Building A Vibrant Culture With Nicole Greer

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Nicole Greer | Vibrant Culture


What does it mean to have a vibrant culture within your organization? In this episode, Penny Zenker chats with Nicole Greer to define the concept and what leaders can do to make this happen for their teams. Nicole is the Executive and Leadership Coach and Consultant at Vibrant Coaching and Consulting Inc. and host of the Build a Vibrant Culture Podcast. Using the trademarked S.H.I.N.E. Coaching Methodology, she offers foundational tools and uncommon wisdom to help clients become the leaders their organization needs them to be. Nicole discusses performance management versus micromanaging and defines how productivity should look for leaders and their employees. Tune in for more wisdom from Nicole and get valuable insights you can apply to better your organization.

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Building A Vibrant Culture With Nicole Greer

I’m excited to talk about how to build a vibrant culture. There’s a lot of talk about culture. For a lot of people who are reading, you may be leaders in organizations and want to get to some things maybe that you haven’t heard before or perspectives that may be new. Nicole Greer is here with me. We are going to get into some nitty-gritty to challenge you to think about culture in a different way.

As the CEO of Build A Vibrant Culture, Nicole Greer helps individuals, corporations, governments, and nonprofits become leaders who fulfill a mission, energize their teams, and build a vibrant culture. She uses a coaching methodology that’s hers, which is called SHINE. I’m sure we will hear more about that. She also uses training programs. She offers foundational tools and uncommon wisdom. That’s what we are looking to get at, Nicole, the uncommon wisdom. Welcome.

What a nice introduction. Thank you for having me on the show, Penny. I’m grateful.

It’s my pleasure. I love that you say uncommon wisdom. I want to unpack that because there is much talk about culture and building culture. Yet, we still are not good at it and aren’t getting it so much to the point that we’ve got this world of quiet quitting. People are quietly quitting or loudly quitting. Both are bad. What’s happening? Why are we here where we are that this is difficult?

It’s because we think culture change is like a strategic plan or something. We change culture 1 person at a time or 1 set of behaviors at a time. Here’s the deal. Culture is people. Back in our history books, we wanted to learn about the culture of the Greeks, the Italians or the Germans. We were talking about the people. Culture is not a strategy. Culture is a bunch of relationships and working one human at a time to create the culture. Leaders have to get very clear about how they want people to show up and what it’s like to experience them. They must help change the person and their set of behaviors one person at a time. That builds a rich and vibrant culture.

We think culture change is like a strategic plan or something but really, we change culture one person at a time, one set of behaviors at a time. Click To Tweet

I love that we got to get clear right off the bat and that it’s about people. What I like even more is that you are saying it’s one person at a time. Often, we are looking at the entire group, ourselves included. That was an a-ha for me to think about that and be like, “That’s so true.” What do we lose when we focus on the group versus the individual?

I’m going to give you an example of what happens. For example, in my business, I do a lot of training. I have human beings that come to my training sessions. There are typically three different kinds of humans that show up in the room. One human that shows up in the room for training is what I call a lifelong learner. They got the memo about training, and they were like, “Did you get the memo about training? We are going to training now. I’m so excited. I wonder what it’s going to be about. I wonder what I’m going to learn. I wonder what tools I’m going to put in my toolbox.” These are amazing humans. That’s the person that you want in your company to build a vibrant culture.

In my mind, vibrant is lit up or illuminated. We want people who are lifelong learners and want to learn. That’s the first type of person that comes to my training. I have another type of person that comes to my training, and that person I call the vacationer. That person comes to training, and they were like, “Is there going to be lunch? Where are we getting it from? What are we having? Are there snacks? Will there be Cokes? Will there be coffee?” or whatever the thing is. It’s not that they are into learning, building their toolbox or personal development. Instead, they are somebody that’s like, “This will be a good free day. I won’t have to do my job.”

TBT Nicole Greer | Vibrant Culture

Vibrant Culture: Vibrant is lit up or illuminated so we want people who are lifelong learners and want to learn.


The third type of person, which is a very dangerous person that might be inside your company, is the person who comes to training and is a hostage. They are like, “Is this mandatory? Do I have to do this? Who said I had to? Is that in my job description?” They don’t want to come because they don’t want to learn. They don’t want to become vibrant. They don’t want to get lit.

Is it true? If you don’t mind, I would like to play devil’s advocate a little bit. Do they not want that, or could it be that they are not managed right? Where’s that point? They feel like they are being asked to do already too much, so this training is on top. Maybe it’s on their personal time.

You do have a point. This hostage could be in the hostage’s mind frame or mental model because they’ve had some bad experiences that have put them there. The one I’m talking about in the purest example is that they don’t want to be there. It doesn’t matter how you manage these people. They are not user-friendly. For the folks that are hostages that you are speaking of if the training is excellent and it feels directed towards their role, and they have an opportunity to mix with the information that has been delivered to them in a thought-provoking, creative way, you can turn a hostage into a learner.

At the end of the day, my number one core value is personal development. I want it for myself, and I want it for others. To have a vibrant culture means that I have a relevant group of people who want to learn and stay active in the market in a healthy way. At the end of the day, why do you have an organization? It’s because you are either trying to make a profit or a dent in the universe with your nonprofit. You got to have people who are willing to learn and change. Change is inevitable but growth is optional. You might have heard of that one before.

To have a vibrant culture means that you have a relevant group of people who want to learn and stay active and in the market in a healthy way. Click To Tweet

Did that answer my question? If we are trying to build culture by doing it in a one-size-fits-all, that’s the thing. If you are doing it in a group, then you are doing it in a one-size-fits-all, and you are not doing it with one behavior at a time or understanding each individual. I want to make sure that people understand what the difference is. How do you approach things differently when you are doing it one person at a time versus when looking at transforming culture from a team or a group perspective?

Along with training, the other thing that is essential to help people 1 behavior and 1 person at a time to shift and change is to do performance management. Many of you work inside of organizations, and you have an annual review. You have a process where you sit people down and say, “This is how you are doing.” I believe firmly that you need to be doing performance management with people every two weeks.

For example, we are headed right toward the beginning of 2023. People need to understand how they’ve done so far. Sit down with their leader and figure out, “Where do you want to go with your career? Where do you want to go with your job or with your subject matter expertise? Where is it that we are going to take you?” The leader sits with that individual, sets goals, and holds them accountable. We could talk for another hour about accountability if you want to. Accountability creates a vibrant culture as well. That’s how you morph and change behaviors through accountability.

We work with them one-on-one and coach them. That’s how you get people to shift and change. It’s not because you are beating them over the head or you’ve got some whip and are like, “Let’s go.” It’s more like I sit down with Penny where she’s my employee and I say, “Here’s what you’ve told me you want to do with your career. Do you still have it?” She says, “Yes.” I say, “Let’s work on your career together. What are we going to do? What are we going to work on?”

We put together actionable goals and things I can hold you accountable for. The next time that we meet, we will check-in, “How did you do? What did you learn? What’s our next right step?” That is the end of my SHINE Coaching Methodology. It’s this constant care and attention to the work, career, and future of each one of your employees. If I work for somebody who cares about my future, is dialed in, and helps me move forward, I am lit up. I’m ready to go to work. I’m motivated. I’m excited. I got lots of lots of things I can get done.

Do you think this isn’t happening because of our hustle culture? Everything’s got to be done faster. We are so overscheduled and over-committed. I hear all the time that leaders don’t have the time to hold these sessions. That’s when they are only once every six months or once a year. They are like, “We’ve got annual reviews. I don’t have the time to do them.” Do you see that as one of the driving reasons why this isn’t happening? Why is this not happening? Why are people not sitting down regularly with their people to provide that regular feedback about how they are doing and helping them along?

I hate to say it like this but one reason is that it’s an excuse. I’m going to say that, which is a highly unpopular response. You can’t not have these meetings with your people. It’s like your car. If the engine light comes on, it’s like, “I better pull into the Johnny’s Service Station here and get my car looked at.” That is when people are finding time to sit down with people. When it’s already too late or when somebody’s behaviors or attitudes have gotten too far gone, then, “Now, I have to sit down with you. I’ve got to correct you, write you up or put you on a personal improvement plan.”

If we sit down with people every two weeks, we are doing maintenance on people’s careers, attitudes, and the projects they are working on. A couple of things can happen there. I mentioned accountability. I’m also going to mention expectations. With your permission, I want to talk about expectations for a second.

The quiet quitting thing that you mentioned at the beginning is a lot about, “The leader is not talking to me. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m going to sit here with my arms crossed, maybe with my bottom lip sticking out and pouting. This is unfair. It’s not right. Nobody is talking to me. I’m not sure what’s going on.” The leader has not set proper expectations for this person. Let me give you a little quote. Everybody get a pen ready because this is good. I got it from Don Carroll. Every coach should have a coach or they are a big fat hypocrite. I have a coach, and this is what the coach said to me, “Uncommunicated expectations are a premeditated opportunity to be disappointed.”

Leaders look around at their team and got 2 or 3 people on their team who are those lifelong learners, eager beavers or self-motivated ones. They lean heavily on those people. They are like, “Get Penny and Nicole to do it because they will do it. They will figure it out.” They are figure-outers. They are self-motivated. Now, I’m going to sit here, have angst, and maybe even be disappointed in these other people that aren’t doing.” Here’s the thing. Not everybody is wired to be a lifelong learner or to be a go-getter. What they need is they need you to get in there and work with them.

When you work with people, they improve as long as the leader cares, shows compassion, has some good ideas, and is kind in the coaching process, which the vast majority of us want to be kind. There are a few horses patoots out there but the rest of us want to help people. We don’t know what we don’t know. Leaders have that expectation that you should know what you are doing but some people don’t know what they are doing. They don’t have that willingness to get things done. I would also like to talk about willingness if you want to.

TBT Nicole Greer | Vibrant Culture

Vibrant Culture: When you work with people, they improve as long as the leader cares, shows compassion, has some good ideas, and is kind in the coaching process.


Let’s talk about expectations. When we are upset about anything, it’s a mismatch of expectations. On the employee side, what are their expectations? When that discussion isn’t happening, and there’s not some transparency around that, then there’s bound to be disappointment on one side or the other. There are uncommunicated expectations. That’s always a chance for, in your case here, the premeditated that makes it even more so true.

If you want to take ownership and responsibility for something, then you are going to make sure that you set clear expectations. I want to make sure that we are not putting this all on the leader’s side because sometimes, the leader thinks they’ve communicated. Whether they did or didn’t, we all have an opportunity to say, “Can I stop you for a second so I can be clear? This is what’s expected. “This is the deadline,” or whatever it is that people can get. Ask questions to make sure that they understand their expectations of them, that they can meet them, and also so that they can express theirs. Expectations are huge.

What I saw a lot happen at the beginning of the pandemic was that expectations from leaders didn’t change or even of ourselves. They didn’t change as the circumstances changed. We had some unrealistic expectations of either our own performance or the performance of others, not taking into account that the circumstances have changed. We need to check in on expectations on a regular basis. It’s not a one-time thing that you do once a year. That’s a regular process that can be part of that every two-week feedback session.

For those who are maybe thinking devil’s advocate things in their mind, it could be that every 2 weeks, for 1 day, it ends up being a 3-hour meeting. You are doing very powerful work like your strategic planning. You are talking about the process. You are writing down goals and strategies and putting together actual work in those three hours. It could be a ten-minute check-in. It’s like, “What’s up?”

You are hands-on with the individual.

You are asking what’s going on and the context.

You said you wanted to talk about willingness. Let’s talk for a few minutes about willingness.

The other thing that makes a vibrant culture is that we want to instill this very valuable character trait that I call willingness. I read a book. This book is by Mike Hernacki. In that book, he talks about how to get anything that you want. When you first think about that, you are like, “Anything that I want?” If you read this little book, in there, he says, “The difference between somebody who moves their career and their life forward in a powerful way is they are willing to do whatever it takes to get that thing done.” His definition is that willingness is the ability to do what needs to be done without reservation, refusal or judgment. It has to get done if you want to move this forward. Willingness is removing the resistance that people have toward change or development.

Willingness is like removing the resistance that people have towards change or towards development. Click To Tweet

Willingness can be taught because if you are sitting with your employee every two weeks, you are moving them through what I call a learning curve. You’ve heard of that before. You are saying, “Here’s what I want you to learn or experience in the next two weeks. I want you to do this thing.” You look at the person and say, “Are you willing to do that in the next two weeks?” She says, “Yeah. I can do that.”

I say, “That’s fantastic. We will check back in two weeks and see how it goes. You know my number. Call me if you need me.” I’m challenging her over and over again. It’s not in like this, “I’m driving you hard,” thing. It’s like, “Do you want to learn this? Do you want to gain these skills to move yourself forward in the organization?” We want to instill this willingness to try to do and to be.

Here’s the thing. People have untapped potential. They are like, “Nicole Greer and Penny are doing shows and trying to rock the world,” but we still have even more we can do. All of us need somebody who will champion our potential. That’s what you are doing. You are championing people’s potential. You got to be able to communicate that in that every two-week thing.

I tell leaders all the time, “If you get a brand new employee, here’s what you say to them, “Let me tell you about my leadership style. I will meet with you every two weeks. Timeframes will switch. Days might switch. We are busy people but you can count on me to step into your world every two weeks. I will be working on developing you. I’m a leader. My job, first and foremost, is to lead people,” which is building a vibrant culture, 1 person and 1 set of behaviors at a time. “I get in there, and I work with you. You grow, morph, and you are what I call living a vibrant life.” That is exactly what leaders want to do. They want to increase their willingness to learn, grow, and change.

I know that you mean this. For the audience, a large part of coaching is asking questions. It’s not giving them the answers and saying, “Here is what we are going to do over the next two weeks. I want to make sure that people reading understand that it’s not just, “Here’s what you are going to do.” It’s, “What do you think you need to do?” The person is going to dig and think. You might challenge them and be like, “Is there anything else? How else could you look at that?” and so forth. Coaching, as leadership, has that nice balance between giving people direction and also helping them to take that direction themselves and create their path. Do you want to add anything to that?

Yeah. I would like to layer right on top. Everything you said is the truth. When you are in these one-on-ones doing performance management, you are going to wear four hats. You might lead this meeting, which is you might tell, “I have a business need.” The business needs something from me and Penny. I go to Penny and say, “This is what the business needs this week. I need you to do X. I don’t have time to have her figure it out. “Make this happen,” and I said, “Yes, ma’am, sir.”

I’m in here with Penny to get her help to get it done. I lead. I say, “Here’s what I need you to do.” Inside that little leadership moment, I’m saying, “What do you think we ought to do to get it done?” She’s got genius, so she’s going to tell me. We are going to have little powerful questions and whatnot in there but I am giving her a directive. I’m leading.

The second thing is there’s managing. In that one-on-one, I will manage processes, thoughts, and things like that. For example, let’s say Penny’s job is to take care of the customers, and I have a bad customer survey come back. I say, “Do you know what I want to talk about? I got this customer survey back. Let’s look at it together. What do you think happened?” There’s the powerful question but we are managing something that needs to be looked at because we are trying to get our score to go from 4.0 to 5 stars or whatever our goal is. I might manage a little something.

The other hat I might put on is pure coaching, which is what Penny was talking about. It’s like, “What do you want to do with your career? What do you want to work on?” The client sets the agenda, and the coach asks questions so that the client can work on their agenda. The fourth thing we do is be a mentor. Sometimes, I might lead somebody who’s a great deal younger than me. There’s nothing more delightful than somebody in their twenties who’s hungry.

A lot of times, I have a lot of people who call me like, “Will you have coffee with me?” What they are looking for is somebody to mentor them. They are like, “How did you do what you are doing or get where you are?” They need to know. They are like, “Tell me how you did it.” They will take what they want and leave what they want. That’s mentoring. In that performance management, you’ve got four hats on. I’ve got a little thing I could send you if you want to know what activities are where.

In the end, I’m sure that you have that somewhere on your website, so you can give us that link to wherever to go to. It would be great. That’s so beautifully parsed out and said that a leader has many different hats, and leading is one of them. I ask everybody this question, so I want to see what your perspective is coming from the vibrancy aspect of the culture. How do you define productivity?

Productivity is taking the least amount of steps to reach the goal. That’s what productivity is. Sometimes, we know how to reach a goal. I will draw on my past for a second. Way back, I had a career in property management. One of the things I was supposed to do was lease apartments. I was supposed to get people to give me a deposit so they would move in.

Productivity is taking the least amount of steps to reach the goal. Click To Tweet

I had a sales process that was given to me. To be productive in getting leases like you need to get six this week, there were steps I could take that were predictive. If you do all these steps, it usually results in a successful sales process. All the salespeople reading can relate to that. You want to do the least amount of steps possible but I also know that everything in life has a yin and yang. You could use that magical sales formula on somebody, and they are not going to say yes until you take an extra long time or you give them something extra or something special.

Sometimes, you do have to take some extra steps, do some extra things or take more time with certain people or projects to get them completed. Productivity is paying attention to what works and doing those things. If you have to add extra, you have to add extra because it depends on the context, the situation, how complicated it is, and whatever you are working on. The least amount of steps to get things done is what I would call productivity. What do you think?

I like it. That’s a clear, concise, and great answer. Nobody’s given me the same answer, so I find it interesting that everybody has a very different perspective on what productivity is. I know there’s much more that we could talk about but people only have so much bandwidth. We can either have you on again, and people can go to your site as well. I wanted to ask you. Leaders have such an important role in creating a vibrant culture. I have been doing a lot around leaders that are trying to control. They are not doing those other hats. They are not coaching.

They are not mentoring. They are just directing and stifling people. Do you have a story or a situation where you had a leader that was toxic and not letting go of control? What was the transformation when this leader either had an a-ha or when that leader was replaced? You worked with a lot of different companies, I’m sure, in that. Can you think of a story?

Yeah. Control is about fear. That’s the first thing. Everybody, write that down. If you are working with a leader who is a control freak, it’s because they are fearful. I’m going to double back to where we were a second ago. The reason that leader is fearful is that they don’t know that other people can handle whatever it is that they are controlling. Probably, that leader is not doing a lot of professional development or performance management with their people. They are unsure. They have uncertainty about the skills and the ability of their people. Therefore, they are doing this thing that everybody hates, called micromanaging. That never works.

Let me talk about micromanaging for a hot second, if I may. Everything is labeled micromanaging. Going back to what we said about expectations, if Penny works for me and I sit her down and say, “I need you to work on the XYZ project,” she and I sit there for a little while, and we talk about the XYZ project. I don’t say, “Will you do the XYZ project?” and she goes, “Sure.” Do I have any idea what she’s about to do? No. We didn’t even talk about it.

I have to ask her, “What do you think you are going to do? How are you going to handle Susan in accounting? How are you going to handle Bob in finance?” I’m exploring this with her and helping her get her strategy together. That’s very helpful. That’s performance management. I set her free to do it. Don’t miss this. If I get to meet with you in two weeks or if I need it shorter than that because XYZ is a very important project, I’m going to meet with you next week to check in because I care about you. I love you, and I want you to be a success.

We will check in. You bring your issues, concerns, challenges, successes, and wins. I will be there to coach, counsel, mentor, lead, and manage however I can help you. Leaders can’t let go of that control. I don’t think they know how to do the performance management piece or the one-on-one piece. That’s what’s missing.

To clarify this point, you think it’s a skill issue where if they knew how to better manage the performance, then they would be able to rely on that as a process.

I did get a story to come to me. My first career was in a restaurant, and then the second thing I did was property management. I had a manager that inherited me. The regional gal inherited me. She did get to pick me. How many of you managers and leaders out there love to inherit other people’s hires? Let’s think about that for a second. This woman, her name was Nancy. She inherited me.

She called me up and said, “I’m calling to talk to you about your property.” She was asking me questions she was entitled to ask, which were, “How’s it going? How many leases did you get this week? This, that, and the other thing.” She continues to ask me business questions. To be honest, I was a great leasing agent and a great salesperson but I didn’t have any management experience in property management. I ran restaurants but this is different.

She said to me on the phone, “It is clear to me that we need to spend some quality time together so I can teach you some things.” I was a lifelong learner. She says, “I’m coming to the property on Monday. We will start at 8:00 AM,” which was an hour before the doors to the apartment community opened. I never questioned it. She’s my boss. She said, “Be there at 8:00 AM.” I said, “Okay.” She said, “I will bring you an egg McMuffin,” which was even better.

I sit down with her, and she pulls out the profit and loss statement for the month of whatever it was. She’s like, “These are all your revenue streams. These are all your expense line items. When the expenses are subtracted from the revenue, here’s your net operating income. Your job is to pull the levers within this P&L to make this NOI number happen. Let’s talk about how you might do that.” I am grateful to Nancy Freeman because she taught me to be a businesswoman. If it weren’t for Nancy Freeman, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. She sat me down and straightened me out. You might be like, “She’s a control freak.” She’s not. She’s a teacher.

She’s teaching you what you need to be successful in your role. What I’m hearing you say is that it’s important that we are not mislabeling things or we are not getting our yes answers in a twist over somebody who’s teaching us how to do our job effectively versus someone who is overly controlling. They aren’t giving you two weeks before they send you something, and ten minutes later, they are in front of you and hovering. I’m a recovering micromanager, so I completely understand. That’s another story.

We won’t have time to do that in this episode but maybe think about it. Have something to think about in collecting stories of how cultures shifted when the leader understood that they were overstretching and how it shifted one person at a time but also shifted by one person’s change. It can be one person at a time but it can also be that each and every person has to be responsible for the role that they play in its ripple effect on everybody else.

We can do that, for sure.

How can people reach you and find out more about you and all the great stuff that you are doing?

If you want to reach me, you can go to Check me out on LinkedIn. It’s @NicoleGreer. It will pop up and say vibrant stuff. You will be like, “That’s her.” It’s very easy to find.

Thank you so much for being here.

It has been my pleasure. I had a ball. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you, all, for being here. This is a reminder if you are not already thinking about how important culture is in your organization and how important it is for each and every one of us to lead ourselves and to allow ourselves to be led and to lead with care in all of those aspects. We lead ourselves and lead others with care. If I put an umbrella on it, that’s what I took away and what came out of my mouth. Thank you all for being here. I look forward to seeing you or you reading our next episode. This is Take Back Time. I will see you in the next episode.


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About Nicole Greer

TBT Nicole Greer | Vibrant CultureAs CEO of Build a Vibrant Culture, Nicole Greer helps individuals, corporations, government, and non-profits become leaders who fulfill a mission, energize their teams, and build a vibrant culture. Using the S.H.I.N.E. Coaching MethodologyTM and training programs, Nicole offers foundational tools and uncommon wisdom.




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