some other key like turning points in literally some of these amazing athletes for the first time? They’re looking around going Oh my goodness these people have been challenged just like I have and they realized that they weren’t the only ones in many cases that came from pretty tough childhoods and had dealt with some ups and downs in life. And I still remember you know late at night when you’re looking around. There was a dry eye in the place because all of a sudden they recognize each other humanness. When they walked up that mountain as team members and they walked off the mountain as brothers because they truly were able to share one another’s life stories in a way that everyone one of a sudden had a whole different level would trust that they had before. That stuff is this is such a rewarding experience I’ll never forget those moments when people will let their guard down and share with each other in ways that literally allows each other to just connect in a way that it’s even harder to describe.

Steve: Well thanks for sharing that experience. And some people you know some leaders say well you know that’s a soft skill and. But you and I both would argue you know what. This has a big impact on the bottom line results. This stuff makes all the difference in the world.

Travis: Well let let’s just share the example of the Denver Broncos that had the pleasure of working with him for the three years leading up to the Super Bowl here doing these retreats with their top didn’t do it the entire team because we did it with the top 12 players the top 12 leaders on that team. And what was amazing to me was that every year I saw progress in their willingness to step up and frankly own what it means to lead that team and being more open and really doing what he just said is the locked up by connecting and sharing feelings and sharing life experiences. And guess what they end up winning the Super Bowl. Now is that going to happen every time? Probably not. But I’ve got to tell you it has a huge impact. Long term short term you might have. Oh, you know a losing season now and again. But if you do coach you’re right. That’s the one and only constant that I really believe can help companies and teams have long-term success rather than the just short term.

Steve: Well, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about putting those pieces in the place that creates that type of a tangible thing that creates a legacy.

Travis: No doubt about it Steve! And the one thing that I share with executives is for them to think of themselves more of an artist than as you mention as a mechanic. It’s really an artistic endeavor. And it starts with being able to be totally curious about what makes you tick in other words. It’s all the core, it’s about self-awareness, and creating an organization that challenges everyone. To understand who they are. To be able to understand, not only what makes them tick, but their strengths, their weaknesses, and what drives them. To understand the underlying passion in a way that allows them to be bigger than life. Meaning they’re endeavoring and what they’re involved in now is something bigger than themselves. Right. It’s something magical because all of a sudden you have a sense of shared vision that creates, you said, a long-term success that literally couldn’t be done any other way.

Steve: Right. Well, that’s great. Well, I’m always amazed. Travis how fast time goes we’re done. Time’s up. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Travis: Oh, it’s been great.

Steve: Any final tips for our listeners before we go? I’d love to have you share your contact information. How can people reach you or learn about what you’re doing? But any final tips before we get that well?

Travis: I guess a tip that I would leave is if it is taking stock of where you are right now in your life. If you want long-term success and build a strong culture whether it’s in your family or your business or whether it’s on a team. I think the key is to dig deep. And say wait a minute, am I doing everything I can to be the best version of myself today? Can I do me a little bit better than it was yesterday? It’s so important to look at growth was not something new. You check off as a project it’s it’s a process and it’s a journey of growth. So that’s what I would suggest to you. Every day be the very best you can to be. The best version of yourself. You’re going to create an organization, whether that’s in your family, whether it’s in your company, that’s going to do the same thing.

Steve: Well, great job. I love that. That sounds like a Becoming Your Best tip.

Travis: Well, you got that right! I really respect what you and your organization are all about. Because literally, I think one of the very best ways, as you just mentioned, to build culture is doing what your company is all about and that’s to be your best. I’m telling you there is no doubt about it!

Steve: Well here’s a big thanks to our friend Travis Anderson. Travis, how can people contact you or find out more about what you’re doing?

Travis: Well, you know the best way to do it. I mentioned to you earlier is I believe a personal connection. I’m happy to share with you my cell phone number. Because I believe in old-fashioned conversation over the phone. It is one of the best ways, no one does it anymore. That’s the first thing. And I’m giving my numbers (801) 550-6049. For those that would rather see an e-mail, you’re certainly welcome to send that to decisionmaker@ AOL .com. So those would be the two areas.

Steve: Okay great. And that number is (801) 550-6049.

Travis: Any question, or just curious about anything that are giving you difficulties or struggling with. In terms of understanding their own culture or creating a culture that they want to create. I’ll be more than happy to answer anyone’s questions.

Steve: Okay well thanks so much! And to all of our listeners, we wish you the best as you are working on becoming your best! I appreciate that comment by Travis because as we do that, we become a light. And this strengthens everybody around us. But first, it begins with us and then goes to our team, and our organization. And for the leaders that light just shines out much more powerfully so. Wishing you all the best as you are making a difference and Travis wishing you a great day!

Travis: Thanks, Steve. Been a pleasure. Wish you all the best!

Steve: OK. Bye now. Thank you.


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