Spotlight Chief People Officer John Grover on Leadership and Corporate Culture

Spotlight: Chief People Officer, John Grover, on Leadership and Corporate Culture

Article by Endsight on July 11, 2019
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We are excited to highlight Endsight’s very own John Grover. He answers questions related to corporate culture, leadership, and vision for Endsight.

You’ve worn a lot of different hats in your years at Endsight. 

Tell us about your current role and your span of responsibility.

As Chief People Officer I have four main responsibilities. First is talent acquisition. We have to connect with the people that will thrive in our culture. Second is employee engagement. We’re constantly learning what drives inspired work for our teams. Third is performance, or how our leaders and coaches work with their people to improve and how we create clear career paths. And fourth is traditional HR, benefits, payroll, etc. We’re making progress on the way we support each other at Endsight, and having a front row seat in watching everyone develop into their own best selves is so rewarding for me personally. It’s one of the things I love most about my role.

I also spend a lot of time with our people thinking about how to bring our core values to life in our daily actions. I’m asking questions like, “What’s our common foundation, what principles do we all share and how do we express this in the world with our actions? And how does all this affect customers we serve?”

Company values and purpose seem to be a hot topic in business right now. Why is this worth spending time on as an organization?

Here’s how we think about it. Your organization’s purpose is the ultimate “why” for your organization, and when things get hard you need this common mission encouraging the group to persevere. I’ll start with Endsight’s purpose:

“Fiercely committed to helping others thrive.”

Notice it’s NOT about computers or information technology for us. Technology is just a way we support the people we serve. Helping others thrive is why we are allowed to exist, it’s why our customers would miss us if we closed up shop, and that’s the whole point of our company. And when we talk about being fiercely committed, it means that we are absolutely willing to do the hard things needed to serve our clients and awesome teammates. We’re up for the hard conversations, the hard work, and the worthy struggle of constant improvement. The payoff is seeing others’ crush it, and knowing you had a little part in that! It’s almost like a game you never want to end, and isn’t that a life well lived? I read a quote one time that goes something like, “hard work now, easy life later, easy work now, hard life later”. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

Defining your purpose is important, but it’s not enough. One of the most empowering things an organization can do for its people is to get the values clearly defined. We have 4 core values (we call them the Endsight Code) and they are non-negotiable. We hire and fire based on these principles. They’re that big of a deal to us.

Wow, that’s serious. Why so strict?

It’s simple really, once you have this common thread running throughout your organization, life gets a lot easier. Thick handbooks of rules and policies become unnecessary when you get these right. When things get hard, we know what we stand for and how to make decisions. The better we are all aligned around our core values the more effective we’ll be in serving each other and our customers.

Now, we also have a whole different group of values we aspire to, this subset of values represents us when we’re operating at our best. We may not hit the mark every day on these “aspirational values”, but everyone knows what we’re shooting for. It keeps us working hard to bring our A-game and gives us a little permission to be human and come up short occasionally.

I’m really interested in best practices around learning. One of the core values that is resonating with me right now is “have each other’s back”. This is so important to our culture of learning and growth, because it creates the psychological safety needed to push ourselves into sometimes scary, like growth areas that would be unwise or terrifying to do alone.

For example, I love to rock climb. In climbing, your partner catches you when you fall. It’s an obvious benefit, but it also serves as a major performance improvement catalyst. If I know my climbing partner is going to catch me if I fall while trying something hard, it’s way more likely I’m going to push my limits. With this kind of support, we often surprise ourselves and pull off the hard thing! Then, soon things that were once hard, become easy. I’ve also seen how this value creates incredibly strong bonds between people. Work feels like play when you’re encouraging each other to go big and catching your friends if they come up short.

What leaders do you admire?

Oh, so many people. I admire Teddy Roosevelt. He is a legend. I could go on for days about Teddy, but perhaps my favorite thing about him was his love for our public lands. He was the first president to make environmental conservation an issue. During his administration five new national parks were created (including our beloved Yosemite), as well as 18 national monuments, four national game refuges, 51 bird sanctuaries, and over 100 million acres (40 million hectares) of national forest were set aside ensuring the protection they deserve. What a legacy.

His “The Strenuous Life” speech has always resonated with me. He argued that strenuous effort and overcoming hardship were ideals to be embraced by Americans for the betterment of the nation and the world in the 20th century. I love this for today’s society as well.

Teddy knew that life is not designed to hand us success or happiness, but rather to present us with challenges that stimulate us to improve and grow. Mastery to me is this sort of mysterious process by which those challenges become progressively easier and more satisfying through practice. Mastery often leads to happiness and satisfaction. To me the key to that satisfaction is in reaching the mental place in which the love of practice for its own sake (think intrinsic) replaces the original goal of the objective. I’d suggest too that the antithesis of mastery is the pursuit of quick fixes.

As Teddy explains, it’s not a life of ease and never-ending convenience that’s the goal, great things are created by hard work and taking on the tough issues, and this is what gives us a sense of well-being and purpose. The strenuous life makes your body and your thinking strong. It gives you the strength and endurance that’s needed to really go big. Life is short, so why go small? I actually have a picture of him in my office with the caption below it “WWTD” or What Would Teddy Do”. Every time I want to take the easy way out, I look at him and like a wise uncle. He reminds me to do the hard thing that I deep down know needs to be done.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. I’m not sure I have a great answer, but I do believe you never stop learning how to be a better leader. Respect for others is important. Being curious and generous with your assumptions about others is also incredibly important. But I always start with the premise that humility is the base leadership quality to build from, and to lead effectively is to really focus on helping those around you be more successful. My personal mottos are “amplify others” and “1% better every single day”.

I've also learned that a well-aligned leadership team is a major difference maker in all organizations. Endsight’s ability to assemble a group of leaders who know how to challenge, amplify and complement each other is incredible to see in action. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of as a founder.

Let’s talk about growth. Tell me about accomplishments, milestones, and what you are looking forward to

From the earliest days of Endsight, there's always been that next milestone. One of the big ones is to become a 20-million-dollar revenue company, and it’s incredible to see us on track for that in the short term.

But over the years I’ve realized that revenue is just another way to keep score. It's not really why we're here. It’s not what we're all about and it’s certainly not why the world allows us to exist. What really gets me excited about growth is the people. For me, getting to 20 Million dollars means we were going to hire our 115th employee. So, while revenue was something we talked about a lot in the early days, today it's more about the impact we have across all our areas influence.

As we look forward into the future, we want to run a strong company financially, but I think about becoming a 1,000-person company and the absolute best company in the world to work for. Growth for me is not just about revenue. It's about growing new markets, new competencies and most importantly growing people. Growth is by far the best way to create opportunity and help people thrive.

How do you keep your culture strong as you grow?

First, by always holding true to values, both the non-negotiable values we live every day and those values we aspire to. These have got to be sacred, and I’m proud to say that everyone in the company cares deeply about them. They're embedded in our daily actions and serve as our GPS when we need a little guidance.

Second, by being intentional in the way we behave. We have a culture that's obsessed with customer value, while also equally committed to having every single person at Endsight love working here. Whether you're a senior leader or you're an engineer in the first year of your career—everyone is important. Describing our culture would include words like learning, respect, individuality, diversity, long-term thinking, friendships, and caring not just for our colleagues, but for our clients and the communities we serve.

What advice would you have for companies struggling to attract talent and retain their people?

First, do “the self-work” as a company: define your values, your purpose, your mission as an organization, and what makes you YOU. Why are you allowed to exist? Who would miss you if you shut it all down? The best people know exactly who they are. They’ve done that self-work, and they’re looking for organizations that align with their own values and sense of purpose. If you want great people, be worthy of the best people. Then you’ll be competitive in the talent market.

Second, know what your talent market is really looking for from an employer. For us, our candidates want a place where they can learn fast, acquire new skills and go out and help people with these skills. It’s mind-blowing how many companies don’t allow their people to get exposure to new things, I hear about it all the time. At Endsight, you’re allowed to work on new things, and we’ve got your back if things get a little squirrely.

Third, obsess over employee engagement, which I’ll define as how willing your people are to commit their hearts, heads, and hands at work. This refers to intellectual (head) and emotional (heart) connection with an employer, demonstrated by motivation and commitment (hands) to positively impact the company vision. It’s simply the way your employees feel about your organization and what it stands for, as well as how they demonstrate that in their daily work. I think organizations should know the specific drivers of engagement within their employee community. We use an excellent web-based survey platform called Emplify to help measure this, but there are many other tools out there as well.

 


References:

Endsight Core Values

Teddy Roosevelt: The Strenuous Life

Emplify – Employee Engagement Measurement Tool

John Grover is the Chief People Officer and Owner of Endsight. John received his MBA from the University of Phoenix, a bachelor's degree from Auburn University, and earned technical certifications from both Microsoft and Cisco. He was also recently accepted into Harvard Business School's Certificate of Management Excellence program. John is a lifelong learner, constantly pursuing expanding his understanding both inside and outside the classroom. In addition to being an avid mountain biker and surfer, John is dedicated to reading over 50 books a year to improve himself as a leader, father, husband, and athlete. He is also passionate about empowering others to do the same. In the last year, John has written over 60 articles on such topics as leadership, company values, and learning.

Tags: Culture, Leadership

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