7 Keys To Company Culture With Chris Dyer

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

Take Back Time | Company Culture


Company culture forms the bedrock of an organization, shaping its values, behaviors, and overall work environment. In this episode, Penny Zenker speaks with renowned company culture and remote work expert Chris Dyer about the intricacies of building a productive and engaging workplace environment. As a former CEO who led companies recognized for their exceptional workplace culture, Chris shares invaluable insights on the seven pillars that constitute a great company culture. Through a lively discussion, he explores the common pitfalls organizations face in their quest for productivity and offers practical strategies for aligning focus, fostering transparency, and empowering employees to drive meaningful change. With anecdotes from Chris’ experiences and actionable advice, this episode equips you with the tools to cultivate a thriving culture that maximizes productivity and satisfaction. Tune in to discover how to take your company culture to the next level and reclaim valuable time in the process.

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7 Keys To Company Culture With Chris Dyer

In this episode, I’m excited to have Chris Dyer with us. He’s a recognized company culture and remote work expert. As a former CEO, managing thousands of people, his companies consistently were named the best place to work. He knows what he’s doing. They’ve also been named the fastest-growing company by Inc. Magazine five times. He routinely consults and speaks, and Inc. Magazine ranked him the #1 Leadership Speaker on Culture. He has three bestselling books, The Power of Company Culture and Remote Work, and has been named #5 on the Leadershum Power List, a Top 50 Voice in Leadership, a Top 40 Change Management Guru, as well as a Top 50 Global Thought Leader. Without further ado, we are going to bring Chris on.


Chris, welcome to the show.

Thanks so much for having me, Penny.

Why It’s Hard To Engage With Work

What you’re talking about is so important, company culture, having people be engaged in their work. Why is it so hard?

I don’t know if it is hard. I just think that people don’t value it sometimes or aren’t sure where to focus their efforts and time. When we go after good culture, I don’t want to say it’s easy but it’s not like it’s some unknown or it takes some great feet or millions of dollars. It’s not the outside of anyone’s reach. Most people believe culture is an art but in reality, it’s a science. When we put forth the right focus, look at the right things, and focus on the right things, culture comes into line pretty quickly.

You’re talking my language, the focusologist. We focus on the right things. In case people aren’t sure what those right things are, let’s dive right in and understand it. If it’s about focusing on the right things, which many companies are focusing on the wrong things, what are the right things? What are we not valuing as we should be?

There are some companies that are focusing on the wrong thing but the biggest mistake is they’re focusing on too many things. It’s like trying to be good at a whole lot of things instead of being good at a few things. We see this even in companies being good at their product or service. If they’re good at a few things, they tend to master the market pretty well. There are exceptions to that but the focus problem is one part of it. What are you supposed to do? There are seven pillars that make a great company culture.

The biggest mistake companies make is focusing on too many things. Click To Tweet

Seven is a lot. We didn’t want to interject. We’re having a little challenge with each other. I was expecting 2 or 3. Seven things? Let’s talk about that first.

It’s an inconvenient truth that it’s seven. I would have loved for it to have been 5 or 3. When I went out to study all these different organizations and tested this, we were hearing the same thing, although sometimes with different synonyms. The same things were coming back within it. It landed at seven all by itself. It didn’t hurt that that’s my favorite number but honestly, I didn’t make it seven. We kept taking the data, what great companies are doing, and these seven words popped up.

Let’s hear them. Afterward, I’ll have you think about what are those things. If we’re focusing on too many things, then that must mean we’re focusing on 14, 20, or 25. I’d like to know when we get what those things are, what is it that we can give less attention to or value less?

The Seven Pillars Of Company Culture

The seven pillars are transparency, positive leadership or positivity, measurement, uniqueness, listening, mistakes, and recognition. What I typically see is that organizations are doing pretty well with a few of those. They may be even doing good with five of those things. Ultimately, there are at least two, sometimes more, where they suck. They’re bad. That’s causing them not to have a great culture.

Even if it’s not easy to do, I have leaders rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 10 or have people vote in. “1 to 10, where do you stand?” It’s so that you can at least find where you are doing well, not only in your opinion but also in your employees’ opinion. Where also are you doing badly? What’s your method of helping people to get clear on where to focus?

That’s a great suggestion. Often when I’m talking to organizations, it’s very clear. They get uncomfortable talking about 1 or 2 of them or they say, “We’re not doing that at all.” The biggest one that usually people identify pretty quickly that they know they could be doing a lot better is transparency. Are we sharing goals with each other? Do you even know what your team members’ goals are for the year? Is it you and your boss are the only two people who know what the goals are?

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone on the team knew everybody’s goals and we were all aligned and trying to help each other reach them for the year? This is not like, “I get my raise and you don’t.” We should all be trying to help each other and get where we’re trying to go. Do we know what our boss’ goals are so we can make our boss look good, help the team look good, and get more for next year?

What are the top goals? How does that cascade down through the organization? We’re better problem solvers when we know the bigger picture because then we cannot just see our little microcosm but we can think more outside the box when we know where we’re truly going.

If your boss’ goal was to cut 10% in costs, you’re going to start bringing them ideas on how to save money, not bringing them ideas to cost money. Knowing that alignment can help you be a key player for that team. Are we also talking about sharing financial data? In my company, we used to share the P&L every single month with every single employee in the company. We would provide them with training on how to read it and go through what it meant.

Maybe I couldn’t get super detailed down to the very bottom line. I can’t tell everyone exactly what everybody’s paid. Some companies do. They get comfortable with transparency. When you understand where the money is being spent and you understand what your costs are, it’s a lot easier for your staff to go, “Did you know that if we did this, we could save a lot of money over there? Why are we spending this?”

There’s a lot of fear in sharing that information. How do you help people overcome that fear of saying, “They’re going to want a bigger raise or be poking in areas that they don’t belong?” What do you say to those types of things when you hear that?

As far as poking in areas that don’t belong, with pretty small exceptions, they’ve got it all wrong. We want employees to understand that. What I find is typically employees aren’t that interested in the areas that don’t impact them. Let’s say in one department, you’re going to get interested in how you spend money and what we’re doing with that department but you might ignore how we’re spending money in a different department, especially the larger the organization gets.

As to what you do, I will tell you that not once did an employee ever come to me and say, “I noticed last month that our profit looked pretty high. That means I get a raise.” People are pretty smart about saying, “This is the value I brought. This is what I did and this is why I deserve it,” not like, “I noticed we’re making a lot of money.” If you’re trying to deal with the fear, start small.

Let’s start with, “How much did we make this month? What was our sales? What were our goals? How do we do?” Get people used to that. You might start giving out some of the different costs and things to departments to discuss. Eventually, as you start to feel more comfortable and people are handling the information appropriately, you’ll get to the point where you’re like, “Here’s our P&L. Rip it apart. Please, find more ways for us to save money.”

Get yourself some comfort and see that it’s not all going to fall apart when you show a few things and then take it from there. That makes sense. I want to come back to that question that I asked you earlier. Transparency is important. We started to dig into that. When you say them, it sounds obvious. Where are people focusing or giving additional value that they are falling short on these things?

There are companies that are spending a lot of time. Sometimes, it’s the antithesis of the word that I gave you. Maybe instead of measuring what matters, they’re trying to measure everything. They’re getting overwhelmed because they measure too many things instead of, “What are the most important metrics? What’s the best thing?”

Maybe one of those categories uses different words. It might be that they’re doing recognition or the measurement but they’re overdoing it. They’re so overcompensating that it’s taking away from another area.

Measurement is a big one. If you have some way to look at how your customer service team is doing and they’re doing well, they’re hitting your goal, do you care? Do you need to measure the other 5,000 things you could measure inside that department? If they’re hitting their big goal, doing well, and their customers are happy, do we care how quickly they answer the phone or their speed to ticket time? There are all these other metrics that we could get into that don’t matter.

That’s an interesting question. If they were more efficient, then they’d be able to handle more customers. They have to have more personnel because they sit and order pizzas for people.

It depends. We do see that people will spend too much time. I find it when they’re trying to be perfect. There is a point when we can’t get better is going to cause two more problems than the one you solved or the return isn’t there. At what point is good good enough and we should go put our attention somewhere else? We might be ignoring the dumpster fire right behind us. We’re like, “We have to do this one little thing to get 1% better.” That’s not going to move the ball for us because we’re ignoring this other problem that is a huge issue for the organization.

It does tend to be that they’re more numbers-focused versus people-focused in those types of organizations so that’s why there’s this overcompensation. I have this hypothesis since I don’t have all the research underneath it but I feel like it’s this need for control that people are maybe over-measuring and over-focusing on numbers because they’re trying to control everything. They don’t want to give the numbers from a transparency perspective because they’re keeping it under control. Personally, that is a major issue as well as distributing the control. You’re not going to be able to control everything so bring in that trust so that you see that everybody is working towards the common goal and you don’t need that control.

There are a lot of bad leaders out there who want to hide information and try to control power. They’ll make decisions on spreadsheets and cut something great or bring in a vendor that wouldn’t have been as good for you because it’s 1% cheaper or something. Those kinds of companies and leaders drive me crazy. There are soft costs and things you can’t put a label on. If you end up cutting somebody who is saving you all this money, was doing all this stuff, or making your customers happy, it has to be a combination of the numbers and the human factor. That’s when you focus on these seven pillars. It’s impossible to not integrate the organization in a more healthy way.

What Can Employees Do

Let’s say you’re an employee. There are people reading who are leaders or working for some of those leaders. What if they have someone that’s more focused on the numbers? How do they contribute? They like their job. It’s not horrible there. They’re just not developing that culture as well as they could. What can the employee do?

The employee can ask. They need to get curious. Sometimes, no one’s ever asked for this information. Maybe the CFO or someone’s hiding behind that. “I’m happy to tell someone if they ever asked me about it but they’re not going to volunteer it.” There are a couple of things. You could say, “I heard this crazy guy on a podcast and he mentioned they did this. What would happen if we did that? Why don’t we do this? What would happen?”

There’s a great book called The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack. It talks about his incredible transparency transformation. To read that book or bring it up and have a conversation with somebody in that position of power was coming from a place of some bit of research. I was in the shower and was thinking, “I’d like to see the financials.”

Take Back Time | Company Culture

Take Back Time | Company Culture

You bring up that book real quick and I was going to say that as well. That is a company that is also dedicated to that level of transparency. Jack’s book and some subsequent books do a great job of helping organizations to open up to transparency in it. You could easily say, “I read this book. It’s interesting. What do you think? It’s your leader.”

Jack talks about how they had to give a lot of education to their employees who didn’t understand how to read financial statements. They gave the P&L to the guy whose job it is to sweep the floor in the warehouse every day. They didn’t exclude anybody. That guy realized they were spending money on something that was killing. It was a waste and went to them. The guy who they thought was going to have the least impact by giving this information had the biggest impact. You never know where great ideas are going to come from.

As a leader, one of our biggest problems is we say, “How come people don’t have these great ideas? How come people don’t step up and do something when the crap hits the fan? Why am I the one standing here having to fix everything as the leader?” Usually, the answer is that they don’t know what you know. You’ve not told them. They don’t have the information to even think about great ideas. The second part is they don’t have the empowerment to go and make those ideas happen. The first problem to solve is do they have the information they need to even come and dream up great ideas when something is going wrong.

What Is Productivity

This is a great place. I’m going to ask you a couple of quick questions and then we’ll let people know where they can find out more about you. How do you define productivity and why?

I define productivity as the reasonable metric that we look at for how someone should get their work done. You can take it down to a very basic level like, “What’s your pay? How many of these things or activities did you do?” There is some value in that for somebody who’s doing some manual tasks or making 100 phone calls an hour. You can use some of that.

Take Back Time | Company Culture

Company Culture: Productivity is the reasonable metric that we look at for how someone should get the work done.


We always struggled with this. How do you measure productivity for a manager? It’s hard to do because they’re not set in those more tactile types of activities. We always try to say, “What is the big goal? What are we trying to do? Does this feel like we’re being efficient? How can we measure those types of things to see if people are being efficient and their ability to get us to that point?”

Putting Reset Moments Into Practice

I talk about in my new book, The Reset Mindset, about reset moments. We’re so busy. I hear that leaders don’t even have time to lead, think things through, and be as strategic as they would like to be. Taking these reset moments to rethink, reconnect, and be intentional in their leadership, how would you see putting reset moments into practice for leaders?

I would spend a lot of time coaching my people when they were agreeing to take on something new and they’re adding on to their workload. We got busier in the organization where anything where I noticed they were adding to their plate. It was my job to coach them and say, “What are you getting rid of?”

They’re going to take on this and then they have to let go of that.

When they were doing that on their own, that’s another way I would have addressed productivity as well. They’re never going to be happy. They’re going to burn out. We’re never going to get things done if they keep everything. We’re running a relay race together and we’ve got to keep passing the baton to each other. We’ve got to keep sharing in that. We can’t be the only ones running around that track holding onto that thing right forever. There have to be times we step on and step off that track in this analogy.

Reach Out To Chris

To sum that up and then we’ll get your details, you take that reset moment when somebody’s adding something to their plate. I’m going to add something to what you said. It’s also when you as a leader want to add something to someone else’s plate. You also need to take a reset moment for yourself and see what are you okay with that they’re going to delegate or take off their plate. It’s not just them taking it on. It’s also the leaders deciding to give more. That is a great way and time to take a reset moment so thank you for that. Chris, where can people find out more information about you, get your books, and take the discussion further with you?

You can go to ChrisDyer.com. There are all kinds of great resources there. You can find my books on Amazon like The Power of Company Culture, the second edition, which is the orange one, not the yellow one. The yellow one was the first edition so get the orange one. You can find that on Amazon or wherever you buy books. I’m always happy to connect with people on LinkedIn. I’m on TikTok and Instagram. I’m probably on whatever social platform you’re on. Wherever you hang out, come connect with me. I’m happy to do that.

Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me, Penny.


Thank you all for being here. It’s seven things. I know you wish that it was 3 but it’s 7 things that are going to help you to stay focused and intentional about how you’re driving your culture. You want to be looking at if you have the right balance. Chris said we can overemphasize, overthink, or overwork any particular segment. Do a quick check for yourself. Where are you on a scale from 1 to 10? What are the top two that are the lowest scores that you can focus on? I loved it. He said to take a reset moment when you’re adding more to someone’s plate or someone is adding to their plate. It’s the perfect time. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you in the next episode.


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