Learning from the Best with Joshua Siegal

Champion Your People and Culture to Build a Thriving Workplace

July 10, 2023


Joshua Siegal

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Show Notes

“Nothing is more powerful than the power of purpose. Help people see, feel, own the impact of the work that they do.” - Joshua Siegal

Explore the parallels of boxing and leadership in the workplace and get ideas for initiatives that help build the culture of your dreams. In this episode we talk about the fundamentals of a great workplace and how to show up to work as an authentic, inspiring, caring human.

📚 Josh's go-to reco:The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Podcast transcript

Joshua Siegal: I always laugh when people ask me like, what's a typical day like in the life of a VP of people?

Business as usual is almost never usual in a role like this. So I think one of the biggest challenges is like, how do you shape your day? And the more senior you become, the more freedom and flexibility you have to build the day in the most meaningful way to drive impact.

Janine Ramirez: Introducing! A passionate people leader coach and mentor whose mission is to align people, purpose, and strategy to create empowering work environments, Joshwa Segal.

I love doing this. So Josh is the former VP of organizational effectiveness at Wave HQ and is now the VP of people at seven shifts. He's like, seven shifts is one of the best places to work and we'll talk about that a little bit later. So Josh unleashes the potential of those around him both in and out of the office and today we'll learn his key elements for creating a work environment where people can thrive and be their best selves.

It's my pleasure to welcome me to the show Josh. Thank you for being here.

Joshua Siegal: Janine, I need you to be like my hype woman everywhere I go.

It is a joy. To be here. Stoked for this podcast.

Janine Ramirez: Me too. And I was stoked to do that intro because I don't do it for everyone just for you because of your boxing match that we will also, like, ask you about a little bit. We're ready to go. We are ready to go fight for people to thrive.

What Makes a ‘Best Workplace’

Janine Ramirez: So first of all, congratulations on 7Shifts being named the best place to work in Canada for two consecutive years.

How do you get that done? Like what do you think sets 7Shifts apart in terms of creating a positive work culture?

Joshua Siegal: Well, first and foremost, I can take no credit for that. Obviously, I've only joined seven shifts a few months ago, but I joined one of these strongest people in culture teams I've ever seen. Just amazing humans doing really amazing work. And really what I've seen as I've gotten to note seven shifts over the past few months is we really put values front and center in absolutely everything we do.

Every single all hands, every performance review, every single time we're doing an interview for a potential future shifty, our beans values are pervasively present. Like, you can feel them. When I joined seven shifts, which again was just a few months ago, I did this tour of duty just interviewing every single senior leader in the organization. And what I was so impressed with, every single person, like a hundred percent talked about the importance of those values, and the values themselves being what they loved the most about seven shifts.

And it was just a beautiful signal to me that this was an organization that did not want to just put a poster on the wall and say, We have values, we're going to embed them in our culture and make them about everything that we do.

Making Your Values Real

Janine Ramirez: So how do you do that? Like how do you turn words and ideas and and values that are on paper to actual like words coming out of the mouth of the employees. I mean that's pretty amazing.

Joshua Siegal: You have to find ways to make them real. And the best way to do that as leaders in the organization is Think about what you reward, what you call out, and think about what you don't accept.

So one of our core values, the one that most leaders said was most near and dear to their heart is this concept of being radically candid. And anytime a leader in the organization felt that something was being shared in a way that wasn't radically candid, I would see them calling it out and holding each other accountable And again, beautiful signal that we have to make these real.

We have Beam nominations that you can call out to get blasted through Slack everyone sees them when we have peer to peer nominations, our CEO goes out of his way to make sure he's calling them out, both in Slack, every single all hands, we have a section of the all hands dedicated to highlighting employees who did something living and breathing those values. It's truly becoming ingrained in our day to day operations.

The Power of Intentionality

Janine Ramirez: And that's not easy. I mean you're giving these examples and that's great, but you know work gets in the way, life gets in the way. So what are the biggest challenges you think to building this type of work culture that's really like aligned with values?

It's the power of intentionality.

So you have to think about it. So when you're building a culture, if you leave blank space, random narratives can be written and it allows employees go off and do whatever they want. But if you constantly are crafting your story, you're talking about the values, you're reminding employees the impact they make, why they're so important, what they look like, we have training specifically for our employees so they understand how these values come to life. We take the values, we map them to competencies, and then we hold employees accountable to acting in that way. It's it's really powerful when you just see it a line throughout the entire organization.

Culture Initiatives

Janine Ramirez: Right. What are some of your favorite initiatives that that makes this reality?

Joshua Siegal: So I'll give you three. So one, I love our talent acquisition team. They are truly best in class, and when you think about building culture, I really think the TA team is such a huge component of that. If they're not injecting in, the right types of humans that want to go and live and breathe these shared values, like you're in big trouble. So the TA team does an amazing job to weave in questions and case studies to make sure that we're testing new employees for their ability to be candid to act like an owner, to make every experience at eleven, like tell us how you've lived these values in the past. So that would definitively be one.

Or learning and development team, they do a beautiful job of, again, making these values real. And building cases to show employees, here's how you take this value and apply it to the day to day work that you're doing. If you can't find ways to cognitively help them turn it into actions -- Right. -- behaviors, reality, it does fall back into that nice poster on the wall strategy, which is the last thing we want.

We want employees to understand them, to think about them and to deploy them. So TA, L and D, and then obviously I'm a huge fan of what we do at our all hands. So every single month, Our CEO pulls up people to share stories that they've seen of our values coming to life and the power of storytelling When it comes to building a culture, so important is how new shifties see the values, learn about the values, and reckon knives that every single person in the organization from the CEO all the way down is looking at these things thinking about these things and is trying to bring them to life.

Finding the Right People

Janine Ramirez: That's so cool. Quick question, you mentioned in the recruitment process, you have to find people that already hold these values. Like how much do you think it's already within someone and how much of it can be developed?

Joshua Siegal: What a phenomenal question and we could probably spend hours and hours doing a whole nature versus nurture debate. Right. I'm gonna give you a cheap cop out answer. Okay. I think it's a little bit of both.

So it's the same thing like is someone innately a leader or can you grow and develop into a leader? I do think you need some sort of spark something inside of you that's like, yeah, these values matter to me. We can help light that spark on fire. But if you don't have something in there that connects, there's probably a challenge.

So I do think it's a healthy balance between nature and nurture. Right. So it's also finding the right people that would absolutely thrive in your type of environment. Right?

Exactly. Like, I love when candidates reach out to me and be like, hey, I was on the seven shifts website.

Some really interesting job opportunities, but more than anything, I loved your beam's values. Like, I would love to work in an environment where that's actually real. Can you tell me more about that? Boom. Immediately I could sense there's a spark in there that they care about these values.

Managing Teams vs. 1-on-1s

Janine Ramirez: Right. Okay. I wanna touch on your work as a coach as well. So as both a coach and mentor for individuals and then alongside that like being VP of people responsible for an entire workforce.

How do you balance the nuances between working one on one versus strategies for larger groups?

Joshua Siegal: It it's one of the hardest things to do as a senior leader and I don't think it's a people and culture challenge. I think it's a senior leadership challenge. Okay. On how often do you stay high level strategic broad? And then how often do you dig in, get into the nitty gritty, work on those one on ones.

And I do think it ebbs and flows based on what's happening with the business, what's happening with your people, and you need to be able to oscillate between both work styles. So I always laugh when people ask me like, what's a typical day like in the life of a VP of people?

Like, business as usual is almost never usual in a role like this. So I I I think one of the biggest challenges is, like, how do you shape your day. And the more senior you become, the more freedom and flexibility you have to build the day in the most meaningful way to drive impact.

So for me, that's the lens I always use, that word impact.

Thinking about what we need to accomplish as a business. So going back to like our big rocks, what do we need to deliver for our customers and for our stakeholders?

How can I, in my current seat, maximize my impact for that? Sometimes it means I need to pull a large group of people together, do a work off on a very specific skill that we know is a gap in the organization and spend my energy in that type of way. Other times, there could be a mission critical leader in our business, who we really need their function firing, and that individual needs some coaching. They need a Ted Lasso in their corner or support And the biggest impact I can make is to pull myself back, sit down with them, have that one on one, and help them unlock their problems.

Other times, the best thing I can do is get out of the way of my people, let them go drive what needs to be driven on a day to day basis, not deal with the nitty gritty because I have unbelievably confident team doing that and start thinking about the future. And what do we wanna be doing in Q3, in Q4, in 2024, and start thinking more strategically while the team is delivering the day to day?

Juggling all of that and bouncing back and forth, I I wish I had, like, a magic formula on here's how you deploy it. But I think a lot of it in your gut and you almost have to feel it in the moment and be thoughtful about how you shape your week And then do a little retro at the end of week. How did I bounce between the urgent, the important?

What did that look like? And just try to get better and better week over week. Right? Like one of the words that is like constantly out there now after the pandemic is like adaptability. Like you have to be able to adapt to what's happening. Like you can't just plan plan it out and go with the plan because when things change, then it won't be as effective.

Janine Ramirez: So I love how you're like, okay, what does the company need? Does anyone need help and you kind of adjust to that. Right?

Joshua Siegal: I so I I love how you position that.

And obviously, I've got boxing on the mind. So I think Mike Tyson, I think, said it best, everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face. And the past three plus years has just been punch, after punch, after punch, and we have to learn how to roll with those punches. What do you do after it lands?

How do you develop a new game plan on the fly when needed. The world is so dynamic, so the ability to pivot, think on your feet, improvise, and then refocus where needed.

Janine Ramirez: I love how you bring out like boxing strategy too. Because it's true! In boxing, I don't know if the listeners have tried it but, when you get hit in the gut, it just blows like like you're the you get the wind knocked out of you. Right? And you kind of have to also work with the energy that you've got in the moment. So yeah, also be kind to yourself if you don't have the energy for the week.

Leadership and Boxing

Joshua Siegal: Well, there's so much commonality I'm finding between leadership coaching and boxing, like what I'm seeing in the gym as I train for this big boxing bout and I'm seeing in the workplace, like so much commonality. One of the things my coaches shared with me is this concept of a 'shit spiral'. Where you eat that shot and instead of sticking to your fundamentals, like, okay, I got hit, but I'm gonna stick with this, you overreact.

And that overreaction is the worst thing you can do because it opened you up for another big shot. And then you try to deal with that and you just boom, boom, boom, boom, you end up on the canvas, you're done. I think we see a lot of companies struggling with that right now, where we've got this interesting weird, challenging macroeconomic climate, they're responding to it with no that strategic layoffs and different things like that, which is only going to shit spiral the company into bigger problems as opposed to What got us here? What are the fundamentals of our business? How do we double down on that to extradite ourselves from what's happening?

The parallels between boxing, business, and life, limitless. I love it. That's a whole another discussion.

Build and Maintain Trust

Janine Ramirez: We can do another time. But you talk about, like, basics and going back to the fundamentals.

And one of the basics of any relationship and any team really is is trust. And you mentioned this recently on LinkedIn as well. So I wanted to ask you like how important is trust and how do you know, what are the signs that trust is actually being built within a team and organization?

Joshua Siegal: Yeah. Awesome question, Janine. So to me, as a leader, trust is truly foundational in all things people leadership. If you haven't spent the time and the effort to both build and maintain, because it's not something you can just have and then be like, oh, I've got this forever.

Build and maintain your trust battery. You're setting yourself up for failure. I could tell you at seven shifts, we lean pretty heavily into Patrick Lindsay's five dysfunctions, And we use the thought leadership from that book to help us diagnose where is their trust and where is their a lack of trust. So we train all new shifties on that model that Lindsay has created in his book.

It's pretty is pretty well known and out there. So if you have an environment where you're not having hard conversations, so an absence of radical candor, which we talked about earlier. If you're not getting that meaningful buy in and people are kinda sitting on the fence waiting, if folks are afraid to take accountability.

And of course if the results aren't there, those are all symptoms.

Of broken trust or trust that was never formed in the first place. So if you're seeing any of those things, and and Janine, you said it, you gotta go back to the basics.

To the foundation.

What can I do with my team, my peers, my people to rebuild that trust so that we can go and deal with all of those things, because you'll never be able to solve them without trust as your basin?

Janine Ramirez: This might be kind of a dumb question, although there is no such thing, but sometimes when it's intentional, Right? And you try to design something, some people feel or they have doubts and feel that it's kind of like manipulation in a way. How do you get over that bump? Or do you find that that doesn't even exist? Like that doubt doesn't even exist for a good work culture like yours?

Joshua Siegal: I I think the key is authenticity.

If you just approach it as an authentic human being and connect human to human. Like I I I don't carve out time to be like, alright, this is my time where I'm gonna go build trust with my direct -- Yeah. -- or it's I care about my direct reports.

I want them to be successful.

I know that the more I get to know them, the better I can help empower them to do the things that I need them to do, so I spend the time like knowing about their family, knowing about what they love, knowing them is humans, and just building those human connections, that's a large part of where trust comes from. So just approach it authentically, approach it as a human, Don't try to manufacture it.

Like, we all have friends. We all have family. We know how to have conversations.

Just show up to work as a human.

And I think if you can do that, trust will follow.

How to Spot a Great Leader

Janine Ramirez: We talked a little bit about leaders, and now there's like this whole demand for leaders that have more empathy, and yes, to be more human.

We also discussed a little bit about it being like nature versus nurture. How do you as like VP of people? How do you spot a good people leader? And like what are the signs that someone would be a great leader?

Joshua Siegal: So there's two big things I'll do. I ask a lot of questions and then I listen. So throw that down. That's pretty basic and And then sit in the silence. Like, it sounds it sounds simple, but ask a lot of questions.

And make them about their people. How do they talk about their teams? How do they attribute accomplishments?

What do they think is the most important thing for them to do in their days? And as you unpack these items, it helps you identify the dynamo people leaders, right? Like, if I talk about the team accomplishment and what we did together and how we galvanized and worked through a hard challenge, okay, I'm learning about how you think about how you interact with your teams. And then once you find those people, that you can sense the spark and the energy and the excitement around people leaders or people leadership, you give them tools You give them the trust and you give them space, and they get the BS out of their way so they can go and drive and lead their people.

The People Leader Toolkit

Janine Ramirez: You mentioned tools. Like, what do those tools look like? What's a people leader toolkit for you?

So I think there's a whole bunch of foundational stuff that every people leader needs. Like how do you host a meaningful one on one? How do you give feedback that matters? How are some ways you can go about building trust and getting to know your people? So equipping them with the foundation definitely important. And then outside of that, I do think it depends on the function and the organization.

So for us at 7Shifts, One of the big objectives is we really wanna maintain our great place to work, have that beautiful culture, but we're also injecting more focus around performance management, building a high performance culture, and the drive towards that. And we wanna do both in concert. So we're now really equipping people leaders with the toolkits, the philosophies, and the language around how do you identify performance?

How do you help people level up? What does that look like? And that's mission critical for our teams right now. So we're over indexing on training around that.

Resources around that and making sure that our great people leaders have what they need on their toolkits and their tool belts. So when they're faced with different situations, it's like, Oh, I can pull this from that training. I can pull this from that training. It's almost like Batman and his utility belt.

We know they're gonna face dynamic challenges. We can't predict what they're all gonna be, but the more tools I can equip you with, you'll know what to pull out in the right moment.

Redefining Performance

Janine Ramirez: You mentioned performance and I just want a teaser of that because I feel like that's a whole discussion in itself, but how are you defining performance these days? I feel like after the the pandemic and this whole surge for employee well-being, performance isn't the same as before. Like do you infuse some sort of well-being metrics into measuring performance, for example?

Joshua Siegal: So the last thing we wanna do and we wouldn't be a number one workplace in Canada if we built a burn insurance a church. We don't want burnout. We want people to feel good about the work that they're doing. It's not about the grind or the hustle. Or more hours.

It's about making the most of the hours that we have. So we're actually bringing in a phenomenal group called the energy project that works with high performance athletes, and help us understand the important oscillations between delivering at like Olympic level, performance, best in the world, and then rest and recharge. And again, it's it's the same thing in the gym when you're boxing, right? You can't just sit there and spar for twelve hours straight and be like, I'm a better boxer now, your body would fall apart. That's not how we work. So creating a work environment where people have the opportunity to recharge, refresh, show up with a clear mind so they can do what's best for the business, We need all our leaders to understand that, understand how to shape and craft that for their people, and help them drive towards that.

So for us, it's all outcome oriented. We we utilize EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system here at seven shifts. So we've got our big rocks, We know what we need to do for the year, we know the metrics we need to hit, it cascades down very powerfully, and then people are equipped to go and drive what they need to drive in the ways that work for them and their teams.

And to me that that's the key.

I would love to talk about that another time as well.

Empower Well-rounded Employees

Janine Ramirez: I would wanna learn about that too. But you mentioned again like boxing. You have the time to like train as as a boxer, you're you're fighting to end cancer, you're also a facilitator for I am remarkable, if I'm not mistaken.

So you have all these other things going on apart from from work. How do you get organizations to support their employees in investing energy outside of work? Because I find a lot of companies kind of wanna, you know, get all the energy from you and not give you energy to do other things.

Joshua Siegal: Yeah. Really, really interesting question.

I think for me, these other endeavors that I do make me a better shifty.

So I can deliver more at seven shifts when I'm living a life with breadth and other experiences, and I pull them in to the organization. So I'm remarkable. I've been a facilitator for that for the past few years now. And one of the first things we did with a few teams of seven shifts was I ran them through the program.

And it was an amazing opportunity to get to know people, to connect them, to help a team chip away against impostor syndrome, and as one of my first exposures to broader groups as seven shifts, it was just amazing for me to learn more about the humans that I get to work with. Right. And if I hadn't gone and spent my own time getting ready to be a facilitator for I'm remarkable, those experiences never would have happened. And now there's actually a beautiful snowball effect where some of the folks that were in these sessions with me wanna go off and they wanna become facilitators.

And they're gonna be able to carry that on and have a bigger ripple effect within seven shifts. Similarly with boxing, like how I think about one on one coaching. It is now evolved and stronger based on the experience that I've had in the ring with my coaches for the past three years now.

I think if we if we just live in a box and a vacuum and we don't get powerful influences from outside of our organization, that's where you get groupthink, That's where you kinda get stuck in your ways, you're not able to innovate and evolve. So empowering your employees to live a life of breadth and exposure and experiences, and then letting them unleash that within your organization What a beautiful beautiful way to better your your entity.

What is success?

Janine Ramirez: Do you find that something more prevalent in in Canada than in other cultures. Like, well, in Europe as well, like, there are some countries that are really more about, you know, building all the different facets of your life and having time to do so. And then there are some work cultures, like, I think in in the US, there could be something Silicon Valley. I'm thinking and also where I'm from, like, from the Philippines.

It's all like you put in a hundred and fifty percent into your work, and that's your life.

Joshua Siegal: Yeah. So so I know you're out of Spain in hosting this. And I can tell you from my perspective, Europeans have a better lens on this on understanding your life across a multitude of different buckets.

And I would think after I spent a few weeks in Europe about five years ago, it changed my perspective.

On how I view work, how I view my life, and how I view success.

So for me, success isn't about bigger paycheck, bigger job, it's here are all the different things I care about in my life, my friends, my family, my work, my physical health, my mental health, and I wanna make sure all of those buckets are getting the necessary attention.

And if I don't feel that good balance, then I address it in some capacity.

So I do think it is culturally influenced. I do think it's changed over time as well. So I think there's a massive shift in North America right now. That hustle and grind culture, it's not getting the respect and admiration that I think it did five, ten years ago, people are really trying to craft lives with more meaning.

I also think the pandemic was an eye opener. For a lot of people on what do I value, what do I care about, and how does work integrate into my life, not take over my life.

And as employers, I think we need to be really thoughtful around how we position that.

Advice to HR and People Leaders

Janine Ramirez: We are coming to the end of our of our discussion so like I don't know. These are like for me big questions because that summarize all your ideas and experience into tips. So as a VP of people, what advice do you have for HR professionals, employers, and people leaders who are trying to help their employees reach their full potential.

Joshua Siegal: That is a big one. Right? Yeah.

If I look back over my entire career, even beyond the world of people and culture, I've had a pretty diverse background I would say nothing is more powerful than the power of purpose.

Help people create that connection to something. Help them see feel own the impact of the work that they do. I think as humans, at our core, we all strive to do something meaningful.

And if you can find ways to amplify that meaning for your employees, you'll untap so much discretionary energy from your people, you'll be able to take over the world.

How to Unlock Your Own Potential

Janine Ramirez: I love it. Now like just shifting the perspective as a coach and mentor, what advice do you usually give to the people who feel stuck and who want to unlock their own full potential?

So interesting enough, it's actually something we've already talked about. It's that concept of the buckets of your lives.

Typically, when I'm chatting with folks who feel stuck in their career or stuck in a relationship or whatever it is, they're putting way too much weight into one bucket and ignoring the rest. So let's use let's use career as an example. People wanna get paid a bunch of money, they wanna be able to change the world, they wanna do work that they love, they want flexibility to go off and do other things as well, and they're demanding all of these things from one bucket.

Everything in life requires trade offs. And I think as humans, we need to get better of identifying and being intentional of the trade offs we're willing to make. So if I want that really, really big salary, am I willing to give up some of that flexibility that I might get somewhere else? Or maybe I'm not going to get the deepest world changing purpose in the work that I'm doing, but I can go be a philanthropist or go volunteer somewhere else and get that meaning somewhere else in a different bucket. So the biggest thing for me is just helping the people I work with broaden their lens of how they're evaluating their life so that they can craft one that's meaningful for them.

Janine Ramirez: I'm curious, Josh. What are your buckets? Can I ask of that?

Joshua Siegal: Yeah. So so work is one for sure.

Growth in learning is another, so maybe they'll call that one self actualization.


Family's a big one. Friends are another one. Physical fitness.

Is a huge one.

Those will probably be my five biggest to get the most attention.

And then there's others that either kind of flow into those five or that I think about as like a tear down. That's really helpful because sometimes you're like, even to think of the other buckets. Right? Like what could they be in my life?

And it's a lot of like self reflection and self awareness too. Yeah. So Like for some people spirituality is changed there and you need to have the time and the energy to feel that connection, and so you need to build that into your life. Right?

Janine Ramirez: Like I feel for me maybe like now, I would have one that's like nature. Like I'm gonna need time to be in nature for that kind of reset. So, yeah, I'm gonna think about that, Josh.

Like, note down my bucket in my notebook so I don't We've worked out some coaching time.

I would love that. Okay. I'm gonna I'm gonna like close off our interview so we can talk more about that.

But thank you so so much for your time. Like I learned so much in the last like thirty minutes and that I can apply to my own life and also like to our teens, I'm so gonna share this with our HR team.

And I hope everyone enjoyed this episode as much as I did. I'm really, really inspired by your positivity. And your passion. You gave me some energy today.

So thank you again and best of luck in your upcoming boxing match. I encourage everyone to please follow Josh on LinkedIn and learn more about his journey and support him and cheer him on in all his causes. Thank you so much, Josh.

Joshua Siegal: Thank you, Janine. What an absolute joy.

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